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15 Mountain Biking for Beginners Tips

Check out these 15 mountain biking tips for beginners

15 Mountain Biking for Beginners Tips

Mountain biking is an exciting sport, but it can also be terrifying if you have yet to experience the thrill of mountain biking downhill, and riding over rocks, drops, roots, and other trail obstacles.

Simply thinking about the mountain biking action of looping around local trails might make you feel anxious. You can choose your own adventure when mountain biking, and sometimes it's more than you bargained for. Even the most seemingly impossible obstacle can be overcome with practice, patience, and some mountain biking tips for beginners!

You're at the right place if you're looking to gain confidence, find new skills, improve your riding, and are all about learning mountain biking. With these mountain biking for beginners tips, you will gain a good understanding of bike handling and become more comfortable in the saddle.

But mountain biking, just like any other sport, is all about building on progression. The more and more you ride, the better and better you’d get! Here’s a beginners guide to mountain biking and mountain biking basic skills.

Mountain Biking Tips For Beginners

1. Setting Up Your Bike

There’s a lot that goes behind setting up a bike, which ranges from the rider’s specific body dimensions to simply their personal preference. Here are a few things that you can spend some time figuring out on.

Saddle Position and Height

The height of the saddle is one of the most essential aspects of bike fit. If you want to figure this out more precisely, you can spend a few bucks on a bike fit, however, it’s quite easy to figure this out by yourself. When you keep your foot on the pedal in a position that resembles 6 o’clock, you shouldn’t keep your leg straight but slightly bent at the knee. However, it shouldn’t feel like you need to reach the pedal stroke to the bottom. You should also not feel like you’re trying to do an uncomfortable squat.

You can adjust the saddle position on the seat post. You can also determine how backward or forward the saddle sits, and its angle too. You can start with your saddle in a flat position and make small adjustments to figure out what’s comfortable for you. If you prefer, you can have this measured and set up by an expert bike fitter.

Tire Pressure

Proper tire pressure can make you enjoy your ride even better. You won't be able to find traction if there's too much, and too little will cause your tires to fold and lead to you hitting roots and rocks. You should consider setting up your tires tubeless (if they aren't already), since it's so simple and will improve ride quality for all riders.

Depending on factors such as trail conditions and rider weight, it can be challenging to pin down an exact tire pressure. You do not want your tires to fold under pressure, but they should grip the ground and absorb impacts. To find the pressure that works for you, try 20-28 psi. Generally, you should put a few psi more pressure on the rear tire since it is more prone to damage.


You would also have to pay attention to your shock and fork. First set the air pressure and the sag, which would be determined by your weight. This suspension would also include settings such as compression and rebound. Every mountain biking companies have suspension settings recommended that you can start with.

Simple maintenance

You must keep your bike clean and in great working condition. A clean bike is an efficient bike. Even if your bike looks clean, you must clean areas like the gears, and the seals on your dropper post and suspension. All you need is a garden hose and some degreaser to do it. You might also want to consider bike-specific degreasers and cleaners, but you can also make do with regular household dish soap. If the chain starts to sound dry or if you wash your bike, you can consider applying a lube to it. When you clean your bike, take that opportunity to take a look at your bike for any kind of damages that may have occurred without your notice. Check the air in your tires before riding. Also, check the bolts on your bike to make sure that nothing has come off or is loose.

2. Keep Your Body Loose and Flexible

It's easier said than done. However, keeping your body loose - particularly your arms, shoulders, and knees - will make it easier to control your bike and allow you to go downhill and over obstacles with more ease.

Keep these two things in mind before you begin:

  • ​Lean your chest towards the handlebars and keep elbows and shoulders loose. Your center of gravity will be lower and steering will be easier this way.
  • ​ Make sure your knees are wide and springy so that your body can move independently from the bike. You've likely seen photos of mountain bikers careening through turns with their hips slung off to the side. This is what you want to achieve. This is known as body-bike separation.

Your hands and feet will always be connected to the pedals and handlebars, but your hips and knees should be independent of your bike. You will be able to maneuver around turns, increase your speed, and tackle larger features with greater confidence.

3. Decide Where You Want To Go

Our minds control our bodies. No matter where we are, our bodies will take us there. Most of the time, this is a good thing... unless you're trying to avoid an obstacle!

Beginner mountain bikers often struggle with this issue. We stare at the tree or rock we're flying towards when an obstacle appears, fear setting in and taking over all our conscious thought. Due to this, the number one mountain biking for beginners rule is to always look where you are going.

It is important to avoid focusing on those obstacles. For a beginner mountain biker, this can be quite intimidating, but if you can look past the rough terrain, you'll have a much better time riding a mountain bike.

You allow your brain to evaluate all possible routes before choosing the correct course by keeping your eyes up and scanning the trail constantly. The main benefit of deciding your line ahead of time is that you can concentrate your attention on avoiding any risks that may lie ahead.

The following is a breakdown of the process. Here's how to look where you want to go.

  • ​Focus your attention farther down the trail, keeping your eyes up
  • ​ Identify any hazards along the trail in advance
  • ​ Choose your line (over the obstacle or around it)
  • ​ Brake before you run into a hazard
  • ​ Trust your body (don't stare at obstacles) and look past the obstacle
  • ​ Ride with confidence through the section
  • ​ Repeat!

4. Don't Forget About Momentum

A lot of new mountain bikers will rely on their brakes more than they should. While going faster than you're comfortable with can be terrifying, momentum can be your best friend when it comes to mountain biking.

Once you have the confidence and skills to do so, speed will enable you to navigate tricky rock sections with ease, float around corners with ease, and even jump and drop into drops and holes with ease.

Most mountain bike crashes are caused by a lack of speed for beginner riders. Probably you have seen videos of riders going over the handlebars or falling into a rock garden. (Usually) this happens when the rider loses momentum and can't maintain balance. Keep your momentum going as you come into more technical sections and you'll be surprised at how much power you'll be able to generate.

5. Shift Often and Early

Beginners should shift early and shift often, and this is one of the biggest mountain biking tips beginners.

Downshift just before the incline starts if you see a climb coming up. If you shift during the climb, you can damage the drivetrain and even drop the chain, or even worse, break the derailleur. The climb to the top will be much easier and more enjoyable if you shift just before it starts.

The same applies to descents. Make sure you are shifting into a harder gear when you get to the bottom of the hill so that your legs aren't spinning.

Pro tip: Many shifters are designed to allow you to drop three gears simultaneously by pressing down on them. This is great for climbing that is fast and punchy without having to downshift one gear at a time.

6. Stand Up

In their early days, many mountain bikers believe that sitting on descents gives them more control. But this is a myth.

When riders stand up on the pedals, they have the flexibility and space they need to stay balanced. Standing is generally the best position unless you're pedaling.

However, it isn't as straightforward as just getting up out of the saddle and going. Beginners may have difficulty with the correct technique for this.

Whenever you are standing, your feet should be on the same horizontal plane, almost level. In this position, you're ready for anything the trail throws your way and maintain the perfect balance on your bike. By keeping your pedals level, both of your feet will be clear of most rocks and other obstacles. Pedal strikes are common and can result in serious injury. Cornering is when things start to change slightly.

7. Brake Before You Hit The Obstacle

It is hard to believe anyone wants to spend time braking, but who can blame them? Braking is boring. But here's something you should know.

By mastering your braking technique, you will directly increase your skill level.

You are more likely to succeed when you brake correctly before the danger zone. It boosts your confidence and allows you to feel more in control because it increases your control.

Generally, a danger zone is a section of rough terrain, an obstacle, or a corner. You should prepare yourself to slow down at any point you think you need to. Look ahead and prepare to slow down before it is too late. Braking into the danger zone can quickly cause traction to be lost, which could result in a fall at the most inopportune time.

Mountain bikers can either use brakes to their advantage or their detriment. Using brakes correctly is one of the most important mountain biking tips for beginners and is fundamental to success.

8. Get a Basic Understanding Of Cornering

Beginners often make mistakes here. Cornering is more advanced than the other tips, but you can still learn the mountain biking basics of cornering.

A corner with a raised bank is different from a regular flat corner because it can better support high speeds. Off-camber berms require you to lean into them.

Cornering mtb for beginners tips include standing up when it's a descent, braking before the corner, and keeping your outside foot down.

This might seem contradictory to the whole standing on level pedals, but hold on to your hat!

The moment you begin to lean the bike, you must maintain a perfect center of gravity, and that is accomplished by shifting your weight to your outside foot. This will naturally cause the outside foot to dip. This not only helps to increase the control and traction but also creates more tolerance between the ground and the inside part of your feet.

9. Keep Shifting Your Weight

When riding a bike, you’d be hitting some of the extreme terrains, which include steep inclines and declines. When you are climbing a tough pitch, make sure that you lean forward and shift your weight forward. This will keep your center of gravity over the rear wheel of the bike for maintaining traction.

If the trail tilts downward, you should go in the opposite direction, that is, shift your weight behind the saddle of the bike and over the rear wheel. This will prevent you from going over the bars.

10. Go For Different Lines

Choosing new lines on a trail is a good way to improve your skills as a mountain biker. This is especially true if you have ridden the trail a lot. The obvious line is usually the easiest, so if you want to become more confident and improve as a rider, it is helpful to try other lines. Try out a new line for just a few minutes and see what you think! As an example, riding over rocks and obstacles rather than around them is a great place to start. The more you keep switching things up on the trail, the more adept you'll become as a rider.

11. Learn How To Track Stand

If there was just one skill that you could learn that would help you boost your confidence and mountain biking abilities, it is the track stand. If you don’t know what a track stand is, well, it means being able to stand up on your bike and standstill. So, why is this important, if you may ask? Well, for your balance and control.

It is difficult to maintain control and balance on some of the areas on the trail, such as tight switchbacks, steep roll downs, and technical climbs. You might topple over or need to put your foot down if you are unable to balance on your bike at slow speeds.

Track stands aren't difficult to learn with a little practice. Spend five minutes working on your balance before each ride!

12. Ride With People Who Can Ride Better Than You

Even though it sounds more intimidating than sending your first drop, riding with people that are better than you will make you a better rider. You don't need to be concerned about holding them up, and you also shouldn't be concerned about walking the technical sections. You will find that most mountain bikers just can't wait to get out and ride the trails with a fun group of people!

When you ride with people who are better than you, you can observe how skilled riders move themselves and their bikes. Just observing will teach you a great deal. Just make sure that you don’t apologize if you’re being slow to ride!

13. Have Control Of Your Bike

You can ride your bike in two ways – you can either be a passive rider or an active rider.

Most passive riders let their bikes carry them along the trail while they sit back and enjoy the view from the sidelines. Active riders, on the other hand, actively steer and maneuver the bike through corners and around features. Professional mountain bikers manage their bikes with complete control, making it clear that they are in complete control of the bike. They don't show any signs of being passive. However, as a beginner mountain biker, how can you make sure that you’re in complete control of your bike? Well, the first step is to start using your suspension actively and properly.

When you're riding down the trail, your suspension absorbs trail chatter to make your ride more comfortable, which is what shocks are designed for. You don't have to do anything to adjust the shocks because they react automatically to the trail contours.

Furthermore, you can also use your suspension actively through compression or pumping. As a result, you'll be able to maintain momentum, jump over rocks and roots, corner faster and smoother, lift your front wheel over obstacles, and much more.

Pumping the suspension and taking control of the bike is something that takes a bit of practice, but as you become more proficient, you will ride more smoothly. If you are lucky enough to have access to a pump track, that's the best place to practice, but you can also do this on the trail.

14. Choose The Best Mountain Biking Trails For Beginners

If you plan on riding down a professional level downhill track even before you’re ready to do so, you’re most probably going to throw your bike away. It would not only shatter your confidence but also your desire for mountain biking forever! Knowing your limits is not something that everyone possesses, but it is one crucial thing when it comes to mountain biking.

Ride on trails that you’re comfortable on. You can then progress slowly and challenge yourself depending on the skills that you’ve acquired. And much before you know it, you would already be hitting on the gnarlier trails and sending it off the jumps!

15. Brush Your Skills Up on the Basic Bike Repairs

Typically, mechanical problems occur off-road more often than on the road, due to the terrain's ruggedness. Tubeless tires have helped minimize flats, but not eliminate them completely. So brush up on some basic repairs so you're prepared when something unexpected happens. If nothing else, you should know how to fix a flat tire. Having the ability to repair broken chains and replace bent or cracked derailleur hangers are also essential skills. The local bike shop (or a friend) can show you how to do these things.

Final Thoughts

In mountain biking, we're all about embracing the thrill and being smooth. In the end, it's about having a good time and enjoying the outdoors.

When riding a mountain bike, staying calm and relaxed contributes to a fluid and flexible nature. It promotes good riding techniques and helps you assess tricky situations without freaking out. There's no need to worry, just stay with the trails you're most comfortable with and stay confident! A perceived obstacle is only as scary as you make it out to be.

And what’s the best way to improve your riding skills? It’s by riding a lot! You will naturally improve your skills and fitness with repetition and more miles. You can also consider riding with people who ride better than you, which would help you learn a lot from them.

Keeping up is important on a climb or when you're going downhill. Other people you’re riding with can also observe how you're riding and help you improve. And in no time you’d be greatly addicted to the thrill of speed, and find yourself flying!

Did you find these mountain biking essentials useful? If so, please share them with your friends.

Article by Sam Fury

Sam Fury 3 png
Sam Fury 3 png

Sam Fury is the creator and owner of the Survival Fitness Plan.

He has had a passion for martial arts and outdoor pursuits since he was a young boy growing up in Australia.

As a young adult he joined the military and studied outdoor leadership in college. After that, to further his skills, Sam started traveling to learn from the best in the world in various fields related to the Survival Fitness Plan including various martial arts in China, SE Asia and Brazil, Parkour in Singapore, Surf Life Saving in Australia, and others. 

These days, he still enjoys learning new things, traveling and sharing what he has learned via the Survival Fitness Plan. 

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