1. Always look ahead
The first mistake new riders make is looking down at their front wheel or a spot just in front of it. Keep in mind, wherever you look your bike will follow. Do not look at the things you want to avoid. If you look at a rock and stay focused on it you will actually steer yourself right into it. Focus on the path you want to take and you will automatically steer yourself on that path. Keep your focus far out ahead of your bike.
2. Pick the right gears
Looking ahead allows you to anticipate approaching hills or obstacles and gives you time to shift into an appropriate gear. One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is riding in too a gear that is “too hard” which causes them to spin too slow. This is really hard on your knees and will tire you out faster. You want to maintain a good momentum in an easier gear to roll over obstacles on the trail.
You want to anticipate what gear you need before you need it. Like approaching a hill, shift into an easier gear just before you reach the hill Shifting this way also keeps you gears from grinding because you have much less pressure on the pedals when shifting this way.
Good tire pressure is key to maximizing grip and control. Too much pressure causes the bike to bounce along the trail. It makes the bike hard to control and makes you work a lot harder. Use a good floor pump with a gauge before each ride to set your tire pressure. The tire pressure range is written on the side of your tire (you will have to look really hard but it’s there). Use a pressure towards the lower end of the range.
4. Using the right bike
There are thousands of bike models out there. All were designed for a certain style and level of riding. There is no “one perfect” bike for you, but you do want to use a bike that was designed for the riding you are doing. It’s disappointing and dangerous to use a bike out of it’s design range. Think of the poor soul who buys a bike from a department store for $150 and then wants to go downhilling at the local mountain resort. Very disappointing and extremely dangerous.
5. Stay hydrated
Drink lots of water before, during and after a ride, even if it’s not hot outside. Most mountain bikers do not drink enough. If you get dehydrated you will fell tired faster and even “bonk” (where you don’t have enough energy to keep riding). Energy bars a also a must. Carry them with you on your rides.
These are some of the basic tips that will help you enjoy your ride a lot more.
It’s your world, Ride it.
(thanks to Christian Woodcock and Bike Roar for the bulk of this article)