If You Know Nothing

The only thing you really need to know is how to ride a bike and how to use the gears. After that fitness, balance and nerve will be your only limiting factors.

Gears are not simple as anyone who has raced should admit: there's rarely enough and you always wish you were in a different one. Basically the easiest gear is small ring at the front and big sprocket at the back, perfect for long steep climbs. The 'hardest' is big ring at the front and small sprocket at the back, rarely used except for pedalling hard downhill ... or sometimes on the flat with a tailwind or by someone very impressive.

Every other sort of terrain requires somewhere in the middle. Avoid extremes such as big-big and definitely small-small ... it's just too embarassing.

What You'll Need

The Bike - how fat is your wallet? Buy from a specialist bike shop where the staff should ask you what you intend to do with it and ensure that you get one that fits (watch out for your first bike being too big - you should be able to stand astride it with a couple of inches clearance). Generally speaking you'll add hundreds of pounds to the price just to save a couple of pounds in weight. However expensive bikes are like expensive cars, they perform much better. Be warned bikes cost almost as much to run as cars. Winter conditions are hard on bikes, suspension and parts.

The Helmet - a requirement for racing and a sensible thing for riding in traffic and in the hills ... but the choice is yours. Heads are heavy and they always seem to be attracted to something hard in a crash.

The Map - Ever since the day I happened upon a naked mountain biker on the moors I've put the map above clothes in my list of requirements.

Where to Ride - Bikes are allowed on bridleways, RUPP's (roads used as public paths) and BOAT's (byways open to all traffic) but not on public footpaths. Get your local Ordenance Survey map and figure out some good loops - you'll be amazed with what you find. It's also worth checking your local definitive map as sometimes, as in my own area, many footpaths are actually bridleways. Tourist information offices often have local ride leaflets, which can be useful if tracks in your area happen to get upgraded in status.

Clothes - out with the wallet again. If you go into the hills or mountains be prepared for the conditions. Remember if you crash and get injured your body temperature will drop quickly, since you're likely to be pretty sweaty. A windproof cape or waterproof is the minimum extra layer you should take. (link to other sections of Blue Dome). Cycling shorts are a must for your backside ... and yes you don't wear anything underneath. Several of the clothing manufacturers make clothes especially for mountain biking, that'll handle mud, keep you warm and attempt to wick away some of the copious amounts of sweat you'll produce. Follow the layer principle.

Shoes - There are shoes for racing and leisure, the latter tending to have more tred and be easier to walk in. Thankfully they are also usually cheaper than their lighter, stiffer racing counterparts. Both will usually take cleats for clipless pedal systems if you wish.

Other Stuff - Maybe you'll need a bum bag or small rucsac, some allen keys, pump, spare tube, tyre levers, small saddle pouch, mudguards or Crud Catcher, a lock, some lube (for your bike and perhaps your bum!), a water bottle and maybe even a computer (just so you know how far you haven't gone and in case you want to e-mail us).

The list is endless, but at the end of the day just get out there an have fun.