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The Essential Guide for Beginner Mountain Bikers in Washington

25 | Aug | '20
Ian Terry

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This guide is always evolving and was last updated on 9/3/2020. If you have suggestions for additions or modifications to the guide, please contact us.

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Chances are you’re here because you’re interested in mountain biking in Washington. Bravo! You’ve come to the right place.

As a new rider, we’ve compiled this list of tips and resources for you because we want you to fall in love with mountain biking and get started on the right foot– er, wheel. Mountain biking can be intimidating to get into, and we always recommend visiting your local bike shop if you have questions about bikes themselves.

If you’re looking to learn more about classes and clinics, group rides, or just pick up a few tips and tricks to ensure you have a positive first few experiences out on the trail, then read on!

 

Before You Go

Get comfortable on your bike. Before you venture out onto a trail, make sure you’re familiar with how your bike works. Spend time pedaling around your neighborhood and experiment with shifting and braking. If your bike has suspension, bounce around on it. If your bike has a dropper seatpost, practice dropping it down by pressing the lever on your handlebar with your weight on the seat, and then letting it back up by standing. The more time you spend on your bike, the more natural the movements of turning and navigating obstacles out on the trail will feel.

Know where to go. The Trailforks app has become the go-to way for mountain bikers to navigate out on a ride. Once installed on your phone, you’ll be prompted to download individual regions allowing you to use trail maps offline and out of service. Before you head out to explore a new trail system, check out Trailforks.com to go over your route– taking special note of total mileage, turns and directions, and any big climbs you may be faced with along the way. The Evergreen Trail Guide is another awesome online resource for Washington mountain bikers. Use TrailForks and our Trail Guide as a tool for learning trail systems and figuring out how “big” of a ride you’re about to embark on. Keep in mind, though, while Trailforks is an awesome app, it’s worthless if your phone runs out of batteries in the middle of a ride. Make sure you’re charged up!

Invest in the basics. Ok, so you found a bike within your budget. You’ve scoured TrailForks and the Evergreen Trail Guide. You’ve practiced shifting and turning and braking and you’re feeling really comfortable on your bike. Ready to rip, right? Almost! As an absolute minimum, you need to purchase (or borrow) a good helmet. And, if there’s one accessory to splurge on, it’s this. Helmets are not optional in mountain biking– regardless of your experience or skill level. Your local bike shop is the best place to find a helmet that fits well and will protect your noggin. Beyond the necessities of a nice helmet and a reliable bike, the one upgrade that beginner riders will benefit most from is investing in a good pair of pedals with proper metal pins to prevent your feet from slipping. You’ll feel more secure right away, trust us!

Learn the language. Like any sport, mountain biking is filled with a lot of unique terminology. You don’t need to memorize everything to get started riding trails, but having a grasp of the basics will be helpful. Out on the trail, you’ll hear fellow riders using words like feature, drop, jump, chute, berm, and bunny hop. But before you get too far down the rabbit hole, get to know these simple terms: Singletrack (a narrow trail), Fire Road (a dirt or gravel road, also known as doubletrack), and Trailhead (where a trail network begins and typically where you park). Here and here are great places to start for learning mountain bike lingo. 

 

On The Trail

Be prepared. Nothing is worse than having a mechanical issue out on the trail or getting caught in the rain without a proper jacket– so be sure to bring these essential items with you: Water, Food, Rain Shell, Spare Tube, Tire Levers, Pump, Multi-tool, Fully Charged Cell Phone, Navigation Tool (preferably a combination of a GPS Device/Phone/Paper Map), and a Basic First Aid Kit. As you become a more experienced mountain biker, you’ll make adjustments to your “kit” over time to better suit your needs. It’s also important to take into account how tough your planned route is when deciding what to bring along. And remember, total mileage isn’t always the best indicator of overall ride difficulty. Elevation gain, trail difficulty, weather, and personal factors like your fitness level and experience play a major role in how long you’ll be out in the elements. Another thing to consider is whether you’ll need a parking pass at the trailhead you’re visiting. Most trailheads in Washington will be free to park in if they’re located on county land (like Duthie for example), but you’ll need a Discover Pass for state land (like the Raging River lot for example), and you’ll need a Northwest Forest Pass for national forests.

Practice good trail etiquette. Who has the right of way on a two-way trail? If a hiker and a mountain biker come upon a horseback rider heading towards them on a multi-use trail, who should yield for who? It’s important to understand proper trail etiquette before heading out for a mountain bike ride. For a full breakdown and explanation of best practices, be sure to check out our Trail Etiquette 101 guide. A quick wave with a friendly greeting can go a long way in making all trail users feel welcome.

Keep it FUN! It’s easy to get frustrated. After all, mountain biking is hard. It’s common to get stuck trying to learn a new skill. For beginners, it can be powerful to learn, though, that every single rider, regardless of how skilled they may be, faces a challenge of equal magnitude when they ride. Here’s the thing about mountain biking: You’ll never arrive at perfection with your technique. There’s always something you can get better at. The beauty of this sport lies in the challenge, the pursuit of making little improvements, and the wondrous joy of sailing through the dirt on two wheels. Have fun with it! 

 

The Next Level

Take a class. There’s no better way to learn the basics of mountain biking than to take a class with a professional instructor. Here at Evergreen, we offer classes all across Washington to help you become a more confident rider. Taking a class is also a great way to meet other new riders with a similar level of ability. Chances are you'll come away with new skills and new friends!

Join a trail work party. All mountain bike trails require maintenance. Each year, volunteers contribute tens of thousands of hours across Washington completing important work like fixing erosion, clearing drains, cutting back overgrowth, removing downed trees, building new trails, and making sure existing ones are safe and fun to ride. And, just like riding, trail building is fun. We always make sure to have a good at work parties– they are as much a social event as they are about digging so bring along your friends and family. Be sure to check out our Volunteer Page where you can find details on upcoming volunteer trail days. Oh, and here’s a little mountain bike secret: Working on trails will absolutely make you a better rider!

Support your local mountain bike trail organization. Trail organizations are the backbone of mountain biking. In our case, the Evergreen staff works with passionate volunteers across Washington to build new trails (likely some of your favorites!), maintain existing trails, develop new recreation opportunities, advocate for public lands, educate riders, host fun events, and build the mountain bike and outdoor community as a whole. The best way to support our work is by becoming a member and/or making a donation. We truly are a rider-powered organization, and we appreciate your support!

Be an ambassador for the sport. Mountain biking is growing rapidly– and that means we all need to think of ourselves as ambassadors for the sport to ensure a bright fat tire future. Share the trails and be kind to everyone you meet out on a ride. Always ask a stopped rider if they’re ok before moving along. When you’re taking a break, make sure you and your bike are all the way off the trail and that you’re clearly visible to any oncoming riders. If you see someone who looks lost, help them with directions. Respect the environment and always pack out your trash. Be mindful and respectful of nearby neighbors when you’re parking at a trailhead. Make a habit of these little things and you’ll sleep well knowing you’re doing your part to make the sport of mountain biking better.

 

Rider Resources

 

Washington Mountain Bike Organizations

Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance (Washington State, 8 regional chapters)

     • Central Chapter (Wenatchee & Leavenworth)

     • Cascades to Sound Chapter (Seattle region)

     • East Chapter (Spokane)

     • West Sound Chapter (Kitsap Peninsula region)

     • Southwest Chapter (Vancouver region)

     • Kittitas Chapter (Roslyn, Cle Elum, & Ellensburg region)

     • Methow Chapter (Methow Valley)

     • Cowlitz-Naches Chapter (South Cascade Mountains)

Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition (Bellingham)

Friends of Capitol Forest (South Puget Sound & Capitol Forest)

Black Diamond Trail Coalition (Black Diamond)

Pilchuck Mountain Bikers Club (Arlington)

Olympic Peninsula Bicycle Alliance (Olympic Peninsula)

Vashon Mountain Bike Association (Vashon Island)

Fidalgo Trail Riders (Anacortes)

Packwood Trail Project (Packwood)

Single Track Alliance of Yakima (Yakima)

Japanese Gulch Mountain Bikers (Mukilteo)

Top Left Trails Co-Op (Port Angeles)

Tapeworm Trail Crew (Renton)

Orcas Gravity Alliance (Orcas Island)

 

Group Rides, Clubs & Classes

Evergreen Calendar (Community created group rides and events)

Evergreen Education Program (Professional mountain bike instruction, all ages/abilities)

Evergreen Crank Sisters (Group rides, fun events, and classes for women)

Ms. Fits MTB Brigade (Group rides and fun events for women)

Fluidride (Professional mountain bike instruction, all ages/abilities)

Sweetlines (Professional mountain bike instruction, all ages/abilities, junior team)

March Northwest (Professional mountain bike instruction/guiding, all ages/abilities)

Radical Roots (Professional mountain bike instruction, all ages/abilities)

Washington Student Cycling League (Mountain bike program for students grade 6-12)

Vamos Outdoors (Mountain bike program for latinx youth at Galbraith Mountain)

Seattle Mountain Bike Tours (Guided mountain bike tours in the Seattle region)

Trans Cascadia Excursions (Guided backcountry mountain bike tours)

BikeWorks (Kids bike camps and bike mechanic classes for all ages)

Radiant Wrench (Private bike mechanic classes)

 

Online Groups, Forums, & Tools

Evergreen Facebook Page

Evergreen Instagram Page

Trailforks (Popular map website and app for planning rides and navigating on the trail)

PNW Mountain Bikers (Facebook group for all things PNW mountain biking related)

PNW Bikepacking (Facebook group for all things PNW bikepacking related)

PNW E-Mountain Bikers (Facebook group for all things PNW eMTB related)

PNW Bicycle Classifieds (Facebook group for buying and selling bike gear)

PNW Mountain Bike Sell/Trade (Facebook group for buying and selling bike gear)

MTBr Washington (Forum for all things Washington mountain biking related)

 

Passes & Permits

Discover Pass (for recreation use on State Land)

Northwest Forest Pass (for recreation use in National Forests, for use in Washington and Oregon)

Campbell-Global/Snoqualmie Forest Non-motorized Recreation Access Permit (permit for riding at Tokul West and Tokul East)

 

Other Fun Stuff

Evergreen Blog

Timeline of Evergreen’s History

The Recreate Responsibly Coalition

Trail Etiquette 101

Mountain Bike Tips For Beginners From Beginners

The Definitive (and simple) Guide to Mountain Bike Tires in the PNW

How to Choose a Mountain Bike: Buyer's Guide & Bike Types

Where Can You Legally Ride Your eMTB In Washington?

Riding In The Rain: Yay or Nay?

Ride Don't Slide! Tips For Keeping Trails in Great Shape Through Winter

Intro To Mountain Biking Terms

The Unofficial & Incomplete MTB Glossary of Terms, Jargon, and Mountain Bike Slang

 

 

Questions? We’re here to help! Contact us and we’ll get back to you right away!