There's so much to learn when starting out in mountain biking and gravel riding. Of course, there's the bike, equipment and accessories to navigate your way around, which often involves much trial and error to understand your preferences. On top of that, you have the community, the unwritten rules of trail etiquette and nuances that become clearer the further down the rabbit hole you venture.
So to help those that are beginning to dip their toes into the wonderful world of biking avoid the pitfalls and rookie mistakes we've made ourselves, we took to social media once more to hear about all the things you wish you had known when starting to ride.
Christopher: "Which tyres for mud."
With so many tyre widths, compounds and treads available for gravel and mountain biking, you may well be questioning this throughout your riding life. It's not only worth considering how sloppy conditions are, but it's worth thinking about the terrain as well - along with your riding style.
Martin: "If I'd known that 17yrs and a few thousand pounds on MTB and full-sus bikes later, I'd be back on a rigid bike with skinny tyres, I'd have kept my GT Timberline ."
It's easy to get blindsided by blingy bikes, all the travel and super new cutting edge tech, but sometimes your old faithful is what you find yourself coming back to ride.
David: "Don't bother flirting with 650b. I'm never going to like it."
The argument between 650b (27.5") and 29" wheel sizes still rages on amongst mountain bikers. While both have pros and cons depending on conditions and situations, it really boils down to your personal preference. If you get the chance to try before you buy or the opportunity to demo something different, give it a go to see what best suits you.
James: "That I would be broke forevermore (especially once my children got into it as well!)."
David: "Buying a Ferrari and racing it would be cheaper!"
Unfortunately, riding bikes isn't the cheapest of hobbies, but it's undoubtedly one of the more fun ones you can choose to have!
Christina: "It's not all about jumps and drops!"
There's an element of expectation when it comes to mountain biking, that everyone should be able to clear jumps, land drops and rail corners like a World Cup pro. Mountain biking is whatever you make it to be and whatever brings you the most pleasure. Whether you prefer to cruise the greens and blues, embark on wild cross-country adventures or lap trails in the bikepark; if you're riding a bike and having fun, who cares.
David: "How expensive XTR chainrings are."
The cost and supply of cycling components have shifted drastically over the past 18-months or so. Not only is the market adjusting to the effects of the global pandemic, but BREXIT hasn't helped either.
Fred: "The bike doesn't matter."
While having a suitable bike in good working order is pretty essential, having the biggest, shiniest and most expensive bike does little to improve your riding. It may help the confidence department have state-of-the-art stead, but your skill and fitness come down to the rider.
2021 fasst co flexx carbon enduro handlebar middle.jpg, by Liam Mercer
Andy: "Bars that weren't cut down to 560mm, stems that weren't 135mm long and disc brakes!"
Cockpit setups and trends now favour a wider bar for adopting a stronger position on the bike and a shorter stem to aid manoeuvrability. I think all mountain bikers and most gravel riders can confirm that the change from rim to disc brakes has been very welcome.
Adrian: "The gear you ride in is just as important if not more than the bike. Also, a rigid or front sussers on 26" wheels still rule for trail fun...."
Someone who certainly agrees with Adrian here is Steve, who still loves his 26" mountain bike.
Mondo Mike: "Should have kept my Merlin XLM. Never should have bought that ProFlex 856."
Ah yes, the one that got away. I'm pretty sure we've all been there. The lesson to take away from this is n+1.
2021 specialized rime flat sole on pedal.jpg, by Liam Mercer
Matt Page: "Learn to ride on flats and learn to manual properly before you pick up bad habits!"
Believe it or not, flat pedals help you learn to pedal more efficiently and manual properly. It's easy to think you've mastered something because your feet are clipped to the bike.
Jonathan: "Learn to jump as a kid; it's far less painful than doing it as a grown-up. Less funny to watch, though apparently…."
The earlier you get into biking, the more time you have to hone your skills, build confidence and progress. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that injury and recovery last much longer as an adult.
Ian: "Work on technique as much as fitness, and just never ask someone, what was the Malverns like?"
Technique and fitness go hand-in-hand. Some may take to one more naturally over the other. So, identify your weak areas and set aside the time to work on them.
2021 Canyon Spectral 29 CF 8 dropper post-19.jpg, by Rachael Wight
Steve: "Dropper posts."
And to round off the audience answers - dropper posts. Yes, they are amazing for mountain biking, and we're beginning to see more appear on gravel bikes as well. We've rarely come across anyone who dislikes having a dropper post.
We'll be doing more Ask the Audience features in the future, so if you want to join in, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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