Mountain biking is super fun and the great news is that it’s pretty simple to get started. As with most activities, first and foremost, you just need to be willing to try something new (and awesome!) and the rest will follow. From mountain biking to bike maintenance to jumping over fallen trees in the local woodland trail, I have it all covered to pass on the knowledge and experience to everyone looking at trying their hand at this sport in order to encourage others to give it a try.
What makes mountain biking so popular?
Unlike traditional forms of cycling, mountain biking is the ideal way of getting out into the countryside away from the traffic while still having the opportunity to ride and even get the adrenaline pumping. While road and track cyclists use their bikes to improve their overall health and fitness, mountain biking is a great way to push yourself — and your bike — to the limit across a range of terrain in all weather conditions.
Who is the activity for? How easy is it to get started and why is it suitable for beginners?
Once you can ride a bike and you feel confident on two wheels under your own steam, anyone can get into mountain biking. The ideal place to start is off-road onto the grass, gravel and loose terrain around your home or perhaps in a local park.
Why do it in the UK? What makes it the ideal location?
The UK is the perfect location for anyone to learn to ride a mountain bike in the rugged terrain. The undulating surfaces of the countryside combined with natural hazards such as fallen trees and flowing rivers provide a range of challenges, and the ever-changing surfaces including grass, gravel tracks and thick mud can add to the fun.
There are a range of different locations around the UK where mountain biking conditions are, quite simply, perfect. We provide some great mountain biking trips in UK as well.
How much does it usually cost?
Some Guides (especially at Wilderness Now) can let you rent the bike for the day for £30-£50 and even deliver to your hotel.
If you want to do this regularly, you obviously need to buy a mountain bike complete (good article on pricing here) with off-road tyres, mud guards and suitable suspension, and then the only other expense should be around the protective equipment such as a helmet, knee and elbow pads to protect the rider from any falls on the loose ground.
The only other costs involved tend to be around membership fees for mountain bike riding clubs and any tuition that you choose to have. Should you wish to teach yourself and ride recreationally, (as and when you get the urge to go for a ride and the spare time to do so), then there are no joining or training fees involved at all.
Do I need to learn the basics or buy equipment in advance?
The only equipment that you may need to invest in early on is a bike & protective equipment. Should you wish to learn with a group or personal instructor, however, it may be possible to borrow or rent equipment as part of the tuition fee.
This type of training is widely available at the various specialist trail centres around the UK, or you could venture out and learn by yourself or with a friend by tackling some of the local routes near your home.
Should you wish to buy your own equipment then retailers such as Halfords and GO Outdoors have a vast range of quality mountain bikes along with highly recommended protective clothing and equipment. Alternatively you can shop online at Amazon. Places like GO Outdoors offer a discount card to customers which could help you save on the equipment in the long-term.
How long should it take to get to grips?
Everyone learns at different speeds, but the best advice is to tackle a few relatively small obstacles first before you throw yourself down a steep off-road hill on a specialist trail in the mountains! It’s natural for you to want to master the skills immediately, but it can take several months — or even years — for you to work your way up to the ‘expert’ trails at the specialist mountain bike centres.
Should I use an individual guide or go with a group?
A lot of mountain bike guides will work with groups of riders at any one time. While this means that you’re not the only one out there on the circuit — which to some is a major comfort and helps to overcome the nerves — it can also have issues relating to the amount of dedicated one-on-one tuition that you may be looking for.
Private sessions can cost a lot more from specialist centres such as Single Track School but it can be worth the money when you consider how much personal tuition you’ll receive.
Are there places to stay for ‘city types’ looking to get away for the weekend to learn?
Fortunately the areas known to be popular among riders, campers and walkers tend to have plenty of accommodation opportunities.
From campsites to hotels, even country cottages and bed and breakfasts, riders are well catered for in the UK which is excellent when you want to get a nice hot shower to remove all the mud!
Cottages.com are a great example of a company who provide breaks in the UK or various lengths, enabling you to book a holiday cottage for you and your partner, the whole family, or a group of friends so that you can tackle a number of the local mountain bike trails and relax in the evenings in a comfortable cottage nearby.
Then there are a number of hotel chains who provide the opportunity for you to stay overnight for a relatively low fee.
Seasonality — When is the best time to do mountain biking?
Many mountain biking enthusiasts prefer the autumn and winter for riding because it enables them to go splashing through puddles and down steep hills knowing that the softer ground will cushion the fall should they come off.
At the same time, spring and summer is the perfect time for getting that bit of extra speed up because the ground is more stable and the grass is often shorter meaning that there’s less resistance against the bike.
When should I start preparing? Can I do it all in a weekend or will I need time off?
You should start preparing in the week before you go for a ride. The chances are that if you try and pack all of your gear on the morning of your ride you’ll forget something important. Make yourself a checklist of all your essential equipment and mark them off as you put them in your ‘safe’ place so that you don’t forget them.
Riders all tend to come out when they don’t have to go to work — namely the weekend — so it’s understandable that it can get busy, but if you’ve booked yourself a session with a tutor then you’ll be taken where you’re comfortable when you’re ready. The experienced riders will soon head off into the distance enabling you to get down to learning at your own speed.