No matter what kind of terrain you plan to ride, there are some basic mountain biking tips that riders of all levels should follow. Whether you're a newbie or a skilled rider, it's important to use the right bike for the job. The variety of bike models available can be overwhelming, as can the cost. Consider renting a bike before buying one to ensure you find a unit that you'll enjoy. When you're ready to make your purchase, don't mistake high prices for quality. A mid-range bike will work well for all but the most advanced riders. If you're new, choose a bike with a fairly simple suspension system, as more complex suspensions can make bike maintenance difficult.
Before taking your bike on the trails for the first time, get familiar with your bike on a more forgiving terrain. Take the bike out to the parking lot and ride to get used to the controls. Learn how to get your feet into and out of the pedals quickly, so you're prepared for a fall. Try measuring your cadence by counting your RPMs. Start slow, and get used to the feeling of smooth, easy pedaling. Test your breaks, and experiment with the amount of pressure needed to stop at various speeds. Practice stopping until it becomes natural and you're able to find the breaks automatically without taking your eyes off the trail or road. To mimic the feel of rough terrain, try riding over a graveled path, or up and down the curb [source: Jones].
In addition to your bike, you should be equipped with adequate safety gear when mountain biking. A helmet is a must -- it can save your life when you take a tumble. Consider knee and elbow pads, safety glasses and gloves to protect your hands.
If you plan to take a longer ride, be sure to pack plenty of water and food for energy and hydration. Small backpacks can be used to carry these items while keeping your hands free, and hydration packs make it easy to take sips of water while you ride.
Like all adventure sports, mountain biking poses some serious risks to riders. To minimize your risk, take basic first aid supplies with you every time you ride, and learn how to treat common injuries as well as more serious ones. Remember that you're more likely to get injured when you're tired, so start small and build up to longer rides. Stay clear of local wildlife when biking, and give any animals that you see a wide berth to help avoid attacks.
Stay on marked trails to avoid getting lost, and consider handlebar-mounted GPS units to help you find your way. Use up-to-date trail maps, and check your location often so you don't end up lost. Make sure you understand how to read your trail map before heading out for your ride.