Mountain Bike Training Tips for Beginners

There’s nothing like heading out on the trail on a mountain bike.  The thrill of climbing a steep hill, bouncing along a rough terrain, and taking tight, sharp turns is an amazing experience.  You don’t need to be a pro to mountain bike, but it’s also not a good idea to jump on a bike and head out.

Mountain biking requires a combination of skill, strength, and endurance.  To get the right balance, you’ll need to do some training.  How hard you train will depend on how serious you are about biking as a sport.  Here are some tips for mountain bike training for a trip or a cool adventure.

  • Train Early – It’s easy to procrastinate starting your training before a trip.  It’s best not to wait until a couple of weeks before your trip to start.  You run the risk of getting hurt.  The best recommendation is to start two to three months in advance to maximize your performance.
  • Enjoy Yourself – It may not seem that important, but having fun while you are training is important to keep you motivated.  Training and riding with people you enjoy and who share your riding goals will make your experience more fun.
  • Morning Training – Training in the morning is an excellent way to start the day, and you are less likely to allow life to override your training schedule.  Late in the day allows for many things to pop-up and derail training plans.
  • Gradual Training – Building a schedule that gradually increases your strength, endurance, and balance will make your goal more achievable.  Start with twice a week and work up from there.  Gradual training will also decrease the likelihood of injuries.
  • Warm Up – Taking time to warm up before you ride will increase the blood flow to your muscles and prevent injuries.  This can be done by riding a stationary bike, or your mountain bike at a slower speed on a flat surface.  After about 10 minutes, your muscles will be warm and then it’s time to stretch them out.  You want to make sure to stretch the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, low back, shoulders, and neck.
  • Legs – Building leg strength and endurance are crucial for mountain biking because your legs are doing much of the work.  As you build leg strength, you will be able to ride longer, climb tough hills, and have more control that will help prevent injuries.
  • Upper Body – Your upper body strength and endurance is just as important, so don’t leave this out.  Managing your body weight over the handlebars will take it out of you, so you need to build upper body strength.  A good way to do this is by doing pushups and planks.  Building your upper body will help keep you stable and strong enough for the ride.
  • Body Core – Building your core strength, the abs and back muscles, will help prevent lower back pain.  While you are building your strength, you can raise the handlebars, so you aren’t hunched over.  Shifting your position while you ride and stretching your back will help relieve pressure on your spine during a ride.
  • Balance – You need good balance to keep stable while bouncing around on a rough trail, going airborne when taking a drop, and taking sharp turns.  You can build balance with things that increase your mind/body spatial awareness, such as Bosu balls, stability balls, balance boards, or exercises that use one leg.
  • Endurance – It’s important to work your heart to help expand your cardio endurance.  A nice way to do this is by riding up and down hills and on flat ground with alternating speeds.  The goal is to increase your heart rate to 50 to 85 percent from a resting rate and maintain it for increasing amounts of time.  Just like your other muscles, practice and time will build your heart’s endurance and overall performance.
  • Putting It Together – Stick to fundamental exercises that will work the areas of your body you need without making a complicated workout.  Exercises like squats, deadlifts, sit-ups, and planks will work your core, legs, and upper body without working any one area too much.
  • Weaknesses – If you know an area of your body that is weak, such as an old injury, make sure you address the weakness through medical care and advice, a strength building coach, or another avenue to help you address the issue.  This will prevent injuries and increase your performance.
  • Efficient Peddling – Learn to get as much power as you can from peddling.  One tip, as the pedal reaches the top, drop your heel, and before 12 o’clock, push over the top with your hip.  This move will lengthen the power phase and erase the dead spot.
  • Trails – Pick trails that meet your skill level.  Beginners should start with a flat train with some turns and descents, something like a road.  Intermediate rides can take on more rocky areas, hills, narrow spots, and zigzag trail to add some challenge.  Advanced riders can take on more technical trails and ride longer trails.

Mountain biking is excellent exercise and a fun experience.  When you are finished biking, make sure to stretch and take care of any injuries or strains from the trip.  Allowing good recovery time is important for training.  You want to be fresh for each mountain bike ride.

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