When you're taking up a new hobby or sport, you're bound to make mistakes. We formulate our own misconceptions, unrealistic expectations and in cycling, we fall... a lot.
As the saying goes: "you learn from your mistakes". Jamming on the front brake and sailing over the handlebars isn't something you're going to do twice, hopefully.
In an attempt to highlight common newbie faux pas', we took to social media and asked our fellow trail shredding females, "What were your rookie mistakes in MTB?"
The responses from the off-road family were overwhelming, educational, and downright hilarious, but you have to start somewhere, right?
My MTB Rookie Error: Forgoing Padded Shorts
Where better to start than with myself, and I have a few! When I started riding MTB, I severely underestimated the necessity for padded shorts.
"I don't want to feel like I'm wearing a nappy", was my reasoning. After my first ever trail ride, a rocky and bumpy blue grade, my lady bits and bum were screaming at me. After that, I spent 2 days alternating which bum cheek I could sit on. Safe to safe, I won't attempt to ride anywhere without a little bum cushioning.
It doesn't end there either. When I did finally invest in some well-padded pants, I didn't realise they're to be worn without knickers - against the skin - so in winter, I would find my undercarriage layered up like a cake: knickers, tights, padded shorts, baggy shorts. Now I ride commando in my padded shorts, and I'm so much more comfortable!
Reader's MTB Rookie Errors
After posting the question in the women's MTB Facebook group, MTB Chix & Trails, the stories began rolling in and with it a relieving sense of "I'm not alone in this".
Here's a few shared mistakes, and advice from the women's MTB community...
Zara Kane: "Mine was the thinking that because I want to ride downhill, I should have a downhill bike when I really should have had a hard-tail or XC bike to learn the basics on. I think part of me just wanted to be a cool DH chick without putting in the work first... oh the shame."
Then there are the misjudged kit errors we've all made in our first rides...
Sarah Wylie: "I rocked up to Glentress to ride blue trails on a Kona Stuff jump bike with failing brakes, wearing a full pressure suit 2 sizes too big for me, and a full face helmet. Wore it all day and struggled on the climbs. Can you spell noob?!"
Samantha Saskia Dugon: "Wearing my Lycra 3/4 gym leggings, with a road jersey and my friends shagged kneepads... which were about 10 sizes too big for me. Such shame"
Sarah Desaster: "My mistake was thinking I didn't need shin guards. My other mistake was doing my first ever run at a real bike park in the Alps when I had only cycled local trails before. A little overwhelming"
Kerrie Dolman: "My other half took me on the blue route round Cannock Chase for my first ride, and I argued with him before going out that I didn't want/need to wear a helmet. In the end, I was told I was wearing a helmet because I'd be stupid not to. Half way round, I came off and came very close to hitting my head on a tree stump."
Heather McCann on how to avoid mistakes: "Wear appropriate clothing. Waterproofs etc. Keep something warm in the car. Gloves, eye-wear, helmet, and decent shoes. Water and some food. Importantly, don't do a huge epic trail for the first ride. Ease yourself into it."
Those of us who didn't understand bike set-up and maintenance properly...
Amber charity: "I was never told that on my first ever XC bike the gear shifters changed both the front and rear gears. I thought there were just two rear gear shifters for easy access to change gear. I basically spent a good few months changing the front gears thinking it was the rear, and wondering why I never got anywhere and hills were really hard!
"I also used to have my seat ridiculously low because I thought that was the thing to do as I could reach the floor better!"
Megan Forman: "So far I've learnt to check a bike carefully after delivery ( otherwise you ride on a bald tyre for a while), get protective kit to cover knees and elbows (to avoid any more cuts and bruises) and that my breaks don't stop me no where near quick enough than what I would like. So break early to avoid face-planting trees and other such hard things!"
Laura Trevor Richer: "Tyres! I didn't realise how important good tires were. My first hard-tail came with some cheap Kenda tires on, and I was struggling in the mud to actually manage to turn flat corners. I ended up sliding straight off the trail into some bushes that were behind the corner. A friend convinced me I needed some new tyres, so got some High Rollers and was instantly able to ride the corners I couldn't before. I couldn't believe what a confidence boost it gave me!"
Lindsay Talks: "My mistake was not knowing how to deal with a puncture."
Abi Legge: "Building my own bike. What the hell are these industry standards?! How can there be so many different sizes of a component that is supposed to be "standard"? Wasted a fair bit of money buying things, then realising that it was yet another part which had 3 different "standard" sizes."
Jessie MacKintosh: "The first bike I got had a triple ring in the front. I presumed that because the big ring at the back is for climbing, the big chainring in the front must be for climbing too!"
Gail Beeston: "I did a Glentress red route on a £250 "special" hard-tail that might as well have had no front suspension at all, and was built to go touring on! I didn't know what all the fuss was about in terms of suspension and had never even heard of "travel" before, and didn't have a clue what a difference stem length and a lowered seat could make! Needless to say, it was a difficult experience, I fell off more times than I can count and must have cried all the way down! However, after going home and treating myself to a nice little XC full suss (and lots of learning) I am now flying down most things like its second nature."
Kat Bown: "Not taking the basics with you because you're only going on a short ride. 3 miles pushing your bike across fields because you have a flat isn't great fun!"
There are those who've made riding miscalculations...
Grace Zarczynska: "My beginner mistake was that whenever I got scared, I would ride dead slow and slam on the brakes. So, I would fall off because I was scared of falling off - vicious circle"
Nicole Baldock: "My beginner mistake, slamming only my rear brake around corners. And sitting down. My poor bits!"
Emma Giles: "Holding my breath when tackling a new obstacle - I quickly learnt you almost pass out!"
Edna Ednasson: "If I look at something I ride towards it even if I want to avoid it. There are these massive beetles in the woods, and I kill tonnes of them because I try to ride around them but then I look at them and it's bye bye beetle."
Maggie Bird: "Because I had mastered clip in peddles on my road bike, I thought it would be the way to go on my MTB! I was so wrong! I now wear Five Ten shoes with DMR flat pedals."
And those of us who had very different expectations...
Meg Dowson: "My beginner mistake was thinking that I'd have this biking malarkey down in a few months. It takes time, and know that it's going to be frustrating and painful, but you'll get there! After a year of biking, I'd still only call myself a rubbish intermediate rider. That what happens when you ride with peeps who are already good haha!"
Michelle Haigh: "That having the same hobby as your partner will mean romantic rides into the sunset, when in fact, you just end up riding a permanent 5 mins behind him and having arguments and tears."
Kalina Ligmanowska: "At the Red Bull Foxhunt 2015 with Rachel Atherton, I decided to go for a jump I wasn't ready for. When Rachel did it, it looked so easy! I end up going over handle bars and breaking my collarbone."
We've all been there, we have the scars and battle wounds to show for it too. Regardless of our rookie mountain bike mistakes, we still get back in the saddle and give it a go.
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