Become a pro: Mountain biking

A comprehensive beginner’s guide to getting started in your favourite sport.

Every pro athlete started out as a novice, but with the right approach to training and technique development, they soon mastered their craft and rose to the top of their game. This beginner’s guide will help you get started in your sport of choice, ensuring you tick all the boxes on your way to sporting success.

A beginner’s guide: Mountain biking

Before you head off on your first ride it’s important to get yourself properly kitted out. There is nothing worse than spending thousands of rands on a new mountain bike and equipment, only to find out that your new investment is not adequate for the type of riding you plan on doing.

Step 1: Visit a reputable specialist cycling store. The staff will be able to help with advice on buying the best bike for your preferred type of riding, be it enduro, marathon riding, trails or downhill. They can also offer advice on the best accessories and parts to ensure an enjoyable experience from the start.

Step 2: Get assessed for a proper bike set up. Specialist stores will have the necessary equipment to check your body measurements and biomechanics, and configure your new bike appropriately.

Step 3: Join a cycling club, find a group of more experienced riders, or attend one of the many mountain biking clinics available countrywide. This will give you access to relevant and pertinent information from the start, from a group of experienced and like-minded people and experts.

Top tips to improve your riding

1. Protect yourself: Everyone falls at some stage, but the correct protective equipment and learning how to fall can minimise the risk of serious injury.

2. Get comfortable: Before you hit the trails, get accustomed to handling your bike on a flat, smooth surface. Practise clipping in and out of your pedals so that you can execute this with ease.

3. Get the basics down: Learn the basic move of lifting your front wheel and putting it back down safely. Start by lifting your front wheel on a flat surface first, before progressing.

4. Head up, eyes forward: By constantly looking ahead you’ll avoid trouble or the need for emergency braking. Alternate between looking just in front of you and further up the track to check your line and spot hazards.

5. Plan ahead: Once you’ve spotted a hazard, deal with it as early as possible by either changing your line or planning the appropriate move for when you get there. Brake or steer early and smoothly rather than leaving it to the last minute to avoid a fall or panic.

6. Assume the position: Your riding position can mean the difference between staying upright or eating dirt. Always approach an obstacle in the ‘standing’ position with your pedals level and your strongest foot forward for more manoeuvrability and quicker response times.

7. Maintain tension and traction: Shift your weight to the back tyre to maintain wheel traction. Tension on the chain lets you manoeuvre out of a stalled position or will drive you forward when you pedal.

8. Become a braking expert: Harsh braking results in a loss of control. Rather, apply the brakes in a smooth manner (progressive braking) and brake when traveling in a straight line, rather than with the front wheel turned. If a wheel skids under braking, release the brake then re-apply with a little less pressure, or brake less with the front brake as the trail gets loose.

If riding isn’t your thing – check out the beginner guide to running.


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Author: Tanja Schmitz

Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.

Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You'll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.

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