There is no better time to be out on a mountain bike than springtime… the longer days, rising temperatures, the fresh flowers and bright green tree canopies. Whether mountain biking is your primary sport or not, it’s a fantastic way for you to get out there and enjoy nature, with some diversification and spice on the ride.
With the weather improving and summer (almost) around the corner, much-beloved summer bikes are beginning to be dusted off and brought out of sheds and garages. So, I wanted to share with you a quick checklist of tips and tricks for getting into the swing of things again…plus a few extra nuggets of advice that might be worth considering if you’re a seasoned rider and looking to up your game this summer.
Getting the bike ready for a summer of riding
If your bike is in a bit of a dire state – don’t panic. You’ll just need to give it a little love before a summer of riding. Questions to ask: does it need fresh brake pads, are the tyres bald, does it have a seized headset, is the drivetrain worn to within an inch of its life? Starting the summer with a happy bike will save plenty of on-trail mechanical dramas, so there’s no cutting the ride short on a glorious British summer’s day.
Now the bike is in good condition and running well, the next step is to suss out a tyre pressure and suspension setup you’re comfortable with. This is often overlooked – but tyres that are too hard or soft will have a seriously negative effect on your riding, and the same goes for suspension.
Tyres. This might require a little experimentation, as your tyre casings, weight and speed will all play a part. Get out there to do some testing, then when you find a pressure that works, stick to it and check your tyres regularly – having a consistent setup will increase both confidence and comfort. For reference, I typically run Downhill or Schwalbe Supergravity casing tyres with 21psi at the front and 25psi at the rear. I’ll increase this a little on fast rocky trails and drop it a little on muddy, slippery, low speed trails.
Suspension. It’s a good idea to book in for a lower leg fork service and shock air-can service. This is relatively straightforward and most good bike shops can do this. If you feel like doing a little DIY yourself, there are some great YouTube tutorials (such as this video) that aren’t too challenging to follow if you have basic mechanic skills. For setting shock and fork sag, again YouTube tutorials are great as it’s relatively straightforward. Having a decent setup that’s good for you will make a big difference in how the bike feels, so it’s definitely worth taking the time to get it right. If you have too little sag, this will make the suspension feel too hard, and vice versa, too much sag will make the suspension feel too soft and the bike could feel quite sluggish. Once your bike is in excellent working order and beautifully set up, let’s turn to kit.
The perfect kit and apparel for the trails
Altura pride themselves on British-made apparel for British riding conditions. Chances are, most spring rides will dish you up a serving of all four seasons in one morning, so it’s worth being prepared for any eventuality so you can really enjoy the duration of your ride! My go-to jersey this spring is the Ridge Performance Long Sleeve. It’s a high-wicking performance fabric that regulates temperature well, so it’s capable in many conditions. If, like me, you’re always clipping an elbow past a tree or taking the odd tumble, you’ll need some sturdy kit that’s built to last. The Ridge Performance sleeves are incredibly abrasion resistant so despite the odd crash and fight with a tree, the jersey still looks fresh over time.
On the lower half, I’m a big fan of a lightweight set of trousers. I like to keep my legs clean and dry without overheating, and the Esker Trail Trousers are my top pick for this. They are astonishingly good value in a world of incredibly expensive mountain bike trousers, and are crafted from lightweight, stretchy fabric that’s super comfortable and non-restrictive. They are cool and light in feel but have a water resistant coating – perfect for British spring and summer rides when things are starting to warm up but the trails are not yet free of puddles or mud.
Lastly, reach for a decent helmet and you’re ready to roll. My go to helmet at the moment is the Bluegrass Rogue MIPS – it’s super comfortable and I love the MIPS feature that provides that extra protection against rotational impact… as (for me) crashes while riding are not unheard of.
Now, get out on the trails and enjoy the ride!