New Bike Reality

What you really need to know when you get into mountain biking.

I got into riding a bike again accidentally last summer and had no idea I was about to jump in head first and drown myself in such a great activity. To keep things short last summer I got a $200 10 yr old bike to ride around paved bikeways. I suddenly remembered how awesome it is to ride. It’s freedom, exercise, travel, and it feels GREAT. Skip to February this year and I decided to get a mountain bike. After many hours of research and deciding I ended up driving 1.5 hours away on a freezing cold day to meet a guy and buy my best guess about what I wanted to ride. $675 After the local bike shop checked it out and a few weeks of riding in the local woods trails I got hooked. BIG TIME. Well on april 7th I bought the bike I really wanted. It was a closeout in the dwindling stock and the timing felt right. I was nervous and excited and couldn't wait to spend the next 5 years riding this awesome new bike. It’s middle of the road but great for normal riders.

That escalated quickly.

Okay so here is where it gets interesting. Once you buy the bike you think the spending is over. Wrong. There are so many things available to improve your experience in many ways. A ton of them will actually help you and are totally worth it, but you need to do whats right for you. Here are my choices.

Padded tight cycling shorts. I know, I know. They look stupid and I don’t really need those. YES YOU DO. My first few rides consisted of me standing up a lot because I hated sitting on the seat. That’s not the intended use of the bike. You will perform better seated most of the time. I opted for the clearance shorts that were a pretty good model but marked down. I will never ride without padded shorts ever again. Spend the money and get ones that have a lot of padding and fit so well you don’t know you have them on. If you don’t want to be seen in them you can wear shorts over them. You can also buy baggy shorts with built in padded liner. There are options. Thank me later.

Gloves are probably the smallest thing you can buy that will make you connect to the bike and won’t look stupid. There are a ton of options so pick your favorite ones. Some are warmer for winter and some are lighter for summer. You may end up with both. I recently forgot mine, but I still rode without them. I made it, but I won’t forget them again. Sweaty hands aren’t great on the now sweaty grips as I’m bouncing over roots and rocks.

Cycling shirts come in every shape, design, color, material, you name it. I’ve tried a few different kinds and I found what I like best. It’s actually not a designed for cycling shirt, but certain aspects make it perfect. Fitted is highly recommended. If it’s loose enough to wrinkle up then you end up with pockets of heat where air can’t flow. Fitted makes sure air will move through the entire fabric. You also get aerodynamic benefits.

By the way YES aerodynamics will make you faster. Tight shorts and fitted shirts will make you streamlined and shave off seconds. I tested this on a high speed segment on my local trail.

Water. H2O. Hydration. Liquid life. Make sure you take enough water for the ride you are doing. I started with a water bottle cage on the frame and a 24oz water bottle. This was plenty for me until late June when it was getting pretty hot and I was riding longer. I now have an Osprey 2.5L backpack and I won’t trade it for anything. It’s comfortable, light, great utility and looks nice. It carries everything I need for the rides I do. Usually 8–15 miles. If it’s not as hot I won’t fill it up as far so Im not carrying as much weight. Don’t forget to adjust your suspension to offset the extra weight.

Handlebar grips do matter. For some reason stock grips aren’t awesome. I opted for fatter grips that are a little squishy. Everyone should find what fits them and feels good to them.

Pedals. This is a hot topic. Start out with regular flat pedals. GEt comfortable on the bike. Make sure you are at peak confidence before you think you want to try clipless. If you want to stay with flats, that’s totally fine. Do not feel pressured by anyone to change. For me they do help in certain situations, but I still feel a tad claustrophobic. I’m improving though. Here is the real deal about pedals. They are your main connection to the bike. With flats you will have total freedom, but bounce around some. With clipless you are always in the perfect pedaling position. Also you can pull yourself up a hill in a way you can’t with flats. It took me some time to get used to them, but I have a few scars that prove it. I kept my flats just incase I ever want to use them again. Don’t forget you have to buy special shoes for clipless also.

All of these little things do add up to a better experience riding.

Next I want to try oval gears on the front. It’s supposed to smooth out the pedal stroke and I can’t wait to try it.

Lastly please don’t let other people bother you with talk of what YOU should buy or change. You will hear a lot of bro talk on the trails. Just do what you want and know is right for you. Most people are nice and will try to help. It’s a sport where you can’t be in a bad mood. Go enjoy it.

The parts list for what I chose to get.

Crank Brothers pedals

Osprey Viper 3

Nike Combat shirt

Bell Event XC helmet

T-9 chain oil

Crank Brothers multitool

Giro clipless shoes

Cheap bike lock

Insulated 24oz Water bottle

Honey Stingers Waffles

Gu Energy Salted Caramel

Nuun Electrolyte tablets

Things I want to get/try

Shimano M647 pedals

Absolute Black Oval chainring

Stages Power Crank

Wearable Gimbal

Gopro chest mount

Gopro4 Black

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