When you first start riding (or any time, really) you may have some questions that seem, well, stupid. To borrow a quote from Mark Twain “He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.” To spare you the five minutes of foolery, we’ve answered 12 common questions that you may have never otherwise asked.
Q: Do I wear underwear under my shammy/chamois?
A: Nope – go commando! (Meaning, don’t wear underwear under your chamois, definitely DO wear shorts or pants while riding).
Chamois are specifically designed to be worn next to the skin. Wearing underwear may result in unwanted chaffing and may prevent the pad from absorbing sweat as it’s intended to do. (Psst if you are wondering what we are talking about – a shammy / chamois is a padded short or padded undies… if you want to go there)
Q: When should I use my dropper post?
A: As a general rule of thumb, you should use your dropper post anytime you are going downhill. When you start getting comfortable with a dropper post, you may have to consciously remember to drop the seat and it will feel a bit excessive. It won’t take long for it to become second nature and you’ll realize how helpful it is to raise and lower your seat with the changing terrain throughout your ride.
Q: What should I wear when I’m mountain biking?
A: Well, that’s a loaded question…but we are here to help. First, ALWAYS wear a helmet. ALWAYS.
As for other items, there are a lot of different schools of thoughts on what you “should” wear mountain biking. At the end of the day, you should wear what you feel most comfortable in. Some people wear chamois and MTB specific shorts and jerseys, some people wear jorts (jean shorts) and a cut off tee. Some people wear leggings, some people wear unitards (yes, yes they do). Some people wear protective pads and some people don’t. It really depends on what type of terrain you’re riding and what you feel best (and most safe) in. After all, when you look good, you feel good and when you feel good, you ride better. #facts
ProTip: If you’re riding loose, rocky terrain or on a trail with obstacles that may throw you from the bike, it would behoove you to wear clothes… specifically long sleeves, in the event you find yourself in a pile of rubble. This will protect your skin.
Q: Where should I store my bike?
A: If you are asking your partner, they may tell you that bikes belong in the house, preferably hanging on display in the dining room or safely tucked into the bed (room). However, from a more utilitarian perspective, your bike should be stored in a dry space protected from the weather (usually a garage).
ProTip: If you have a dropper post, store your bike with the seat up.
Q: Do people really ride with fanny packs?
A: Fanny packs are BACK baby! Not only are they officiallycool (were they ever not cool though?), they’re practical for storing essentials and they take the weight off your shoulders while riding!
If you’re going for a short ride (and have a water bottle/tools on your bike) you may only need a small fanny pack; to carry your phone and a snack. If your’e going for a longer ride and your pack is also your water supply, extra clothing, food and tool storage – you’ll want to invest in a larger hip pack with the ability to store all of the items you may need on your ride.
Q: Do I really need to be able to get off the bike on both sides?
A: Yes, yes, yes! Being able to dismount your bike on both the left and right side will allow you to select the safest option when you’re on variable terrain. You always want to get off your bike on the uphill side (downhill dismount = yard sale) so an ambidextrous dismount is a must!
Q: Who has the right of way on the trail?
A: Generally speaking, the official rules of a public multi-use trail are: hikers, runners and horses have the right of way before mountain bikers enter the mix. However, some trails favor directional traffic, are mountain biker only or are managed by a private land manager. On these trails the rules will likely be different. It’s always best to read the signs (or ask questions) before you ride.
ProTip: Among cyclists, the uphill person or rider has the right of way. Not on a hill? All parties should yield and a good rule of thumb is to simply slow down and be courteous to others when you pass.
Q: What is rebound and what does it do?
A: Rebound, simply put, is the speed at which the suspension returns to its full length after the suspension has been compressed to go over an obstacle. A well adjusted suspension should allow the wheel to remain in contact with an obstacle during compression and rebound should not be noticed.
A: The goal of having gears is to keep your pedals moving at an even cadence (speed), while each pedal stroke gives you the most bang for your buck. Gears create leverage and shifting applies that to speed or power, but not both. Efficiency is the name of the game. That being said, you shift to keep your speed and efficiency on the bike.
Uphill: If you’re going uphill, and you want to stay seated, you’re going to need to shift into an easier gear (like a mullet, that means small ring in front big ring in the rear, if your bike is set up with a 1x drive train focus on the party in the back). If you don’t shift, you’ll find that your leg muscles fatigue faster, and there’s more strain on your knees because it takes more effort to push the pedals (and your weight and the weight of your bike) uphill with each pedal stroke. Of course, you’ll also want to keep moving at a pace and speed that allows you to keep your balance, so it’s about finding the gear that allows you to keep moving with the least effort and strain on your muscles, while still moving at a sustained pace. If you stop on a hill, it’s harder (but not impossible) to start again without spinning your tires (losing traction).
Downhill: When you’re going downhill; gravity, the weight of your body and the weight of your bike will help carry you down with ease. You’ll want to shift into a HARDER gear (the smaller ring in the back) so that each pedal stroke gives you more power and momentum forward. If you’re not feeling any resistance, and your legs are just spinning, then you’re not adding to your speed. You’re just moving your legs in circles for no reason in particular.
Variable Terrain: Most rides aren’t just uphill or just downhill, they’re an undulating combo of the two. This means you’ll be shifting quite a bit as you transition from uphill (easier gear) to downhill (harder gear), in an effort to maximize the efficiency of each pedal stroke and keep your legs from burning.
Q: Are my tires too low?
A: You’ll want to check your tire pressure before every ride. Tire pressure depends on your weight as a rider and the type of terrain you will encounter on your ride. If the pressure is too low, you’ll risk flats or damage to your rims or tire roll, all of which decrease stability. Too much air and you’ll be riding on rocks like Fred Flintstone.
Ideally, you want your tire to deform (squish) ever-so-slightly to maintain contact with obstacles; corners, rocks, roots, or the foot of your buddy who stopped for no particular reason.
ProTip: Tire pressure is dependent on the weight of the rider (mostly), but also on the type of terrain and the rider’s style/preference of riding. The “average male” (6′ tall, 185lbs) typically sets tire pressure between 25-30 psi. Females run a bit lower (as they tend to weigh less), typically between 22-26 psi.
Q: Why are pedals that you clip into called clipless?
A: Clipless, originally referred to a strap and cage that went over the toe on a flat pedal (we see you 1984!). The cage and strap combination are called “toe clips” and allowed for increased efficiency by securing the foot to the pedal. This was done to increase contact when pedaling. The introduction of the current systems meant one could accomplish the same foot to pedal connection without toe clips, hence the name ‘clipless,’ even though they ‘clip’ in like a ski binding. Make sense?? We’ll let you decide, but that’s why they are named the way they are named.
Q: What is better clipless or flats?
A: Similar to asking “which ice cream flavor is best”? … the answer is the same for all things opinion – whichever ever you prefer is best. With techniques like clawing & wedging, you can maintain all the grip you need with flats. Don’t believe us, watch a downhill race. Many of the racers are on flats and their feet are in full contact with the pedal at all times. That being said, many people ride clipless pedals (where your feet are actually attached to the pedals with cleats) to maintain contact easier. However, having your feet attached to the pedals also allows you to “cheat” by allowing you to easily forget about the importance of your feet.
ProTip: If you’re just starting out, it’s best to learn on flat pedals. That way you learn all the proper foot techniques and you can bail easily if you find yourself between a rock and a hard place (literally). Eventually, you may transition to clipless pedals, but that’s purely preference.
Long Story Short – There are no stupid questions
We ALL have questions, even the pros. Part of being a successful mountain biker is asking questions and listening to the answers.
Have more questions? Drop a comment with your question below and we’ll answer them for you.
I would encourage anyone of any ability to take a class with these guys.
I recently attended one of the Intermediate/Advanced Efficiency and Flow clinics. Even though I have been riding for many years...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
I recently attended one of the Intermediate/Advanced Efficiency and Flow clinics. Even though I have been riding for many years I learned a lot from this clinic. The techniques covered ranged from reviewing basic skills such as basic body position to practicing more advanced techniques like switchbacks, bunny hops, and cornering. I was able to recognize, get instruction, and practice some skills where I was weak and instantly improve them. Even skills I thought I was pretty good at I was able to pick up useful tips. I also realized that deliberate skills practice is not something I incorporate into my riding, but now that I understand what I should be doing I will make sure to add this in! After taking the course my comfort on the bike has improved and I am more aware of my body position and movement of the bike. I would encourage anyone of any ability to take a class with these guys. The instructors are knowledgeable and easy to work with. There is a lot of one on one help and they will make sure you understand the skills being taught and are able to perform them successfully. Plus the clinic was lots of fun! I highly recommend and hope to work with these guys again soon. ~ Michelle A.
The course was very fluid, engaging, and I would highly recommend it.
I took the intermediate/advanced course in Balboa Park after having ridden for just over 2 years on my own. It...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
I took the intermediate/advanced course in Balboa Park after having ridden for just over 2 years on my own. It covered a wide breadth of skills, some of which I already felt aquatinted with and others I had little to no experience with. I found all of the material useful. I was able to improve skills I already had and was able to learn new skills. I also feel confident leaving the course that the instructors have provided all of the information for me to practice and improve outside of the course setting. The environment of Balboa Park was perfect for learning and sessioning the skills covered. The instructors were friendly, fun, and attentive to all of the participants. They spent more or less time on certain skills based on how the entire group was grasping them. They also gave individualized attention to participants that required more help with technique. The course was very fluid, engaging, and I would highly recommend it. ~Alexandra Rose Brysiewicz
Taken the 3 day Skills Camp out in Mulberry Gap GA. Outstanding weekend. We had a small group of about...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
Taken the 3 day Skills Camp out in Mulberry Gap GA. Outstanding weekend. We had a small group of about 8 people with 3 Ninja Pro's. Richard and the instructors were attentive and always helpful. The course had you work on your base fundamentals, advanced skills, along with bike setup,maintenance, nutrition ,This was a very comprehensive course. After learning the skills, we'd hit the trails and the training didn't stop. Instructors would get to a technical portion of a trail and have us all stop and they would show us how to use the skills we just learned. Everyone learned at their own pace. So no one felt pressured to keep up with others. Having fun was always top priority. Arriving back home, I was practicing all the skills i've learned like an excited little kid with a new bike. I hope to take this course again when they come back to this side of the country -- it was well worth it! ~Vic D.
Enrolling in the Intermediate/Advanced clinic was the best thing I’ve ever done to improve my speed and ability on the bike.
Hands down, enrolling in the Intermediate/Advanced clinic was the best thing I've ever done to improve my speed and ability...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
Hands down, enrolling in the Intermediate/Advanced clinic was the best thing I've ever done to improve my speed and ability on the bike. I am so much faster on singletrack and through technical sections/jumps that even if people are more fit than me, I still keep up with them (and kind of love watching them do a lot more work than they need to). Richard and Kris are fantastic and break things down in a way that makes sense and is manageable. By the end of my first clinic, I was jumping off ledges and power climbing up sections that I couldn't drive a car up. You could buy a $5,000 carbon bike and do 10,000 ft rides every day, but you will get the best return on any investment you make in your riding by attending a Ninja Skills Clinic. ~ Regina J.
We are a group of passionate, dirt-loving, community oriented, world class mountain bike skills instructors committed to helping you reach your personal riding goals through clinics and camps. We are excited to work with riders of all ability levels and share the joy (STOKE) of mountain biking.