Your source for Mountain Biking in the Triangle
Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill

Beginners Page

Just got that brand new bike? Here are a few pointers for you. Welcome to the wonderful world of dirt. Enjoy it!

Beginners 411
Night Riding
Riding in Lightning?
Group Riding Etiquette
From one Rider to another. A little advice for beginner riders from a veteran rider.
Visitors Guide to the Triangle

Visiting the Triangle? Need info on rentals, where to ride and good bike shops? Look here...

Beginners 411
by Matt
Where to ride:
Lake Crabtree Park
Harris Lake Park*
Umstead Park (Doubletrack only)
Any other trails listed on this site.

*My favorite trail for beginners is Harris Lake Park. It is a very good choice because there are beginner, intermediate and advanced trails that are all clearly marked. Even the advanced trails can be ridden by a novice, and all obstacles are optional, which means that riders of varying skills can ride together and everyone has a good time.

Essentials for the trail:
Helmet: Do not ride without one. It is against the rules in all local parks, and just plain stupid anywhere else. Please be a responsible rider, people who ride without helmets jeopardize trail availability for all. If you see somebody without a helmet, be a friend and remind him or her to get one.
Hydration: Be sure to have water bottles or hydration packs. It is very disheartening to be caught out in the woods thirsty and without beverage.
Basic Tool Kit: At minimum you should have Allen wrenches and screwdrivers needed to adjust your bike. A chain breaker tool is handy as well.
Spare Tube and/or Patch Kit: Don't forget the Tire Levers.
Mini-Pump: (If you don't bring the pump, then leave the spare tire and patch kit at home too, but bring your walking shoes.)
If you ride alone it is a good idea to bring a cell phone, or at least let somebody know where you are and when you'll be back.

Optional for the trail:
Snacks (if on a longer ride)

General Tips that have helped me out:
Ride with others. Of course it is always helpful to ride with people who are more experienced so you can learn from them, but it is also tremendously helpful to ride with people who are less experienced as well. You will learn a lot from teaching others, and you will gain confidence as you share the skills you have learned.
Use this web-site (or others) to take advantage of pick-up rides, and to meet new people. I have met some of my best riding buddies right here on this page, and have gained from them in many ways. (I used to be very timid about riding with others, but I have found that most people on this site are more concerned with having fun than they are with winning races on a pick-up ride. Let folks know what kind of ride you want, short/long, fast/slow, intense/mellow, and you will meet up with the right people.
Be sure to try new places as you get more comfortable with your "home trail". Variety is a good way to build skills, confidence and endurance.

Links that we have found useful for riders of all levels:
General (Best all around site, with trail reviews, product reviews and multiple forums) (Info on everything from how to ride, to repair to how to train your trail dog…) (Boston bike shop, lots of good articles on specialty bikes, etc…)
Repair (Very Comprehensive guide) (Park Tool Specific, but still very helpful)
Riding Tips (how to on everything from climbing, to log rolls to huge hucks.) (First Aid)

And of course, if you don't find it here, do a search. There is SO MUCH info on the web.
Good Dirt!

Night Riding
by Tim Broyer
If you have never experienced singletrack au noir, you are most certainly missing out. It can take that favorite trail that you know inside and out and make it a brand new experience. Daylight savings time killing your ride time? If you consider yourself confident with your bike handling skills, give night riding a shot. We recommend the following:

1. A decent light set. You need at least one 10 watt light system that will run for 2 hours. This gives you a good ride over an hour with some fudge factor time. When it comes to lights, you get what you pay for. Shop around and get one good light versus a couple cheap ones. There is serious debate about bar versus helmet lights. There is no set rule, do what you want. I suggest buying a light set that comes with both mounts because eventually, you will want to run one of each.
2. Two lights are better. A bar mounted light is my first recommendation. Use it in conjunction with a head lamp style and you are ready to seriously roll. The bar mount light will keep you focused and let you know which way your tire is rolling. The head lamp allows you to scan ahead for changes in the trail and duck under branches.
3. Bring a spare. I pack a small mag light in my pack in case my lights quit. I can at least get out of the woods. I have seen some folks tape the light to their handle bar in an emergency. It is also handy for trail side repairs instead of wasting your bike light battery.
4. Bring a friend. Don't ride alone at night, especially your first time out. Night riding is a great way for a group ride and it is cool seeing other lights zip through the woods. Check with for posted night rides. It is quite popular in the winter time. Many times after a night ride, we get together for pizza and beer.
5. Ride a trail you know. Certainly not a golden rule, but it will be a less intimidating experience if you have an idea about what is behind the next corner.
6. Relax and just ride. It is a great time and brings a whole new experience to riding. Use your instincts, relax and follow the trail. It's a blast.

Riding in Lightning
We don't want to see anyone get killed or stunned in thunderstorms. Seeing as our region is filled with "Isolated" and "Scattered T-Storms" during the summer months, I want to correct a common misconception. I still hear a lot of people saying that rubber tires protect a passenger from lightning.

Untrue! The reason that an automobile is safe in a lightning storm is that it has a conductive metal shell. According to this page (which has some really cool pictures) many people
attribute the protection to the car being a Faraday Cage. The page says that the lightning protection is instead due to the skin effect: Anyway, it has nothing to do with the rubber tires.

And cars do get struck, check out the pictures at the bottom of this page: To sum up, unless you have a conductive shield around you, stay out of the lightning. Convertible is no good. You should stay out of golf carts anyway, but particularly in a thunderstorm.

And stay off the bike.

- submitted by Will, 7/2003

From one Rider to another. A little advice for beginner riders from a veteran rider.
by Tim Broyer, 5/2004

First and foremost, welcome to the sport of mountain biking. If you are reading this, it means you found this great site and have started to dig in. You've most likely just gotten a new bike or recently re-entered the sport. Mountain biking can be loads of fun and it can also come off as hard, frustrating and disappointing. Here are several tips and pointers for the beginner rider from one rider to another. These points aren't the technical or advice type, but more the general type for moving around the mountain bike world and making the right first steps into mountain biking while out on the trail.

Ultimately, mountain bike riding is about having fun. You don't have to get caught up in any 'proper' way to ride your bike or a certain style. If you're riding your bike and having fun than you've got it figured out.


The ride that can be finished is not the perfect ride.
The frame that can be broken is not the perfect frame.
The ride is the beginning of sky and dirt.
- Corvus Corvax