Starting out as a beginner mountain biker can be intimidating, especially for us women! I’ve been there before so I get it! I started mountain biking because my husband really likes it, so I decided to try it as something fun for us to do together. It was challenging at the beginning, but now that I’ve had years of practice I don’t let the boys intimidate me anymore.
So, what does a woman need to know to learn how to start mountain biking? I’ve got some tips that will help you prepare for your first ride and feel comfortable getting out on the trails!
A Women’s Guide on How to Start Mountain Biking
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Always pack everything
First things first, aside from having a bike to ride you need to have the appropriate mountain biking gear for your backpack. And you need to have a backpack! I use the Osprey Raven 10 Women’s Hydration Backpack, which is set up specifically for mountain biking but can also be used on hikes. It has lots of little pockets including spaces specifically for the equipment you need in case you get a flat tire.
What you put in your backpack is sort of personal preference but always pack these essentials for any mountain bike ride:
Dress the part
Let’s talk mountain bike clothing for women. There’s a certain way to dress when you are mountain biking. If you’re on a budget and can’t afford to splurge for a full mountain biking outfit yet, I will share some recommendations for alternative options below.
What you wear mountain biking is important for several reasons (and that’s why I have an entire blog post on what women should wear mountain biking).
First, you want to make sure your clothing is tight so it doesn’t get stuck on any part of your bike. You also want to be comfortable obviously, so something as simple as wearing a chamois is going to be extremely helpful. Next, wearing actual mountain biking shoes is a lot safer because they grip to your pedals and keep your feet from slipping off. Finally, you don’t want any embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions like finding out your yoga pants are see-through and everyone can see your underwear because you also didn’t wear a chamois.
Here are my recommendations for what to wear mountain biking:
- Mountain bike jersey or tank top (alternate: moisture-wicking shirt)
- Any comfortable sports bra
- Mountain bike shorts or cycling tights (alternate: yoga pants)
- Chamois/Padded Shorts
- Tall trail socks (alternate: tall regular socks or hiking socks)
- Mountain bike shoes
These are just the very basic things you need to create your mountain bike outfit, but there’s even more you can wear that can make your ride more comfortable. Read my entire mountain bike clothing guide.
Next, you need to have the appropriate safety gear for mountain biking. I recommend wearing all of your gear for every single ride, otherwise, you may not feel safe and confident riding.
Here is the basic mountain biking safety gear you should wear for every ride:
- Helmet (preferably with full-face option)
- Large coverage sunglasses (or goggles for really dusty conditions)
- Elbow pads
- Knee pads
- Full finger gloves
Check out my entire post on women’s mountain bike outfits.
Before you head out on the trail it’s a good idea to understand the rules! Trail etiquette is easy and makes the trails more enjoyable for everyone. Just remember that mountain bikers yield to everyone else.
Here are some basic rules of trail etiquette for mountain bikers:
- Yield to hikers
- Yield to equestrians (and be cautious when passing horses)
- Stay on existing trails
- Don’t enter closed trails
- Alert people of your presence (a bell like this makes that simple)
In regards to yielding to other mountain bikers, the common courtesy is to yield to those who are climbing uphill because it’s a lot easier for you to stop while going downhill than for them to stop while going uphill.
Know your route
So, you got your new mountain bike backpack full of your new gear and your brand new mountain biking outfit so you’re ready to ride! Once you decide where you are going to ride, take a look at the map to determine the exact route you want to take.
I think it’s important to determine your route beforehand just so you don’t accidentally get caught on a trail that you’re not ready for. Most parks will have trail ratings so you can research a route that has trails for beginners.
If you do happen to get lost or come across a trail that you thought you could handle but you don’t feel comfortable with yet, it’s ok to “hike your bike”. Hop off and walk it, there’s no shame in that. Some people even do that when they are considering riding a trail for the first time, just to make sure it’s something they can handle.
Take a skills class
Once you’ve already learned the basics of how to start mountain biking, a good way to increase skills and confidence is to take a skills clinic. These classes are great whether you’ve never been on a trail before or have already gone out on a few rides.
Skills clinics can teach you mountain biking basics such as:
- Platform position (standing with both pedals even and flat while looking ahead)
- Scanning the trail ahead (not looking directly in front of you)
- Position when going downhill (standing up with your butt behind the seat, a.k.a. the saddle)
- Position when climbing (sitting and leaning forward)
- Cornering techniques (leaning, pedal position, braking before the curve)
- Basic maintenance and repairs, including how to change a flat
FYI – If you are in the Orange County area, there is a really good mountain bike skills clinic in Irvine! That GIF above is of me at my first clinic with them!
Keep a ride log
When I first started mountain biking I created a “ride log” to track all of my rides and which trails I struggled with. It was a really good way for me to see how much I was advancing, and that kept me motivated to continue.
I tracked total miles, time, route and which trails I was not able to complete and notes on why. Then later on when I was feeling more confident I would go back and complete those trails that I couldn’t do before! I just used a paper notebook so I could track more data, but you can also try an app like Strava or your smartwatch.
I hope this helped you get more familiar with how to start mountain biking! Good luck out there and stay safe!