How To Get Into Mountain Biking

in Shelby County

Have you ever tried mountain biking? It’s such a thrilling way to stay fit and experience nature! Do you know how road bikes have thin tires? Well, mountain bikes have wider tires with sturdy treads that offer stability and durability while navigating through off-road terrain. Plus, the riding posture is more upright, which allows you to appreciate the surrounding scenery better. Some mountain bikes even come with suspension systems that absorb shock, providing a more comfortable ride.

The best part is that you don’t even need to be in the mountains to enjoy it! There are plenty of trails ranging from easy rides to single and double tracks. We’ll go over the different types of mountain bike terrain, the various styles of mountain biking, and the essential gear you need before your first ride. Check it out and discover mountain biking trails in Shelby County

How To Get Into Mountain Biking

When you first start mountain biking, you’ll likely stick to the easier trails that are smooth and obstacle-free. But as you gain more experience, you’ll develop the skills to navigate and conquer barriers, which is part of the fun of the sport! The trails are typically marked by skill level, ranging from beginner to double expert, and are well-maintained to ensure your safety. Don’t worry, though; we’ll start with the basics and work our way up. You’ll be a pro in no time!

Types Of Mountain Biking Tracks

Have you heard of the different types of trails for mountain biking? 

Single-track is the most common trail type and is usually just wide enough for one bike, with a width that varies from just a little wider than your shoulders up to a track that’s wide enough for two bikes to pass. These trails often wind through the best terrain that the landscape offers, and many are open to one-way travel to keep things safe and fun. 

You will find mostly single-track trails at Oak Mountain State Park.

There are also double-track trails, which are usually double the width of a typical singletrack trail and allow enough room for two bikes to ride side-by-side. These trails tend to be less technical and have a gentler grade, often following abandoned logging roads, fire roads, or power-line roads where vehicles have created two tracks.

But if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, mountain bike terrain parks are where it’s at! These parks have features like elevated bridges, halfpipes, jumps of various sizes, berms, banked corners, and hairy downhill switchbacks. They’re popping up everywhere, from under urban overpasses to lift-serviced trails at ski resorts.

Mountain Biking Styles

Most bike companies group their bikes into different categories based on the style of mountain biking. This is really helpful because it can help you figure out which type of bike is best for you!

There’s Trail riding, which is probably the most common style. It’s great for riding with friends and has a mix of climbs and descents. These bikes are designed to be fun, efficient, and not too heavy. Most mountain biking trails around Shelby County are this style.

Then there’s Cross-Country, which is all about going fast and focusing on climbing. These bikes are light and efficient and good if you’re looking to get competitive or just want a faster ride.

All-Mountain/Enduro riding is like Trail riding but on steroids! It has bigger climbs, longer descents, and more technical features. The bikes for this style are designed to perform well on steep descents while also being light and nimble enough to pedal uphill. It’s become so popular that the term “enduro” is often used interchangeably with all-mountain. 

Downhill/Park riding is done at lift-serviced bike parks and involves riding big, tough bikes with full-face helmets and body armor. These bikes are designed to handle jumps, berms, rock gardens, and wooden ladders and require less pedaling since you’re mostly going downhill.

Lastly, there’s Fat-Tire biking. These bikes have tires that are at least 3.7 inches wide and are great for riding through snow and sand. They’re also forgiving on rough terrain, so they’re a great choice for beginners.

Types Of Mountain Bikes

The type of bike you ride is usually determined by where you plan on riding. Two key features that determine a bike’s terrain capabilities are suspension type and wheel diameter. There are lots of options for both, like 26, 27.5 (650b), and 29ers. It’s pretty cool to have so many choices!

Suspension Types

Mountain bikes come in different types of suspension, and each one benefits from different riding styles.

First, there are “rigid” mountain bikes with no suspension. While they are less common, they are easy to maintain and usually less expensive. Most fat-tire bikes are rigid, and their wide tires and low pressure provide plenty of cushion for bumps in the trail.

Then there are “hardtail” bikes that have a suspension fork in the front but no suspension in the rear. They are typically less expensive than full-suspension bikes and have fewer moving parts to maintain. Hardtails are great for cross-country riding, as they allow for a more direct transfer of power between the pedal stroke and the rear tire.

Finally, there are “full-suspension” bikes that have both front and rear suspension to absorb the impacts of the trail. This type of bike is great for reducing the impact on the rider, increasing traction, and making for a more comfortable ride. However, they can be a bit less efficient when climbing uphill, so many full-suspension bikes have the ability to lock out the rear suspension for better power transfer.

When it comes to bikes designed for downhill riding, they usually have a lot of suspension travel – this refers to the amount of movement in the suspension. In comparison to bikes designed for cross-country and all-mountain riding, it’s quite common for downhill bikes to have as much as eight inches of travel both in the front and rear suspension.

Wheel Size

Having the wrong wheel size on a mountain bike can cause some “wheel problems” 😉. You’ll most likely be asked if you want 26-in., 27.5-in., or 29-in. wheels when you go to a bike shop to look at mountain bikes.

Back in the day, mountain bikes used to only come with 26-inch. wheels, but now there are other options available. Even though 26-inch. wheels are still popular because of their maneuverability.

27-in., or 650b, wheels strike a balance between traditional 26-in. wheels and 29ers, giving you the best of both worlds. They roll more easily over obstacles than the 26s while still being more maneuverable than the 29ers. You can find this wheel size on both full-suspension and hardtail bikes, just like with 29ers.

29ers are bicycles with 29-inch wheels that are typically heavier and slower to accelerate than bikes with standard 26-inch wheels. However, once in motion, they can easily conquer more challenging terrain than their counterparts. Additionally, they offer superior grip and a higher “attack angle,” making it easier for the wheels to roll over obstacles on the trail. As a result, they have gained immense popularity among cross-country riders. Both hardtail and full-suspension versions of 29ers are available.

How To Dress For Mountain Biking

When you’re out biking, it’s way more comfortable if you wear clothes designed for the sport. But different types of mountain biking call for different clothes.

Shorts: There are a bunch of options for mountain biking shorts. You can choose tight-fitting ones (which are popular with cross-country racers) or baggy ones that look more casual and offer more coverage and durability against snags on the trail. Most have a padded chamois lining that helps cut down on saddle fatigue and trail impact.

Jersey: Just like shorts, you can get mountain biking jerseys that are tight or loose-fitting. Whatever you go for, make sure it’s made from sweat-wicking material that dries quickly. Also, pick something easy to wash and dry. If you’re carrying a backpack, you won’t need loads of pockets, but some mountain bike jerseys come with that option.

Gloves: A good pair of gloves makes a big difference to your hands and wrists. Go for ones with padding at the palm. Full-fingered gloves keep your hands warm and provide extra texture between your fingers, brake, and gear shifters. And, if you have a crash, both fingerless and full-fingered gloves add protection.

Mountain Biking Gear And Accessories

Your gear matters. Some things, like a proper helmet, are non-negotiables.

Mountain Bike Helmets

When it comes to biking, a mountain bike helmet is the way to go if you want more coverage and protection compared to a road bike helmet. Look for one with plenty of vents and protection at the back of your head. A full-face helmet is the way to go if you’re heading downhill. No need to buy one, though; most bike parks rent them out.

No matter what style you choose, all helmets on the market have to pass safety tests. Some even have this new thing called MIPS technology, which is a layer that moves independently of the shell and limits the twisting of your brain if you take a hit at an angle. 

Mountain Bike Shoes And Pedals

If you want to ride a mountain bike, you should pick shoes and pedals that make you feel comfortable and match the kind of riding you plan to do.

If you’re new to mountain biking or don’t feel very confident, flat platform pedals are a good starting point. They let you get on and off the bike quickly without having to unclip from the pedal, which is helpful for building up your skills. Once you’re ready to move onto clipless pedals, the transition will be smoother.

For downhill riding with platform pedals, you’ll want shoes with a sticky sole that can grip the pedals but still let you easily dismount if things get tricky.

As you become more skilled, you might want to try clipless pedals. They give you more control and power transfer, but they also require more commitment in tricky terrain. If you decide to use clipless pedals, practice connecting and disconnecting your foot on soft grassy terrain.

No matter what type of riding you do, look for shoes with hard, protective toes, good grip for hiking, and some water protection for rain and mud.

Hydration Backpacks For Mountain Biking

Road bikers might find hydration packs too big and cumbersome, but they’re perfect for mountain biking because they’re so handy. When choosing a hydration pack, make sure it has enough room to store an extra layer of clothing, repair tools, snacks, and a clip to keep your hydration sleeve attached to the shoulder or sternum strap of the pack.

Mountain Bike Repair Kit

Don’t let mechanical issues ruin your ride and leave you stranded! Packaging a few essential items for in-the-field repairs saves you from the hassle of walking. Make sure to bring a spare tube, a hand pump or CO2 inflator, and a small multitool with several Allen wrenches and a chain tool. Having these tools with you can make a big difference in getting back on the trail quickly and easily. So, before you head out on your next ride, take a few minutes to pack these important items and enjoy a stress-free adventure.