MTB: The right stuff

MTB: The right stuff

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Mountain biking is a popular discipline, requiring a mixture of technical skill, endurance, speed and raw nerve.

Go-Ride Coach, Joe Malik, provides his top tips for both riders and clubs when they decide to venture further afield with their mountain biking.

Have the right stuff

It’s really important to have the correct equipment with you when you get out on the trails or hills. There’s nothing worse than being caught out two hours from the car and having to walk all the way back because you didn’t expect to get a flat, so didn’t pack any spare tubes.

My essential kit list is:

  • Two spare tubes
  • Tire levers
  • Pump
  • Basic tool kit/multi-tool

Make sure when you hit the trails you know how to use these things – you don’t want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere wondering how to change a tyre! If riding in groups, share the weight with each person carrying something different – there’s no point everyone having loads of the same stuff.

Wear the right stuff

Clothing is so important when mountain biking - you can go from being out in the sun to being in thick wooded forest crossing small rivers, with a huge temperature difference - so make sure you plan ahead. Check the weather forecast and look at maps of the trails you are riding by visiting the website or Facebook pages, which will give you a good starting point.

For me, glasses are one of the most important pieces of equipment that all riders should use. I use these every time I go out for a ride, whether it is sunny, raining, morning or night. Descending in mountain biking is very fast and getting dirt in the eye at the wrong time can be very dangerous; glasses will protect you from these problems.

Learn the appropriate skills

Practicing your skills and playing on your mountain bike are sure ways that you will get better, Go-Ride sessions are the perfect place to practice and lots of trail centers have skill areas where you can repeat skills until you feel comfortable with them.

Practice moving your bike around whilst you are stood out of the saddle; how far to the left and right can you lean your bike? How small can you get? How tall can you get? Can you go off the back of the seat and hold the position? All these are great for getting a good feel of your bike.

Here are some skills I test my riders with during my mountain bike sessions:

  • Track Stands – Using a slight uphill, can you balance for 30 seconds without moving. Too easy? Can you take one hand off and do it?
  • Hopping and bunny hops – Can you hop up and down on your bike? How about hopping around in a 360 degree circle? Too easy? Put a log on the floor and practice bunny hopping over it.
  • Manuals – How far can you manual? Shift your weight back to raise the front wheel off the ground and hold that position. Set yourself a target of travelling five meters and try and beat it.

Top Tip: Keep it flat - There’s a common misconception in cycling that young riders need to be clipped in as early as possible when riding. Whilst being clipped in will help when you are out on the trails, when it comes to practicing skills and techniques, riders will benefit from being on flat pedals.

Top Tip: Watch the experts – Make sure you check out YouTube for some great skills videos – on the continent these skills challenges appear at most mountain bike events, so if you aspire to compete in Europe, make sure you are practicing these skills now!