Novice Mountain Bike Skills: Gear You Need to Know!

Novice Mountain Bike Skills: Gear You Need to Know!

The Joys Of Riding a Mountain Bike.

Mountain biking is an exciting sport that can be enjoyed by anyone who knows how to ride a bike. 

Compared to the average bike ride, it does present some danger.  Therefore, you should master these basic skills of riding a mountain bike before you hit the trails or the dirt. 

You can practice these beginning skills at a local park, school, bike path, or simply around your house. If you can, try to find a location with a steep hill.

Get a feel for your pedals. Practice moving your foot away from the pedal, first while sitting on your bike with one foot on the ground.  Next, move on to releasing and replacing your foot while pedalling around for a bit.  Those with toe clip and clip less type foot pedals will want to spend a bit more time practicing.


Sit and spin for position.

Simply sit on your mountain bike and pedal around.  You should keep your arms slightly bent.  You should also adjust your seat height so your leg is 70 to 90 percent extended at the bottom of every stroke on the pedal.  Keep your body relaxed, as there will never be a position where you should have either your knees or your elbows locked.


Shifting gears

Get a feel for shifting gears with your bike.  The higher gears are harder to pedal and will go faster while the lower gears are easier to pedal and will help you ascend hills.  As you get to steeper hills, its best to shift before you get to the hill rather than while you’re on it.



You should spend a bit of time coasting while standing on your pedals, without actually sitting on the seat.  Keep your arms bent but don’t lock your knees.  Now, try experimenting with shifting your body towards the rear end of the bike.


Pedal while standing

You should get as comfortable as you can with pedalling while standing on your bike.  Try lifting yourself off the seat while standing on the pedals, and then crank them around.  You should try this in higher gears on flat ground then again in lower gears while on a hill.


Dropping down a curb

Try finding a curb where you can easily get to the upper portion of it.  Practice at a moderate speed, standing and coasting right off the curb from the upper level to the lower level.  Try this at different speeds until it becomes second nature.

Once you practice these techniques and get the hang of them, you’ll be able to hit the trails feeling comfortable on your bike.  Even though it may take some getting used to, it’ll become second nature before you know it.

The next think to understand is…


How Do The Bike Gears Work?


The gears on mountain bikes just keep getting more and more intricate.  The bikes of today have as many as 27 gear ratios.  A mountain bike will use a combination of three different sized sprockets in front and nine in the back to produce gear ratios.

The idea behind all these gears is to allow the rider to crank the pedals at a constant pace no matter what kind of slope the bike is on.  You can understand this better by picturing a bike with just a single gear.  Each time you rotate the pedals one turn, the rear wheel would rotate one turn as well (1:1 gear ratio).

If the rear wheel is 26 inches in diameter, then with 1:1 gearing, one full twist on the pedals would result in the wheel covering 81.6 inches of ground.  If you are pedalling at a speed of 50 RPM, this means that the bike can cover over 340 feet of ground per minute.  This is only 3.8 MPH, which is the equivalence of walking speed.  This is ideal for climbing a steep hill, although bad for ground or going downhill.

To go faster you’ll need a different ratio.  To ride downhill at 25 MPH with a 50 RPM cadence at the pedals, you’ll need a 5.6:1 gear ratio.  A bike with a lot of gears will give you a large number of increments between a 1:1 gear ratio and a 6.5:1 gear ratio so that you can always pedal at 50 RPM, no matter how fast you are actually going.

On a normal 27 speed mountain bike, six of the gear ratios are so close to each other that you can’t notice any difference between them. 

With actual use, bike riders tend to choose a front sprocket suitable for the slope they are riding on and stick with it, although the front sprocket can be difficult to shift under heavy load.  It’s much easier to shit between the gears on the rear.

If you are cranking up a hill, it’s best to choose the smallest sprocket on the front then shift between the nine gears available on the rear.  The more speeds you have on the back sprocket, the bigger advantage you’ll have.

All in all, gears are very important to mountain bikes as they dictate your overall speed.  Without gears you wouldn’t be able to build speed nor would you be able to pound pedals.  The gears will move the pedals and help you build up speed. 

There are all types of gears available in mountain bikes, all of which will help you build up a lot of momentum if you use them the right way.

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