The Tentative Beginner’s Guide to MTB Part 3 – Your First Ride

You read part 1, it gave you an idea of what to expect, and got you excited to get out on a bike; part 2 made sure you were ready to hit the trails. Now part 3 is where things really get exciting – this week is all about enjoying your first ride! Whether it is your first ride on a mountain bike or just your first ride in 3 months, it is important to get this ride right because it will set the tone.

Phone a friend

Riding with others is always the better idea, you will enjoy the ride more, have someone push your fitness and abilities, and have someone to talk to and enjoy the view with. There are also more practical benefits like safety and having extra knowledge, hands, or tubes if something breaks on a bike. Make sure you bring along at least one person who knows the area and their way around a bike for your first ride, and don’t worry if they’re much fitter than you or have an expensive bike – if the lure of having a new riding buddy isn’t enough for them, they aren’t worth your time!

Pick a place to go ride

Choosing an appropriate route for your first few rides is perhaps the most important aspect – far too many people are scared off due to their first ride being beyond their abilities. Technical ability and probably fitness will be lacking, (even a generally fit person will struggle if they do not ride a bike regularly) so make sure you go somewhere that has some shorter and easier routes; good scenery doesn’t hurt either. I am also a strong believer in finishing on a high, somewhere with a nice downhill back to the parking lot – no-one likes a climb back to the car!

My favourite beginner spots

If you are taking someone on their first ride, remember, the key is that they enjoy it! That means that the black run can wait till next time, and no chasing Strava segments! Below are some suggestions of good places to go for your first few rides. All are more than level gravel roads, they will challenge you and make you sweat without scaring you or blowing a lung. All of them contain at least a little bit of that MTB heroin – singletrack…

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Singletrack – I get fidgety and sweaty just thinking about it! (image from http://www.singletrackworld.com)

Good Beginner Spots in the Western Cape

  • Bottlery Green Route – Good climb, fun but not challenging singletrack, scenic, coffee shop at the bottom
  • Oak Valley Blue Route – Fun singletrack, scenic, restaurant at the bottom
  • Harkerville on the Garden Route 14km route – Slightly more challenging but spectacular

Kwa-Zulu Natal

  • Karkloof 10km or 20km Loop – Fantastic beginner routes, try the 20 if you’re feeling stronger, great views

Gauteng

  • Red Barn Route 3 – Good beginner trails with flowing single track, not too much climbing

(These are simply places that I have ridden and/or have had recommended – leave a comment if I’ve forgotten any and I’ll add them!)

And there you have it; everything you need to know to go out and have a good time on a bike! In the next article I will cover all the words you need to never be left out of a mountain biking conversation.

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