Biking Basics

Over the last two years, I’ve racked up around 600 miles on the trails, hundreds of dollars in debt, and bruises on every part of my body trying to become a competent mountain biker. I’m still not there, but these are all things I wish someone would’ve told me on day one.

Flat or rolling ground is easy—the real difficulty lies in the climb and the descent.


Shift to a low gear before you need it

Cover the rear brake, ready to squeeze and step off if you stall out

Eyes up, picking the least obstructed line

Big, even breaths, focusing on the exhale

Aggressive and steady pedaling

Center of gravity ahead of bottom bracket

Smile! You’ll be a strong mountain biker one day


Shift to a high gear before you need it

Cover both brakes, remembering that the front does the most work

Eyes up, picking the cleanest line and scanning for other people on the trail

Lowered seatpost

Big, even breaths, focusing on the exhale

Center of gravity behind bottom bracket

Smile! This is payment for the torturous uphill climb

Don’t forget:

Pack extra water and food—you’ll need it

Smile and wave at everyone you pass—be an ambassador for the sport

Pull to the side of the trail for everyone—a sweaty mountain biker going 25 mph is terrifying to children, seniors, horses, and anyone else on the trail

A clean bike is a happy bike—especially the drivetrain

Unless you’ve got a number on your handlebars, you’re not racing—enjoy the ride

If it looks too sketchy, walk your bike—broken pride is cheaper than broken bones