It’s riding season, and even though I rode through the winter, others among us—like Doug—are just cleaning the cobwebs off their mountain bikes. For Doug, and everyone else like him, here are ten tips to ensure that your first ride of the season comes up aces.
1. This is a great time to check the cleats that go with clipless pedals. Worn cleats can cause a host of problems, ranging from difficulty clipping into pedals to prematurely popping out of them. If you’re unsure whether your cleats need replacing, bring them into your local shop and compare them against new ones, or just pony up and get a new pair (they’re inexpensive), and start the season fresh. While checking your cleats, make sure the screws holding them to the shoes haven’t loosened.
2. Check the date on your helmet—if it’s older than three years, it’s time for a new lid. While you’re at it, give your helmet a quick inspection. If you see any cracks, it’s time to replace it. If you find yourself in the market for a new helmet, check out the Bell Super 3R MIPS. Incredibly versatile, this lid can be used as a full-face helmet when ripping laps in the bike park, but the chin bar can be removed tool-free when tackling tamer trails.
3. Get yourself a waterproof phone case (I like LifeProof) or a ziplock bag if you’re on a budget. Spring showers and early season mud have a way making a mess out of everything, not just the trails.
4. Sunglasses with clear lenses are key early in the season, as they protect your eyes from kicked up mud, overgrown undergrowth, and stray branches.
5. Dry lube for your bike’s drivetrain is also key early in the year, as it keeps mud from building up on your chain and gears. I really like Phil Wood Tenacious Oil.
6. Approach mud pits with caution; you have no idea how deep or rutted out they might be, and no one wants to start their season with an epic, muddy crash.
7. In fact, try to avoid the mud at all costs. Muddy trails are easily eaten up and the damage done to them in the spring will last all season. If it’s too muddy to ride, consider logging some miles on the road, or—gasp—on the trainer.
8. Take it easy on your first ride of the year to make sure the trail is clear and safe. A lot can happen to your favorite trails over the winter, namely branches and trees falling into them. Also, keep your eyes peeled for loose brush and sticks, as they can kick up and get stuck in gears or spokes, and end in anything from a memorable crash to an expensive repair.
9. Keep in mind you’re not the only super-stoked rider out on the trail! Beware of others ripping around turns and blind spots. Also, make sure to be on the lookout for hikers and dogs.
10. Set your tire pressure a little high. Odds are your technique is a little rusty and banging into the rocks you were avoiding at the end of last season can make for a pinch-flat nightmare if your pressure is too low. When you feel a little bit more nimble, fast, and comfortable, lower the pressure.
Words by Mike Spadea, Bic Sports Factory Racing
Photo by Tim Peck