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Should I get into mountain biking?

post #1 of 69
Thread Starter 

I know the simple answer is "yes", but I have a lot of questions and concerns. This was inspired by the "Dealing with skill atrophy" thread. I know almost nothing about mountain biking.

 

1. The primary reason is so I can ski better than I would otherwise next season. But how much will biking help with only pavement trails and easy, mostly flat "real" mountain biking trails? That's obviously where I'll have to start. I'm sure the exercise itself will help with skiing, but is the biggest gain from riding up and down?

 

2. Another concern is the cost. I'd like to spend no more than $500 on a bicycle, but I don't know if that gets a good enough bicycle to eventually do intermediate level trails. Then there's all the accessories. Helmet, clothing, bike rack for the car, no idea what else. What do I need?

 

3. A big concern is injury. Falling off a bicycle is a lot more serious than falling on skis. Other than a helmet obviously, what do people typically wear? Some type of padding that gets way too hot? Or just something thin that at least covers elbows and knees?

 

4. I'm not sure how much I would actually do this. I hate the heat and humidity and getting sweaty, so there's a chance I won't do very much from mid-June to mid-September. Does proper clothing keep you more comfortable and prevent some of the wet sticky shirts?

 

5. Is proper technique and difficult thing to achieve, similar to skiing? Or do you just do what's most comfortable (went to sit down or not, proper gear to be in, whatever)? Are lessons necessary or is reading about it good enough?

 

6. Does anyone know of shops near Boston where I can demo bikes on an easy trail?

post #2 of 69

I'm just starting again myself, I've been a mountain biker for about 5 years and then I stopped, because I moved out from my parents house were I was able to ride every day during the summer months and most of the days during spring/fall for college back in the day and I wasn't able to ride anymore or even afford money and time wise. 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by nemesis256 View Post
 

I know the simple answer is "yes", but I have a lot of questions and concerns. This was inspired by the "Dealing with skill atrophy" thread. I know almost nothing about mountain biking.

 

1. The primary reason is so I can ski better than I would otherwise next season. But how much will biking help with only pavement trails and easy, mostly flat "real" mountain biking trails? That's obviously where I'll have to start. I'm sure the exercise itself will help with skiing, but is the biggest gain from riding up and down?

 

It will help you mostly to keep you moving and doing something fun during the off season (winter). I don't see a direct connection between mtb and skiing, but of course it keeps you active and doing some outdoor sport which is nice! You don't need to start on pavement, there are lots of beginner trails that are not steep enough to make it impossible for a beginner to climb and/or go down. But don't think you can forget the gym, be aware that ski, mtb and mostly all sports will require you to keep your body in good shape and with some basic strength, you don't get that from skiing or mountain biking, you get that from working the basics at a gym, this goes a long way to avoid injuries.

 

2. Another concern is the cost. I'd like to spend no more than $500 on a bicycle, but I don't know if that gets a good enough bicycle to eventually do intermediate level trails. Then there's all the accessories. Helmet, clothing, bike rack for the car, no idea what else. What do I need?

 

$500 should get you a decent aluminum hardtail and you will be able to ride beginner/intermediate level trails! Other than that, here's what I was told by most of my friends that ride. You will need: 

 

1 - helmet

2 - full finger gloves

3 - hydration (camelbak/similar  or a water bottle)

4 - some pocket tools, you need to be able to fix your tire if you get a flat in the middle of a trail

 

This is basically what you need, you don't really need mtb specific clothes to start with, it's good to have mtb shorts but it really depends on how comfortable/uncomfortable you might get if you spend a lot of time in your bike, but it's not on the must have list. A car rack, that can get pretty expensive too, if you can't ride to the trails than you will need one, search on craigslist to find good deals, buy from a friend that doesn't use anymore, replaced by something elase.

 

3. A big concern is injury. Falling off a bicycle is a lot more serious than falling on skis. Other than a helmet obviously, what do people typically wear? Some type of padding that gets way too hot? Or just something thin that at least covers elbows and knees?

 

Really depends how much risk you wanna take and how hard you ride. From your description you shouldn't need anything other than a helmet and some gloves. 

 

4. I'm not sure how much I would actually do this. I hate the heat and humidity and getting sweaty, so there's a chance I won't do very much from mid-June to mid-September. Does proper clothing keep you more comfortable and prevent some of the wet sticky shirts?

 

Like any other sport clothes. Synthetic or wool sports stuff, stay away from cotton, think about base layers for skiing, the rules are almost the same.

 

5. Is proper technique and difficult thing to achieve, similar to skiing? Or do you just do what's most comfortable (went to sit down or not, proper gear to be in, whatever)? Are lessons necessary or is reading about it good enough?

 

I'm assuming you know how to ride a bike, most of us learn as kids, so just go and ride. Riding a bike is much easier than skiing for a beginner where you need instruction, if you compare mtb with skiing you start of already cruising green/blue groomers, and as things get more difficult and are gonna have to get some tips, advice from someone with experience. But remember, when you started skiing and didn't even know how to click in your bindings, you are starting mtb but you already know how to ride a bike!

 

6. Does anyone know of shops near Boston where I can demo bikes on an easy trail?

 

Go to local dealers and ask about demos, search on bike brands website for a list of demo tour cities. I'd be surprised if you don't see some in your area. Tomorrow there is a trek demo in Haverhill, Winnekenni Park, and I'm sure there will be more demos in Boston from different brands.

post #3 of 69

1. I have no idea what kind of shape you are in. but most people should be able to ride easy 5-7 mile mountain bike rides(on singletrack) in couple weeks of starting. Riding on paved paths, dirt roads, doubletrack build fitness. riding on singletrack builds skills some of those skills will have to be learned in easy learning environments like parking lots and or grassy fields. 

 

2. Cheap hardtail that are in decent shape can ride a ton of stuff. You are going to be your own mechanic if you are trying to save money. 500 bucks your best bet is to search craiglist and see what you find in your size. I have no idea what your size is I would suggest giving us some heights and inseam measuements and we can help you. Never let a seller tell you that a bike will fit you.

 

3. Honestly MTB can very dangerous but if your learn skills in a safe environment my guess is most falls will be minor. a bike helmet, and full finger gloves are all I wear but I built skills before trying stuff. Pads well could be helpful would discourage.

 

4. tech clothing helps. but you are going to get hot and sweaty in lower new england. Be glad you do not live in the south. Knowing what I know there is nothing more comfortable than Road style bike shorts/jersey but some people hate that look(for me I could care less I just want my sweat to evaporate).

 

5. I think you will be compent on easy level singletrack with in a couple week, its take a life time to master this sport and quite honestly most never do. You do not have to be the best to have fun, or to get better at skiing though.

 

6. at your budget I would highly suggest not getting a new bike. a new bike at a 500 dollar price point is quite frankly a piece of crap. 

 

I have more tips coming up but for now this is what I got. 

post #4 of 69

Here you go:

 

http://www.nemba.org/chapters/gbnemba

 

N.B.: Don't try to figure it out all on your own. Find a group and learn.


Edited by qcanoe - 5/12/14 at 6:01pm
post #5 of 69

Important stuff.

 

Pedals - since I doubt you will listen to my advice which is to just go Clipless(which is a misnomer, clipless means that your feet attach to the pedal with out straps of yesteryear.). and are probably going to ride flats. do not ride on shitty flat pedal or with normal shoes. both lead to bang shins. If you not going to jump to clipless right away, I suggest buying at least some wellgo BMX pedals with replaceable pins and get some 5.10 brand flat riding shoes. 

 

Grips - slip on grip suck on so many levels. Lock On grips are better in every way. Riding a bike with a throttle grip is just plain stupid and any convential grip especially in wet climates eventually starts to 'twist" lock grips that are mechincally tightened to the handlebars do not twist. 

post #6 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh Matta View Post
 

 

4. tech clothing helps. but you are going to get hot and sweaty in lower new england. Be glad you do not live in the south. Knowing what I know there is nothing more comfortable than Road style bike shorts/jersey but some people hate that look(for me I could care less I just want my sweat to evaporate).

 

6. at your budget I would highly suggest not getting a new bike. a new bike at a 500 dollar price point is quite frankly a piece of crap. 

 

 

Josh has nailed several things here.

 

My experience is that there is a significant number of people who simply don't ever latch onto the gritty nature of mountain biking. You absolutely will fall and get muddy and incur bangs and scrapes and need to remove ticks and have to replace (bike) parts because you crashed on them or ran over a blackberry bush or whatever. It's like sex: It's only dirty if you're doing it right. Know that going in. For everyone else there are road bikes. I do both and enjoy both. Both will gain you a lot of fitness if done frequently and with gusto and determination. MTB definitely has better skills transfer to skiing. The initial equipment outlay for both is similar, but in our climate MTB gear wears out about three times faster. FWIW, I never thought of myself as a mountain biking type, and no one else did either. We were all wrong.

post #7 of 69
I bought a Forge Sawback 5xx off Craigslist for $300. It has Deore shifters, basic Hayes disc brakes, and other decent stuff. Crappy fork, hard tail. I ride fairly technical stuff with it and use MTB shorts for the padding and a basic road bike shirt. I also ride at 7,000 feet and up in a semi-arid climate with no bugs so there really aren't any days I can't ride unless there is snow, and I don't ride during ski season. So take my comments with a grain of dust.

I started on good double track in a nearby open space and quickly regained a childhood love of riding on dirt. From there I went to smooth single track and then typical roots/rock garden XC type stuff (ride up, variable across, down). I'd much rather be on a FS at this point, but not in the budget and don't let that deter you. You can control the tail of a hardtail in fairly technical stuff as you improve, and that's a good skill to have.

The key is to get back on dirt and see if you love it. As Josh says, be careful with pedals and shoes in regards to your shins, and the first likely upgrade is tires once you want to hit the single track.

Have fun!

Edit: figured I'd give you a few pics. I just ride (smoothish) platform pedals. I'm not putting a bunch of upgrades on this thing.

Typical singletrack



Rougher singletrack



More technical





This is all easily doable with a basic hardtail for recreational riding, and for me it's the rockier descents flicking in and out of lines at some degree of speed, or at almost no speed at all, that correlate so well to skiing from the brain aspect as well as various aspects of balance. Plus it's crazy fun - I started purely for ski fitness 2 years ago and MTB is something I do purely on its own accord.
Edited by NayBreak - 5/12/14 at 9:04pm
post #8 of 69

MTBing is great but like qcanoe says, it is not for everyone.  Start small ($500 is small but doable) but if you like it expect to invest more.  After you ride for awhile you will know more of what you need.  Just like in the ski world, there are way too many options & choices to make in MTBing.  Asking questions here is a good start.  Guys like Josh & others on here have done the research & also have the experience to give educated answers. 

I am not the kind of person who likes to research stuff nor am I mechanically gifted, so most of what I have learned has been through trial & error.  I must be doing something right, cause I have been MTBing for decades & enjoy it more every year.  My tool collection continues to grow whether I like it or not. I tend to end up out in the middle of nowhere frequently (a good thing) & need the security of knowing that I can repair any issue I encounter on the fly.

 

I think there are many activities that provide good cross training for skiing & MTBing is one of the best!

 

Good luck

post #9 of 69

http://boston.craigslist.org/gbs/bik/4466261960.html if you fit a large this is the best deal thus far I have found in your area. still do not know what size you are....

post #10 of 69
Thread Starter 

Lots of good stuff already!

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Josh Matta View Post
 I have no idea what your size is I would suggest giving us some heights and inseam measuements and we can help you.

 

I'm 5'7", inseam 30"

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh Matta View Post

 

Pedals - since I doubt you will listen to my advice which is to just go Clipless(which is a misnomer, clipless means that your feet attach to the pedal with out straps of yesteryear.). and are probably going to ride flats. do not ride on shitty flat pedal or with normal shoes. both lead to bang shins. If you not going to jump to clipless right away, I suggest buying at least some wellgo BMX pedals with replaceable pins and get some 5.10 brand flat riding shoes.

I did see clipless, looks interesting. I suppose the shoes are somewhat expensive, but my biggest question is how easily they release. It can be set right?

post #11 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by nemesis256 View Post
 

 

I'm 5'7", inseam 30"

 

I did see clipless, looks interesting. I suppose the shoes are somewhat expensive, but my biggest question is how easily they release. It can be set right?

 

with SPD yes they come out as easy as you want. disregard the marlin I posted its to large. You are most likely looking for a size medium. 

post #12 of 69

I guess you have to ask yourself, do you really want/need to ride off-road?  Any reason why you don't want to do road?  It can be a more controlled, precise exercise method.  In mtb, your pace and exertion level are sometimes dictated to you..you can be grinding uphill hard or coasting through some tough singletrack.  It depends.  I think the injury risk is overstated.  There are no cars to hit you.  Yes, you can fall off and crash, but you are in control and can limit your risk.  Rocks and trees are you main problems and it's easy to slow down or walk those portions.  Same with nasty downhill sections.

 

Josh is somewhat correct..$500 new for a mtb won't get you a great bike.  $700 will get you something pretty decent in a hard-tail.  I race on a $1200 bike and it's more than what 95% of recreational riders need.  There is also something to be said for rider quality.  I rarely damage my bike but am fairly quick.  I have a friend who is slower than me, weighs 50lbs less than me and destroys bikes. 

 

Clipless can be a big confidence problem for new riders.  It's pretty much a non-issue for good XC riders but depending on what you're riding, you may like the platform pedal.  Again, Josh has good advice there..shin gouges from the platform traction pins can be ugly.  Either get smoothish pedals or work on your clipless skillz on easier trails and work your way up.  For going fast XC, you can't beat clipless.  Shoes are very important in any kind of riding..don't skimp on them.  I'm riding Sidi Dominator Megas..yes they were $250..I've also been riding them for 15 years.  Great shoes.  Shorts are also important.  Don't get cotton as others have said..baggy sux when you're riding technical things..they can get hung-up on the saddle.  Too tight and they limit movement. 

 

Oh..and depending where you are..the bugs are brutal..don't break down in the swamp!

post #13 of 69
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott43 View Post
 

I guess you have to ask yourself, do you really want/need to ride off-road?  Any reason why you don't want to do road?  It can be a more controlled, precise exercise method.  In mtb, your pace and exertion level are sometimes dictated to you..you can be grinding uphill hard or coasting through some tough singletrack.  It depends.  I think the injury risk is overstated.  There are no cars to hit you.  Yes, you can fall off and crash, but you are in control and can limit your risk.  Rocks and trees are you main problems and it's easy to slow down or walk those portions.  Same with nasty downhill sections.

I've seen how buses push bikes off the road sometimes. Scares the shit out of me. I'm sure buses aren't the only problem. Riding in the woods would be enjoyable compared to being surrounded by concrete. I would go on bike paths too though, especially at first.

 

Should I be concerned about wheel size?

post #14 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by nemesis256 View Post
 

I've seen how buses push bikes off the road sometimes. Scares the shit out of me. I'm sure buses aren't the only problem. Riding in the woods would be enjoyable compared to being surrounded by concrete. I would go on bike paths too though, especially at first.

 

Should I be concerned about wheel size?

Road biking scares the shit out of me too!  Last year I decided that I would only ride my roadie when I could NOT ride my MTB.  Even then I am very careful about where & when I ride it.  It does give another aspect to training though & only makes my MTBing stronger.  I have been injured numerous times MTBing but never anything life threatening.

post #15 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by nemesis256 View Post
 

I've seen how buses push bikes off the road sometimes. Scares the shit out of me. I'm sure buses aren't the only problem. Riding in the woods would be enjoyable compared to being surrounded by concrete. I would go on bike paths too though, especially at first.

 

Should I be concerned about wheel size?


Way back..one of Canada's best cyclists was hit by a dump truck and paralyzed.  That had a big impact on me as I rode the same roads.  There is a general antagonism and the relative risk is far great in road riding in my opinion.  I don't personally know anyone that was killed mtb'ing.  I know 2 that have been killed road riding.  Having said that, I still ride low-traffic country roads because they offer the best, consistently rideable pitches for climbing. 

 

Wheel size..I have a 29er now and it's not the best for smallish people like us (I'm the same size as you..) in technical terrain.  Fast on non-technical XC though.  On techincal stuff you feel a bit on-top of the bike..I don't mind it personally, it's my style, but a lot of people don't like it.  26" is a better technical size for tougher terrain.  The 650 size is in between and I haven't ridden one yet.  If you feel like you want more the technical benefits of a 26 without the high CG of a 29er, you can try the 650.  Honestly, 26" is just fine for most people but progress thwarts us at every turn!  :-)

post #16 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by 4ster View Post
 

Road biking scares the shit out of me too!  Last year I decided that I would only ride my roadie when I could NOT ride my MTB.  Even then I am very careful about where & when I ride it.  It does give another aspect to training though & only makes my MTBing stronger.  I have been injured numerous times MTBing but never anything life threatening.


Exactly my sentiment.

post #17 of 69
Thread Starter 

thought of another concern. I have chronic tendinitis in both my hands, and I've heard of people getting similar injuries from biking. I got tendinitis from computer use, and I'm careful, I don't get too many problems. But knowing that, what should I know about going into mountain biking? How to hold the grips, if I should have different grips, etc. With a pre-existing condition, is the risk of injury so high that I shouldn't do biking?

post #18 of 69
Take a look at Ergon and the like. No good way to know as that is a very personal condition, although MTB isn't creating repetitive motion stress per se. I find that I feel it mostly in my elbows and contact pressure with the grips, the latter of which can be addressed at least to some extent.

post #19 of 69
Thread Starter 

I did see that briefly, and found one person that pain from using it, and a regular grip was better. I guess everyone is different.

post #20 of 69
Thread Starter 

that HAD pain from using it. missing a word there.

post #21 of 69

I get some carpal pain and some finger numbness from riding the mtb for too long.  It's pretty personal as far as position and pre-existing conditions.  I suck it up and carry on..and change my hand position as much as possible. 

post #22 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by nemesis256 View Post

I did see that briefly, and found one person that pain from using it, and a regular grip was better. I guess everyone is different.

I like regular grips better, too. Like Scott43, I can get some numbness from extended downhill periods - reality is you do have your grip in one place for awhile with quite a bit of pressure. That can aggravate pre-existing conditions, although you will also get stronger.

But that also gets back to the atrophy thread - I do a lot of yoga to counterbalance sports like skiing and mountain biking that emphasize a degree of fixed movements, and I find a lot of relief from repetitive joint stresses in that regard. Hard to know unless you try, although I think one recurring theme in the responses is that MTB is worth working through some of challenges, much like skiing.
post #23 of 69

MTBing is probably the cheapest activity per hour,  I do.  

post #24 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by nemesis256 View Post
 

thought of another concern. I have chronic tendinitis in both my hands, and I've heard of people getting similar injuries from biking. I got tendinitis from computer use, and I'm careful, I don't get too many problems. But knowing that, what should I know about going into mountain biking? How to hold the grips, if I should have different grips, etc. With a pre-existing condition, is the risk of injury so high that I shouldn't do biking?

 

 

I would say anecdotally that I'm in the majority who have more hand problems on the road than on the trail, even though road bars offer more hand position options than MTB bars. This is because you are constantly varying many aspects of your body position and weight distribution when you're riding singletrack. By contrast, on a road bike you're basically just camping out for extended periods with your upper body. This is more prone to lead to nerve / strain issues IME.

 

That said, I am in the small minority still (again) running bar ends on my MTB. They provide hand position variation and also let me get more over the front wheel on climbs and more over the rear on descents.

 

In all cases "contact points" (saddle, grips, pedals) are very personal. You only know what works for you by trying.

 

Back to the original question, one option is to do what @KevinF did, and spend the $75 or $100 bucks to rent a decent bike for a day and see how you like it before you go whole hog and buy a boatload of stuff.

post #25 of 69
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SHREDHEAD View Post
 

MTBing is probably the cheapest activity per hour,  I do.  


This page makes it look really expensive...yikes! Sure you don't pay for lift tickets, but that's a lot of equipment.

 

These guys don't have cheap prices for maintenance either. Don't know if that's normal.

post #26 of 69
Here's what I bought:

Bike - $300. 26". Craigslist. Was not used off pavement by PO.
Gloves - $25
Helmet - $60
Basic patch/toolkit - $25
Spare tube - $10
Tires. Panaracer - $35 (good REI deal and have lasted about 75 rides or so)
MTB Clothes - $100 (good shorts are priceless)
Hand pump - $15
Maintenance books - $0 (see: YouTube for adjusting shifters and disc brakes)

So somewhere in the range of $600 total. I don't have MTB shoes yet. It's a gap, but I ride in relatively rigid Keens and I am not competing.

I use a ski pack as bike pack for carrying stuff including water. Bike carriers are dime a dozen on Craigslist if you don't have one.

The killer cost is the bike, and cyclists are looney about gear. Yes, a few grand is nice to have in every way imaginable, but kids ride bikes in the dirt all the time with just helmets...
post #27 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by qcanoe View Post

That said, I am in the small minority still (again) running bar ends on my MTB. They provide hand position variation and also let me get more over the front wheel on climbs and more over the rear on descents.

 

I still run bar-ends..love them.  Good change of hand position and yeah, if you're doing singletrack, you get a much better variation of hand and body position and that really helps with any hand pain.  I also do dirt road rides on my MTB and that does cause the numbness for me because you can be grinding along for 30 mins in one position sometimes.

post #28 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by NayBreak View Post

Here's what I bought:

Bike - $300. 26". Craigslist. Was not used off pavement by PO.
Gloves - $25
Helmet - $60
Basic patch/toolkit - $25
Spare tube - $10
Tires. Panaracer - $35 (good REI deal and have lasted about 75 rides or so)
MTB Clothes - $100 (good shorts are priceless)
Hand pump - $15
Maintenance books - $0 (see: YouTube for adjusting shifters and disc brakes)

So somewhere in the range of $600 total. I don't have MTB shoes yet. It's a gap, but I ride in relatively rigid Keens and I am not competing.

I use a ski pack as bike pack for carrying stuff including water. Bike carriers are dime a dozen on Craigslist if you don't have one.

The killer cost is the bike, and cyclists are looney about gear. Yes, a few grand is nice to have in every way imaginable, but kids ride bikes in the dirt all the time with just helmets...

 

Not criticizing, but shoes are really important, not just for speed. Regular shoes, no matter how rigid (unless they are actual rigid soles like hiking boots and such), just don't support your foot very well.  Yeah lots of people ride in running shoes and don't have issues, but I just personally don't think it's a great idea.  Again, I'm not criticizing, but shoes are probably 1-2 with shorts for gear.

 

I personally don't ride with a helmet or gloves but I know a lot of people like them and up here, helmets are mandatory for racing and any sort of paid/controlled riding areas.

post #29 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by nemesis256 View Post
 


This page makes it look really expensive...yikes! Sure you don't pay for lift tickets, but that's a lot of equipment.

 

These guys don't have cheap prices for maintenance either. Don't know if that's normal.

 

 

All that stuff is nice to have, but it's by no means mandatory.   Start with a bike and add accessories as you an afford them.

post #30 of 69
^^^^I know. I'm looking, will probably find some MTB shoes on close out or maybe even Craigslist although I don't know if that's foolish or not. But I want new ski boots first smile.gif.

I just think you don't have to go shoes to get started out the door and get excited. But that may be personal physiology as well....
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