I almost titled this post TRAIL ADVICE but decided against it. Far be it from me to consider myself some sort of expert who ought to offer cycling advice to anyone. As far as I'm concerned, there is no right or wrong to anything when it comes to mountain biking. Everybody has their own preferences and opinions in style and gear. So whatever works best for you..and feels best to you...is what you should do. I will, every once in a while, offer some basic tips to people who are interested in biking (especially mountain biking) for the first time. I think that, after 25 plus years of riding, I can at least do that. These tips have nothing to do with what kind of bike to ride, how wide your handle bars should be, or how high your saddle should be. The tips I sometimes offer tend to be more generic and grounded in the overall experience as opposed to the technical side of riding. So...if you are interested in mountain biking for the first time...here are a few nuggets of knowledge that I can throw your way.
KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING
Literally...unless you are in a small localized park where it is impossible to get lost...use a map. One of the most fun parts of working at the bike shop is when we pull the larger than life map of Michaux State Forest out from under the front counter and begin piecing together rides. Make sure that the trails you choose are approved for mountain biking...and, if your aren't sure, ask the friendly people at your local bike shop. Maps are not overrated and getting lost sucks.
|Map of Michaux State Forest.|
HAVE BASIC GEAR
Besides a bike...a helmet and gloves are a must for any new rider. In my case, my "must have" gear include my helmet, gloves, riding glasses, and mountain bike shoes. As for what brand and style...that is totally up to you. Whatever fits the best, feels the best, and makes you happy.
|The railing of our cabin in Ohiopyle State Park was a perfect drying rack for my gear after a rainy mountain bike ride -- June 21, 2018|
LEARN HOW TO DO BASIC REPAIRS
Most of the tools I carry in my camelbak are there because I needed them at one point or another. For any ride longer than an hour I carry a spare tube, small pump, CO2 canisters, tire levers, and an appropriate tool to make minor adjustments while riding. It took me a while to feel comfortable enough doing my own repairs...but it's a skill that comes in very handy. Bring what you need with you. Relying on a friend to have what you need to fix your bike isn't just not cool...but it's not realistic either.
|Pausing to repair a flat tire in Michaux State Forest -- August 9, 2016|
DO NOT EXCEED YOUR SKILL SET
My healthy sense of fear has served me well. It keeps me from doing something stupid and prematurely exiting the gene pool. Even if you don't have enough riding experience to know exactly what you can and cannot do...you can tell if something isn't right or if it scares you. If that's the case, pick up your bike and walk over-around-through the obstacle in question. The object is to keep enjoying the trail...you can't do that if you are injured.
|Playing on the rocks that make up Grave Ridge Trail in Michaux State Forest -- July 25, 2017|
KEEP YOUR EYES FOCUSED ON THE TRAIL AHEAD
When driving we don't stare at the hood of our car...we focus on the road ahead. Same goes for the trail. It's important to know what is ahead of us before we get to it. Stay laser focused about fifteen to twenty feet head of where you are at any given point.
|One of my favorite twisty single tracks in Michaux. Always stay laser focused on what is ahead of you. -- August 14, 2018|
PAUSE TO APPRECIATE NATURE
It's probably safe to say that if you are outside mountain biking then you also like being in nature. The two go hand-in-hand. Pause and enjoy nature's beauty all around you. Don't ever feel guilty for soaking it in...for taking a lot of photos...and for enjoying the beauty that is the planet Earth.
|Getting a huge dose of Vitamin N in Michaux State Forest -- August 14, 2018|
RIDE WITH FRIENDS
I call it group therapy. Mountain biking is something that is suppose to be a shared experience. Ride with people who add value and joy to your life. It's a great way to bond while doing something you love. Besides...there is safety in numbers. Friends can help find the way when you are turned around, fix a problem when something is broken, and provide assistance if someone gets hurt.
|Riding (and chatting) with friends! Dave Raymond, Tim Sindlinger, and Brent Shirk in Michaux State Forest -- August 14, 2018|
It's nice to have friends. They even helped me with this post. After all, all of us collectively are smarter than any single one of us. Before I get to my last tip... here are the tips that Ben, Chris, Glenn, Brent, Matt, Mike, and Tim have to offer for anyone who is just starting out.
|TIP FROM BEN KELLY: Ride with someone you know who can help teach you the tricks of riding.|
Photo taken in Michaux State Forest -- July 10, 2018
|TIP FROM CHRIS KELLER: Wear padded shorts!|
Photo taken in Michaux State Forest -- September 16, 2018
|TIP FROM GLENN MEDICE: Don't over think it...just enjoy the experience. |
Photo taken in Michaux State Forest -- July 26, 2016
|TIP FROM BRENT SHIRK: Know your limits...Don't try something you're not comfortable doing.|
Photo taken in Patapsco Valley State Park -- December 27, 2018
|TIP FROM MATT LINNANE: Don't look at what is directly below you, look 10 feet ahead and let your body react to the rest.|
Photo taken in Michaux State Forest -- August 31, 2018
|TIP FROM MIKE ALICEA: Know how to do basic bike repairs and do not ride a trail that exceeds your skill limit.|
Photo taken in Rocky Ridge County Park -- March 13, 2016
|TIP FROM TIM SINDLINGER: Go with someone who knows the trials.|
Photo taken at Rocky Ridge County Park -- September 21, 2018
Yes...reward yourself. Indulge yourself with something special after each ride. For some people it might be a pint of beer, a big stack of pancakes, or an extra burrito. For me, it's ice cream. I joke that ice cream is my favorite flavor. If I had to really nail it down, my favorite variation would be alternating scoops of vanilla ice cream and orange sherbet in a waffle cone. It reminds me of those Flintstone push-up pops from my childhood. Yeah, that tastes good and brings a smile to my face....even when I'm covered in muck and mud and sweat from the ride.
|The ice cream tasted amazing after the mud and muck that I rode through in Ohiopyle State Park -- June 21, 2018|
Life is a journey...not a destination.
David A. Raymond -- March 9, 2019
|Ultimately, some of the best advice comes from YOUR TRUE NATURE. Here is their ADVICE FROM A TRAIL.|
Here are the GARMIN maps and data from rides featured in this post. #OptOutside
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