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If you’re new to the mountain biking scene, you might have a lot of questions about where to start. Where do I ride? Should I buy a brand new bike? Are there any beginner groups to ride with? The list goes on. We get asked by new mountain bikers all the time for tips on how to get started, so we’ll share those with you today.
If you’re totally brand new to mountain biking, like never done it before, it might be helpful to find a local beginner clinic or group to go with. If you have a more experienced friend who is willing to take you, that’s a good option to, but make sure they’re taking you somewhere that is appropriate for a beginner. More experienced riders often have forgotten what it was like to learn to ride, so while they may have a few tips, a certified instructor will definitely have a more dialed approach to guiding beginners. Check with your local bike shop to see if they lead any beginner clinics or can connect you with a local group or instructor. If there are local ride days, see if a beginner ride is being offered. This is a great way to connect with other riders who are at your similar level. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard a new rider say, “I don’t want to hold back the group,” so when you find a group that is specifically for beginners, you’ll be right at home.
If you know other riders, whatever their level is, ask them how they got started and what their tips are for new riders. Bikers love to talk about biking so they’ll likely have a ton of information to share with you. You can also look for local biking groups on networks like Facebook, where people and shops post about upcoming rides, events, and demo days. This is a great way to connect with other riders of a similar ability level and hit the trail with some new people. You may even be able to find a women’s specific mountain bike group if you want to ride with other ladies.
Most riders we know started on some sort of hand-me-down or borrowed bike, which is ok to get you out there, but probably not going to do you any favors. Most shops rent bikes (call and check first) and many of them will even roll the rental cost into the cost of the bike, if you choose to buy one afterwards. This is a wonderful way to try a bunch of different bikes out before you buy one. Many bike shops and bike companies will also host demo days, where they’ll bring out a whole fleet of the latest and greatest bikes for you to try. These demo days are typically always free and usually only require them to hold onto your license, credit card, and have a signed waiver to get you going. At a demo, you can usually try out a few different makes or models of bikes. The great and terrible part about renting or demoing a new bike is that they’re often the very top of the line with all the bells and whistles; You’re definitely going to have a wonderful time on the bike and only want the best of the best, which can be cost prohibitive depending on your budget.
Buy a rental/demo bike – After you’ve tried out a bunch of different types of bikes, the next step is to buy one. If you like one of the bikes you’ve demoed or rented, many shops will sell their demo/rental fleet at a discounted price at the conclusion of the season. These bikes, while often ridden by quite a few people, are usually meticulously maintained at the end of each ride by the shop team.
Peruse the bike swaps – Each spring, many bike shops will host bike swaps, where you can check out a bunch of bikes in various conditions all in one place. These swaps can get pretty competitive so our tip is to get there really early so you can be at the front of the line. If there’s an option to preview the bikes the night before, take advantage of that so you can see the bikes before the sale begins and you already know which one(s) you’re interested in.
Check out online marketplaces – You can also look at local online marketplaces like Craigslist, Facebook, or mountain bike group forums. For an even wider search, you can look at the listings on a site like Pinkbike.com and see bikes for sale from across the US and beyond. If the seller is not local, make sure you see multiple photos about the bike/components, ask lots of questions about the condition, verify the seller reputation (if possible), and know what the shipping costs will be. Shipping a bike will sometimes be upwards of $100+ so you’ll have to factor that in as well.
While it may be tempting to get something super cheap (for obvious reasons of the wallet), if it’s within your budget to spend a little more, you may be happier long term. Some riders will buy something inexpensive with older components and limited features, only to feel like they need to upgrade the next year. While this is fine, if you want something that’s going to last you a few years, you may want to get something higher end up front. We can’t recommend having certain features, like a dropper post, enough. The first dropper post we got was a total game changer for our ride and we can’t imagine riding a bike without one! If the bike you’re looking at doesn’t have one, no worries, you can put one on yourself afterwards. Just plan for another $100 or so to make that upgrade (so worth it!). You probably don’t need a carbon frame, unless you’re really concerned with weight. It’s not really necessary for a newer rider but if the bike you like has it and it’s within your budget, go for it. At this point, you probably want to look for something with at least 27.5” or 29” tires, as 26” tires have all but fallen by the wayside and may be an older model with outdated components. Bike technology has come a long way in the last few years so even a bike from 2 or 3 years ago may have components that have been surpassed by new technology. If you get something older, it’s totally fine, but it could mean you’ll need to have the bike’s components serviced more regularly or upgrade to a new bike in a few years.
Wherever you are in your journey into mountain biking, we’re glad you’re here. Sometimes just taking that first step seems like the hardest, but once you get into the saddle of a mountain bike and onto your first trails, we know you’ll be hooked and a rider for life. To make your riding experience even better, check out our line of women’s specific mountain bike apparel so you’re as comfortable as can be on the trails.