We all have to start somewhere when it comes to new hobbies and talents. As a seasoned mountain biker, you may have forgotten the early days of learning the ropes. At some point, you may want to introduce your friend or significant other to the adventure of getting out into the beautiful desert or mountains while on one of the most fun machines ever built, the mountain bike.
When you get out, your adventure could go one of two ways. It can either be a fun adventure had by all, or it will be an uphill climb where all walk out frustrated with bruised egos, and potentially bruised bodies! The latter could end up turning your newbie away from ever trying mountain biking again. Just remember as you are introducing the world of mountain biking, you yourself have had time to practice and hone your skillset of biking. To you, making a steep climb or cleaning a section of a trail may seem easy to you to manage. To a beginner, it can be a very daunting task and be discouraging to not be able to do it.
Jay Bartlett wrote for St. George News, that too many times he has heard tales of woe from someone whose “buddy” took them on their first mountain bike ride to a trail that is considered upper-intermediate. This kind of trail is not the place for a beginner rider to go, especially for their first time. When you are faced with having to sprint up a 10-foot-tall slab of sandstone and you don’t know how to approach or manage the situation, the fun factor goes down the drain. You need to know what appropriate gear to be in and how to distribute your weight for traction and momentum to be able to avoid a fall. Another common mishap is when a newbie starts with the equipment they aren’t used to or know how to use. This could end up leading to someone pushing their bike through the trail, as opposed to cruising thru and enjoying yourself. Check-in with your local bicycle shop for guidance on proper gear for your newbie student.
If you decide, as a seasoned mountain biker, to take a beginner out, plan for easy trails to start. Your trusted bicycle shop employees will know of many local trails for all levels of riders. Be considerate and plan for extra time due to slower speeds. Even a fit person can feel challenged by the unfamiliar movements and effort involved with mountain biking. That combined with the lack of skills will make them even more tired. Keep in mind, while your beginner friend is learning the ropes, you yourself can practice. Slow-speed skills such as track stands or other balance drills can be practiced while waiting for your friend. You could even sprint ahead and work back to the group. Keep in mind you’ll need to take plenty of breaks and make sure that all riders, no matter their speed, get a sufficient enough break before moving forward. Also, don’t forget to stop at all intersections and wait for the entire group to stay on the same trail. An easy way to ruin the day is to lose a member of the group!
As you begin to teach your newbie friend about the world of mountain biking, keep in mind you can’t teach them everything in just one ride. Focus on the basics and only go in-depth when you approach a certain problem at the moment. Try to get one or two things figured out per ride, and then remember to help and encourage them to practice. Do your best to contain yourself and not overwhelm them with too much information too soon. You can’t teach someone years of knowledge in one ride. Too much at once can easily discourage someone from wanting to keep going on the mountain biking adventure. However, with patience and an easy-going attitude, it can end up being a fun day for all and leave your newbie itching for more rides!