Proper Cycling Attire for Beginners
Before you start tearing up the trail you need to be wearing the proper gear. Obviously, a mountain bike looks very different from a road bike, so it makes sense that the rider would too, however, the checklist of gear needed is essentially the same. In order to have the best time possible, prepare for your ride by ensuring that you have the right shorts, jersey, gloves, shoes, and helmet.
There are no rules that say you can’t wear your typical road bike shorts after the pavement ends, but aerodynamic skin-tight shorts are less necessary here than in the tour. Usually mountain bike shorts are baggier, longer, and have less padding, as riders are sitting in the saddle less often. It is also helpful to find shorts with pockets to carry whatever other gear you need, and find shorts that have a bit of stretch in them to offer better leg movement.
The story with mountain bike jerseys is very similar to the story of mountain bike shorts. They need to be less form-fitting than road cycling jerseys, but still fit close enough to wick away sweat. Pockets are less needed, however, especially if you’re also bringing a backpack.
Gloves are essential to a comfortable mountain bike outing. Padding and finger coverage protect your hands from taking a beating on the handlebars when you’re flying over rocks and stumps. Although having your entire hands covered may make them become sweaty and hot while you’re riding, you will appreciate the prevention they offer from getting bloody knuckles when you wipe out.
Mountain bike footwear is usually dependent upon which kind of pedals you have on your bike. Standard differences from road biking shoes are that mountain bike shoes usually have a rubber sole for more walk/hike-ability. Clips are helpful for steep climbs, but not totally necessary. Finding shoes that are waterproof would be very helpful when stream crossings are frequent.
Without a doubt, your helmet is the most important piece of gear that you need for mountain biking. Different types of mountain biking require different styles of helmets, but the principle idea is the same. Find a helmet that fits tight on your head, but is not uncomfortable. To test the helmet, shake your head back and forth to see if the helmet shifts and slides around, then smash your head against the wall and see if it hurts. If it doesn’t and the helmet stays put, it’s good to go!
What to Bring
A riding bag with appropriate gear can make the difference between a fun ride, and a miserable hike out. The basic items to bring is a small repair kit, some water, food, and some extra clothes if weather comes in. You can purchase a small repair kit at a bike shop, or build one yourself. A good store to check out is the Bike Co-op on College Avenue. They have cheap equipment, and you can work off the cost by volunteering there. A good riding bag isn’t bulky and heavy. You want it to sit tight against your body and allow for some breathability. A good brand is Osprey. Their smaller 22 and 33 liter Talon bags work great. These bags are versatile and can also be used for hiking, climbing, and around town.
For longer rides, it is good to bring about 2 liters of water, this looks like two Nalgene water bottles. Using a water bladder works great, that
way you won’t have to stop to drink water if the shred is just too good. I really like Deuter’s 3 liter bladder, they’re durable and don’t leak.
Bringing a light rain jacket is smart to bring anywhere. This can act as a windbreaker, and also keep the elements off you. Throwing in a long sleeve shirt or a light fleece might come in handy during lunch or at the trailhead. Snacks are always smart to bring, for long rides. Nothing beats a PB&J and a banana. Some chocolate and a clif bar are good to eat when you start getting tired.
Basic Bike Components
Proper equipment is key to a great ride, with the most important component being the bike itself. Make sure you have a basic understanding of bike components, and what they do before you start shredding. The most important component is the frame itself. This is the skeleton or core of the bike. It is important that the rider uses a frame that is properly fit for their body size and riding needs. Frames come in many different materials depending on weight and price preferences including steel, alloy, aluminum, carbon fiber, and titanium.
The wheels are also a vitally important piece of equipment. Mountain bike wheels tend to be wider and have more traction and grip than a normal road bike tire. Just like the frame, tires come in many different sizes depending on the size of the rider. The tires are mounted to the rims which are connected to the spokes, which are all connected to the hub. The hub is connected to the rest of the bike by two metal flanges that then connect to the shocks.
Next we have the handlebars, which are located above the front wheel. These are used to steer, as well as hold the shifters and brake levers. Just like the frame, the handlebars come in different shapes and styles depending on the riders needs and price range. Ideally, the handlebars should be wider than the riders shoulders. The wider the handlebars the more control and leverage the rider has, although response time is diminished the wider the handlebar.
Below the handlebars we have the stem, and steering tube, which connects the handlebars to the fork, allowing the rider to control their bike. The fork and shock absorbers are the suspension system of the bike and help minimize the shock from shredding. Bikes come with either front suspension with the shocks located on the front wheel, or dual suspension with rear and front shocks ideal for shredding gnarly terrain.
The saddle, or seat is connected to the frame by the seatpost and is an important component of your mountain bike. Having the proper seat for your size will give you maximum comfort and performance as you shred down the mountain. Before you start shredding you’ll also want to make sure you have properly working brakes. Mountain bike brakes come in two types, disc and rim brakes although disc brakes are the most widely used as they perform well in most weather and terrain conditions. You control your brakes from the brake levers located on the handlebars.
The crank holds the chain and chain ring, which make the bike move. The crank also has arms, or rods, which the pedals are connected to. The cassette is located near the rear tire of the bike and usually has around five to nine stacks of sprockets, which are used by the biker to shift gears using the shifters on the handlebars. When one uses their shifters, they are shifting either their front or rear derailleurs, which then moves the cassette up or down depending on terrain and slope.
Last we have the pedals, which allow the rider to power their bike through the most epic rides. Choosing the right pedal will not only make you a better rider, but is also important for ability level. The most common type of pedals are platform, toe clip, and clipless pedals. Platform are your basic bike pedals that are good for all riders. Toe clip pedal have a strap in which you insert your feet, giving you more stability. Clipless pedals allow the rider to fully connect themselves to the pedal, though this type of pedal requires special shoes, and can cause problems to those who lack experience or can’t release themselves from their pedals.
Now you have a basic understanding of the components of a mountain bike and are ready for your first ride. See you on the trail.
Your First Ride
For the first trail for a beginner mountain biker Blue Sky Trail is a very fun- flowy single track trail (mountain biking trail that is approximately the width of the bike) located on the back side of Horsetooth Reservoir. Riders can drive to the trailhead and pay to park at Blue Sky Trailhead Parking. If you
don’t have a Lory State Park permit you can pay the daily parking fee of $6.00 at the beginning of the trail next to the welcome board, trail map and bathrooms. Click here for directions.
Once on your bike head down and you’ll find a fork in the trail, take a right onto the Blue Sky trail. The trail stays pretty flat with a little downhills letting you getting use to your bike and warm up your legs for the ride. Once you go through the tunnel you will face the first challenge of the ride a couple minute uphill ride (ascent). Once you’re up the hill the trails pays off with a slight downhill allowing you to pick up speed and start enjoying the ride.
The trail continues with fun single track for 3 miles when you come to the most technical part of the trail. A small uphill climb (ascent) with exposed rock. There’s no shame on getting off your bike and bike hiking up this short section of the trail.
The trail picks back up with single track and starts to open up allowing you to see the full landscape around you. This turns into some of the most fun parts of the trail allowing you to pick up some speed and lets you get a feel for your bike at a higher speed.
The trail continues like this for another mile where you’ll come to another uphill climb (ascent). This one is less gradual with very minimal rock exposure. Once you get up this section of the trail you come to a nice look out spot. You can see the extremely fun downhill (descent) right in front of you. If you are feeling adventures you can take the trail down and ride Indian Summer Trail which has more fun single track with a few more uphill climbs and technical sections. Or you can turn around a head back to the trailhead and re-ride all of the single track you just road.
Either way you have to head back the way you came to get back to the parking lot.