Ladies AllRide is one of our favorite Bend-based partnerships. Their goal: get more women out on mountain bikes! That's something we will always support! Each year they offer clinics and camps for beginner mountain bikers to feel confident and comfortable on the mountain bike and cruising over technical terrain. We asked Ali Halpin, their Events Coordinator and Head Coach for her top tips on getting into the sport!
The trees whiz by as the sea of evergreens melt together with the turquoise blue sky. The crunching of tree leaves beneath your tires leads you down the twisting ribbon of dirt single track.
These are just a few of my favorite aspects of riding a mountain bike. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a connoisseur of all bike disciplines with many miles spent each year on both gravel and tarmac roads. It is the mountain bike that captivated my love for biking and gave me that giddy, but slightly terrifying, feeling that riding a bike for the first time as a kid gave me. My mountain bike has also saved me from burnout during certain times of my cycling career and has taught me a lot about myself as both an athlete, partner, colleague, and community member. If you have been thinking of making the dive into the off road world of mountain biking, here are a few tips to get you started off on the right foot.
1. Get a mountain bike that fits correctly. Bike fit is key to feeling comfortable and confident on any bike, but especially your mountain bike. If you are on a bike that is too big you might feel timid, as it can feel hard to get off of, thus not giving you the confidence to tackle more technical terrain. It can also be harder to move around underneath you which is key to tackling the twists and turns in the trail.
2. Take a lesson. One of the best investments you can make in your riding, after you have acquired a bike, is to take a lesson. Doing it right off the bat will keep you from learning or creating habits that can be much harder to break down the road. You will also gain confidence by learning to ride things correctly the first time around versus having a bad experience or crash that you have to overcome both mentally and physically.
3. Download TrailForks. This is by far my favorite mountain bike trail app. There are so many trails out there to explore, which is half of the fun of mountain biking! Trailforks gives you tons of information on the trails in your area. The app gives you information on the technicality of the trail, elevation gain/loss, mileage, condition reports, photos, suggestion direction, and ride logs to see what trails people have linked together in the past. There is a small monthly fee for the app but it is worth it and it works off of GPS on your phone so you don’t have to worry about having cell service or carrying a cumbersome paper map anymore.
4. Find a friend or group to explore with. If getting into the woods and onto the trails is new to you it can be a bit intimidating, especially if you don't know the trail network. Find a local riding group or friend to take to the trails with and show you around. Plus, I am usually more confident and willing to try technical features when I am with others versus when I am out on my own.
5. Carry more than you would on the road. Get yourself a small pack or even a frame bag to carry some extra essentials. When you have a mechanical issue on the trails it can be a long walk out to get a ride if you aren’t prepared. Some key things I always ride with are:
- Extra food. Mountain bike rides can take longer than expected, especially when new. Be prepared in case your ride ends up being an extra 30-45 minutes than expected.
- Tire Plugs. This can get you out of the woods if you put a hole in your tire.
- Chain links and Chain tool. I have broken chains 10+ miles from a trailhead, this is a life saver!
- Hand pump. I love CO2 but if you blow through it all, which is more common since mountain bike tires are bigger and take up more air it can be a big bummer.
- Spare layer. You will be more than likely be riding in the mountains where the weather can change fast. A spare layer has also saved me when I have had to fix a mechanical.
I encourage you to get out on the trails this summer and enjoy the exploratory nature of mountain biking!