7 Lessons From A Mountain Bike Newbie.

Mountain biking in the Perth hills

If you’re a regular on the Perth hiking trails, you’ve probably noticed that mountain biking has exploded in Perth. Go anywhere near the hills on the weekend, and you’ll spot dozens of utes carrying bikes. Take your search online and you’ll find lists of clubs, chat forums, races and blogs dedicated to men’s, women’s and kids’ mountain biking.

When something is as popular as this, you can’t help but be curious. And when you live with someone who loves and talks endlessly about the sport, it makes it even harder to avoid. So last week I decided that it was time I got on a bike and discovered what all the fuss was about.

Needing somewhere that was beginner friendly and offered bike hire, we headed up to the trails around the Calamunda Camel Farm. While there are camels available, I was looking for something a little less alive to ride, so I hired a bike from Rock & Roll Mountain Bike Hire next door. Forty dollars later, I had a hardtail mountain bike, helmet and gloves – the essentials you need for half a day on the trails.

This is the part of the story where I could tell you what I did, how the trails looked, or how a rock almost threw me head first into a tree, but that wouldn’t be very useful for my fellow newbie mountain bikers. Instead, I’m going to share a few tips that will make your first ride easier and even more enjoyable.

Usually I wouldn’t recommend listening to the advice of a complete novice but these tips have come from my more experienced riding buddy, and after some thorough testing, I can assure you they do help. For even more useful tips, type in ‘beginner mountain bike tips”  and prepare for the avalanche of info! 

Lesson One: Get a feel for your bike.
Before you hit the trails, spend some time getting used to riding your mountain bike. Change your gears up and down, test your brakes, ride over some rocks (slowly!) and bounce up and down on the suspension. If you know how your bike behaves, the less surprises you’ll have when you get on the trails.

Mountain biking green trails sign

Listen to the lizard and start on the green trails!

Lesson Two: Start on the green trails.
Mountain bike trails come in three grades: green is for beginners, blue is for intermediate experience, black is for expert.
If this is your first time, stick to the green. Yeah, yeah, I know you ride to work and feel really confident on a bike, but still start on the green. Green trails are relatively flat, but still have a few obstacles and twists to navigate. When you’re feeling ready give the blue trails a go, but for your bones’ sake, start on the green trails.

Lesson Three: Get your bum off the seat.

A bike comes with a seat so you should always sit on it, right? Wrong.
When you’re going downhill on mountain bike it’s actually better to lean forward with your shoulders towards the handlebars with your bum two or fingers width off your seat. At the same time try to keep pressure off your hands. Like this. It’s called the attack position and it helps you to handle the bumps and twists of the trail better.

Lesson Four: Look ahead on the trail.
When you’re new to riding you’ll probably find yourself looking down at your front wheel instead of what is up ahead. It can be a hard habit to break but if you don’t look forward, you won’t be ready for the obstacles coming and that’s how you fall off. Remember, the direction that you’re looking is most likely the direction that you’re steering.

Lesson Five: Keep your pedals level.
When you’re going downhill, try and keep both pedals at a level height. See what I mean here. If you have one pedal pushed right down you’ll clip rocks, tree roots and other things that might throw you off balance. It will take some practice but this position will help to make the ride safer and easier.

Lesson Six: Hold the handlebars not the brakes.
When it’s your first ride and you’re a little nervous, you’ll most likely want to grip the brakes as tights as possible. It might feel right but if you ride like this, you not only have less steering control, you’ll also have a tendency to brake too hard when you hit a bump and that’s how you can end up over your handlebars.  Instead, trust your reflexes and lightly hold your handlebars with only your index finger on the brakes when needed.

Lesson Seven: Stop and go a slow as you need.
Your first ride is for fun not to master the sport. It’s fine to get off and walk around obstacles. If someone is coming up behind you, there’s no need to speed ahead, just move to the side and let them pass. Green trails are for beginners so feel free to be as beginner-ish as you like. If anyone does give you attitude, you have my 100% support to give them the finger.

While I know it’s totally cliché but the eighth lesson is to just get out there and give it a go. Not only is mountain biking an adrenalin rush it’s a great way to see a different side of the Perth bush. I loved my first ride, and I’m definitely keen to hop back on the bike and do it all again.

Hopefully I’ve inspired you mountain biking beginners to give it a try. If I can do it, I’m sure you can too. If you do, share your lessons and trail tips!

Mountain biking in the Perth Hills

On my way to the trails.


Map & Directions

The Calamunda Camel farm is the most convenient place to park to access the trails and bike hire. It’s to find on 361 Paulls Valley Road, just off Mundaring Weir Road.