• It is highly recommended that you wear a well-fitting helmet.
• If you fall off then it is often your hands that take the brunt of the fall, so gloves are also a good idea.
• Debris can be thrown up by the front wheel, so clear or tinted cycling glasses are good. They will also help keep insects away from your eyes.
• Take water with you.
• A first aid kit can be useful for cuts grazes and stings.
• Make sure you know how to repair a puncture or replace an inner tube whilst out on the trail, and bring a repair kit including basic tools, tubes, puncture patches and a pump.
• Sports specific clothing can help keep you comfortable and dry.
• For sunny days you may need to bring sunscreen.
• If you have a mobile phone then bring it.
• Be aware that some off-road locations have little or no mobile phone signal, so let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back.
• Make sure your bike is ready to ride. Do this after each ride and you will be ready to go at a moments notice. Good preparation can help avoid nasty surprises, thus enhancing the ride.
Follow our online help pages more details on bike-prep you can do at home: http://cycleseahaven.org.uk/bike-preparation/
• You should have the saddle high enough so that your legs can extend to about 90% at the bottom of the stroke, but not locked out. Your legs are more efficient the closer they are to being straight. Having the saddle too low can cause knee problems. The exception is for young and inexperienced cyclists, where being able to lay both feet on the ground is important for safety. For technical riding and descending you may prefer to have the saddle an inch or two lower than the optimum height for pedalling – having the saddle ‘out of the way’ often helps when positioning your body for more extreme manoeuvres.
• You arms should be able to reach the handle bars comfortably. Again, they should not be fully extended but slightly bent.
• You must be able to mount and dismount comfortably and easily.
• Make sure you can easily find the pedals with your feet. You need to practice moving your feet on and off the pedals so you can do it without looking.
• Brake and gear cables should be free of kinks and in good condition.
• Brakes should feel smooth and responsive. Make sure you know the stopping power of your bike before you ride off road.
• Mountain bikes are almost always fitted with gears. Make sure you know how to operate the gears. They should work smoothly and positively. Get the feel of which gear you should be in for different gradients.
• Lubricate the chain. There are hundreds of moving parts on a chain and it works hard. Most cycle lubricants have instructions on them on how to do this properly, so read the label – you may be surprised at the instructions.
• All nuts, bolts, quick releases and fasteners should be tight. A good way of
checking your bike is to thoroughly clean it.
• Wheels should spin smoothly and evenly and be firmly secured.
• Tyres and tubes must be in good condition and correctly inflated – see the side-wall of the tyre for correct air pressure. Signs of cracking means it’s time for replacement.
• A poorly set-up bike can cause lack of control and is far less enjoyable to ride. See your local bike shop for setup and fitting advice.
• Look ahead at the route or trail; try not to look at the front wheel.
• When you are setting off you need to look where you are going, not down at the pedals.
• Arms should be relaxed & slightly bent.
• Don’t grip too hard.
• Pedals should be flat when coasting (the left and right pedals should be at the same height off the ground). This helps prevent pedals hitting an obstacle and gives you a more natural, flat platform to balance your body. Right handed people often like to ride with the right pedal forward. Find out which is more natural for you.
• If you want to avoid an obstacle then look where you want to go, not at the obstacle.
• It is often best to shift gears before you get to the gradient or obstacle, giving you more time for other things (steering, looking ahead, getting balance…).
• Do all or most of your braking well in advance.
• Get used to riding out of the saddle. This is the best way to coast over rough terrain. Stand on your pedals without sitting down. The saddle should be between your legs and your arms and legs relaxed and slightly bent. This is your main riding position so you should concentrate on this.
• Learn how to pedal when in the above standing position.
• Avoid braking too sharply. Skidding should be avoided at all times. It damages the trail and your tyres and you are likely to lose control.
• Leave plenty of space between you and other riders. Riding too close obscures your view of the trail and can lead to collisions.
• Avoid turning too sharply. Looking ahead and reading the trail will help. Practice your riding in groups. You can quickly learn from other riders who are normally more than happy share their experience of this wonderful sport.
• On the trail you may encounter bumps and small drops. It is a good idea to practice riding off a small kerb. Use the main riding position described above, leaning back slightly, and ride of the kerb where it is safe to do so. Try this at different speeds until it feels comfortable and natural.
• Riding up a kerb is another important skill. A simple method is to ‘bounce’ the front wheel over the obstacle and let the rear wheel follow. Approach the kerb head-on at a slow but stable speed whilst in the main riding position. Just before the front wheel hits the kerb push down on the front of the bike to compress the front tyre. Immediately ‘un-weight’ the front of the bike to clear the kerb. Your front wheel should now be on the upper level. Timing is important and takes practice.
• With the front wheel clear of the kerb the rear wheel will just follow, but a better technique is to reduce the weight (and therefore the impact) on the back wheel. You do this by shifting your weight forward after the front wheel has cleared the kerb. This transfers weight from the back wheel to the front, thereby reducing the impact on the back wheel and reducing the chance of damage to the wheel or tyre. Again this takes practice.
• You may want to practice this technique on a chalk line or other flat marker before tackling a kerb.
• Whilst you are learning you should try to keep the steering pointed directly ahead until you have cleared the kerb. This is also true for other trail obstacles
After a ride you may find your bike covered in mud. It’s easiest to remove mud if it’s still wet, so try and make cleaning your bike part of your ride routine.
Pressure washers are easy and great fun to use, but could force water where it’s not wanted – inside bearings, shifters and cables. So be careful if you must use one. Better still, use a bucket and sponge.
Washing up liquid is commonly used to wash bikes and cars but did you know that it has a high salt content? It’s better to use a car shampoo, degreaser or bike-specific cleaner.
When washing your bike with a sponge you can check that all the bolts are tight and nothing has come loose. Look for warn parts, frayed cables or bent components and replace them right away.
After washing you need to lubricate the chain and gears, making sure you keep oil away form all braking surfaces
Further reading is available on our website using the following links