A Comprehensive Guide to Mountain Biking

A Comprehensive Guide to Mountain Biking

Welcome to Beyond the Mud!

As passionate mountain biking enthusiasts, we are thrilled to present this comprehensive guide that will equip you with the knowledge and skills necessary to embark on your mountain biking adventures. Whether you’re a beginner exploring this exhilarating sport or a seasoned rider looking to enhance your skills, this guide will provide valuable insights and tips to help you navigate the trails with confidence and joy.

So, let’s dive into the world of mountain biking and discover the thrill that awaits you!

1. Gear Up for Success: Before hitting the trails, it’s essential to have the right gear. Start with a well-fitting helmet, gloves, and comfortable clothing suitable for the weather conditions. Invest in a mountain bike that matches your riding style and preferences. Ensure your bike is properly maintained, with brakes in good working order, and suspension adjusted to your weight and riding terrain.

2. Master the Basics: Understanding the fundamentals of mountain biking is crucial. Learn proper body positioning, such as bending your elbows and knees, keeping your weight centered, and looking ahead. Practice shifting gears and using your brakes effectively with one finger. Develop your balance and coordination by maneuvering over obstacles, cornering, and braking safely. Building a strong foundation will boost your confidence and set you up for success on the trails.

3. Choose the Right Trail: Selecting the right trail is key to an enjoyable mountain biking experience. Start with beginner-friendly trails, (green and blue at trail centres) that offer smooth terrain and gentle slopes. As your skills progress, gradually challenge yourself with more technical trails featuring steeper climbs, descents, and obstacles. Research local trail systems, consult trail difficulty ratings, and seek recommendations from fellow riders or local bike shops to find trails that match your skill level and desired experience.

4. Safety First: Mountain biking can be exhilarating, but safety should always be a top priority. Ride within your limits and be aware of your surroundings. Carry a basic repair kit, including tools, spare tubes, bacon bits and a pump, to handle minor mechanical issues on the trail. Stay hydrated, protect yourself from the sun, and apply insect repellent when necessary. Lastly, inform someone about your riding plans and ride with a buddy whenever possible. Both Garmin and Strava have beacon technology so loved ones can track your activity and be notified if there is a problem.

5. Skills Development: To become a more proficient mountain biker, dedicate time to skills development. Attend mountain biking clinics or workshops to learn from experienced riders and instructors. Practice specific techniques, such as tackling steep descents, navigating switchbacks, and climbing efficiently. Work on improving your balance, bike handling, and trail awareness. With consistent practice and a growth mindset, you’ll steadily progress and conquer new challenges. Take a look at our courses here.

6. Respect the Environment: As mountain bikers, we have a responsibility to protect the environment we ride in. Stay on designated trails, respect trail closures, and avoid disturbing wildlife and vegetation. Leave no trace by carrying out your rubbish and minimising your impact on the surroundings. Participate in trail maintenance and advocacy efforts to ensure the sustainability and preservation of the trails for future generations.

Congratulations! With this comprehensive guide to mountain biking from Beyond the Mud, you are equipped with the knowledge and skills to embrace the excitement and challenges of this incredible sport. Remember, mountain biking is not just about conquering trails; it’s about immersing yourself in nature, pushing your limits, and experiencing the thrill of two wheels on the dirt. So, gear up, explore new trails, and let the adventure begin with Beyond the Mud as your guide! Happy riding, and may your mountain biking journeys be filled with exhilaration, discovery, and unforgettable experiences!

Bike Packing with a toddler – what you need and what you don’t

Bike Packing with a toddler – what you need and what you don’t

Back in May, seems like a distant memory now! We went bike packing for three days across the South Downs with our then 18 month old toddler, Ffion.

Travelling with a toddler, even in a car, can be a logistical nightmare and game of how much can we really fit in the boot, so on the bikes where space was a premium we really had to think carefully about packing..

We had a practise pack a few days before we went to make sure we could fit what we needed for us and Ffion into the Alp Kit bags we had.

Emyr and I packed sparingly for ourselves knowing Ffion would be the one more likely to need a changes of clothes etc.

Staying in hotels made it slightly easier as we did not have to take tents etc, that is a future trip!

For myself I packed:

  • Two bib shorts (wear one wash one)
  • Three cycling jerseys
  • One pair of shorts for the evening
  • Two Tee shirts
  • One dress (packs down tiny and doesn’t crease)
  • Flip Flops
  • Minimal toiletries
  • Underwear
  • Jumper
  • PJ’s

For Ffion we packed:

  • One jumper
  • Four tee shirts
  • Two long sleeved tee shirts
  • Two shorts
  • One Skirt
  • One leggings
  • 15 nappies
  • One packet of wipes
  • Sleeping bag
  • 2 vests
  • PJ’s
  • Sunhat
  • Helmet

I carried all mine and Ffion’s clothes in my Alp Kit handle bar bag and the saddle bag, using the flip flops on each side of the saddle bag for more rigidity and to stop it swinging. In the bar mounted bag I also put one of Ffion’s favourite bed time stories this actually worked well as a base to then roll the clothes into the bag!

Once the clothes were packed, I put the suncream in the saddle bag so it was easily accessible.


Now you are probably wondering how we managed to keep our whirlwind toddler contained to the Tout Terrain bike trailer for those long days in the saddle. The answer is we have a secret stash of toys that we only bring out for such an occasion, so Ffion finds them exciting and interesting.

For this trip we packed:

  • 2 hard back mini books
  • Busy book with buckles and buttons in it
  • Favourite rabbit teddy
  • String of beads
  • Pretend phone
  • Ipad (for evenings)
  • Sticker book

All of this plus the nappies, wipes, and Ffion’s food fitted in and around her in the trailer. The Tout Terrain trailer has great side pockets where we could load up entertainment as well as a snack and her drink. Leaving space around her feet for her to wiggle her legs and move her feet.

Each day our riding was planned around Ffion’s schedule taking a long stop during her usual lunchtime for her to eat and run around. We also put in mini breaks for nappy changes and so she could stretch her legs. As well as the entertainment we provided Ffion spent time watching the world go by from the windows in her trailer, we spoke about the trees, the crops in the field, counted squirrels and tried to engage her in her surroundings as much as we could.

What we learnt about the kit we packed.

Clothing, Ffion only wore one long sleeved top and never wore any of the vests I packed, with the weather not being predictable in the UK I think it was worth carrying some items that weren’t used instead of running out of the wrong clothing! She probably would have been fine in her sleeping bag in a vest and we could have left the PJ’s behind as it was super cosy in the places we stayed. I think for a longer trip I would have probably taken some handwash so we could wash a few bits along the way so you don’t have to carry tonnes of outfits.

Nappies, we had just enough! I would probably next time go for 6 nappies a day just incase…

Entertainment, we got this correct Ffion seemed happy with the toys she had over the time. There is an ability to stuff thin items down the back of the seat in the trailer so I think next time I may pop an extra sticker book in and maybe a packet of pastel crayons for the evenings.

Our first bike packing trip with our toddler was very successful, so much so we are hoping to head on a four day trip at the end of August.

But where should we go?


Bike Packing South Downs Way Day Three

Bike Packing South Downs Way Day Three

As the early morning sun crept through the skylight, Emyr and I were amazed that Ffion was giving us a lye in this never happens!

Sitting drinking tea we went over our final days route which was mainly made up of bridleways and back roads to get us the 20 odd miles home from Amberley.

Our plan was to pack up and head to the Slindon Forge for breakfast before continuing home. Packing up our Alp Kit bags and loading the bikes for a final time was really sad. I was looking forward to heading home to see Luna but didn’t want our adventure to end!

Rolling out of Amberley and back onto the South Downs Way, back over the bridge and up the road into Houghton Forest, the views out to Brighton were amazing with the offshore wind turbines like little white sticks in the distance.

Meandering through back roads was nice but after a full day off road we were keen for more and headed off road at the earliest opportunity and of course straight into a climb!

This climb took us up all the way to the top of Bignor Hill Road, which is a stunning bridleway way through open fields with far reaching views of the downs and coast in every direction. Both Emyr and I were amazed we were rising somewhere we had never ridden before!

After a thrilling descent to the valley we made it to Slindon Forge for brunch. From Slindon our route was mainly country roads until we reached Lavant.

Climbing out of the valley around the side of Kingley Vale was the final bit of singletrack before we were home.

22 miles covered, 106 miles in three days and 4285 feet of climbing.

Bike Packing South Downs

We have had an absolute blast over the last three days. Bike packing with a toddler certainly brings with it some challenges, like how to take enough nappies, but we had a great time as a family and being able to share this experience with Ffion and show her the South Downs from her bike trailer was epic.

We are already planning the next trip!

Bike Packing with a toddler – what you need and what you don’t

Bike Packing South Downs Way Day Two

Ffion woke at 4:30, after many failed attempts for more sleep, Emyr & I embraced the early morning heading for breakfast just before 7.

Breakfast eaten, bikes packed we rolled out of Winchester not really knowing what the day would bring, hoping to make Amberley, 46 miles away in time for dinner at 6pm. After an exciting morning Ffion was asleep before we left the car park…

Leaving Winchester behind we climbed up Cheesefoot head and then onto Beacon hill, it was slow going mainly because of all the uphill, but there were a few faffing stops too! Going ahead of Emyr down Beacon Hill to get a good shot of him riding down the inevitable happened and he got a puncture. Worm inserted and a quick nappy change and we were back on the road.

We had been planning to go round Old Winchester Hill as the climb up is steep and rutted, however the Meon Valley trail is such a lovely bit of singletrack we decided to give it a go. Old Winchester Hill conquered we continued to Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QE). Looking out over the views from the top of Butser Hill over the rolling hills of the downs I was very impressed with what we had achieved so far, however we still had  along way to go!

We stopped at QE for a brief refuel for us & a run around for Ffion leaving QE with our sights set on the Cadence Cafe at Cocking for lunch. As the miles ticked by, we couldn’t believe how amazing our tiny human was being, but a 4:30 wake up and random morning snoozes had really thrown her rhythm and she became a slightly disgruntled toddler as we edged closer to the cafe stop. Luckily Ffion’s favourite thing is running and so on stopping Ffion ran from inside to outside of the cafe for the duration of our visit with both Emyr and I taking a bite of food before trying to heard our little whirlwind. As you can imagine getting back in the trailer was not a popular choice! Thanks to Nanny for the sticker book which saved the day!

Cocking hill was climb 8 of 9 according to the Garmin, which I have to say was deeply wrong. I counted at least 4 if not 5 more climbs before our descent down to Amberley began!! From cocking hill, we continued along the South Downs Way all the way to Amberley, this is a part of the South Downs Way I love, as red kites circled above us, baby lambs jumped around in the fields and cows grazed happily as we rolled by the scenery made all the climbing worth it! With views out to the sea on one side and rolling hills on the other I thought how lucky we were to be able to call this our local riding spot.

After crossing the last busy road we dropped down a super descent into the village of Amberley, the valley was so different from the South Downs Way, flat and we followed the river Arun past reed beds and horses grazing.

Within the last 2 miles I decided to have a quick lay down in the grass, Emyr had told me about a step up onto the bridge but failed to mention the gate, as he stopped for the gate I just happened to be filming and couldn’t film, break and unclip at the same time. My foot decided it liked being in my pedal, refused to unclip sending both bike, phone and I to a soft landing in the grass just moments from the grasp of the River Arun. Which is the second fastest river in the UK (every day is a school day).

Cycling through the pretty village of Amberley to our Air BNB I was really impressed we had made it with 30 minutes to get ready before dinner at the Black Horse a pub I would recommend but maybe leave your toddlers at home!

Well done team what an epic day!

Bike Packing South Downs Day One

Bike Packing South Downs Day One

Bike Packing with a Toddler.

After weeks of planning, re planning and more planning it was finally here – the day we would set off on our three-day bike packing adventure with our little girl Ffion. We had no idea how our 19-month-old would cope over three days and had scaled back our original King Alfred Way idea to a triangular route along the South downs. We did this for a few reasons but mainly riding trails we knew and having ‘emergency escape routes’ to get home if we needed made it slightly less daunting!

After two hours packing the Alpkit bags and Ffion’s Tout Terrain trailer we were ready to set off on the first leg. The first day would be biking from home, near Chichester, to Winchester and staying over night in the Premier Inn, mainly because we knew it was bike friendly and easy to get too!

We had never ridden over 20 miles with Ffion in the trailer so took the quicker road route through Rowlands Castle, Charlton and then up to Butser Hill before heading onto the South Downs Way. Ffion slept for most of this leg of the journey, waking just in time for lunch at the Sustainability Centre!

After a delicious lunch we headed onwards and upwards to the top of Old Winchester Hill, one of the real high points with views reaching far out over the Meon valley with rolling hills of crops and sheep.

After lots of open bridleway the Meon Valley trail was a welcome break from the sun as we rolled down through the trees before we re-joined a quiet back road through a few pretty villages and on to Beacon Hill. Back off-road, Ffion was busy playing with her ‘busy book’ (A book full of clasps, buckles, Velcro and zips which gives her endless fun).

The miles clocked up and the time ticked by and soon we were closing in on Cheesefoot Head, the final high point of the day. Open fields stretched for miles interspersed with woodland and down in the valley we could see Winchester, which still seemed quite far away!

We stopped for a snack break and for Ffion to have a run around on the grass, I felt so grateful to be able to share this adventure with her. Snacks packed away it was back to the trail and to continue our final descent into Winchester.

Arriving at the Premier Inn was simple as there is a bridleway which takes you almost to the door. Check in was easy and having the bikes in the room made it much easier.

Now time for that good nights sleep… apparently its guaranteed! What is not guaranteed is being able to get your toddler to sleep in the room where you are staying…

In total we rode 51km in 3 hours 12 minutes with an elevation of 724 meters.

Burn Series Adventure Race Bath

Burn Series Adventure Race Bath

On Saturday I stepped way out of my comfort zone and did an adventure race. The Burn Series in Bath was made up of mountain biking, trail running and kayaking. All whilst navigating to check points marked on a map!

This was my first race since having Ffion and the nerves well and truly set in from around Wednesday leaving me feeling very unsure about whether I could actually do it.

Race day came, the car was packed, and we set off for Bath at 6am to start racing at 9:30.

The first thing I had to figure out was my route for each activity – something I’ve never had to think about before. In cross country mountain biking you just follow the arrows and stay within the tapes this was a new challenge and one that made it quite tactical as it turned out!

Everyone was given a kayak slot and mine was in the morning which meant I would run first so I could run to the kayaks. I had always wanted to bike first as that is my strength, but soon switched the gears in my head to feet first then pedals as we set off from the start line.

I had highlighted the route on my map but soon found running, looking at the map and trying to look for check points was rather a lot for my brain to compute. The result was me missing my first check point and ending at the canal… Oh well, this is where I wanted to get to anyway right!?

The kayak section was fun, having not been in a kayak since I was about 14, I found my body seemed to remember what to do and the Pilates certainly helped with the core strength. The main challenge with the kayak leg was actually a very angry swan who stopped me from getting my third checkpoint! I decided being dry and not bitten by a swan was better than trying to battle my way past it.

Once back on dry land I did procrastinate about doing more running. After a minute or so of procrastinating (I really must stop doing this) I decided to stick with the plan and go get my bike. In hindsight this was silly as I retraced my steps when I could have run past more running check points back to my bike on a flatter route.

Back at the main transition I got my bike and headed out to collect as many bike check points as I could. I decided to go for the highest scoring checkpoint first and made my way up some super steep hills to get there. Quick picture at the top and a text to Emyr to say there was a nice park for Ffion to run around and then I remembered this is a race – I should probably get on with it! Back on the bike and into a long spooky tunnel that reminded me of a similar one I had raced through in the Alps. The cold air surrounded me and every now and then you would see an eery shadow and have to dodge dog walkers. At least in the alps all the bikes were going in the same direction.

This was a great cycle route which took me all the way to the furthest check point from where I had just been, only to realise I had missed one and you guessed it! Retraced my steps again… I started to realise I needed to be more tactical and just head for the bigger point check points so with this in mind amended my route. This would have been fine but in my rush to do so a trail I thought was bridleway turned out the be footpath so once again I back pedalled.

All in all, I managed to get every bike check point bar 4 so I was happy with that! During the ride I rode down streams and up steep gravel bridleways, down awesome muddy descents and at times a few technical downhills. The riding was awesome if not slightly hillier than I expected!

After six hours racing, I made it to one last check point before crossing the finish line. Completely exhausted but riding on a high from what I had achieved.

I learnt a lot in these six hours, route planning needs more attention, look to get to the big scoring check points and I need to learn to run uphill!

Thank you for a great day out!

If you would like to find out more about these races go to www.burnseries.co.uk for more information on the other race sin the UK.