According to Psychology Today, confidence is a strong belief that you can face the challenges life throws at you. Most importantly, confidence is “the willingness to act accordingly”. Confidence marries belief/faith with action. That’s why confident people win all the time, at the workplace and out on mountain bike trails.
So, how can you build your confidence around mountain biking? How can you have more faith in your ability? How can build up enough confidence to perform the tricks you need to perform? And do the technical trail rides and maneuvers you need to? And ride the distances you need to cover?
In this post, I’ll give you 10 tips on how to build confidence in mountain biking.
10 Tips for Building Your Mountain Biking Confidence
- Banish negative thoughts and encourage positivity
- Practice hard and then practice even harder, consistently
- Ride with positive, supportive mountain bikers
- Set aside for mountain biking lessons
- Buy a bike that works for you
- Wear Protective cycling gear
- Master your local trails
- Wear cycling accessories that make you feel great
- Learn how to handle rattlesnakes
- Participate in a mountain bike race
I’ll now explain each of these 10 suggestions below.
1. Banish Negative Thoughts and Encourage Positivity
One way to build up your MTBing confidence is to become your own motivational speaker. Start encouraging yourself each time you fail at something.
Stop being too hard on yourself just because you’ve been learning bunny hops forever. Or because you fail each time you attempt to hop over a log.
I once read a book by Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich? Can’t remember which), and I learned one great truth. I learned that whatever your mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve. Well, maybe that doesn’t apply to all kinds of situations, but there’s a bit of truth in that adage.
No matter how hard you practice mountain biking, you’ll never ride beyond where you’re at in terms of confidence. How do you think regular cyclists like you and I become famous pump track riders?
And how do you think some mountain bikers became the world’s best freeride style champions? They believed they could become an extremely good rider. They then started working hard on their mountain biking skills.
So, get your mind to a nice positive place before you start learning MTBing tricks. Give yourself some pep talk and follow that with consistent action.
2. Practice Hard and Then Practice Even Harder
No amount of pep talk and self-motivation can take the place of consistently being out on the trails. I should even say that riding more is the single most important factor when it comes to increasing one’s MTB confidence.
Good writers become great writers by practicing their craft every day. You’ll often hear celebrated authors like Stephen King and John Grisham say, “Write every day. Even if it’s a paragraph. Or even a sentence.” Likewise, the world’s best mountain bike riders attain their status through focused, consistent practice.
So, practice hard. If you can ride somewhere, bike there rather than driving or ubering to the place. If you can ride to your local big-box store to get the supplies you need for your DIY project, ride there. And if you can bike to work, resist the urger to use your car.
The more you ride, the easier mountain biking gets for you. When ratcheting through a particularly challenging rock garden, try to ride smoother and faster each time.
Also, when doing downhill, try to ride berms faster. Try to clear sections of the descent faster and safely. And when learning bunny hopping or log-hopping, try as many times as you’ll need to master it.
Progress won’t always come as fast as you’d like. But you’ll certainly see significant improvement if you stick it out long enough.
3. Ride With Positive and Supportive Mountain Bikers
Positivity breeds positivity, and vice versa.
If you hang out with folks that don’t see the potential in you, you won’t improve as fast as you’d like. It’s a good idea to ride with MTBers that are better than you. But if they’re not supportive or try to make every conversation be about them, find better people.
If they seem to enjoy dropping you rather than pushing you to get better at mountain biking, drop them (pun intended). And if they pedal past you in the middle of the forest and leave you fixing a broken chain or a bigger problem, ditch them.
Being supportive means being genuinely interested in your progress. You want to ride with mountain biking enthusiasts that celebrate every milestone with you.
When you master berms, they’ll notice and acknowledge your progress. And every time you break your own record going downhill, they’ll say, “Dude, you really pinned it on that downhill run.”
The worst riders to be with are Stravassholes. With this type of rider, all that matters is clearing sections faster than they did the previous time. Even if that means rolling over or crashing into you!
4. Set Aside Time for Mountain Biking Lessons
The world is full of people that became super-competent without paying for expensive training lessons or buying uber-expensive courses. No field, hobby, or area of practice lacks a few self-taught experts that evolved into famous stars despite having received zero formal training.
You could learn everything you’d ever need to know about mountain biking without paying for mountain biking lessons. But we all know there’s loads of value in high-quality training.
If you can get practical education from someone who’s phenomenally successful at what you wish to learn, get it. Great training can significantly cut the amount of time it takes to master something.
If you’re unable to ride berms or bomb hills on your bike because you lack the requisite skills, consider signing up for a bike camp. A skills clinic can mean the difference between mastering log-hops and bunny hops quickly or taking forever to learn technical riding.
I recommend joining a bike camp in your area if you’re a beginner mountain biker. There’s great value in having a certified mountain biking trainer watching your technique and noting areas and postures that need attention. I know riders that quickly learned in a bike camp MTB tricks that’d remained elusive for long.
But it doesn’t mean advanced riders shouldn’t go for MTB lessons; they certainly can and probably should. If you feel your jumping skills or technical skills are holding your progress back, definitely get a trainer.
5. Buy a Bike That Works for You
Sometimes what holds your biking skills back is having an ill-fitting bike.
A good mountain bike isn’t always the most expensive. And no one is saying you should sink thousands into a full-suspension, all-carbon rig. But if you can afford a pricey thing that offers great components, why not?
What’s a Good Bike?
A good bike is one whose setup sufficiently meets all your mountain biking needs. Whatever bike you choose, make sure it offers you enough standover clearance.
Generally, anywhere between 2-4 inches should be good standover clearance for pretty much everyone. Standover clearance shouldn’t be too tall or too short that you experience pain when straddling the top tube.
But not everyone agrees on how much standover clearance you should have for a great fit. In fact, some bike fitting experts believe standover clearance doesn’t mean much as far as fit.
Here’s the thing. Get a bike that feels comfortable. Find a bike with the right frame size for you. Choose an option having a supportive saddle-pedal configuration.
As for handlebars, they need to be positioned to work perfectly with your saddle-pedal setup. Maybe you should request a proven cycologist to configure/fit your bike to your needs.
Sometimes a bike’s frame will work perfectly in all other parameters but not standover height. In that case, be willing to buy the bike even if you’ll end up with a taller top-tube-groin height.
As a beginner, I suggest starting with a single-suspension bike (a hardtail bike). You can then upgrade to a full-suspension rig as your riding skills improve.
A Fat Bike is a Surefire MTB Confidence Booster
Your tires should be thick enough, and nothing boosts MTBing confidence like a fat bike. A fattie floats over snowy, muddy, and even wet sandy surfaces. And when weaving your way through crunchy terrain, a fat bike absorbs impacts incredibly well.
I’m not saying start off with a fattie, though. I’m just saying I feel super confident on mine. And I’m not the only one. I’ve met many riders that said having this bike type helped much.
Related: Different Types of Bikes
Be sure your bike’s braking system works perfectly, too. Be sure you can rely on your brakes in emergency situations like when you doing wheelies. Or when riding a berm and need to brake to avoid flying over the top.
Flat Pedals or Clipless?
It’s best to be comfortable with both flat pedals and clipless pedals. But I’d say flat pedals are easier to use for a beginner mountain biker. That said, learn how to ride your bike while clipped in. Being comfortable on your pedals can really increase your mountain biking confidence.
6. Wear Protective Cycling Gear
I’m sure you’ve heard “wear your helmet” more times than you care to remember. But there’s a reason every coach, every parent, and every riding partner keeps repeating it.
As a mountain biker, you’re less likely to ram cars or buildings. But there are fallen logs, rocks, roots, trees, stumps, and all kinds of technical features to navigate. No matter how good you get at MTBing, you never know when you’ll have a bad spill out on a deserted trail.
If you ever crash into pointy baby heads head-first after tripping on jutting roots, you want to be in a certified biking helmet. Yes, you’re unlikely to die in a mountain bike crash. However, concussions and head injuries aren’t rare in this discipline. So, helmet up, friend.
Wear proper MTB knee pads, too. Also, obtain a pair of high-quality gloves for protecting your hands. Get good goggles too for combating dust and debris while riding. Alternatively, wear a certified cycling helmet with a non-shattering visor.
7. Master Your Local Trails
One of the best and proven ways of getting better at mountain biking is to master your local trails. Ride those trails until it gets to a point where you can ride blindfolded and not fall.
The foundation for all confidence is knowledge. Once you know what every inch of your singletrack or doubletrack trails presents, you’ll suddenly start feeling confident riding there.
And once you master your local trails or bike park, find new trails in new locations and conquer them. If you can ride local and faraway trails with minimal crashing, that’ll skyrocket your confidence.
8. Wear Cycling Accessories that Make You Feel Great
Admittedly, this suggestion may not work for everyone, but it sure works for me.
I read somewhere that clothes make the man, and I think that’s true to some extent. People feel quite confident when wearing clothes they really like, and it’s the same in MTBing. At least it is for me.
I bought a really sick pair of cycling shoes last year. When I strap these bike shoes on, I feel like I’m the coolest girl in the cycling universe.
Maybe it’s going to be clipless pedals that inspire your confidence. Or a wicked full-face helmet with great protection credentials to boot.
If some cycling accessory you own makes you feel awesome, wear it.
9. Learn How to Handle Rattlesnakes
I know this avoid-rattlesnakes-while-mountain-biking idea sounds a little off the wall ha. But seriously, if your location swarms with snakes, I’m not sure you’ll feel super confident riding the trails.
I recently put together a detailed post on what to do if you came across a nope rope. Click on the link below and read it after you’re done reading how to become a more confident mountain biker.
Related post: How to Avoid Rattlesnakes while Mountain Biking
10. Participate in a Mountain Bike Race
Racers are generally better riders than the rest of us, right? That’s why it’s a good idea to sign up for a mountain bike racing competition soonest you can.
I get it. You think you’re not confident enough to compete and win. But there’s always the first time, and the ton of preparation you have to do will catapult your riding skills to a much better place.
Chances are that you won’t end up being the slowest rider in the race. And even if you finish the race last, you’ll feel super confident about yourself for having achieved a particularly challenging goal.
A girl I’m friends with recently told me that registering for a mountain bike race was what inspired the tons of confidence she feels around MTB.
How to Increase Your Confidence in Mountain Biking: Final Thoughts
Mountain biking can be quite challenging to learn and excel in. But there are a few ways to increase your confidence in this cycling discipline and become a better cyclist.
Start with wearing quality cycling gear: a certified helmet, gloves, and knee pads. Wear biking accessories that make you feel cool and confident, too.
Learn how to deal with rattlesnakes that show up on the trail unexpectedly. Ride with better riders that support your goals.
Also, consider registering for a racing contest and see how well you’ll fare. Get your bike set up right, from the geometry, pedals, and saddle to the brakes and handlebars.
Additionally, know your trails and ride them more. And as you implement all these confidence-boosting strategies, stay positive.