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Is Mountain Biking Hard? (Myth busted!)

When I was at the beginning of my mountain biking journey I was intimidated by the way more experienced riders were shredding the trails and I said to myself: Man, mountain biking must be so hard! One of my friends told me that I was intimidated for nothing, I should just start riding and everything will be alright.

Mountain biking like all sports can be practiced at different skill levels, the level of difficulty is determined by the type of trails on which you are riding. Some trails require almost no skills and are well suited for a total beginner and some trails are for experts and they are very difficult.

In this article, I will tell you how hard is mountain biking, what can mountain biking do to your body and I will give you some tips so that you don’t have a bad experience when you decide to start mountain biking. So keep reading!

How Hard Is Mountain Biking?

Mountain biking is a sport well suited for every skill level, from beginner to expert. If you start with the easiest trails and you progress to intermediate or expert trails only when you have the necessary skill level to ride them, you will be fine on the log run.

Cyclist carrying a mountain-bike

In the beginning, it will be hard because you aren’t in good physical shape for biking. Don’t get discouraged we all have been there, you need to have a little bit of patience and to ride consistently at least two or three times a week.

Start by riding the distance you are comfortable with and slowly increase it, your body will become better at it over time. One of the most important things you need to remember is that you need to ride at your comfort level and focus on learning the basic skills you need to ride the trails.

There are five types of trails in mountain biking parks, one for every skill level.

SymbolRider Skill LevelTrail Difficulty
white circletotal beginnereasies
green circlebeginnereasy
blue squareintermediatemore difficult
black diamondadvancedvery difficult
double-black diamondextremely difficultexpert
mtbfunplanet.com

If you ride the right trails for your skill level, mountain biking will seem easy, but if you ride technical trails that are above your skill level it will seem very hard.

Be aware that mountain biking is a full-body workout that has two components:

  • Endurance: If you find yourself breathing too hard then you lack endurance, ride your bike a couple of times a week consistently and over time you will gain endurance.
  • Strenght: If your muscles hurt (muscle on your feet, arms, back, etc.) then you probably don’t have enough upper or lower body strength, you need to incorporate some strength training in your weekly routine.

Tips That Will Make Your Mountain Biking Journey Easier

If you are just starting it is easy to fall into some beginner traps that will make you believe that mountain biking is too hard for you. Now let me give some easy to implement tips that will help you to avoid these beginner mistakes:

  • Improve your endurance – ride your bike consistently 3 times or more a week
  • Improve your strenght – have at least two strenght training sesions a week
  • Just try it – if you dont know if mountain biking is for you, don’t overthink this, rent a bike and go for a ride on a beginner trail
  • Ride in your comfort zone – ride the onley trails that are not to thechnical for your skill level
  • Learn the basic trail riding skils – reasearch online to see wich are these skils and try to implement them one by one (not on the same ride, you will get overwelmed, on each ride triy to learn onley one skill, to become a good rider you need time)
  • Ride on your own pass – when just starting it is important to ride and have fun, not the speed on wich you are riding, with time you will be able to ride faster and faster, if you ride to fast for your skill level you will have a higheer chance of crushing
  • Get the right bike for you – if you buy your first MTB be sure you get the right size and you don’t overspend, if you need help choosing your first mountain bike, i encourage you to read this article
  • Ride with friends – the best way to improve is to ride with a more experienced friend who is willing to take a relaxing ride at your current speed
  • Focus on having fun: mountain biking doesn’t need to be a second job for you, just have fun
  • Don’t be ashame because your skill level – it is normal when you start to be too slow and to not have the proper mountain biking skils, everybody starts this way, belive me nobody is judging you (it is in your head)

If you implement all these tips you will have a much easier time on the trails.

The best strength exercises you can do to strengthen your body for mountain biking are:

  • Squats – with or without extra weight
  • Deadlifts – you don’t need to go crazy with the weight here, the purpose is to strengthen your lower back
  • Planks – they help to strengthen your core
  • Pull-ups – the only exercise you need for your back (I know they are hard to do)
  • Push-ups – for a stronger triceps and chest

Is Mountain Biking Hard to Learn?

Mountain biking is a complex sport that requires a high skill level to ride on the more technical trails, newcomers to the sport need to stick to easier trails that are more beginner-friendly and focus on developing the basic skills needed for trail riding.

If you take it step by step and have the patience needed, mountain biking is not hard to learn, but keep in mind that you will not become a skilled rider overnight.

In the beginning, you need to ride with caution and don’t be obsessed with speed, you will not have the right skills to ride safely at high speed, and taking unnecessary risks can end up in disaster.

Basic trail riding skills become instincts for experienced riders and they can safely ride at high speed because in many situations they act instinctually and don’t need to think about how to overcome the obstacle in front of them.

If you want to progress faster enter mountain biking communities near you and make friends when you will ride with them they will point out where you lack the proper skills, this can be hard to notice for a beginner.

Mountain biking is fun at any skill level if you ride the correct trails, don’t be discouraged by the fact that you need years of experience to ride the more advanced trails, you will get there with time.

When I started I rode my mountain bike on the road for two months just to learn the basic skills needed to ride a bicycle, then I started to ride unpaved forest roads and slowly I upgraded to trails where I was comfortable riding, and with time my skills grew and now when I see a new trail I need to explore it.

If you what to know more about learning how to mountain bike, I encourage you to read this article!

Are Mountain Bikes Harder to Ride?

Mountain bikes are designed to perform in off-road conditions, for this reason, they are tough and reliable bikes. Riding a mountain bike on unpaved country roads has the same level of difficulty as riding a road bike on paved roads.

If you ride your mountain bike on the pavement, it will be harder to ride than a road bike because the wide knobby tires of a mountain bike will have a larger surface of contact with the road than the slimmer tires off a road bike.

Mountain bikes will have more traction in any situation than a road bike but on the pavement, it will be harder to maintain a higher speed on a mounting bike.

For a beginner, it is easier to start with a mountain bike due to the increased stability and the presence of suspensions that will make small mistakes less punishing.

On old and beat-up roads mountain bikes are easier to ride than road bikes because they can absorb most of the bumps in the road.

Because mountain bikes are designed with traction and grip in mind they will require a bigger pedaling effort from the rider. So they are better for fitness but will be more demanding than road bikes and so harder to ride.

If you what to know more about riding a mountain bike on the road, read this article!

Is Mountain Biking Hard on Your Body?

Mountain bikers that ride too much and don’t incorporate some form of stretching and weight training into the daily routine tend to develop unbalanced muscle and a bad overall body posture. But still, this is a small compromise compared to the health problems that a sedentary life brings (heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, etc.).

Once, after a ride, I stopped at a coffee shop before heading home and there was a group of road bikers that also stopped there. All the riders were in great physical shape (lean, no fat) but when they come off their bikes they were stiff and can hardly walk.

Riding a bike in the same position for many hours can develop unbalanced muscles and you can have problems in the long term. This is a problem if you ride long rides often.

To some extent, mountain bikers have the same problem. But in mountain biking, you move more on your bike. On descents, you need to come off the saddle and this helps a lot. But still, after longer rides, you can hardly walk.

The best way to overcome this problem is to incorporate stretching and weight training into your daily routine and this will help you develop a well-proportioned body with no muscle unbalance.

One more problem that mountain bikers face is lower back pain, this can easily be avoided by you learning the proper mountain biking skills so you know when to come off the saddle and by riding a full-suspension mountain bike.

I know that this is a big investment but your riding mistakes will come with less punishment if you ride a full-suspension mounting bike.

If you ask me, it is better to combine strength training with mountain biking and have a healthy heart and a strengthened immune system than to be a sedentary couch potato and make frequent trips to the doctor.

If you think about it there is no sport that works out all your muscles at the same intensity, so stiffness and muscle unbalance are common in most sports.

Don’t be discouraged if you like mountain biking, start riding. The benefits outway by far the bad consequences, and let us not forget that all these consequences can be avoided by doing some stretching and a good strength training routine.

If you what to know all the benefits of mountain biking, read this article!

Conclusion

Many people think that mountain biking is hard because they start riding on trails that require a higher skill level and are not recommended for beginners. Another reason is that they are out of physical shape and mountain biking is intense training that requires most of the muscles of your body.

So if you want to start mountain biking you need to ride consistently at your own pass and go for shorter rides. You can slowly increase the distance as you get in shape and don’t forget to ride beginner trails and with time you will be amazed by the progress you will make.

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Mountain bikes – pros & cons

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I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.