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MTB for Newbies: Take the road less traveled

We all love a good shred sesh, but what if you’ve never hit the trail on a mountain bike? Hear from Michael Flieg, a second-year guide, lifetime dirt lover and co-founder of St. Louis Mountain Bike Camps on his top tips for learning how to ditch the skinny tires and take the road less traveled.

1. Braking

Always use your brakes simultaneously, equally pressuring the front and rear brakes will optimize your ability to stop. Always brake with your pointer fingers only, this allows you to grip the handlebars with all your other fingers. Always keep that pointer finger resting on the brake for quick braking.

2. The right tires

Running the proper tire pressure for your rider weight with all gear plus the right tire tread for your trail conditions are crucial to getting the best traction and the overall best experience during your ride.

Trek Travel Tips for Mountain biking

3. Equipment

Hard tail bikes take a lot more effort from the rider and make it harder to learn. Full suspension bikes are much more forgiving and will allow for more playful fun even in the learning stages. I recommend the Trek Fuel EX series. It’s a great bike for all levels of trail rider.

4. Practice, practice, practice

Mountain biking is a hard sport and learning how to climb like a champ, roll over rocks and roots and fly through the air takes a long time to master. Don’t be deterred by having to walk your bike or by taking a minor spill. Keep trying and it will be worth it once you’ve learned what not to do. Take an MTB course to hone in your skills and learn the basics.

5. Choose the right trail

Don’t go your first day on the new mountain bike attempting to ride the double black diamond trail. Take it slow, ride greens and blues. Ride the same trails repeatedly to maximize your ability to learn. When there are less surprises you can focus on learning instead of controlled chaos.

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6. Learn on flat pedals

Get a nice set of grippy flat pedals and sticky rubber bike specific shoes like the Bontrager Flatline. Learning on flats will prevent you from developing bad habits and a dependency on the clipless pedals while also allowing you to dismount the bike quickly if you end up in a sticky situation.

7. Safety

Always wear a helmet and any other protective equipment like knee, elbow and shin pads. Also don’t forget to pack enough water and snacks to keep you going and always ride with a buddy.

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Road: 1-3 hours of riding. Up to 25 mi (40 km). Up to 1,000 ft (300 m).

Gravel: 1-3 hours of riding. Up to 20 mi (35 km). Up to 1,000 ft (300 m).

Hiking: 1-3 hours of hiking. Up to 5 mi (8 km). Up to 1,000 ft (300 m).

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Road: 2-4 hours of riding. 20-35 mi (35-60 km). Up to 2,500 ft (750 m).

Gravel: 2-4 hours of riding. 15-30 mi (25-45 km). Up to 2,000 ft (300 m).

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Road: 3-5 hours of riding. 25-55 mi (40-85 km). Up to 4,500 ft (1,500 m).

Gravel: 3-5 hours of riding. 20-40 mi (35-60 km). Up to 3,000 ft (900 m).

Hiking: 3-5 hours of hiking. 6-10 mi (9-16 km). Up to 2,000 ft (600 m).

Level 4:

Road: 4+ hours of riding. 40-70 mi (60-110 km). Up to 8,000 ft (2,400 m).

Gravel: 4+ hours of riding. 30-50 mi (45-80 km). Up to 4,000 ft (1,200 m).

Hiking: 4+ hours of hiking. 7-15 mi (11-24 km). Up to 4,000 ft (1,200 m).

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