Tassie mountain bikers Alissa and Baxter have been riding trails for years now – and they’re keen for you to hit the dirt with them! In this beginner’s guide to mountain biking they’ve detailed the basics to get you riding ASAP.


Mountain biking is one of those sports that seems to be surging in popularity, and for good reason.If you’ve been considering mountain biking, here’s your gentle push to give it a go and learn some tips to make your first experience more pleasant. If you aren’t a road cyclist and the last time you were on a bike was as a little grom, it may feel a bit daunting, but we’re here to help ease you in!

The barriers to entry can be a bit high, we aren’t denying that. Bikes are expensive and crashes can be frequent (and painful) if you don’t have the skills and technique to back you up. So let’s start at the very beginning of where and how to get started mountain biking.

Starting Out

Your First Lap

Ever heard of getting into a flow state? Well, definitely embrace that, but not on your first lap. If you haven’t heard of flow before, this is the state your body gets to when it is ‘completely in the zone’, you can’t think about anything other than what you are immersed in, and it’s usually quite blissful.

Get used to the day’s trail conditions and acknowledge how you’re feeling on your bike. Don’t go for new lines or big sends on this first lap, just getting used to moving on and with your bike.

Weather can play a massive role in how the trails are running, so give yourself the first lap to get used to how you and your bike play in the current conditions before starting to increase your confidence and speed.


Tropical North Queensland media librarySmithfield Mountain Bike Park

Photo thanks to TTNQ


Rent or Borrow a Bike

Mountain bikes can be expensive, so to help you decide what you want in a bike, try a few out! Mountain Biking slang is notoriously hard to decipher. Whether you want a hardtail or dual suspension, 27.5”, 29”, or a combination of both for wheel size, and how much suspension you want for your style of riding. This will make your ride feel smoother depending on how technical the terrain is that you’ll be riding.  Spend time around fellow bike nerds to get yourself familiar with the terminology.

Many bike shops will let you rent a bike for a day, allowing you to trial it out before making a purchase and deciding what you do or don’t like. Alternatively, if you have friends already into mountain biking, ask them if they’d be willing to lend you their bike for you to test out a pump track or some green (easy) trails without worrying that you might damage their precious steed as you get acquainted with it.



You can get pretty into the nitty gritty of bikes, but if you’re just starting out, we’d recommend getting a bike with a dropper post (height -adjustable seat) as a non-negotiable, and then after you’ve been riding for a while, you’ll start to learn what you might want in your next bike.


Learning to Choose Lines

Beyond what looks like sending your bike down a hill, there really is quite a bit of technique that goes into mountain bike riding, so let’s break that down.

If you’ve never done other sports where choosing lines is involved, this may not come super naturally. ‘Choosing your line’ means looking at the trail you’re approaching and determining what section you are going to ride.

The general rule when getting started is to stay ‘high and wide’. This will give you typically the smoothest part of the trail to ride (less rutted out) and give you the most time to turn in a berm (a banked corner), so you can avoid short, sharp adjustments on the bike that may take you off balance (and off your bike). High and wide should feel nice and smooth!



When on any part of the trail, try thinking of ‘the now and the next’. The now is what you’re currently riding and the next is what you’re about to go through. You want to try to be looking for the next, so you can anticipate how you need to position your body and your bike.

Think about it like driving, rather than looking at the stretch of road directly in front of you, look beyond to see what’s coming up ahead and depending on your speed, you’ll have to adjust how far ahead you are looking.

Choosing your lines is important on any part of the trail, particularly in berms. Avoid having to change the angle of your bike while in the turn, so set yourself up before you enter.


Read more: How to Learn to Mountain Bike Without Breaking Yourself

Honing Your Skills

Lessons are worth it

Wherever you are on your mountain biking journey, there’s always room for improvement. The quickest way to improve is through practice with someone who knows what they’re talking about and can give you feedback to advance your riding. Having someone be able to look at your body position and give you specifics on what to change, makes all of the difference.

After the lesson, keep practicing. Let your coach’s voice be the little angel on your shoulder, reminding you to stay high and wide, get into an attack position, get your body weight forward, push your heels down, whatever it may be…


Find Your Riding Community

Once you have the stoke and the technique, now you have to put it all to the test. Make a group chat and spam it, find out who’s riding and when that aligns with your schedule and get out on the trail. If you don’t know anyone who rides, joining Facebook groups or going to in person events can be a good way to meet people who ride.


Mountain Biking Slang, Alissa Ward, people, bikes


Riding with others can help keep you stoked when things aren’t going to plan. You’ll have good days and bad, so be kind to yourself. When it comes to mindset and avoiding breaking yourself, check out this article all about not breaking yourself to know you aren’t alone.


Try New Trails

New trails can be daunting, you may have heard from someone else what the trail was like, but remember, everyone has a different perception. What might seem extreme for some, could very well be in your skill level, so don’t shy away from bike parks or certain trails until you’ve given it a look yourself.

But also, don’t be afraid to stop, have a look, or walk down parts of trails that look a bit beyond where you’re at. When stopping, just make sure no one is coming up behind you, that you are off to the side of the trail and that your bike is tucked away and not going to cause an accident.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!

Getting Technical

Get Familiar (but not too familiar) with Your Brakes

Brake to a speed you feel comfortable with and then head into a feature. You want to avoid braking while on features, drops and berms as this ruins your momentum. Once out of the feature, begin braking again to a speed that feels comfortable and controllable.



Brakes are your friend, but when used correctly. If there is a feature you aren’t quite sure about, it’s best to hop off your bike, stash your bike off of the trail and have a look at the feature. This is best practice rather than just sending the feature, as it may be beyond your skill level and result in injury.

When we get nervous on the bike, our first instinct is to pull on the brakes, but this can often result in us going over the handlebars from the suddenness of the braking.

Similarly this can occur when we are in a berm, typically ones that are steeper or more narrow than we are used to and a term called “washed out” is used to describe when one of your wheels slips out from under you, usually as a result of improper body weight/ braking.

Try a ‘fluttering’ technique when focussing on your braking. This includes lightly and consistently pumping the brakes, to avoid pulling tight on your brakes as soon as you get to a section of the trail that startles you.


Uphill Can Be Fun

Many uphill trails are climbing trails that take you to the top of the descent. If you find you’re slipping out on the uphills, there’s a few things to look out for. Start by making sure you’re in a low enough gear so that you can properly pedal. Remember to look into the next!

If you see a hill coming up, shift down so you’re ready for it rather than trying to change gears while on the uphill. If that still isn’t helping you get up the hills, check your body position. You may need to get your body weight over the stem of your bike to weight your front tyre to avoid losing your ability to steer.

Or you might need to your weight further back so the rear wheel doesn’t slip out.


Loading your Bike onto a Shuttle

The first time (and the next few times you load your bike) onto a shuttle (transport to the top of a downhill run), you might struggle a little. Ask the shuttle driver to help you out, they will always be happy to show you tips and tricks and get your loading your bike with ease, regardless of your size.


Final Words of Wisdom

Never Call Last Lap!

Often your last lap is when your body is a bit tired and you’re not as focussed on choosing your lines, so you’re getting a bit sloppy. This is when you might become a bit more prone to injury as you’re thinking about the warm food and cold drinks you can indulge in post-ride.

It’s a bit of a superstition, but I recommend avoiding it as we’ve all fallen victim. Call it while you’re still feeling good and bank a good day of riding without getting injured!

Mountain biking gives you a whole new way to explore places while giving you an adrenaline rush. Despite the learning curve, there are so countless new trails popping up across Australia and New Zealand, giving you plenty of places to improve your skills and ride different terrain.