Been enjoying your road bike for quite some time, and decided to try life on the muddier side? While it may seem daunting, your first mountain bike ride will be full of fun and exciting experiences.
Taking up mountain biking will greatly improve your handling, power, and maybe even your confidence. It can take a little bit of getting used to, though. Here are a few hurdles you should expect to overcome...
Do you ride clipless or flat pedals?
It's a difficult decision. You've been riding with clipless pedals on a road bike for years - but should you hop straight onto the MTB with your feet stuck to the pedals?
Go with flats, and you'll be confident you can put a foot down when you need to but might feel you're lacking that 'pull' stroke when climbing. Go with clips and you'll feel stronger on the climbs, but might feel a bit unstable on some of the rocky and fast descents.
You're scared of everything on the ground
How did such normal, everyday items (and creatures) suddenly become a source of so much fear? Well - because a collision at the wrong angle might well result in a meeting with the floor - so it's kind of understandable, actually.
When we spoke to Tracey Moseley, she gave us some valuable advice: "For me, the biggest fault of most riders is that they do not look ahead enough on the trail. They just look at their front wheel or the rock they are about to ride in to! People need to look ahead on the trail to help with their balance and also with good line choice."
It's a bit harder to account for a wayward woodland creature, but you can dodge a rock if you see it in advance. And of course, remember that your big, squishy tyres will deal with it all much better, so go with it, be confident, and ride over obstacles if you have to (er - not the live ones though).
Tyre pressure confusion
Back to flowing over obstacles confidently... running a lower tyre pressure will make it much easier.
On a road bike, you might be used to getting those tyres up to 100psi. Off-road, you're after more like 20 -35. Low tyre pressure gives you more grip and cushioning. However, too low and you risk pinch flats, which is why many experienced mountain bikers ride tubeless tyres.
It's a different type of fitness (and you want it)
Sailing down a beautiful descent, turn a corner and BAM - there's a massive incline. What is with that?!
On the road, you get steep climbs, but more often than not with a little warning, and on the whole they're more about endurance than all out muscle power.
Off-road, you'll find you get longer breaks between efforts, but those efforts up steep, mud covered climbs are going to be hard work. Just accept that, and relish the benefits it'll have on your fitness (even if you're running up the hill with the bike, yelling: "guuuyyyss, hold up!")
You find climbing just as scary as descending
Back to the climbing - you might well find yourself feeling a bit wobbly, as you power yourself uphill on an uneven surface. Fear of the rear wheel, or front wheel, slipping on some devilishly placed piece of flint is totally normal.
Think of this as fantastic for developing your mental hardiness, keep your eyes ahead, and keep going. Most of this battle is mental.
You get your foot stuck in the mud
Ugh - this is NOT COOL. Experienced riders will find it easy, but beginners will probably discover that there's a bit of an art to pedalling through the mud. It's all about keeping it going with hard, powerful strokes. If you lose momentum? Well - we hope you weren't wearing white shoes...
Crashing at low speed doesn't hurt that much
Yes - it will happen. Maybe not on your first ride, or your second - but that tumble is waiting for you.
Often when you're going fast, you'll be watching out for anything that might knock you off balance. It's those slow moments you've got to be careful for - when you're climbing to the brow of a hill, hit a root, and topple into a bush, head first... (not that that happened to me..)
Regardless - the first crash is pivotal. You'll realise (we hope) that it doesn't hurt that much, that it wasn't that scary - and that should bring your confidence to no end!
So what are you waiting for, go on - give it a go!
Check out our archive of essential MTB skills to brush up on your bike handling and technique before you head out!