This is not a rehash of the last 101 tips story we ran. There may be a bit of overlap, because good tips are good tips no matter how many times you hear them, but don’t expect a cut-and-paste list of tired and overused wisdom. These tips are as fresh as 27.5-inch wheels and 1×11 drivetrains. Our tips cover everything from how to operate and maintain your mountain bike to how to dress for success.
Our suggestion is to bookmark this page and review a few tips from time to time. Tips like this work best when consumed in small doses and savored properly. Enjoy.
Tip 1: Reading the trail ahead and being in the correct gear will help you maintain your flow, increase your speed, conserve energy, and prepare you for tricky sections.
Tip 2: Avoiding trail user conflicts is the number-one reason to pay attention to what’s coming up next. Never assume you are the only one on the trail.
Tip 3: While coasting downhill, remind yourself to grab a few gears harder so when you have to pedal, you are in a gear that closely matches your speed.
Tip 4: Having resistance when you apply power to the pedals is key. You don’t want to have too little resistance or you will “chop wood,” getting no acceleration.
Tip 5: Momentum can be the only thing that gets you up a short or technical climb. Carrying speed into the climb and generating forward momentum when you spin the cranks is crucial. If you are in too tall of a gear, gravity will punish you and you won’t have time to downshift without losing all that speed.
Tip 6: Looking ahead and choosing the perfect gear combination comes with time on the bike. It is easier to practice on a trail that you’re familiar with.
Tip 7: Remember to rotate your pedals when coasting to determine if you are in the correct gear.
Tip 8: When approaching a switchback, continue to look 10-15 feet ahead, but turn your head all the way to the location around the switchback where you want to end up. Keep your pedaling up to maintain momentum and keep your head turned until you reach the straightaway.
Tip 9: Grab a trail map! We all have that favorite loop where we have memorized every rut, rock and turn. This spring, try something new, even if it’s just a loop to add or a hill climb you have never done. Grab a map and study it. You will be amazed by what is right around the bend that you haven’t explored.
Tip 10: Avoid late-braking skidding into corners. Doing so might feel faster (and in some instances, it could be), but done over and over again it will cost momentum and control.
Tip 11: When descending, you want to have level pedals (at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions) so your inside pedal doesn’t hit the ground in a corner.
Tip 12: There is no rule that your feet should be clipped in at all times. On off-camber sections or in loose corners, it is okay to unclip your inside foot in case your tires wash out.
Tip 13: The skills learned by spending time on a pump track (generating speed without pedaling and railing a berm) translate very well to trail riding. Every bump becomes a momentum generator.
Tip 14: Always bring a tube, pump and multi-tool on your rides. Ending a ride on foot is about the worst way to get back to the trailhead.
Tip 15: Carry a 26-inch tube as your spare. A 26-inch tube can be used in a 27.5 or 29er wheel in a pinch. Using a larger-diameter tube in a smaller wheel is not recommended.
Tip 16: Check your tire pressure often (we check our tires before every ride) and don’t be scared to experiment a bit with tire pressures. A few psi more or less can make a difference.
Tip 17: We don’t get nearly as many flats as we used to because of better tires and sealant, but remember that tire sealant dries out (some brands very quickly). Pop your tire off from time to time and check the sealant.
Tip 18: Don’t ride in the dirt next to a paved road or sidewalk. This is where thorns are most plentiful.
Tip 19: Off-cambers (where the trail is at an angle) offer way less traction than a flat trail. Light application of your brakes and smooth power transfer to the pedals are essential. This is also where correct tire pressure makes a big difference.
Tip 20: Chances are you run too much air pressure in your tires, forks and shocks.
Tip 21: Bending your elbows and lowering your torso will make any bike handle better instantly.
Tip 22: Try your favorite descent with your chin about 8 inches above the stem. That’s probably a little low, but it will help you realize how much of a difference lowering your center of gravity makes.
Tip 23: Dropper seatposts are not just for extreme downhills. Lower that saddle on flowy downhills. It is a big help.
Tip 24: A fingernail clipper is the best tool you can find for cutting zip ties.
Tip 25: Duct tape is invaluable on a ride when things go wrong. Wrap a few feet around itself and throw it in your pack.
Tip 26: A level saddle works for everyone. Pointing the nose down won’t make it more comfortable; it will just put more pressure on your hands.
Tip 27: A torque wrench is expensive, but it will save you money and give you peace of mind.
Tip 28: Friction paste is like grease with sandpaper in it. It makes slipping carbon parts stay in place better without damaging them. Use it.
Tip 29: Loctite is a better choice than grease for pedal cleat bolts, since it will not only keep them from seizing, it will also keep them from coming loose.
Tip 30: A bit of foam inside a GoPro camera case helps reduce or eliminate the clicking noises heard during playback.
Tip 31: Set your GoPro to record upside down when wearing a chest harness and then position the camera upside down below the mount.
Tip 32: Bigger wheels (29ers or 27.5) raise the front of your bike. Use a flat bar and maybe a stem with a negative rise to keep your handlebar at the correct height.
Tip 33: Riders on larger-diameter wheels looking to preserve the climbing performance of a 26er need to choose a lighter-weight tire with a less-aggressive knob pattern than they are used to.
Tip 34: At some point during your normal loop, pick a rocky, rooty or rutty section you naturally avoid and try riding it. You need to break years of conditioning that have trained you to avoid certain lines.
Tip 35: Try braking less often and with less power.
Tip 36: If you feather your brake levers, you need to break that habit (no pun intended). Either apply the brakes or stay off them.
Tip 37: Even though your front brake has more useable power than the rear brake, tech reps at events report that rear brake pads always wear out faster than front brake pads. Go figure.
Tip 38: Don’t want to go tubeless? Run latex tubes and lots of talcum powder.
Tip 39: Big riders or any rider hard on wheels should try tied and soldered spokes for a stiffer wheel.
Tip 40: If you only have one light, mount it to your handlebar (rather than to your helmet). Using a helmet-only light creates weird shadows that make the trail surface hard to read.
Tip 41: If your handlebar light mount is not an easy-on/easy-off design, carry another light in your hydration pack in case you have a mechanical failure and need to see the problem.
Tip 42: Moonlight rides (yes, we are guilty of riding them more than once) are a really bad idea if you ride on a popular trail. There is no warning that another rider is coming, and rider-to-rider contact usually ends with an injury.
Tip 43: Don’t expect to fall asleep easily after a night ride. Plan your night rides for when you don’t have obligations early the next morning.
Tip 44: Rather than thinking about riding as fast as you can, think about keeping your form as perfect as possible and allow the speed to come naturally.
Tip 45: It’s natural to feel nervous when attempting something outside of your comfort zone, but not having a vision of what it should feel like and a plan for how you’re going to execute it is a recipe for disaster.
Tip 46: When looking at a new bike, ask the shop if they have a rear derailleur hanger in stock. This is the one item that is most likely to be broken, and just about every company has its own hanger design. If the shop has it in stock, you are doing business with a good bike shop.
Tip 47: Many riders make the mistake of lubing their chains right before a ride. It is better to lube your chain after a ride in preparation for the next time you head out.
Tip 48: If your handlebars are under 26 inches wide, try a wider bar (around 29 inches wide). It opens up your chest and makes your bike less jittery in the loose stuff.
Tip 49: Spray your brake rotors with Maxima Suspension Clean and wipe it off with a shop towel. You won’t believe how much stuff is on a clean rotor.
Tip 50: Transporting your bike on a bumper rack guarantees that your brake rotors will get coated with contaminants. Again, keep a can of Maxima Suspension Clean and clean the rotors before you ride.
Tip 51: When adjusting the cleat on your shoe, you want the ball of your foot (the bone just behind your big toe on the inside of your foot) to be positioned directly over the pedal’s axle.
Tip 52: Park City, Utah, is an amazing mountain biking destination for everyone from beginners to advanced riders looking for a true “mountain” experience.
Tip 53: Try eating more on your rides, even if that means popping a gel block and allowing it to dissolve in your mouth. You won’t notice a difference until later in your ride, but it will be a good difference.
Tip 54: Every brand’s shifters have unique nuances. Find a lonely stretch of pavement or dirt road and experiment with your shifters. Start with the chain on the middle cog of the cassette and pedal down the stretch, working the front derailleur. Shift up, and shift down. Push the lever with your thumb, and pull it like a trigger with your index finger. Do the same with the rear derailleur shifter, first in the big ring and then in the smaller ring.
Tip 55: If you are on a nasty climb and want to throw in the towel, tell yourself to put in ten more revolutions on the pedals. Many times, those extra 10 cranks turn into 20 cranks and then the top of the climb.
Tip 56: Buying a used bike can be a very emotional decision. Bring a friend who has no emotional investment in the transaction. While you might rationalize that the ding in the seatstay or rub marks on the fork crown are just cosmetic issues, your friend isn’t going to be so easily swayed.
Tip 57: It is next to impossible to look too far ahead (your peripheral vision picks up a lot of slack), so lift that chin; quit looking at your front tire’s knobby pattern and focus on the obstacles farther down the trail.
Tip 58: If you are struggling on a hill, looking ahead can help you gauge how much more effort will be needed to crest the hill. Looking down only serves to intensify the suffering that feels like it will never end.
Tip 59: Tubeless tires are still porous. Once they are inflated, a small amount of air can escape through the sidewall over time. This type of seepage is not enough to cause a problem during a ride. It takes days for the pressure to drop noticeably.
Tip 60: If you struggle with getting tubeless or tubeless-ready tires to bead to your rim, try Uncle Dick’s Bead Slip soap. It lubricates the tire so it pops into the bead easier.
Tip 61: Find a sparing partner. Riding with a friend who will push you from time to time can really improve your riding.
Tip 62: Get in the habit of drinking more water. A common rule is about 34 ounces per thousand calories of food per day. For most people, this will be about 68 ounces or more water per day and about 16 to 24 ounces on top of that for every hour during exercise.
Tip 63: Rotating mass is the best weight to remove from a bike, since you not only have to carry the heft to the top of the hill, but you also have to use energy to accelerate and decelerate it. Tires and tubes are probably the most cost-effective place to shed weight from your bike.
Tip 64: Removing excess weight is a no-brainer. Things like reflectors, light mounts, lock mounts, unused bottle cages, or the seatbag that contains an expired PowerBar should be removed for trail riding. This weight savings is free and will make your bike look and feel streamlined.
Tip 65: Water can get trapped in your frame if you wash it with a hose, even if you’re not using a pressure washer. Pulling the bottom bracket from time to time to drain it will not only save a bit of weight, it will save your frame and bearings.
Tip 66: Bike manufacturers often skimp on components that can’t easily be seen on the shop floor, like cassettes, headsets and bottom brackets. While it’s flashier to upgrade from a Shimano XT to a Shimano XTR derailleur, there’s a bigger reward and lower cost to upgrading from that entry-level cassette to a Shimano XT cassette.
Tip 67: When you go tubeless, be sure to use the right amount of sealant–and no more. Most sealants come with a measuring cup, and you should use it religiously. Just pouring and saying, “That looks about right,” will almost always add a couple ounces to your wheels.
Tip 68: It is almost always better to go the new bike route than to upgrade your old bike. Estimate how much you can get if you sell your bike, and then add the money you were going to spend on upgrades like a fork, wheels, saddle, seatpost and tires. Compare your grand total with how much you would need to spend on the bike of your dreams. The numbers may be closer than you think.
Tip 69: There is no shame in getting off your bike and previewing a section of trail before you ride down it. We recommend it. The last thing you want to do is find out that you are in too deep as you’re leaving the takeoff of a drop. Professional downhill racers regularly walk entire racecourse before they ever put rubber to the ground.
Tip 70: You will be surprised how many creaks and groans disappear if you simply clean and re-grease areas like your stem, seatpost clamp and derailleur hanger.
Tip 71: Handlebar grips are inexpensive and extremely easy to install. They are one of the most hassle-free ways to spruce up your bike. Lock-on types won’t require you to pull out the hairspray to shimmy the grips onto the bar and will be ready to ride as soon as you tighten the pinch bolts.
Tip 72: Worn-out cleats make getting out of your pedals more difficult and less predictable. Most of the time, a new pair of cleats will suffice for a rejuvenated connection with your existing pedals.
Tip 73: Even if they still have a good amount of tread, old tires can get dried out and hard, which kills their performance no matter how often you check the air pressure.
Tip 74: Old, crusty derailleur cables and housing not only cause excess stress on shift components but are a pain for your thumb at the lever. New cables and housing reduce friction in the shifting system, allowing for faster shifts and a lighter lever feel.
Tip 75: Tire weights for the same make, model and size can vary up to 10 percent of the total tire weight. Bring a scale when you buy your next set of tires to make sure you get the lightest in the inventory. Same goes for tubes.
Tip 76: If you are running tubes, pump a few squirts of baby powder into the tire. Then, roll the tire around so the powder coats the inside of the tire. This makes the connection between the tire and the tube as soft as a baby’s cheek.
Tip 77: If you get a lot of puncture flats, try a product like Mr. Tuffy’s Bicycle Tire Liners. It is like giving your tire a bulletproof vest. They add weight, but we’ll take weight over flat tires.
Tip 78: A tire’s sidewall has lots of information if you look closely enough, including the intended direction of the tread pattern and maximum/minimum tire pressures. Don’t go past the recommended maximum tire pressure, but experiment with the minimum pressure and tire direction. Mounting the “wrong way” can reduce rolling resistance or improve traction (but probably not both). Going below the minimum tire pressure may result in a more comfortable ride.
Tip 79: Some brands opt for a low bottom-bracket height to improve a bike’s handling. The tradeoff is pedal clearance. You can’t really coast up a hill (don’t we wish), so the trick is to time your pedaling so the pedals miss contact with rocks or roots. This might require a quick quarter-turn back pedal as you approach an obstacle (and that hurts your forward momentum) or a short burst of increased cadence.
Tip 80: On climbs or hard sections of trail, pick a tree, rock or bush as a finish line and go as hard as you can to it. As the weeks roll by, extend the length of your interval until eventually you are hammering the whole section.
Tip 81: Dump out the contents of your hydration pack and repack it from scratch. Get rid of any duplicate tools, obsolete replacement parts or empty Gu packs. You might be surprised what you find hibernating in the depths.
Tip 82: When in trouble on the trail (mechanical or physical), take an inventory of [everything] on your body, bike and in your pack. Many times you will find a solution to your problem.
Tip 83: Don’t accept prolonged pain from your bike fit. Yes, it takes some time on the bike to strengthen the muscles to support your riding position, but this should not be a life sentence of misery. Get fit to your bike at a reputable bike shop or by a bike fit specialist.
Tip 84: Kick back and put your feet up. Elevate your legs when relaxing. It will help your legs get rid of built-up lactic acid and feel less sore.
Tip 85: Ride your regular route backwards. Seeing your local trails in reverse will make them new again.
Tip 86: Pamper yourself. Self massage after riding. Invest in a foam roller or muscle massager stick or work over your legs with your hands and elbows. Dispersing lactic acid built up in your legs will help you come back stronger the next day.
Tip 87: Chocolate milk has been shown to contain the carbohydrates and protein necessary for proper recovery, and it tastes great.
Tip 88: Learn how to track stand. Knowing how to balance your bike at a stand still will vastly improve your skills through technical climbs at slow speeds.
Tip 89: Roll out of bed and stretch. Fifteen minutes of stretching every morning will help you move around the bike and help you limber up.
Tip 90: Don’t start thinking about hydrating the moment you hit the trail. Be sure to be drinking enough water regularly if you are planning on being active in the heat. Plan to keep hydrating after your ride as well. Bring a cooler in your car to keep drinks cold. A bottle of 100-degree water won’t be very appealing after a hard ride.
Tip 91: Don’t wear a jersey with a mesh back on sunny rides. You will sunburn even if your hydration pack covers part of your back. A lightweight material with a sunscreen rating is your best bet.
Tip 92: Your helmet’s side retention straps need to form a Y just below your ear. Every helmet has a slightly different way of dialing in this adjustment, so you have to refer to the owner’s manual if you can’t figure out the adjustment piece. The strap that runs under your chin should be snug enough so that when you yawn, the helmet pulls down on your head.
Tip 93: Your helmet straps may stretch (or shrink) over time. Changes in your weight will also affect how the helmet retention works. You need to re-adjust your helmet straps from time to time.
Tip 94: Don’t try to take 5 pounds off your current bike. Reducing that much weight by replacing components will set you back more than your bike is worth. That type of dramatic weight reduction is best achieved by buying a new bike that sits on the showroom floor at the 5-pound-less target.
Tip 95: When replacing a tube or tire, check the rim strip to be sure it’s not pushed to one side. If the spoke holes are exposed, the pressurized tube can get pinched and cause an immediate flat, or worse, one halfway into the ride.
Tip 96: Nearly every bolt on a mountain bike likes to be greased. This prevents the bolts from seizing and allows them to be properly torqued. Too much grease just makes a mess, though. Don’t go crazy with this. Just a dab will do.
Tip 97: There is one exception to tip 96. Bolts with thread-locker, like this rotor bolt, should not be greased. Just install these. The thread locker that keeps the bolt in place works as an anti-seize.
Tip 98: Threaded parts on a bike should go in by hand. If you have to force it in, there’s something wrong. From bottom brackets to pedals to water bottle bolts and everything in between, start by threading things by hand before going to the wrench and damaging your expensive parts by cross threading.
Tip 99: Pedals are the most over-torqued part on a bicycle. Pedal wrenches are usually huge (for removing over-tightened pedals) and provide way too much leverage. Just gently snug them, don’t ???reef??? on them.
Tip 100: When you install a new handlebar, resist the temptation to simply measure your old one and cut the new one down to the same length. Instead, try the bar uncut for a couple rides. You may find a wider bar gives you more stability and control and lessens fatigue. Always measure your preferred width and make note of it.
Tip 101: Never tighten a bolt halfway, or think to yourself: “I’ll get to that later.” Bolts like the stem clamp are easy to forget if you’re itching to get out to the trail, but not tightening it can quickly put your face in the dirt. While you’re thinking about it, tighten the bolt. Always finish the job now, not later.