A Beginner’s Guide and Tips for Mountain Biking

I had only just shared the recent post about my fun mountain biking in Somerset, when a friend contacted me and invited me to go out with her.  Brilliant I thought.

Then it occurred to me, the real issue behind my recent lack of cycling is that I don’t own a bike. Well strictly I do, but I believe it has found its way onto a pile of scrap metal that is gathering at my parents farm. It’s beyond repair!

The children have bikes, but really only cycle around at home as we don’t have a bike rack to go anywhere else. Now the weather has improved and they are capable of going further I feel the need to do something about this.

So not surprisingly it’s got me thinking about improving my options for starting to enjoy this potential new mountain biking hobby. I prefer to call it ‘off road’ biking as the word mountain is a bit daunting, and to be honest the hills in Devon are challenging enough!

All this has actually raised a lot of questions and I’ve realised I need a beginner’s guide and tips for mountain biking if I am to get going.


Find a Bike

First and foremost I would need a suitable bike. I have thought initially I might try a couple more places where I can hire one before I take the plunge, just to be sure.  I am lucky enough to have access to some brilliant local areas for cycling and a quick google search will bring up a list of places where bikes can be hired from. I am thinking about heading to Haldon Hill near Exeter with the girls soon.

That said, one of the great things about an activity like mountain biking is that you don’t need to spend a lot to get started. People are often selling second hand bikes, but even if you want to buy new, then entry level prices are not ridiculous. I have had a quick look on the Halfords website and found them starting at £95. Of course if you want you can spend a LOT more and I would really recommend getting some advice!


Where to Go Mountain Biking

The choice really is endless and the UK is a lot more geared up for off road biking than it used to be. Try gentle level routes around Killerton and Topsham,  or full on ups and downs like Woodbury Common, Datmoor or  local woods such as Shute.

If you want safe off road locations there are a quite a few to choose from in East Devon and West Dorset, it really depends on what level of biking you want to do.

beginner's guide and tips for mountain biking family tag along
beginner's guide and tips for mountain biking Bike Guide Devon

Photo – Bike Ride Devon on Woodbury Common

If you have your own bike already,  then Woodbury Common is meant to be excellent. Local company Bike Guide Devon offer guided sessions around it and other local places.

Haldon Hill is another well known place that comes to mind where I know you can also hire bikes for all ages. Top tip, Haldon Hill has marked colour coded routes for different levels.  They use the same system as skiing i.e. green being easy (which may or may not help you).

I’ve also seen bikes for hire at Symondsbury Manor Yard and Exeter Quay at Saddles and Paddles.

I’m pretty sure that once I start to ask right people, the flood gates will open with a whole host of suggested local off road cycle routes. I am thinking about endless possibilities on Dartmoor as well as more local relaxed ones that might just have a pub en route!  Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below.

Last year when visiting family we had a great couple of hours cycling off road around Clumber Park near Sheffield,  which is a fabulous National Trust Estate that hires bikes as well.

Other options are to join in with a session where everything is provided,  like I did with Exmoor Adventures near Minehead.


What Gear Do You Need?

On my recent outing we were provided with good helmets which are an essential item whatever type of bike riding you do. I also feel it’s good to set the right example to children even if they aren’t the most comfortable or flattering of items.

beginner's guide and tips for mountain biking Biking Bike Guide Devon

Photo – Bike Ride Devon on Woodbury Common

Other items are really up to you. Gloves, special clothing (the shirts with a pocket at the back look useful), cycling shorts or leggings (no bicycle clips these days!).

You may want to take a puncture repair kit but of course you need to know how to do the repair if you do.

Beginner’s Guide and Top Tips Mountain Biking

Like any new activity it’s great to be prepared but sometimes you just have to go for it.  ‘Just Do It’ as one famous marketing slogan tells us. If you’ve not been cycling for years then start with some easy short routes. If there’s a hill you can’t manage then hop off and push. After a few weeks practice you may find you can manage that hill after all.

When I was looking for bike racks and bikes (yes I’m really going for it now!) I came across a helpful Beginner’s Guide to Mountain Biking from Halfords. It includes useful information about how to choose a bike, the sort of kit you might need as well as etiquette on the trails.

There’s also some technical terms to look out for. Apparently I will need to find my “flow” and hopefully do not get to try the  “OTB move” (Over the Bars).

Beginner's Guide To Mountain Biking family

I have enjoyed learning more about mountain biking and am keen to get going this summer. Any activity that gets you outside in the fresh air has to be good, I know I spend far too long at the computer the rest of the time!

Beginner's Guide To Mountain Biking boys

So let me know about your mountain biking experiences in the comments below and also if you have any other top tips to add to this guide.


Disclosure: this post has been written in collaboration with Halfords and I have received store vouchers in payment. All words and opinions are my own. Photos have been supplied by friends or credited.