If you’ve always loved hiking but wished you could zip through the trail a lot faster or if you’re getting a bit bored of the obstacles that street biking provides, mountain biking just might be perfect for you. And as you’ve probably heard, we recently launched Bluejay Sport, which combines all the convenience and efficiency you love about our e-bikes with a touch more power and a trail-ready design. For the adrenaline-seekers who are totally new to this category of sport, here are some basics you need to know before setting out for your first mountain biking trek.
Get Your Positioning Right
Mountain biking is a full body workout, simply put. Not only are you using your legs to pedal but you're going to be really working your arms, your abs and also your brain, especially when you have to make a split-second decision as you quickly approach that tree! So, taking the time to learn how best to position your body (especially before you hit the trails) will definitely benefit your riding skills, in terms of your form and how effectively you’re able to use or conserve your energy.
While riding, keep most of your weight in your feet and let your hands feel light on the handlebars. It sounds strange, but this combination will ensure you have an even distribution of weight across your bike, which will keep you steady on rough and uneven terrain. Next, make sure your knees stay bent and your hips are back over the saddle, even if you’re standing up. You’re going to want to keep your shoulders down and your elbows back but not flared out or pulled in too tight. In theory, the width of your shoulders should match the natural placement of your hands on your handlebars. As you might recognize, this is a lot different than the positioning you usually have on your street bike and it might take some time to get used to it, but go ahead and put this biking stance into practice. The better your form, the better your biking adventures will be.
When you’re approaching obstacles, stand on your pedals with your weight equally distributed, keep a nice bend in your ankles and knees and position your elbows slightly out, being sure not to put too much pressure on the handlebars. This will set your body up to become kind of like a shock absorber for all those small rocks and roots. (As for logs and other large obstacles? Well, once you get the basics down you can go ahead and learn the necessary skills for mastering the front wheel lift.)
Just remember, when you ride with the terrain—and not against it—you’ll have a much more enjoyable ride and you’ll come out of it a lot less sore.
Play Around With Your Power Settings
Be prepared to play around with the settings on your Bluejay Sport during your first few rides, learning which power settings feel the best based on the incline you’re riding. While you won’t want to be on the highest power setting from the get go, as you might run out of juice before you reach the end of the trail, try to ease into higher levels of power slowly rather than all at once, or you might go flying—and not in a good way.
Know When (and How) to Use Your Brakes
Due to a ton of factors (from the conditions of the dirt trail you’re on to the level of incline or decline of the path), you should expect to break a lot earlier than you do on a flat, paved path. When you see a turn approaching, hit the brakes before you head into it and let momentum carry you through the rest of the motion. Further, since you’re riding an e-bike, the addition of a motor and a battery will make your bike heavier, which is yet another reason to brake earlier than usual.
You’ll also want to keep your braking as smooth as possible, to avoid slipping or skidding. Apply steady, even pressure on both the front and back brakes, avoiding any sudden or quick reactions. This will keep you upright and prevent you from flying over those handlebars. The Sport’s Tektro hydraulic disc brakes have super quick reaction time, even at high speeds, so that should give you some peace of mind on even the trickiest of trails.
Understand that Falling Is Totally Normal
Much like snowboarding, falling is inevitable with mountain biking. You’re cruising over rocks and roots, so you won’t be able to catch every last obstacle as you fly over it at high speeds. To avoid major crashes, be sure to bike at speeds that you feel comfortable with and remember not to break your fall by using your hands, because this increases the risk of breaking bones.
When you do fall, the first thing you should do is a body check, making sure you feel ok and that no bones are broken. Then, do the same for your bike, making sure everything is in place and that your handlebars, chain, brakes and seat are in decent condition. Finally, dust off your ego and get back on that bike; you have a trail to ride!
You’re Going to Need a Serious Helmet
This one is non-negotiable, regardless of what terrain you’re going after. Your regular bike helmet simply isn’t going to cut it on a more treacherous course. So go ahead and invest in a mountain bike helmet that has a bit more coverage towards the lower back portion of your head and is designed with plenty of venting (that will help keep your head cool as you work up a sweat). If you anticipate getting into some serious downhill biking, go ahead and invest in a full face helmet that has a chinbar to keep the front of your face protected. Thanks to advances in technology, these types of helmets are safer than ever while also being really light and comfortable to wear. So, you really have no excuse for not taking all the safety precautions that you can.