If you’ve ever caught glimpses of mountain biking on TV, you might think it’s only an extreme sport. Heavily armored riders do huge tricks and ride scary, desert terrain. So, it’s understandable that you could imagine mountain biking is just another sport for professional thrill seekers looking for an adrenaline fix. But you couldn’t be further from the truth. Mountain biking is truly a sport for everyone. It’s a multi-faceted experience, with a wide variety of disciplines and goals. Sure, if you want to go huck yourself on massive jumps, mountain biking has space for you. But it’s also a great activity if you just want to spend some relaxing time with your kids, or maybe explore the area you live in. No matter what sort of gratification you’re looking for from this sport, you can find a style of riding that scratches that itch.

Mountain Biking can be at whatever pace and endurance level you make it. Enjoy the scenery on an easy trail.

The problem, for newcomers to mountain biking, is that most mountain bikers aren’t even aware of how many experiences riding can provide. So here’s a little intro to several different types of mountain biking, with breakdowns of what sort of folks will enjoy which styles. They’re all fun and great, but if you’re new to riding, this will help give you some sort of idea of what sort of experience and community you’re looking for.

Different Types of Mountain Biking

XC or Trail Riding

This is mountain biking at its purest form, just you, your bike and trails. You ride up, you ride down, you ride across, you just spin those pedals no matter what the mountains throw at you. Of course, within this genre, there are plenty of sub genres, you can race in XC races, or do endurance events, or just go on group rides with your family or friends. Trail riding is a great way to build a wide variety of skills, while getting out and exploring nature. It’s the original form of mountain biking, all the other styles of riding started from this. So if you’re looking to get into riding a mountain bike and don’t know where to start, this is a great place to begin. Any men’s or women’s mountain bike will do, just make sure you’ve got a helmet, and you’re ready to hit the trails.

Mountain Biking in its original form: Test your endurance at a Skills Park. From here, you can consider training for XC and Endurance events.

Pump Track/Skills Park riding

But what if you don’t want to go on miles-long rides? What if you want to stay closer to home, practice specific skills, and maybe ride with your kids? Well, luckily, in the past few years, we’ve seen a huge bump in the popularity of pump tracks. These small dirt tracks allow you to do a lot of riding in a very condensed area. And they are kid friendly too. Even toddlers  can have fun using a run bike at a pump track. Because they’re usually located in residential areas, you can ride over after work, spin a few laps at the pump track, and head home in time for dinner.

You can ride at a pump track or skills park on any style of bike. All you need is something with two wheels and some pedals and a bike helmet. This is one of the most approachable forms of mountain biking, and it’s a real blast.

Bike parks are a fun way to enjoy downhill-only trails at your own speed! Basic skills lessons are available. Pick the trail best suited to your skills level.

Bike Park Riding

If you like to let gravity do the work, you should try bike park riding. This style of riding usually takes place at a ski resort. You buy a lift ticket and then ride downhill-only trails all day, only pedaling to pick up speed if you want to. This aspect of riding is very easy to dip your toes into. Most bike parks offer full suspension mountain bikes that you can rent or buy. Protective gear is provided. You can even take a lesson on basic skills and and get recommended trails for your skill level. From there you can ride as gnarly, or as mellow of terrain as you’d like. Want to try jumping? Most bike parks have flow trails that make it easy to progress and get your tires off the ground. 

One of the best things about mountain biking is the community and giving back. Make friends and help repair bike trails during trail days service projects.

Discover the Biking Community 

No matter what style of riding you choose, there’s always a community to get involved in and ways to give back to the trails. That’s part of the real magic of mountain biking. There are always ways to make it better for everyone. Your local mountain bike organization probably holds regular trail days where they work to repair and improve old trails, or build new ones. You can help pull weeds or rake dirt at your local pump track. And you can help advocate for access to build more mountain bike trails. At the end of the day, mountain biking isn’t just the experience of riding your bike in the woods, it’s also the people you meet, the relationships you form and the memories you make. And those things are accessible to everyone!

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