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6 Ways to Get into Mountain Biking

with Olivia Smedley, Trail Squad

Getting into mountain biking could be the best thing you ever do. I know that it has been life-changing for me! Read on to discover six things that will help you begin your mountain biking adventure.

1. Find somewhere to ride.

In the UK, I am very lucky that there are so many trail centres at my fingertips! Trail centres are a great place to get into mountain biking as all the trails are graded so you know a little bit about what features to expect from the trail that lies ahead. These do vary between centres, so it’s always best to check what ability is needed for each trail. In addition to a selection of shreddable trails, trail centres usually have a cozy café for some post-ride tea and cake, which for me is always a highlight of a session!

Other options include bike parks, national cycle networks and what I like to call ‘wild rides’. Wild rides are something that I have been doing more of – thanks to the Viewranger app. You can download this for free and it has many different routes pre-mapped by people from across the country so you can always find a ride near your location. You can press go and it gives you the directions. Great for time-saving on map-reading and lets you enjoy the scenery more. I have discovered many places I wouldn’t have without this!

Other great apps for finding new trails to ride are MTBProject and TrailForks. With these apps, you can find where you’re going even if you’re not connected to the internet.

2. Join a club.

Without a doubt, one of the best parts of getting into a new hobby is meeting new people and sharing you experiences. There is bound to be a club in your area. Try searching on Facebook for women’s mountain bike groups or ask your local bike shop.

As much as it can be exciting to join a club, it can also be very daunting. I remember when I turned up to a group ride at Haldon Forest in Exeter that I was feeling so nervous! I hadn’t been riding long and didn’t have any proper mountain bike gear at all. I remember sitting in my van, looking at the group in the distance, while in my head screaming, “Turn around! Go home! It will be too difficult to keep up with them!” I was umming and arring for a good ten minutes and even rang my partner to inform them that I would be swiftly returning home. It was very intimidating seeing everyone with their gleaming full suspension bikes and branded clothing. Would everyone laugh at my old borrowed hardtail? What if I had a puncture, I had no idea how to fix it and I don’t want to look stupid? All these thoughts blurred through my head as I found my legs taking me over to the group! I waved hello to a few of them and considered walking straight past, eagerly looking for a random stranger I could pretend I was with in the distance. I am so happy that I tagged onto the group ride that day. I felt no pressure to ride faster and a few of the girls gave me some awesome tips to improve my riding. I even made a friend to go riding with the next weekend! The sense of achievement afterwards was amazing!

Also keep an eye out for any local events. Recently, I visited a Women’s Weekend at BikePark Wales and had an absolutely amazing time. Throughout the weekend there was so much to do including mechanics workshops, coaching with Katy Curd and group rides with Manon Carpenter and Tracy Moseley. And it was all for free! It was such a great vibe at the park with female riders outnumbering male riders for a change.

3. Download the Strava app.

Although opinions can be divided over whether Strava is a good or a bad thing, I personally love Strava and find it very motivating to keep a track of my exercise. It’s also great to see who is the fastest out of your mates! Just remember to still respect other riders out there, yes you may be on for your PR but it doesn’t give you the right to mow down slower riders on the trail, you’ll just have to try again another day!

TOP TIP – Ensure you check your privacy settings to hide your home location.

4. Use the internet for inspiration.

There is so much out there on the internet for inspiration. When I first got into mountain biking I was mostly interested in the downhill scene and got addicted to watching ‘Atherton Diaries’ which follows the top UK mountain biking family – Rachel, Gee and Dan Atherton. I think watching material like this can improve your own riding as you pick up so much from watching how these guys and gals effortlessly tackle insane trail features.

I have to give another important video a mention, On Scottish Soil, I think without seeing this I may not be a part of the Trail Squad. It inspired me to start creating my own edits of mountain biking. It has a great mix of good riding, great scenery and an element of fun.

Follow your favourite riders and bike brands on Instagram for endless inspiration and insight into how the pros train, their nutrition and style tips! You can also watch some great videos, including full Trail Squad Documentary on LivTV!

5. Sign up for an MTB coaching lesson or clinic.

Getting coaching has been an integral part in improving my riding quickly over the last year. I love learning and want to soak up as much information about mountain biking as I can to improve. My partner bought me my first coaching session with Evolve MTB in Devon for my birthday and I enjoyed every minute of the 3-hour lesson. The cornering technique that Tony taught me has been invaluable ever since. More recently, I have had coaching with Katy Curd where I learnt some body positioning tips and how to handle drop-offs on the trails.

In the States, check out Liv Ladies AllRide for awesome skills camps throughout the year. But, you can generally find a coach or clinic anywhere you are with a quick google or stop into your local bike shop!

If you are eager to get some tips right away, check out Liv’s online Bike Skills 101 to get started!

6. Record your adventures.

Grab a camera and get snapping! Looking back at fun memories is one of the best things to do. Why not invite everyone around to your place, show your photos or videos on the TV, and relive the good times while digging into some popcorn?! Last time I did this we even had a friend Skype in to watch the latest video edit from our trip to Wales!

I hope this blog post helps you to get into mountain biking. If you do, it is guaranteed to take you to places that you never knew possible. Right, off to get practicing those wheelies! Catch you on the trails.