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.
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 in the long run.
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 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.
|Symbol||Rider Skill Level||Trail Difficulty|
|white circle||total beginner||easies|
|blue square||intermediate||more difficult|
|black diamond||advanced||very difficult|
|double-black diamond||extremely difficult||expert|
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.
- Strength: If your muscles hurt (muscles 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 strength – have at least two strength training sessions a week
- Just try it – if you don’t 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 only trails that are not too technical for your skill level
- Learn the basic trail riding skills – research online to see which are these skills and try to implement them one by one (not on the same ride, you will get overwhelmed, on each ride try to learn only 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 at which you are riding, with time you will be able to ride faster and faster, if you ride too fast for your skill level you will have a higher 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 ashamed because of your skill level – it is normal when you start to be too slow and do not have the proper mountain biking skills, everybody starts this way, believe 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 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.
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 will have a larger surface of contact with the road and this will force you to pedal harder.
Mountain bikes will have more traction than road bikes but on the pavement, it will be harder to maintain a high-speed level than on a mounting bike.
For a beginner, it is easier to start with a mountain bike due to the increased stability and the bike’s suspensions which will make small mistakes less punishing.
On old and beat-up roads mountain bikes are more comfortable 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, so they are better for fitness but will be more demanding than road bikes.
Is Mountain Biking Hard on Your Body?
Mountain bikers that ride for long periods of time without incorporating some form of stretching training into their daily routine tend to develop unbalanced muscles 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.).
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.
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 stretching and a good strength training routine.
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 pace and go for shorter rides. You can slowly increase the distance as you get in shape and don’t forget to ride beginner trails with time you will be amazed by the progress you will make.
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.