Top Six Mountain Biking Mistakes
By Beth Puliti
Been there, done that and learned from my mistakes. Now I want to educate my fellow lovers of knobby tires and gnarly terrain. Don’t make the same errors that I—and many other mountain bikers—have. Avoid these mountain biking mistakes:
Passing Up Group Rides
It took me a really long time to feel comfortable enough to join my local, weekly group mountain bike ride. Once I did, I was disappointed that I had waited so long. Group rides are so much more than, well, riding with a group. Really, they help you hone your skills, socialize with like-minded mountain bikers and get acquainted with trails you may not ride on a regular basis. Remember that group rides are what you make of them. Do your homework, show up on time, be patient and encourage others during the ride.
Focusing On Your Strengths
It’s so easy to do this. When you’re good at something—like clearing a rock garden—you keep doing it. When you’re not good at something—like riding over a log—you opt for a path around or dismount and walk over. I can’t tell you how many times in the past I’ve avoided large, fallen trees because I “can’t” ride over them. If you solely concentrate on your strengths, you’ll never make it over that log. Instead, give attention to the areas you’re struggling with. Try to master one area you find difficult on each ride and you’ll start seeing improvement.
Not Wearing Padded Bike Shorts
How can I put this? If you’re not wearing padded shorts, please do yourself a favor and purchase a pair before your next mountain bike ride. I have heard countless novice mountain bikers talk about experiencing extreme pain “down there” after mountain biking. Bike-specific shorts are designed to reduce, if not eliminate, that pain. They offer padding in the right spots, deliberately placed seams, and material that allows for full range of motion on your mountain bike. Don’t like the look of tight spandex shorts? No problem. There are plenty of normal-looking baggy shorts with a padded inner liner on the market today. Get some!
Bringing Too Little Food/Water
Your 2-hour mountain bike ride has the potential to turn into an all-day affair if something goes wrong. Weather can change, bikes can break and trails might not be marked as clearly as you hoped. For better or worse, I have experienced my fair share of misadventures and that extra energy bar, spare tube and multi-tool I stowed in my hydration pack has saved me more times than I can count. Don’t go into the woods unprepared. Find out what essential supplies you should be taking on your rides.
You’ll quickly learn that you can’t go out for a mountain bike ride wearing the same clothing or even bringing the same layers every time. The location of your ride, how long you will be out and the time of day all factor in to how much extra clothing you should bring with you. If you plan on riding for a while, check to see what the temperature will be both at the beginning and end of your ride. Depending on the time of year, it can drop drastically. Learn how to layer appropriately so you can ride in any season, and in any kind of weather.
Not Wearing a Helmet
I wish this could go without saying, but I happen to know of a couple people who refuse to wear a helmet when riding their bicycle. I don’t know why. To me, wearing a helmet is like wearing a seatbelt. Of course you can opt to not wear one, but why? They both can save your life in the event of a crash. Over the years, helmets have evolved both stylistically and functionally. Learn how to select the helmet that’s best-suited for you.