Breaking in….

Forums Mountain Bike Forum Breaking in….

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    • #271696

      Hey everyone!

      I am curious to hear about your initial experience with mountain biking…how did you “break in” to the sport, so-to-speak? What’s the best way to approach it as a total beginner?

      I am itching to give it a shot, but unsure as to how to go about that. I feel like it’s one of those things you learn through experience, but I don’t want to be reckless, just hop on, and end up regretting it.

      Any and all advice/shared knowledge and experience is welcome and sincerely appreciated!

      Many thanks!

    • #271703

      Talk with your local bike shop. They’ll be more than happy to hook you up with a group ride, with folks who will take care of you on the trails, make sure you have a good experience,….people who remember what their first rides were like.  Have fun!

    • #271704

      You find a bike you like and can afford, that is a real mountain bike, not a Walmart special. Ride it, ride it off pavement. You’re mountain biking. Find green trails in your area. If that seems too easy find blue trails in your area. If you made it this far, you are probably hooked, and will be drooling over better bikes, better gear, and far away trips to new trails.

    • #271707

      I think the ideal starter bike would be the full-sus $2900 2020 Trek Fuel EX 7 with 29×2.6 tires and 130mm of travel.   If you are a shorter person the full-sus $2800 Santa Cruz 5010 D+ (Juliana Furtado D+ for women) with 27.5×2.6 tires and 130mm of travel would also make an excellent starter bike.

      Both bikes are what I consider the best examples of modern full-sus medium travel Trailbikes at a reasonable price.   Spending almost $3000 might seem like a lot to spend on a sport that you’re not sure about but you won’t get the true Mountainbike experience without riding a full-sus bike of at least this minimum level of quality.

      However before you buy, you might want to rent one of these bikes and try it to see if you like it.  Renting would be a way for you to see if you like Mountain biking in general.  Many bike shops rent bikes and will apply the rental fee to the purchase price if you buy a bike.


    • #271722

      ” …you won’t get the true Mountainbike experience without riding a full-sus bike of at least this minimum level of quality.”


      Complete nonsense, spoken like a middle-class elitist salesman.  Just get some wheels underneath you, and ride some trails in the woods. You’ll have a blast – which is what the “true mountainbike experience” is all about!

    • #271730

      When I first got started in mountain biking I did everything wrong.  I bought a Walmart special, wore regular clothes, and rode trails that were way more advanced than I was.  Guess what? I still had a blast.  Looking back, I should have started with a budget-minded hardtail in the $1,000 range and some decent mountain biking gear.  But you really don’t have to spend a lot of money to have fun with the sport.  I would advise talking to your local bike shop, as well as some local riders you see out on the trail.  Mountain bikers as a whole are really friendly, and really glad to help out newbies.  We want the sport to grow.

    • #271731

      I tend to agree with RJShoop and Alvin Mullen. It is kind of in the name. Mountain, you need trails that are suited for your skill to start on. Start on green and get a feel for being on dirt and uneven ground. Bike, it is a whole lot more fun when your bike is capable and you are comfortable on it. Renting a bike and riding with others that are there to help you goes a long way. Finding a bike is the most difficult part. For a beginner it can be a shock on how much bikes cost. Trying bikes out at the local bike shop will help. There are plenty of articles on this site teaching about bikes. YouTube is a great resource for understanding bikes. Two favs of mine are Seth’s Bike Hacks (very down to earth) and GMBN. Popular and some of their vids can be found on this site. Stumbled across one called Dusty Betty once. Seemed pretty legit. I am sure there are other good sites but these are some resources of people that are more experienced.

    • #271736

      Seeing as a few bikes were named, I will say IMHO the best full suspension bang for the buck is the Giant Trance 3 for $2100, but there are tons of excellent FS bikes from $2000 to $2900..  That being said even the Giant ATX 3 hardtail at $480 is an acceptable beginner bike. Sure if you start wanting to ride technical blue or black trails, you will want a better bike. The fork is only fair and the derailleur will wear out faster and need maintenance more than a more expensive bike. But it is more about gaining the skills than having a better bike. I’ve seen people riding 10 year old hardtails with front forks that are terrible, ride over some pretty extreme trails.

      Watch this to understand why you shouldn’t buy a walmart bike.

    • #271764

      Forget that nonsense about a $2000+ bike to start with.  You don’t know what you want so how can you make a good decision on a $3000 bike?

      Spend $400 on a craigslist hardtail.  Disc brakes, the right size.  Get a helmet, duh.

      Find the easiest unpaved trail you can.  Have fun.  goof around.  Ride with other people.  In 6 months if you love it then you can start trying your friend’s bikes.  Get to a demo day early and try some dream bikes.  Then you’ll know what you want and how to use it.

    • #271781

      @Cioimo  For someone like yourself who is cautious about getting into the sport I would recommend the following stepwise approach:

      1. Start on (very) easy trails.  Find something that is relatively flat without too many obstacles.  At the very beginning you just want to get used to riding on dirt. probably has most of the trails in your area listed and rated.  Look for “green” trails and read the trail descriptions and rider reviews.  [NB: Don’t be put off if a trail is rated low by reviewers.  It’s usually because the trails were too easy for an advanced rider but this is not your situation… currently ;)]
      2. Almost any bike will do for these kinds of trails.  I started out using a 15 year old (at the time) $300 hybrid bike.  It was heavy (made of steel), was fully rigid (no suspension), narrow tires and rim brake pads.  I suspect that you or someone you know has something in the garage that is more capable than this.  I would not advise going out and buying a brand new mountain bike if you’re not sure this is something you want to do unless you are comfortable selling it if you decide MTB is not for you.
      3. Build basic skills.  You can watch all the videos in the world but the only thing that gets you better is riding.  You want to develop a feel for where your weight should be on the bike.  Learning basic skills like the attack position, cornering and centering your weight over the bottom bracket are central to developing more advanced skills.  Also, I have found that learning these skills on a “lesser” bike will go a long way toward making you a better rider in the long run since your technique will need to be better.
      4. I would recommend that you consider finding a local beginner group in your area to ride with.  You can usually find one on Meetup or check to see if your local bike shop has organized rides for beginners.  You can also check to see if there are any MTB skills clinics being coordinated in  your area.  Always good to learn from a certified teacher.  Not only will they show you what to do but they also film you so that you can see what you’re actually doing.
      5. As you become more comfortable on these easier trails, push yourself to go a little faster each time.  Not only will this help you advance your skills but it will also build your fitness so that you can handle trails with increasing difficulty and elevation change.
      6. Start to venture out to new (slightly) more difficult trails as your skills improve.   To continue to get better, you need to push yourself (group rides are great for this because they do so in a very supportive environment).
      7. Throughout this time try to borrow/demo/rent a few bikes.  You’ll begin to get a feel for what feels comfortable to you and within your price range.
      8. Know that you will fall.  It’s ok.  EVERYONE does.  Try to understand why you fell and what you need to do differently next time.  Don’t be afraid to “session” that section of trail (think “do over” or, if you’re a golfer think “taking a mulligan” LOL).   Just dust yourself off and hop back on and try again… or just ride on.  It’s all good!
      9. If you’ve made it this far…. CONGRATS & welcome to the club!
    • #271783

      I could type it all out, but Seth did such a good job in a series of videos.
      After you get the basics, Phil Kmetz also has an excellent series of videos on how do build slightly more advanced skills. (or search “Skills with Phill, beginner”)
      First off, follow the advice in the episode about picking a beginner bike. You should be able to find a great lightly used beginner bike for around $500. I’d suggest starting on a hardtail (contrary to what others might suggest) for price, simplicity, and skill building. Don’t be afraid to learn bike maintenance as well, it can make the sport so much more affordable and get you out of a trailside bind WHEN (not if) something goes wrong. Don’t be too intimidated if you aren’t mechanically inclined, bikes are actually really simple machnines and there are a ton of really good “how-to” resources on YouTube. Park Tools has a really good YouTube page ( with excellent instructions that cover just about all aspects of bike maintenance (yeah, they push Park Tools but they are still really good).
      Once you begin to build some skills (or even come to the realization that this sport is for you), you can start demo-ing bikes or dabbling in the FS world to see if that is a route you’d want to go before making the investment or even if you want to.

    • #273700

      For initial gear advice, I’d talk with your local bike shops, see what they have to offer and take a few bikes for some test rides. I’d also echo what Phonebem said about starting off on a hardtail…not a bad idea at all, but then that’s how I started and I may be biased.

      For good trails to ride and people to ride with, I’d suggest checking if your area has a MTB advocacy organization. I don’t know where you are, but in New England, the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA) maintains a webpage of all the trail networks they build or help maintain with listings for each of the 6 states that include descriptions of general terrain and what percentage of the trails are geared toward each skill level, directions, and trail maps. Each regional chapters holds multiple group rides geared toward every level from beginner (never ridden a MTB) to groups of semi-pro riders. Groups rides will help you build relationships with other MTBers who will help you with advice and tips along the way and help you immerse yourself in the sport.

    • #276304

      @rmap01 nailed it. Go with that list.

      I’d be more than happy to share my experience if it would help. I began mountain biking just on the right side of 50 . . . where I still am. I turn 51 next year.

      You have a lot of people here willing to help you – myself included.


      (sorry, thought I’d posted this HOURS ago.)

    • #277643

      I started in Sept. 2018. I have 2 bulging discs in my lower back. So I knew from the get-go I wouldn’t be riding crazy (would’ve love to though). I guess you can ask yourself what kind of riding would you like to do eventually? If you have an idea of what that would be, then that would be a good start.

      In Sept. 2018, a couple guys took me out to a local trail (suited for intermediate riders) and OTB’d twice (OTB is when you go Over The Bar and crash in case you didn’t know). I borrowed one of their full suspension bikes. Here’s a few things I wish I knew/did better on:

      1. Climbing: I wish the guys told me to lock out the suspensions when climbing. I was bobbing a lot, which made climbing undesirable and not fun!

      2. Decending: I was shown the attack position, but it was hard for me to remember it when the track was fast and next to a cliff. I also failed to remember not to hit the front brake too hard, which caused me to OTB.

      3. Don’t go too fast on the decents, especially on turns/switchbacks.

      4. If you lay your eyes on an item (such as a big rock) 99% of the time, you will go toward it. Running into a big rock caused me to OTB.

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