Mountain Biking: 11 Things We Wish Someone Told Us Earlier

Picked up mountain biking recently? YEAH GIRL! Welcome to the tribe; we’re so glad you’re here. Getting into this sport isn’t easy, so we know you’re a toughie. Still, if we can help save you some pain and trouble, we will. That’s just what friends do.

So here goes, in no particular order, 11 lessons we’ve learnt the hard way:

#1 Your Significant Other or Friend ≠ Coach
They could be an amazing rider with the best of intentions, but if they don’t know how to break down and teach a skill in a way you can understand it, or how to identify what’s holding you back, they won’t be able to coach you properly. So even though they mean well, before you know it, you’re yelling “I JUST CAN’T DO IT!” and hot tears are clouding your vision. In their defense, we tend to take our loved ones for granted. Being in the presence of a professional coach often coaxes discipline and emotional restraint from us that will ultimately aid our learning, which leads us to our next point…

#2 Just started mountain biking? Take a lesson.
Some (annoying) people make mountain biking look effortless, but the truth is, for the vast majority of us mountain biking isn’t natural. Nobody is born with the ability to bunny hop. If you’re new to it, the best thing you can do is to take a lesson. It will help you have more fun and progress faster and more safely. As long as you can pedal in a straight line and have the stamina to be on your bike for 1-2 hours, you can benefit from a mountain bike lesson. When choosing who to take lessons from, remember that...

Taking lessons could be the best thing you do for your mountain bike journey. Which coach? Group, private or semi-private? Try a variety of options and see what fits. 

Taking lessons could be the best thing you do for your mountain bike journey. Which coach? Group, private or semi-private? Try a variety of options and see what fits. 

#3 Mountain bike coaches are like bras.
They can help you be your best and feel bold and confident. Also, like bras, it can take a few attempts to find the right one that fits you perfectly. And, just like you have different bras for different outfits, you can benefit from having different coaches. That’s because each coach has unique strengths and abilities, and can develop you in different ways.

#4 Mountain biking is nothing like road biking.
We love it when road bikers try out mountain biking! If you’re just making the switch, take note:
- Tire pressure is best between 20-25 PSI.
- Consider getting protective gear like knee pads.
- Full-fingered gloves all the time, please.
- Trails differ greatly not just in length or amount of climbing, but also in technical skill required. Ask around for beginner trail recommendations, or join a group like Girls Rock to learn beginner loops.

Long socks are a fun option that helps protect your shins from the dreaded poison oak.

Long socks are a fun option that helps protect your shins from the dreaded poison oak.

#5 Don’t be a hangry b*tch. Eat.
Mountain biking is a full-body activity that uses more energy than you realize, and a lack of energy can make you cranky and weepy, cause you to lose focus, and cut your ride short. Keep your energy levels constant (and stay happy!) by taking bites of your snack of choice before you actually feel hungry; approximately every 45 minutes or so. Your body, brain—and riding buddies—will thank you.

#6 It’s called a chamois and you do not wear underwear with it.
That’s right, nothing comes between you and your padded tights. Wearing underwear with your chamois (pronounced SHAM-mee) keeps things soggy and increases risk of abrasion, which leads to infected pores or saddle sores, which are rather like painful giant pimples or boils. Ouch.

#7 Chamois butter: Lube up!
To reduce the wrong kind of friction, use chamois butter, a water-based cream that keeps your folds well-lubed. You can apply it directly onto your chamois, or put it onto your skin, but be sure to apply that chamois butter right up your crack. Yes, you can get abrasion between your butt cheeks too. Also, don’t use petroleum jelly in place of chamois butter. It may not wash out of your chamois properly, which could lead to bacteria camping out in your padding. Yum.  

Emma clearly loves her chamois butter too!

Emma clearly loves her chamois butter too!

#8 Go commando!
After your ride, take off your chamois, especially if you’ve got a long drive home. Sitting in a soggy chamois can promote saddle sores and yeast infections. Instead, go commando and air it out, or bring a spare pair of knickers.

#9 Tuck it in and back.
If you’re using a tampon, tuck the string up and back, towards your butt crack. Leaving it out and about can cause more abrasion (yes, we’re still on this topic). Also, when you pee, a string that’s not tucked crack-wards could get caught up in your stream and end up soaking your chamois. Ewwww.

#10 Mountain biking is a state of mind.
A big part of enjoying your ride is dependent on your state of mind. How you see and feel about yourself has a very tangible effect both on your perceived and real performance on the trails. So, be sure to surround yourself with people who build you up and amplify your joy. If anyone makes you feel small and left behind, pedal the other way! If you’re your own worst enemy and are often self-critical, don’t forget that you deserve to celebrate your successes too, both big and small.

#11 You’re worth it!
A lot of us started riding with that old beater that was sitting in the garage, or whatever hand-me-down we could find. And against those odds, we fell in love with mountain biking anyway. So we think, “I don’t need a new bike. I’m not good at it anyway; it’s hard to justify the cost.” But here’s the thing: A modern, lighter bike that’s properly fitted to your body can totally change your game no matter where you are in your mountain bike journey. You’ll start conquering climbs that seemed impossible; getting your front end over obstacles will be a cinch. You won’t even notice that rocky patch that used to catch you out. If it sounds like we’re saying a new bike will change your life, it’s because it’s true. You’ll be able to accomplish so much more and feel like you’re on top of the world. So go on, invest in your happiness. You’re worth it!


Grace Chua is an escapee of Advertising, saved by mountain biking. She now pays it forward through volunteering with Girls Rock. Follow her love for bikes, cats, food and travel here