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While I have always loved to ride bikes, mountain biking didn’t really become an ‘obsession’ until a few years ago. I would ride with my dad and brother when I could in between my travels around the world (read more about my story here) and I would always opt to explore a new city by bike, but truthfully Ashtanga yoga was my main focus. For a long time.
And then I moved to the Eastern Sierra of California and all that changed. I guess the rocky, rooty, slippery, steep trails of the east coast just didn’t incite my enthusiasm for the sport like the lift-served DH runs on Mammoth Mountain.
But today, mountain biking is my passion and as a result, I’ve ridden in some pretty amazing places and built up a solid set of skills. And while I have loved (almost) every second of being on my bike and surrounded by the mountain bike community, there are some characteristics of the sport that I didn’t anticipate.
Here are six things I wish I had known before getting into mountain biking.
Looking to learn more about mountain biking? Check out my mountain biking 101 posts to get started!
1. Bikes require maintenance. And it’s not cheap
I rode my first real mountain bike – a Gary Fisher Rumblefish – to death. And then I rode my second mountain bike – a Devinci Troy – also to death. Part of the reason both bikes deteriorated so far (and fast) is because I did not take care of them. I’d lube the chain every few weeks and pump up the tires when they felt soft, but other than that – nothing.
Now that I have a boyfriend/mechanic who is a stickler for quiet drivetrains and smooth suspension I feel guilty when I don’t pump up the tires before every ride.
Bikes require regular maintenance just like cars. Depending on how much and how hard you ride, this could mean servicing your front fork every few months (when is the last time you had your suspension serviced???) and replacing chains a few times a year, among many other maintenance needs.
And to be honest, bike maintenance is not cheap. Thankfully I’ve learned how to do a lot of it myself (ok… I usually ask my boyfriend to do it), but the parts are still expensive and if you want to keep your mountain bike in top shape in order to get a good 3-4+ years out of it then you’re going to need to replace parts often and service components like front and rear suspension, the brakes, and the dropper post frequently.
If you’re not sure what bike maintenance entails, here are a few posts to help you get started:
- Mountain Bike Maintenance Basics + 7 Projects You Can Do At Home
- Building You Home Mountain Bike Tool Kit
2. It’s important to keep stretching & Crosstrain
Ah, yes. From the girl who was a devoted Ashtangi yoga practitioner in her 20’s. Stretching is important. I’ve been battling some pretty awful back pain for the last couple of years and I’m almost certain that I wouldn’t have developed these lower back spasms if I had kept up with my practice. #hindsightsucks. So keep stretching!
It’s also important to do some cross-training like weights, swimming, climbing, or other forms of exercise. Biking primarily uses the leg, hip, and lower back muscles and doesn’t do a whole lot for the core or arms.
I’ve started incorporating home weight routines 3-5 times a week and not only have they made me stronger, but they’ve also helped me crush PR’s on both the uphills and downs.
3. Your legs will forever be scarred (especially if you choose flat pedals)
My legs. My poor, poor legs. Rarely does a ride wrap up without at least one bloody pin strike or angry red sagebrush scratch on my lower half. If you ride – and ride a lot – your legs will not come away unscathed.
This is especially true if you choose to ride on flat pedals (as opposed to clipless pedals) because the nasty little pins that are ‘supposed’ to keep your feet glued to the pedal oftentimes bite your calves and shins and even other places that seem impossible.
(Yes, I choose to keep riding on flats even though my legs look like a baby tiger mauled them).
4. It’s still a ‘guys’ sport
I was recently putting together a post on the best full-length mountain bike movies to watch during quarantine and there was one stark disparity: there are virtually no women in 99% of the movies.
True, most of these movies were made ten or more years ago, but even today women are sorely underrepresented in the sport. But I guess you can say that for any sport can’t you?
Anyway, this isn’t a bash on all the dude mountain bikers or sports politics, but I do wish that more women would get into mountain biking.
It is changing – slowly – and I’m excited to be a part of Ladies AllRide coaching clinics as a mountain bike coach, so hopefully in the next 10 years women will represent 50% of the badass riders in future mountain bike movies.
5. You will always have bike envy
There will always be a newer bike, a better bike, a cooler bike… Every time you upgrade you’ll think “this is the best bike ever!” and then in six months you’ll see the new model with new geometry and you’ll wish you would have waited.
Bike envy is a real thing, y’all. How do you deal with it? Do what I did and buy four brand new bikes in less than 14 months…
6. Everything seems scarier than it really is
I’m not saying go huck yourself off that huge drop right now, but I am saying that once you build up the courage to ride something – whether it be a big drop or a skinny line – it’s usually not as scary or hard as you made it seem in your mind.
Once you do something once you can (usually) do it again and again with no problem. Breaking through the fear is the hardest part.
If you’re just getting into mountain biking, I hope these reflections help take that next step because mountain biking is truly the best sport in the world! If you’re looking for even more tips, head over to my post on 10 Tips For Beginner Mountain Bikers.
If you’re new to mountain biking, what questions do you have? Or what do you wish you had known before starting? Leave a comment below!