More People on Bikes
It has been a whirlwind year that’s guaranteed to make a major mark in the history books, but I try to focus on the positives. This COVID pandemic has driven many people to find new ways to get outside and put their fears on the back-burner. A bike is the perfect vehicle for anyone looking to achieve a socially distanced workout or just to escape their home and get out into the great outdoors. As more people try our favorite sport, many of these new riders will be hooked for life. So, for all you new riders out there, here are some helpful tips to get you started.
If you’re new to the sport of cycling, there are a few things you should know before you head to the trails. One of the first rules of trail etiquette is to be kind to other trail users. Chances are you don’t own the trail you’re riding on, so always treat other riders, hikers and equestrians with respect. Remember the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This can be done by offering a simple hello and alerting other trail users to the size of your group. Something along the lines of “Three more riders behind me” will do the trick and will prevent surprises.
Another important rule to follow is yielding to uphill traffic. It might be fun to speed down a trail, but always be aware that another trail user could be around the next corner. It’s also important to stay on the trail. Cutting a new line is frowned upon and could lead to trails being shut down.
New riders should at the very least wear a new or slightly used helmet that shows no evidence of impact. The helmet should fit snugly, and the straps should be adjusted for a comfortable and secure fit. Riders who want to get more serious should look into dedicated cycling shoes, which are designed to add protection and pedaling performance. If your idea of mountain biking is taking on more challenging trails, more protective equipment may be needed, such as knee and elbow padding. Should you find yourself getting into long-distance cycling, you’ll want to buy a quality chamois to increase comfort. Investing in the right gear from the start will greatly enhance your long-term riding experience.
Your new bike will likely perform great for the first couple of rides, but it’s important to note that every bike has maintenance intervals. As you shift through the gears, the cables will stretch a little when new, so it’s likely you’ll need to adjust your shifters after the first few rides. Keeping your gears clean and free of grease, along with putting lube on your chain, will ensure your bike is running smoothly for years to come. If you purchased a bike with hydraulic brakes, you’ll need to have them bled roughly every year for optimal performance. Riders heading out more frequently may need to adhere to shorter maintenance intervals; however, there is no avoiding normal wear and tear. If you have further maintenance questions, send me an e-mail or ask your local bike shop.
GO HAVE FUN
The reason you bought that new bike was to have fun with family and friends in the great outdoors. Don’t let your more experienced riding buddies pressure you into riding over your head, but do look to challenge yourself each time you go out for a ride, whether that be challenging your fitness or attempting a trail you’ve never ridden. Finally, the most important rule of all is to have fun. With more people getting out on bikes, we’re likely to see positive growth within the cycling community. So, if you’re one of the new riders who recently joined our sport, congratulations and welcome aboard. You’re in for the ride of your life.
Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun.