8 Common Mountain Bike Mistakes

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April 11th, 2018

Today's Guest post is from Heather Lomax at Orangetheory Fitness.


Mountain biking is a tough and rewarding sport. If you're interested in trying mountain biking don’t shy away!  Use the tips below to ensure you avoid some common mountain bike mistakes that could either lead to unsafe or embarrassing first experiences. 


1. Riding through water

It’s exhilarating to feel the splash of cool water on your skin as you ride through a mountain stream. But while you’re enjoying that refreshing spray of water, rust and corrosion are already working its unfortunate magic on your bike and bearings. Uh oh. Not only will this cost you money, but your chains could snap during a lofty climb. Instead of riding through water sources, take the time to pause and carry your bike across. Otherwise, be careful and slow down so the water doesn’t splash up into your bike’s components. Your bike and wallet will thank you.   On the flipside, water is your friend, but only after you're done riding for the day.  Be sure to thoroughly clean your bike of dust and dirt, and give your chain a solid wipe down.   Watch Global Mountain Bike Network's video below on how to clean your bike properly. 


2. Staying in the saddle

Yes, your mountain bike is equipped with a seat, but that doesn’t mean you have to use it at all times. In fact, you’re much more effective on a mountain bike if you don’t sit down. For one thing, your legs act as built-in shock absorbers – and believe me, there’s a lot to absorb, especially with more technical sections that have you bumping and vibrating every step of the way. But another benefit is that you’ll be able to shift your weight more easily, which will make you faster and more agile during your ride. Make this a habit early on to protect your spine from a world of pain down the road (or trail).

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3. Dressing inappropriately

Unlike other biking methods, mountain biking attire can vary considerably with different locations, times of day, and ride durations. Prepare in advance by checking the weather from the time you set out to the end of your ride. Making use of layers can help considerably, especially if the temperature is expected to drop a significant amount or you're climbing to a higher elevation where winds can be strong and temperatures colder. Also, it probably goes without saying, but be sure to also invest in some quality padded bike shorts and a sturdy helmet to keep both ends safe and secure. A 2016 study showed that helmets reduced the risk of serious head injury by about 70%, so don’t take the risk!

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4. Taking insufficient supplies

When you’re out in the elements, having extra provisions to tide you over in the event of an emergency could very well save your life, or at the very least, save you a lot of time! You might plan to only be out for a couple of hours, but do you really want to be caught without water, food, or a spare tube if you get lost or break down? Pack those extra protein bars and have an extra bottle of water handy just in case.


5. Ignoring the front brake

Rookies often overuse the back brake, falsely believing that it has all the stopping power just because it skids and kicks up dirt. However, you could risk upending your bike on a steep descent, and you’ll wear out your back tire more quickly to boot. Instead, lightly press on the back brake as you’re slowing with the front so your back wheel doesn’t lock up. This might take some practice, but you’ll quickly get the hang of proper braking with every type of terrain.

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6. Avoiding Opportunities to Improve

Mountain biking has quite a  big learning curve and lots of areas to learn about including, cornering, braking, shifting, climbing and descending. Don't get overwhelmed. Every trail is going to be different, but if you choose to avoid rock gardens because they’re too unstable, you’ll never be able to improve on the skills you’re really struggling with. That’s not to say that you should work on every challenge during one bike ride but strive to tackle a new obstacle with each excursion. Slowly, you’ll notice that mountain biking in any environment isn’t as intimidating.

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7. Bad pedaling form

Pedaling might seem like the simplest part of riding a bike, but you’ll have to adjust slightly to the form required when mountain biking, especially if you’re riding through more technical sections. Pedal strikes are a much bigger risk when riding over rock gardens, roots, and tree stumps, so to lower those odds, change to a harder gear to lower your cadence. Another thing to keep in mind is the way your feet are positioned on the pedals. If you’re balancing too much on your toes or holding the ball of your foot over the axle, you’re going to strain your leg muscles too much. Instead, shift the ball of your foot in front of the axle for more stability.

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8. Not looking ahead

Crashes are a reality of mountain biking, but the majority of the time, they happen because beginners are too focused on the front tire and not enough on what’s in front of them. With all the unexpected obstacles on a mountain bike trail, you’re going to want to anticipate your next move, whether it’s changing your gears, making a sharp turn, or adjusting your speed. A lot can go wrong if you go into mountain biking blind. It’s a sport that requires a little discipline and experience in order to become proficient, but with equal parts determination and preparation, you’ll be riding free in no time.

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About the Author: Heather Lomax is a media relations specialist and contributing writer for Orangetheory Fitness. She writes for a variety of fitness blogs, discussing fun ways to get active and reach fitness goals.