Beginner’s Guide to Mountain Biking

Mountain biking might be your perfect sport if you like the physical benefits of biking and the advantage of taking a more scenic route. With a plethora of easily accessible trails, Hampton Roads offers ideal mountain biking territory for newcomers and veteran mountain bikers alike.

Choosing the Right Bike

“If you’re brand new to mountain biking, you should know there are a couple different types of mountain bikes,” explains Matthew Bailey, service manager at BikeBeat, which has several locations throughout Hampton Roads. “Those choosing a bike need to determine where they are going to ride the bike and what the bike needs to be able do, they need to look for a bike that fits them comfortably, and they need to decide their price range.”

In addition to these parameters, Barry Herneisey, owner of Bikes Unlimited in Williamsburg suggests new buyers look for a 29er, or a bike with 29-inch wheels, which typically start around $600.

“The 29er really helps absorb impact better, corners better, brakes better, accelerates better and goes over obstacles better because of the bigger wheel” Herneisey says. “A 29er really smooths the trail out a lot. It’s a bike that you’ll have a lot of fun with on the trail.”

Mountain bikes come in all different shapes and sizes, so consulting with experts at your local bike shop will help to ensure that you’re on the path to finding the right bike for you.

Additional Gear for Riders

It is imperative to find a great helmet. According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, 90 percent of bike injuries and deaths could have been prevented if riders had been wearing helmets. Helmet shapes vary so it is useful to try on a couple different styles to see which type conforms best to your head shape. You should look for a helmet that offers a snug fit all the way around your head with little variation in movement from side-to-side or front-to-back.

Correct eyewear can also help with a slew of problems, like sun glare, muscle fatigue and bad weather conditions, and a basic lighting system is recommended. Whether you plan to ride at night or not, you should purchase a headlight and taillight set.

Learning the Ropes

It’s easy to get intimidated by the vast amount of information available about mountain biking. Therefore, Bailey suggests linking up with more experienced riders to learn the basics.

“Trying to teach yourself can be a very trying and treacherous task,” Bailey says. “Someone that knows how to ride will be able to teach you the basics and suggest beginner trails.”

Additionally, Herneisey recommends new riders look into area riding groups, such as the Eastern Virginia Mountain Bike Association, which organizes weekend rides at different parks for riders of all ages and abilities.

Riding in groups also helps to increase safety measures. As with any sport, accidents can happen—you don’t want to be alone should an injury or emergency occur.

Trails and Events in the Area

There are a number of great riding trails in the area featuring terrain suited for beginners to the advanced rider. Test out some of these trails to find your favorite:

Freedom Park
5537 Centerville Road Williamsburg, Va. 23188

York River State Park
5526 Riverview Road Williamsburg, Va. 23188

New Quarter Park
1000 Lakeshead Drive Williamsburg, Va. 23185

Upper County Park
180 Leisure Road Toana, Va. 23168

Newport News Park
13560 Jefferson Avenue Newport News, Va. 23603

Indian River Park
2001 Rockeby Avenue Chesapeake, Va. 23320

If you’re looking to challenge yourself even more…

…consider trying a race. One of the largest races in the area, The Tidewater Mountain Bike Challenge, is held every year at the end of October.

In addition to the group rides you can attend throughout the week at BikeBeat and Bikes Unlimited, the following organizations offer group rides for bicyclists throughout the region:

Colonial Cycling Club
Peninsula Bicycling Association
Tidewater Bicycle Association
Eastern Virginia Mountain Bike Association
Williamsburg Area Cyclists