How to Mountain Bike Alone: 8 Tips for Beginners

Sep 12, 2023

a mountain biker

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Do you want to learn how to mountain bike? It can feel daunting to pick up a hobby on your own, but it’s worth it to feel energized and accomplished. Here’s what you need to know before getting into mountain biking.

What Gear Do You Need?

Your gear is nearly as important as your bike, so you should come prepared. The best approach is to increase its strength and visibility before you set out on your first trail. You can do this by getting lighting, mirrors and puncture-proof tires. Bringing a hand pump, chain lube and a multi-tool can also help.

Don’t forget about yourself — protective equipment is essential when cycling downhill and around steep inclines. Make sure to wear a helmet and gloves at a minimum to protect yourself in case you fall. Knee pads, cycling shorts and reflective outwear are excellent additions, but they’re not super necessary when starting out.

Which Trails Should You Use?

The bike you have determines your ideal trail. For example, downhill works best on steep inclines, while cross-country is excellent for rolling, mellow ground. Still, even though your ride may be better for one kind of terrain, your options depend on your location. 

If you don’t have dedicated biking trails nearby, find a hilly area. You can also try state parks and highways. If you need help, the internet is the best resource for your search. There are plenty of public, crowd-sourced websites where you can find nearby bike trails.

You can also use an app to find new routes and track their condition. One of the most popular apps has almost 500,000 options spanning more than 100 countries, so you’ll probably find some wherever you live. Plus, many allow map sharing, so you’re sure to find hidden paths from local enthusiasts.

What Should You Expect?

You should expect to come across challenges while biking. It’s mostly fun and relaxing for most guys, but it comes with its fair share of obstacles. Even though overcoming them will come naturally to you as you continue mountain biking, they’ll initially seem tough. 

For example, you’ll regularly scrape your shins on branches and get covered in dirt. Crushing your new bike for the first time can also feel discouraging. Still, it all comes with the territory. Remember to keep pushing when your legs start burning or you take a nasty spill — it’s easier to give up than it is to persevere.

There are a lot of benefits if you keep going. For instance, as little as 15 minutes of cardio can improve your testosterone levels. Plus, you can build your glutes, quads and core. Learning how to mountain bike can be super beneficial for your overall physical and mental well-being.

How to Mountain Bike Alone

Mountain biking alone can seem somewhat daunting, but you can handle it. Going without a group simply means you need to prepare more. Check out these tips to speed up your learning process.

  1. Practice Track Standing

Track standing is where you balance your bike upright while moving slowly or staying in place. It’s useful for guys who want to mountain bike because it boosts balance. Imagine it’s your first time out and you’re flying downhill toward a sharp corner — you need to know how to shift your weight to make the turn successfully.

It’s tempting to get right into things as soon as you have the gear and pick a trail, but you’re doing your bike — and your body — a favor when you practice. This approach counts as a standing core exercise, meaning it can define your abs and strengthen your stability.

  1. Adjust Your Bike Before Heading Out

Since mountain bikes have many customization options, you can personalize your ride to meet your needs. It can be super helpful to adjust your suspension, seat and wheel size for the type of trail you plan to go on. Make sure it feels stable and you’re at a comfortable height.

  1. Scope Out Your Trail

You should always know what you’re getting into before you set out on a trail. Check how steep the inclines are and how rough the terrain will be to gauge if you and your gear can handle it. There’s no shame in starting somewhere mellow to get a feel of your equipment. It can also help you figure out the pace you’re comfortable with.

orange mountain bike resting on a mountain
  1. Position Yourself Correctly

Unlike regular biking, you should have a specific form. Keeping your arms slightly bent, shoulders back and chest low can stabilize you when powering through rough terrain. It can also help you manage your momentum on hills and turns.

  1. Stay Flexible

Staying flexible is one of the most important things to remember when learning how to mountain bike. The adrenaline and anticipation you feel will make you want to tense up, but keeping your muscles relaxed is essential.

Imagine you’re powering downhill when you hit a large rock. Your body will easily absorb the shock if you keep your limbs slightly slack and bent, making you much less likely to crash at high speeds.

  1. Think of Your Bike as an Extra Limb

You should imagine your bike as an extension of yourself and learn how to slightly adjust yourself to align with it. For example, you would keep your knees loose and constantly adjust how much you bend them as you move along the trail.

  1. Shift Gears Accordingly

Figuring out how to shift gears while mountain biking can help you overcome steep inclines and stay balanced. For example, downshifting right before you go uphill can make the climb easier, while moving to a harder gear downhill keeps your pedals in control. Remember to stay away from shifting during an incline or descent since it can damage your equipment.

  1. Move With Confidence

Moving with confidence is easier said than done when you come face-to-face with steep, rocky terrain. Still, it’s a great tip when you’re learning how to mountain bike alone. Focus your breathing and let your momentum carry you where you need to go — your bike is built for this and your gear will protect you.

That said, taking things easy when you’re starting out is important. The adrenaline rush you get from mountain biking can boost your mental and physical health, but be careful not to take things too fast if you’re a beginner — a fall at high speed can sting.

Enjoy the Trail

You’ll have a great time outdoors once you figure out how to mountain bike on your own. Getting used to your equipment and the rough terrain of bike trails can take some time, but it can quickly become your new passion once you get the hang of it.

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Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.