Are you a mountain biker looking to take your friend, family member, or significant other out for their first ride? We have some advice on what to do so everyone has a good time. It’s easy to forget what it’s like to be a beginner and what might be seen as common knowledge to you could be completely foreign to a newbie. Follow this list for our top tips on how to introduce someone to mountain biking and a few things to avoid!
Get Off The Bike
Before you take off on your ride show them the basics of the bike. It is best to do this in a parking lot, at the trailhead, or any flat area that’s out of the way. Why? This may be their first time seeing a mountain bike! Take this time to show which brake lever controls the front brake and the rear. Point to the shifter and show them which one shifts up and which shifts down. Does the bike have a dropper post? Show them how that works too! Doing this ahead of time will cover all the bases. Doing it off the bike will make it easier for them to focus. After all, this is their first mountain bike ride. They won’t be able to listen to much instruction while they are riding.
Show Them How To Stand Up
To many beginners, the idea of standing up while you ride seems crazy. To them, sitting down seems like the safer thing to do! You can explain to them that your legs are like suspension for your bike. If you are sitting down, then the suspension doesn’t work. If you go over a bump while sitting down, you could go flying over the handlebars, and well, that’s not fun! Show them what it looks like to stand on a bike, with one foot forward and one foot back, and both feet level to the ground. Just like a goofy vs. regular stance on a skateboard or snowboard, each person will prefer having one foot forward and one back while riding. They can feel it out when they hop on the bike. Explain to them that they want to keep their pedals parallel with the ground. This keeps their weight distributed evenly over the bike.
Teach Them How To Brake
If it’s their first-time mountain biking, then there is a good chance they have never used disk brakes before. It is important to tell them how powerful disk brakes are. Using one finger on the brake lever is all they need to stop the bike. Using one finger on each brake lever makes it harder but not impossible to lock the brakes up. It also frees up the rest of their fingers to hold onto the grips. The key thing to teach a beginner is even pressure one-finger braking. This helps them use both of their brakes, which is essential for mountain biking. Did you know that 70% of stopping power comes from the front brake? It does! This is why it’s important to use the front brake, too.
Do A Test Run
While you are still in your learning zone (trailhead, parking lot, etc) do a test run of the basics. Make sure they know how to shift the gears. This would be a good time to teach them how to make clean shifts (ie not under power). Let them test out the dropper post if they have one. Also, have them practice stopping using both fingers without locking the brakes. If things look good and they are feeling comfortable with the bike and how it works, then head out!
Choose The Correct Terrain
Keep it mellow! As we mentioned earlier, it is easy to forget what it’s like to be a beginner. What might seem like nothing to you could be scary to a beginner. We recommend sticking to strictly green trails for a maiden voyage. There are plenty of good options for finding beginner trails using Trailforks or MTB Project. Putting someone in over their head is the easiest way to have a bad time. The ride might even be boring for you as a competent mountain biker. It will be worth it in the end if they have a good time, which leads us to our list of things not to do!
Don’t Over Terrain
Taking someone on advanced or even intermediate terrain can be a fast way to make someone hate mountain biking (and possibly you). One way to give some agency to the beginner rider is by checking out the trail descriptions together. Read the descriptions and the stats to find something suitable. Is it a 10-mile ride with 2000 feet of climbing? Probably not a good idea. Is it a 3-mile loop with 100 feet of climbing and several bailout points? That’s probably a better choice. If it sounds good to both of you, then they have some idea of what they are getting into. This way if things go south, it’s not entirely your fault they are having a bad time.
Don’t Over Explain
We’ve seen many frustrated couples return from a mountain bike outing and some even head straight to divorce court. Who would have thought being outside in nature could do this to someone? Unfortunately, it can happen. This is easily avoidable by keeping it chill. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day and they will still be a beginner by the end of their first day. It is totally fine if they are walking sections of the trail and saying I can’t do it. Just try to have fun and be supportive if they ask for help.
If you follow these tips, you should avoid many of the common pitfalls that so many have made before you. We hope you found this list helpful. Happy riding!