Nothing quite gets your heart racing like mountain biking, hitting the trails, zipping along on two wheels through singletrack.
As a beginner it can be a challenge to navigate through wheel sizes, suspension set ups and handle bar length. I remember my first mountain biking adventure as a 10-year-old riding my ridged Raleigh bike from Halfords on a holiday to Slovakia with my Dad and Step Mum.
Sometimes the hills were so steep my Dad had to tie a rope to the front of my bike and ‘tow’ me up them! But I loved the singletrack and the exhilarating feeling of racing downhill, trees whooshing by as my mountain bike gripped the ground with its knobbly tyres.
I like to think my skill level on a mountain bike has improved since those early singletrack days! Here are my top tips for beginners looking to start mountain biking:
Go to a bike demo! Before spending your hard earned pennies on a bike, it is worth riding a few to see what works for you. The best way to do this is at a bike demo day or hiring a bike so you can really test it. Riding around a shop car park is not going to help you know if that mountain bike is the right one for you, far better to go and get it muddy! Your local bike shop and trail centres are good places to start on finding demo days.
A quality bike helmet is one of the most vital bits of kit you can buy. Making sure it fits properly is the next step, you should be able to get two fingers between the top of your helmet and your eye brows, the plastic pieces on the straps should be a cm under your ear lobes, this stops the helmet rolling back and the chin strap if you look down should be tight enough to keep the helmet in place but not so tight that you can’t breathe.
So, Bike, check. Helmet, check. I would also recommend getting a good pair of biking gloves and safety glasses to protect your hands and eyes.
So you’re ready to hit the trails! Mountain biking is great fun and these next few tips will help you enjoy your time on the bike.
Move around the bike – mountain bike tyres are knobbly so they grip the ground, don’t pump them up rock hard unless your planning on riding on the road or up steep hills, this will give you more grip and with it more confidence in your mountain bike. Practise leaning forward, backwards and side to side when you ride on non-technical ground to feel how the bike handles. Moving around your bike helps keep it flowing down the trails.
2. Cornering – When cornering your mountain bike do all your braking before the corner, enter the corner wide and exit on the inside. Look around the corner and use the banking (berms) to help carry your bike around the corner.
3. Look ahead – Riding through singletrack, obstacles will appear quickly as you glide through the trees, to be able to react and look for the smoothest line you need to look ahead down the trail.
Mountain Biking Utah
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Anyone can be a passenger on a bike. Like with any sport to become more confident and able it’s a good idea to get professional coaching. On a blustery April weekend eight women from across the UK descended on the South Downs to improve their mountain bike skills. I teamed up with local guide Sean Howell from Marmalade Mountain Biking to deliver a fun weekend of biking, good food and Pilates, all that was missing was sunshine!
The weekend started with coaching from Queen Elizabeth Country Park, the home of my mountain bike club, Pedal 2 Pedal. The ladies worked on the fundamental bike skills, balance, body position and cornering. Getting your body into the right position and being able to move around the bike is a key skill when riding a mountain bike, you need to be able to flow down the trail keeping your movements free and not jerking the bike around which happens with bad technique and a lack of confidence because you tend to be more ridged.
Lunch was provided by a local chef who served up a beautiful selection of salads, pastries and of course cake to keep even the hungriest of riders satisfied. After lunch the girls hit the new blue trail at Queen Elizabeth Country Park to put their new found skills to the test.
Kaz who took part said
“I had an amazing weekend of Ladies MTB tuition with Hannah, it was so much more than had expected! I chose this 2 day course to regain confidence after a mishap 18 months ago. I learned new skills riding off little drops and riding burms. Hannah explained things well and gave great support to achieve riding skills on the mountain bike which in turn created lots of smiles. With a wonderful lunch and meeting like-minded ladies all achieving something from the course.”
My confidence just grew and grew with day 2 riding the South Downs lots of ups and amazing downs putting all that we had learned to the test. With Hannah and Sean guiding and supporting us all the way. I feel very fortunate to have found Hannah to open my eyes to new adventures on the bike. With many thanks I am one very happy lady to be back out into the countryside.”
Another key aspect of cycling is body conditioning and core stability, the girls were treated to a private Pilates class in Rowlands Castle by local Pilates instructor Stacey Merritt after winding down the girls were ready for a pub lunch and to talk all things bike.
Bright and early Sunday they headed to Cocking Hill on the South Downs to meet with local mountain bike guide and trail expert Sean from Marmalade MTB. Sean took the girls on a whistle stop tour of some of the best trails and viewpoints along the South Downs including The Goodwood Estate, Kingly Vale and the Hooksway.
The weekend was designed for ladies who have a little experience off road but wanted to increase their ability and go somewhere new to explore. They all left with smiles on their faces and a new enthusiasm for mountain biking one they will hopefully share with their friends. My aim is to get more women out on bikes and introduce them to this fantastic sport. This is hopefully the first of many weekends Sean and I will run.
If you would like to improve your skills or get out and explore some new trails get in touch or head to Pedal 2 Pedal for more information.
Evening guys and girls I thought I’d give you a little inspiration for a summer adventure. How about grabbing your mountain bike and heading to Mallorca? Interested? read on….
Mallorca is a beautiful island in the Mediterranean Sea, a 2 hour 10 minute flight from London.
It has stunning beaches, beautiful hinterland charm and amazing hiking and mountain biking trails, with a mild and biking-friendly climate all year round.
Although the entire island is great for mountain biking, you can find the largest variety of rideable terrain is in the Eastern part of Mallorca, which is near Artá, Cala Millor and Son Servera. There are many single tracks, a nature reserve with a great selection of rideable trails and gorgeous coastal tracks in this region.
Mountain Biking in Mallorca is legal, however there are no legally built single tracks with berms or jumps, as 90% of the island is in private hands.
Mallorca’s hidden single tracks are best found by hiring a local guide who can show you the best spots without too much road riding and getting lost.
CaMi-Bike, where you may rent super high-quality bikes and book guided rides in different levels.
The owner is a young lady named Roxy, who has been living in Mallorca for 9 years and has specialised in Mountain Bike Events, private coaching and group skills courses and also offers private guiding for groups. You may contact her via Instagram: Roxybike_mallorca or on Facebook.
Mallorca is a hidden gem for mountain biking with absolutely amazing single tracks, gorgeous views and mostly great weather. If you are looking for the perfect family bike & beach combo holiday destination, Mallorca is a the choice!
Thinking about the Olympics and trying to channel my inner Laura Kenny as we made our way through the beautiful Olympic park towards the velodrome at Lee Valley.
Walking inside the flying saucer-shaped building and up into the café gave a sense of the size of the velodrome, it was bigger than I expected! After a quick cup of tea it was time to get changed and make my way to the famous ‘track centre’. Walking down the corridor where so many inspirational people had walked was incredible I loved watching the Olympics in 2012 and now to be here where the magic had happened felt like a real treat.
Coming up into track centre really gave the sense of the scale of the velodrome standing in the middle I felt very small and the corners looked almost vertical! I was soon ready to ride picking up my bike, in the purest form, no gears, no brakes just the power in my legs to control my destiny, whether that was to be flying off or staying up right, at this point who knew!
After a talk through the safety points of not being able to stop pedalling and using pressure to slow or speed up the bike we were allowed on the dark blue ‘safety zone’ this was the inner circle of the track and was flat. After a successful lap and a cheeky extra lap as I couldn’t stop we were allowed on the Côte d’azur a light blue 17 degree angled part of the track once we were riding around our instructor pushed as to go faster and faster, it was odd thinking of speed as safety instead of the other way round. The other odd thing was that you didn’t really have to steer the bike, the angle of the track and your speed turned the bike, no need to lean on the corners. The hardest part was remembering that to slow down you had to put resistance on the pedals to slow your cadence this took some practise but I felt happy with it and was ready to move onto the track!
Staying on the black line I worked up my speed and confidence before venturing out towards the blue line. The corners of the track were a 45 degree angle and to ride higher you needed more power, getting up to speed in the short straits was hard but after a few laps I made it above the blue line, the bike clung to the wooden slats of the track as we spun round and round, it was hot work staying high up and navigating the other people also having their taster session.
It was soon time to leave the track, another challenge of slowing down and grabbing the railings! I left the velodrome feeling accomplished and happy that I didn’t fall off! Riding around a velodrome was fun, I haven’t met a two-wheeled sport I don’t like yet but mountain biking is still by far the best in my opinion.
Hello! I hope you are having a fine weekend outside enjoying the warm Autumn weather we are having at the moment. I just wanted to share with you something exciting! Over the next few weeks I have some fantastic guest bloggers writing about their adventures outside by bike, fell running, on two feet, the best wild camp spots and other adventure activities to try out in the UK.
I hope you enjoy.
Firstly, I was delighted to be asked to write this guest blog as it acknowledges my new status as a ‘cyclist’… For a fat fifty-year-old with serious asthma and a questionable approach to fitness, this is a significant badge of honour that I shall wear with pride.
A couple of things happened this year that prompted me to get on my bike. The first was a serious chest infection that put me on steroids and the sofa for almost two months. This led to a complete review of my asthma with the respiratory team at QA, a change of medication and a new lease of life.
The second was my fiftieth birthday… cue mid-life crisis. However, instead of botox and a boob job I opted for a snazzy new bike. I’ve dabbled with cycling over the last couple of years but I felt ready to move up a gear (pardon the pun).
I hate busy roads and I’m a nervous rider, so I wasn’t comfortable with a fully loaded, curly handlebarred, skinny-tyred road bike. Instead, I went for a nice compromise – the Whyte Victoria. Described as a ‘fast commuting bike’, it’s at the sexy end of the sports hybrids, with carbon forks and a seat that makes your eyes water (but I’ve actually got used to). The tyres are still skinnyish but with enough grip to keep me feeling secure on my local patchwork of country lanes that often feature a layer of tractor mud and downland gravel.
To celebrate my exciting new toy, I signed up for a Cancer Research UK challenge to cycle 300 miles over the month of September. Cycling an average of 10 miles a day means I have got to know every nook and cranny of the Meon Valley – and fallen completely in love with it. With a miles and miles of quiet country lanes to choose from, on a sunny day the Meon Valley is a cyclist’s dream. It’s hilly, but for every climb there is a glorious downward stretch with fabulous views to make the effort totally worthwhile.
One of my favourite routes is what I call ‘my easy 10-miler’, which starts in Denmead and loops around World’s End, Southwick and back via Furzley Road. It’s a pretty ride featuring a vast majority of undisturbed country lanes. I’ve done this ride many times solo, with my husband and recently with the lovely Terri Bryant and the Breeze Network ladies. It’s also a great route to take visiting friends because the climbs aren’t too painful and there are two pubs and one of the loveliest tea rooms in Hampshire en route. See Southwick Village Tea Rooms
The only daunting bit for ‘main road haters’ like me is the short stretch up from Southwick towards Portsdown Hill. I freaked out the first time I saw it, with traffic flying past at breakneck speeds and a VERY LONG hill ahead of me… but that was before I realised there was a cycle lane and I was turning left half way up, before the steep bit!! Back on to an idyllic country lane where I can hear the birds tweeting and can happily natter to my companions – hurrah!