Do you love getting out and exploring nature? Do you enjoy the thrill of going fast on your bicycle or challenging yourself on different bumps and obstacles? One of the ways to take your biking to the next level and experience the world a little differently is to try mountain biking. Matt Levine of Arlington Trails, recently shared with us how to get started with mountain biking.
What should people know about mountain biking?
People should try mountain biking because it is a great way to get out and enjoy riding a bike while being in nature. It’s great getting out there and learning what you are capable of doing.
What do you need to get started?
To get started, it’s helpful to have a bike with knobby tires (thicker tires), but you can really start with just a hybrid bike that has some tread (grip) which makes it easier to stay on trails. It doesn’t require much specialized equipment. Some bikes have suspension which can make for a more comfortable ride. Gloves and pads can be a good thing to have too. There’s no need to spend a lot of money.
Do you need mountains to go mountain biking?
No, you don’t need mountains to go mountain biking. In Arlington, there aren’t many mountains, just rollers (rolling hills) where you’ll go down like 40 vertical feet and then up, which is still quite fun because you get some speed. Mountain biking can be on flat trails too; you don’t necessarily have to go up to the mountains.
You can also practice using things like cones and obstacles. Arlington Trails recently hosted a pop-up bike course with a skinny (a narrow piece of wooden boardwalk to practice balance), a roller (imitates a pile of logs to practice going over logs and roots), and ramps.
Where is somewhere people can go to try mountain biking?
For your first mountain biking experience, go with someone who knows how to mountain bike or has experience with teaching. Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts (MORE) offers group rides for beginners. Also, one of the best places to learn for a beginner would be Wakefield Park in Annandale, VA. There are different levels of trails and most of them are non-technical or flat.
Note: Arlington County does not allow bicycles on its natural surface trails.
Where would you recommend mountain biking for more experienced riders?
If you are more experienced and would like to get some speed, a fun place to go is the Frederick Watershed. There, you ride up about 600 vertical feet and then you come down on flow trails, which means a steady downhill grade with curves, berms, and some stunts with minor jumps to go off. It’s basically like riding a roller coaster: you’re going to have a grin on your face all the way down.
What do you like most about mountain biking?
I really like the feeling of going down the mountain fast and testing my skills on obstacles like rock gardens, rollers, and other technical areas. Mountain biking to me means freedom, good health, and friendship. All good feelings! And the community is a very social, very supportive, very kind group of people who do the sport and like to have a good time. Being able to experience all of these things at once is thrilling
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