Your First Mountain Bike

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Biking in adventure racing involves more than just trail-riding. You may experience sugar sand, mud, thickets, rocks and more. You’ll need a mountain (aka trail) bike for all this—the best one you can afford.

Mountain bikes vary greatly in price depending on the brand, materials, features and craftsmanship. Beware of cheap, heavy mountain bikes sold by mass-retailers. Though they may offer snazzy-looking components like front and rear shocks, generally these add a lot of weight to the frame, and being made cheaply, will not last very long under any type of rugged riding conditions. It’s best to stick to local bike shops that carry the major brands such as Giant, Specialized, Trek and Gary Fisher. Local bike shops’ sales staff are typically biking enthusiasts and experts. Be sure to have the salesperson adjust the bike to fit you, then take a ride (off road if possible) to test it out. Does it feel comfortable on your back, arms and hands or do you feel over-stretched or awkward? Pick up the bike—does it already feel heavy? If so, you might consider upgrading to a lighter weight bike.

Now that you have a great bike, you need to make sure the seat is in the correct position. Sit on the saddle and put your foot on the pedal at its lowest position. Your leg should have a slight bend at the knee—it should not be straight. You stance on the bike should be comfortable, with your elbows bent and your upper body relaxed. You don’t want to be riding stiff, but remain flexible to stay in control while hitting the rough terrain.

Safety gear is important when riding any kind of bike. Your helmet should fit well and not move when you move. The straps should be adjusted to meet below the ears and fit comfortably at the chin. You should have great visibility in all directions even with your helmet on. Also wearing eyeglasses of some kind (sunglasses, safety glasses, etc.) will ensure you don’t get a bug in your eye at a critical moment. Another essential is a pair of riding gloves, which protects your hands if you fall off the bike and also makes riding a little more comfortable.

Of course, there is a lot more to learn about off-road biking, but we recommend just getting out there and experiencing the thrill!

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