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  • Any mountain bikers?

    My wife has convinced me to go mountain biking with her. (she just finished a class and loves it.) ...She says it will be good exercise and a good thing for us to do together. Is she just trying to get me killed? Is this a real sport like ping-pong or golf...or should I go ahead and take out a life insurance policy? (my definition of a real sport does not involve risking life and limb!)

    Anyone else into this? Any good recommendations for a beginner?

  • #2
    Greg,
    My husband is director of the local Mountain Bike Patrol and I used to mountain bike with him, but haven't for a few years.

    My suggestion is to start out on dirt roads rather than single-track trails. You have a lot more leeway for error on dirt roads - and they tend not to be as technical as single-track (unless they're 4WD roads, which can be pretty technical even for bikes in canyon country.)

    When you feel comfortable on dirt roads, move on to the "easy" single track trails. By "easy", I mean those trails which are relatively flat, not too (loose) rocks and not too many tree roots. Beware: trails which have a deep furrow are intimidating when you're first learning because keeping your front wheel within the 12" or so that the trail gives you can be tough until you get used to it.

    Visit a local bike shop and get some recommendations for beginner trails. Most bike shops have maps available and personnel who know all the trails in the area. They're a great resource.

    Don't feel like you have to ride the entire trail!! GET OFF AND WALK through the tough sections that you don't feel ready for.

    Not sure how much of a cyclist you are (if you cycle a lot, you probably already know this), but when you're going DOWNHILL, get your butt up off the seat and push it WAY back to move your center of gravity further back on the bike. The steeper the grade, the more you want to get your weight back. (I remember sometimes having the seat pushing into my stomach.) If you don't do this, you'll feel like you're going to go over the handle bars - and very likely will. Practice doing this even on easy downhills so that you get used to the feel of doing it.

    Use your low gears when going up hill!! It's much easier on your knees to "spin" rather than pump the pedals really hard on the uphills. And as you get more technical, the only way to go up some of the steeper inclines is in "1-1" (smallest gear in the front and largest gear in the back.)

    Be respectful of other trail users. Bikes are supposed to yield to BOTH hikers and equestrians. If you see a horse on the trail, stop, pull off and greet the riders verbally so that the horse will know you're a person. If the horse is not used to bikes, it might not recognize you as a human if you're straddling your bike and might spook.

    Don't go faster than you can control the bike. This is especially important when going down switchbacks on trails shared by hikers. If you are coming up on a hiker from behind, slow down and let them know you're there - and which side you'll be passing them on. Give them time to react b/c you might startle them and even if you say "Passing left" - they might move to the left in a panic.

    MOST IMPORTANT: WEAR A HELMET AT ALL TIMES!! Also, you'll want to have toe-clips on your pedals so that your feet don't slip off the pedals, esp. going downhill (when your only contact with the bike is your hands and feet, b/c your butt is off the seat and pushed back.)

    Oh - and always bring a patch kit (or spare tube) and tire irons, and know how to change a flat tire. You don't want to be stuck out on the trail and have to walk all the way back home (or to your car) carrying your bike.

    Be sure to bring plenty of water - esp. since you're in an arid climate. This is esp. important in the heat. I find that I stay more hydrated with a Camelbak (or similar) system because it's easier to drink while continuing to ride than having to reach down for a water bottle.

    This might be more than you wanted to know, but should help some. You might want to take a beginner mountain bike class to learn some of the techniques of riding that will make the trail riding more enjoyable. But, if you start out on dirt roads, you'll still get a good workout without having to worry so much about the techinical details.

    The other MOST IMPORTANT thing: HAVE FUN!!

    Jeanie

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    • #3
      P.S. I don't know if you have access to trails which essentially traverse sandstone and nothing else. (Like Slick Rock trail in Moab, UT.) If so, it's a blast. The rubber tires of the bike seem to just "stick" to the sandstone. You can traverse slopes which seem to defy the laws of physics.

      OK - perhaps you should wait a little while before you try that.

      Jeanie

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      • #4
        <Any good recommendations for a beginner?>

        Greg after all that I would recommend you stick to the flower arranging!!! J whats the Mountain Bike Patrol? do they bring the bodies of 'failed' bikers home?

        Cheers....

        Comment


        • #5
          Chris,

          The Mountain Bike Patrol is like a Ski Patrol, but on mountain bikes in the summer instead of skis in winter.

          From their website:

          The Diamond Peaks Mountain Bike Patrol (DPMBP) is an all-volunteer non-profit organization, whose goal is to promote responsible mountain biking and provide a service to all trail users. The Patrol is a member of the International Bicycling Association (IMBA) and the National Mountain Bike Patrol. Our mission is to educate, rather than enforce, through the promotion of "Tread Lightly" practices, IMBA "Rules of the Trail", and general low-impact/shared-use ethics. Patrollers also do trail maintenance and provide emergency medical care, mechanical advice and information on backcountry preparedness and trail conditions.


          Greg, when you're beginning, mountain biking is most dangerous when you are riding trails beyond your ability level. So, respect your own limits and you'll be fine. If you do that, it's really fun!

          Jeanie

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          • #6
            Greg I'm a long time road bicyclist. About 12 years to be exact.
            My observations:
            Mountain biking is good exercise. Your wife is right.

            Be sure to start out on relatively flat (easy) courses so you'll have time to build up your legs. Depending on your level of fitness this could take as little as a week or in my case closer to a year.

            Mountain bikers have to be better riders to be able to avoid the obstacles in the more technical rides.

            Go to a good local bike shop for advice on trails and bicycles. They will know where the best beginner trails are.

            Bottom line is don't do too much too soon.

            Comment


            • #7
              Great advice! Thanks! Jeani...I printed your first post out for reference material. I am a complete novice at this! I'm not planning on taking on any steep hills...nice and easy to begin with. (parking lot easy!) I'm not sure what bike to get- lot's of brands have been recommended to me and I think I will go used. No sense in buying more bike than I need. Am I right to assume that a bike with just front suspension will be fine? ...full suspension and disk brakes are for the lunatics that fly down mountains at breakneck speeds?

              Comment


              • #8
                Am I right to assume that a bike with just front suspension will be fine? ...full suspension and disk brakes are for the lunatics that fly down mountains at breakneck speeds?

                I would certainly hope so! Just a few years ago full suspension was too expensive for the average mountain biker anyway - and there were plenty of "lunatics" flying down mountains. If you find you're riding on a lot of dirt roads with "washboard", you might wish you had full suspension. But of course, if you've never had it, you won't know what you're missing. (FWIW, my husband only has front suspension and does fairly technical riding.)

                As far as what kind of bike to get - the most important thing is how the bike feels when you ride it, not the brand! When I bought my bike, I spent hours going around to all of the bike shops, getting on bikes and riding them around the parking lot (or side streets), making sure to drop off of curbs and such to get a feeling for that. If you can find a hill on your test ride, go up for a while so you can get a feel for how comfortable the bike is in that situation. (You tend to lean forward when going up hills.) As you try out different bikes, you'll start to understand that different brands/models really do feel different. I would suggest that even if you are planning on getting a used bike, still ride some of the new bikes in the bike shops so that you have a larger selection to test ride. (If you don't want to plunk down the $$ for full suspension, then don't test ride those, since it might make you think you don't like anything without full suspension. I don't know this for sure since I've never ridden a full suspension bike, but I've been told the ride feels "cushier".)

                I highly recommend front suspension though. It really reduces fatigue in your arms on long rides - even on simple dirt roads which are inherently bumpy.

                A good bike shop should be able to help you size the bike to your build. Getting the seat height correct is important to save your knees when riding up hills. Also, the distance between the seat and handle bars is different for different bikes (and can often be adjusted) and can make a big difference in how comfortable the bike feels.

                You'll probably want to get a pair of biking gloves. They don't need to be expensive ones, but they do provide a little extra padding on the palms of your hands and also helps to prevent your hands slipping on sweaty handle bars.

                Oh, one other thing. Be sure to follow Gary's advice and don't overdo your first few rides. Your butt will need to get used to sitting in a bike seat. Of course, you can even choose to buy a different seat which would be more comfortable. I bought a "gel seat" for my bike because it was so much more comfortable when riding. You might want to look into that if you find your seat is uncomfortable when riding. Just realize that you'll probably be a little sore at first, but just like any other sport, your body gets used to it fairly quickly, especially if you ride on a regular basis.

                Hope this helps,
                Jeanie

                Comment


                • #9
                  I ride as often as I can. I have mountain bikes, road bikes and a recumbent. Usually in a year I'll log about 3000 miles (this is both road and trail). The advice Jeanie has given you is very accurate. The only other suggestions I'd give you is to possibly consider one of the newer seat designs. These seats have a hole cut into the sitting area. The purpose of this is to prevent numbing in a "specific" area.
                  There have been studies made on the subject and it has been found that an improperly adjusted seat angle or incorrect seat height can be one of the leading causes of male impotence (I know . . . too much information).
                  Also, when you are in your sitting position, the seat should not be angled with the nose pointing down any more than just a few degrees. Too much angle causes arm fatigue as you resist the tendency to slide forward. It will also cause hand numbness. Having it angled too far up will cause numbness in that area previously mentioned. I would also avoid the "wide" soft seats, your posterior (sit bones) will eventually adjust to your seat.
                  Saddle height is also important. You don't want the seat so low where you cannot have a full power stroke, plus too low is hard on the knees. If you have it too high, your hips will move from side to side and you'll be overextending your leg. A slight bend at the knee is cool. If you were on a bike stand and someone was watching you from the rear, your hips should not move from side to side. And your knee should have a slight bend at the full stroke of the pedal.
                  Before you decide to go up or down a mountain slope, I'd suggest some flat trails to get into shape.
                  After you get yourself adjusted to your bike, you may want to refrain from powering a tall gear. Spinning is a good plan when you first start riding. Several weeks of riding where you are mainly spinning is a good way to get your legs in shape.

                  If you haven't purchased a bike yet, I'd also suggest that the bicycle dealer "fit" you to a bike, so the bike size is correct for your specific body measurements.

                  enjoy

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by LQQKER
                    The only other suggestions I'd give you is to possibly consider one of the newer seat designs. These seats have a hole cut into the sitting area. The purpose of this is to prevent numbing in a "specific" area.
                    There have been studies made on the subject and it has been found that an improperly adjusted seat angle or incorrect seat height can be one of the leading causes of male impotence (I know . . . too much information).
                    Yikes! That's good info to know...my wife might not be as excited about me biking when she hears this!

                    This is starting to sound dangerous!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      And we haven't even discussed the possibility of getting radiation burns from your computer monitor.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        My bike shop will let me "borrow" a bike for the weekend to try it out. They've sold a lot of bikes this way.

                        Biking shorts are another option along with gloves and helmet. Generally my minimum bike ride is two hours. Those padded shorts help out a lot.

                        Bike brands are like automobiles. Everyone has a favorite. My two bikes are made by Trek based in Wisconsin.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          doesn't have to be expensive... wal-mart sells a nice aluminum frame mongoose with front and rear shocks for under $200 now.... ... 10 years ago it would have cost me $250 just for the front shock.. an inexpensive way to see if you'd actually enjoy it... Must say I miss the bike trails of so. fla... ( ok.. so there were no mountains )
                          RonDon

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                          • #14
                            Rondon, I would caution against taking a Walmart bike on anything too technical. They're fine for dirt roads that a regular car can drive on or on fairly flat trails. However, I've heard horror stories from bike mechanics of cheaper bikes literally breaking in two pieces on the trail because they're not really made to take a lot of abuse. (They may look the same as more expensive bikes, but they're not made the same.)

                            In any case, you're right that it doesn't have to be expensive. There are some shops that sell used bikes (traded in by someone buying a new bike). If you're planning to doing distance riding though, it really pays to be properly fitted for a bike by a trained bike mechanic. That doesn't mean it has to be a new bike - just that a bike is adjusted to fit your proportions. Trust me, your body (esp. your knees and back) will thank you!

                            Jeanie

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I've little experience of mountain bikes but have several bespoke road/touring bikes mainly in 531 or Columbus tubing. The thing that amazes me over here is the number of people I see using mountain bikes for road touring. I see a lot of people doing our end to end trip (southermost tip of England to the northermost point in Scotland) using mountain bikes, it must be absolute torture.

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