MTB can be a daunting world to enter. That’s why us newbies ask plenty of questions, probably to the point of becoming quite annoying. Fortunately the warhorses of the trails are pretty generous with their time and expertise. However, there are some facts and warnings that seem to slip their minds for one reason or another. I’ve experienced a few personally. Here’s a list of 4 exclusions I reckon are most common, but very useful to any mountain biking novice.
1. You will eat some dirt You just will. If you don’t, you’re not really mountain biking. You’re probably cruising around on the road with your mountain bike or pottering about your local park – two very worthwhile pursuits – but it’s not the sport of MTB. Granted, there’s no need to immerse yourself in the vast swamplands I’ve tended to fall prey to during my four months in the sport!
2. Cleats can very easily be loosened First, don’t even think about mountain biking with takkies and pedals. It’s not just inefficient, it’s actually dangerous. Being clipped into cleats is very disconcerting at first, but you get used to it quickly and they keep your feet from bouncing around wildly in rough segments.
That said, your cleats will probably be set very tight when you buy them. That makes it difficult to unclip your feet. The primary symptom of this is easing to a stop, developing a look of panic across the face and then helplessly keeling over.
The solution is loosening the clipping mechanism on the pedal itself with an Allen key.
3. Chains need love Your bike’s chain and sprockets are a bit like your cardiovascular system. This metallic setup is the lifeblood of your kinetic system. It’s also quite sensitive. Neglect it after riding in the rain and it’ll rust. Abuse your gears while riding and they’ll wear down.
Luckily it doesn’t take a great deal of love to keep this key contraption happy. A spray of chain cleaner here and a spurt of lubricant there (the type will depend on whether you’re riding in the wet, in mud/dust or a mixture) will go much of the way to warming your stead’s beating heart. Avoiding gears that bend it excessively (keeping it too far on the front right cog and rear left cog or vice versa) will also extend its lifetime.
4. Slower is not safer Actually you’re unlikely to miss this bit of advice, but it’s worth inclusion here because it’s so important. It also needs repetition because it contradicts what every neuron in your brain will say when you approach an obstacle.
Your superbly evolved brain will scream “Tree stump in the way – SLOW DOWN!” The louder it shouts, the more firmly you have got to fight back. Choose a way to ride over the log/rock/hole, commit yourself totally and focus on the other side of the obstacle as you fire through it. Momentum is your friend. If you don’t believe me, take it from the man local cycling circles know as Mr Tread.