Now that you are thinking of embarking on some dirt adventures of your own, prepare yourself for many miles of beautiful scenery, wild singletrack, and technical climbs. The following mountain biking advice will help you start your off-road adventures with your best pedal forward.
Know your bike
Familiarize yourself with the systems of your bike: gears, shifters, brakes, suspension, and pedals. Make sure your bike is operating properly and your tires are at the correct pressure for each ride's terrain (check with your local EMS bike tech or bike shop for tire pressure advice).
Make sure your bike fits
Your bike needs to fit you correctly. Too small won't work, and too big won't work either.
Have a plan
Don't become committed to a ride that exceeds your abilities. Start out easy and increase the difficulty of your rides as you become more comfortable with the challenges inherent in the sport of mountain biking. If you are going on a group ride, touch base with the leaders so they understand your goals right from the start. If you are going with a buddy or significant other, make sure your goals are the same.
Carry what you need for the ride: spare tube, pump, tire levers, and a tool kit (you'll probably want to put these items in a seat bag for easy carrying). On top of that, know how to use the tools you carry. Mountain bikers must be self reliant. Have someone show you how to do minor repairs - like fixing a flat tire, adjusting brakes and derailleurs - before you go out into the woods. Imagine what it would be like to walk your bike for miles during blackfly or mosquito season, and you'll quickly learn how to use each of your tools!
Fuel your body
ALWAYS bring water. Also carry energy bars or gel - enough to get you home and a little for your friend. There's nothing worse than "bonking" (low blood sugar) ten miles from your home or car. Bonking can sneak up on you. Ask a veteran rider what bonking feels like and you'll hear some colorful stories!
If you can't ride it, walk it. Rest at the top of the hill, not in the middle. Stay positive and don't be afraid to portage (carry) your bike. Your lowest gear is with the bike on your shoulder. These will be the times when you can't get over that log or through that certain section of trail. Every great bike ride involves some carrying.
Find the smooth line
Look ahead down the trail for the best route through the terrain's obstacles. Use "soft" vision, which means don't focus on every little root or boulder. If you don't use "soft" eyes, you'll nail everything in the trail that you don't want to hit. Match your "soft" eyes to your speed: the faster you are going, the farther down the trail you should look.
Pop a wheelie!
Speed and momentum, plus a wheelie here and there, will make you a mountain biker. Learn to loft your front wheel; it will take you up and over. How do you do this? First, compress your fork. As it rebounds, pull up and back on the handlebars. Once you have that, add a little pedal power. Just enough pedal force will help lift your front wheel, but be careful not to go over backwards . . . it hurts!
Stand and be delivered
Get off your seat in the rough stuff. Your arms and legs are finely tuned suspension systems that will get you through many a rough patch and make the miles more comfortable. Put your feet at 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock and shift your butt just behind the seat. Don't lock your elbows or knees.