You’ve finished hundreds or even thousands of miles on your road bike. As you’ve flown by different trailheads, you notice the big grins of mountain bikers finishing their day. You’ve always wondered, “What’s it like? Is it all extreme cliff drops and roller coaster like rock gardens?” This couldn’t be further from the truth. Make this the year to try it for yourself. To help make that leap, here’s how to get into mountain biking from road cycling.
Hybrid – Gravel Grinding
If you’re the type of person that likes to take small steps, you may want to try gravel grinding for how to get into mountain biking. It’s a combination of everything. A heaping plateful of rough gravel roads, a dash of singletrack, and even a whiff of smooth pavement. It’s not an entirely new concept – the original Tour De France back in the early 20th century was pretty much a gravel grinder. The modern version as we know today started at the Dirty Kanza. A 200-mile endurance test through the rutted rolling hills of the Midwest. The term “race” is a loose word as it’s more a community gathering of like-minded folks to test their personal limits.
What It Takes
One of the key similarities to mountain biking is the unpredictable nature of traveling over gravel. Compared to smooth asphalt, the surface tension across your ride will change a lot more than you’d expect. This will at least introduce the concept of a “looser” experience that you’ll find in mountain biking. Hardcore gravel grinders typically pair a lightweight frame and dropped handlebars from a road bike with fatter tires. You can of course ride this terrain with a full suspension or hardtail mountain bike too.
Full-On Mountain Biking
For those that want to take the full leap and leave the roads behind, mountain biking is a totally different beast to road riding. The only similarity is in the pedaling. Everything from standing to sitting and even switching gears is in a different mind-set.
Take It Slow
We all get excited at new sports, but similar to skiing, don’t just take the lift to the top and huck yourself off a cliff. That’s NOT how to get into mountain biking from road cycling. It’s just a recipe for disaster. Speaking of skiing, mountain bike trails are ranked very similar to ski trails. Take your time and dip your foot by picking a green circle (easy trail). See how you are with riding on dirt. Both MTB Project and AllTrails are good resources for trail ratings.
Things To Focus On
Be keenly aware of your balance points. Body position is the key for everything you do on a mountain bike. The video below is a great starting point on what you should be thinking about when riding your bike:
Another aspect to consider is steering control. Steering control is WAY overlooked for beginners. Understanding when to initiate the turn and how to properly balance through it is key to make sure you don’t slide out. This is followed by brake control and building trust. Like any great sport or activity, time-on-bike will help you.
If you want to accelerate the learning process, consider booking a clinic with us. You’ll ride better, faster, and with more confidence. Here’s a list of our clinics.