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Seeking advice on obtaining a mountain bike (cross country)

just jane

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Hey all! I haven’t checked in for a while .... just curious to see what’s happening with the biking. I am also venturing into mountain biking this year. I scored an REI Coop DRT 3.3 in March and am completely delighted with it. We knew shortages would make it hard to find something this year so we jumped early. Price was a major factor and it hit the sweet spot between solid components, bells and whistles, and affordability. I’m venturing out on easy local trails and trying to build some confidence and maybe some skill. So far I’m having fun but there’s always that inevitable push-pull with the hubster where he thinks I should be much more capable than I am, and wants to take me on trails that he says are “easy,” but are not. :rotf: Fortunately I’m used to it!

Here’s my new pretty. I named her Ginger. 6CBA6E11-0D19-43F7-87D8-B0618D05BD79.jpeg
 

echo_NY

Angel Diva
What an amazing looking bike!!! So glad to hear you are enjoying @just jane

The husband took a faceplant during an aggressive downhill section and got scraped up. He visited the urgent care and they helped him get cleaned up. Thankfully nothing too terrible.

does anyone use protective gear when they ride?
 

just jane

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I’m glad he’s okay! My DH has been riding for more years of his life than not at this point, and long ago had the broken collar bone and a broken elbow from his exploits. He’s more cautious now, fortunately, but we don’t use protective gear.

The only difference so far in my mtn biking kit vs. my road kit are full-fingered gloves and platform pedals, and I think I want to put my spd pedals on already! We did a long ride on a pot-holed, wash-boarded dirt road this weekend and I was really wishing I could clip in. I am not loving platform pedals. DH keeps telling me the importance if standing more on downhills and I’m all, but I’m not sure my feet will stay on the pedals!

Any thoughts on platform vs. clips from folks here?
 

SallyCat

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
The only difference so far in my mtn biking kit vs. my road kit are full-fingered gloves and platform pedals, and I think I want to put my spd pedals on already! We did a long ride on a pot-holed, wash-boarded dirt road this weekend and I was really wishing I could clip in. I am not loving platform pedals. DH keeps telling me the importance if standing more on downhills and I’m all, but I’m not sure my feet will stay on the pedals!

Any thoughts on platform vs. clips from folks here?

Drop your heels when standing on your pedals.

Absolutely agree that you should be standing on anything downhill or technical. That's why the bike has a dropper post, so you can get the seat out of the way, balance your weight over the bottom bracket, and let the bike move around under you. As the saying goes: "Light hands, heavy feet:" Don't death-grip the handlebars or lean a bunch of your weight on them; focus instead on making sure your feet, legs, and center of gravity are all right over the bottom bracket so that you could almost ride with no hands.

Mountain bikers move around a lot more on the bike that it might appear at first glance. You want to get to the front tip of your seat when climbing steep hills, and even come up off the seat for very-steep, punchy places like getting up and over a big rock. You can use a row-push motion for going over rocks and logs and big roots, and of course cornering requires dynamic movement of bike and rider. Check out some of the many great instructional videos on YouTube. I like "Roxy's Ride and Inspire," "Skills with Phil," and the GMBN videos.

As for protection, I wear a lightweight pair of kneepads for more challenging or technical riding. Most of the time when I fall, it's directly onto one knee or the other (sliding out on a berm, e.g.) and I just have more confidence when I'm wearing the pads. (GForm..I forget which model, but it's their basic mtb knee pad).

Oh, and remember: Almost any trail is a green trail if you ride it slow enough! And it's always ok to walk your bike over/around something that feels sketchy to you.
 

geargrrl

Angel Diva
Learn proper technique for flats.... pressure, and heels down. Sounds like you might need to take a skills clinic. Sure, it's just riding a bike, but there is a whole separate skill set of body/bike movement that is particular to mountain biking that you should learn. Most riders coming over from road riding are way too stiff, afraid to stand up and get out of the saddle, and don't move their bodies around.
Roxy Ride and Inspire has fantastic videos if you don't have access to clinics.

I teach mountain bike and I think flats are best for beginners. Being clipped in gives you a lot of bad habits: you don't learn to pressure your feet/heels down, the being attached to the bike gives you a lot of "cheat" type options for picking up your wheels. The tendency for most riders is reduced confidence because they are afraid of not getting out of the clips in a bail, or they have a bad crash from being clipped in. Flats, when used properly, are confidence building. I assume you are using correct pedals with pins and a flat-specific mountain bike shoe? Sneakers with manufacturer's flat pedals are not an idea combo at all.
 

just jane

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I totally had my eye on a clinic but I procrastinated on signing up and it filled up. Whoops. I’d really like to take a class. I keep saying (and this is one reason I haven’t tried mountain biking before) that road and mountain biking are completely different sports. It’s like x-country and downhill skiing. The only thing road and mountain biking have in common is two wheels!

I do not have proper flat pedals. I have old-school platform pedals and yes - sneakers. I’ve gotten them wet rising through puddles a couple of times and it’s - not good. It’s the cost thing again though - I have spd commuter shoes and a spare pair of spd pedals and I’m really loathe to keep spending money on new stuff when I already have gear that works.
 

SallyCat

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Oh my. You're going to hurt yourself on those pedals, and you won't ever be able to ride that bike properly. If you're comfortable on the clipless, use them.

If you want to ride flats, then definitely get real mtb pedals with aggressive pins and shoes with properly grippy soles that are also stiff (e.g., Five Tens).
 

elemmac

Angel Diva
I do not have proper flat pedals. I have old-school platform pedals and yes - sneakers. I’ve gotten them wet rising through puddles a couple of times and it’s - not good. It’s the cost thing again though - I have spd commuter shoes and a spare pair of spd pedals and I’m really loathe to keep spending money on new stuff when I already have gear that works.

I'm with @SallyCat on this one! If you have clipless and are comfortable getting in and out, I would 100% use them over a "non-proper" mtb pedal. Yes, clipless offer cheats for necessary skills, but I would take that over slipping off a pedal and injuring yourself.

If you decide to stick with flats, you don't have to spend a ton on pedals, start out with something like a Crank Brothers Stamp 1 or a Race Face Chester (or other nylon composite pedal with metal spikes). You could scour local Facebook mtb classified groups, mtb ride groups, marketplace and ask if anyone has some old pedals they don't use anymore...I'm sure you can score a good deal on a decent pair. You can do the same for shoes...though might be a bit spottier. Ebay, GearTrade, Steep and Cheap, STP, REI Outlet or MTBR forums classifieds might be other good places to look. IMHO, I think you can get away with a regular sneaker as long as it has a good solid, flat sole.

Your pedal/shoe interface is one of the three key points of interface with your bike (feet, hands, butt)...it's one of the places you really want to be comfortable and confident.
 

elemmac

Angel Diva
I can put the spd pedals on today.

One more tidbit of advice...it's not road biking, loosen them up! Looser than you're comfortable with on your road bike. When you're in a pickle, you want to be able to easily get out of them. After you fall on rocks due to not being able to click out of your pedal can be a massive confidence killer, and a tough one to overcome. On the flipside, falling when you're still clipped in can be quite the spectacle for those riding with you (provided no injuries, of course).
 

just jane

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
The clips on my commuter bike (the other one I have with spd) are pretty loose - that makes sense. I have Shimano SL on my road bike. Totally different feel.
 

altagirl

Moderator
Staff member
I always preferred flat pedals on my mountain bike but DEFINITELY with real flat pedals and good shoes (I always liked FiveTens). There is technique to it but if you want to learn more technical terrain it's a plus.
 

SarahXC

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I think the flats versus clipless definitely can have to do with your experience in both. After being clipped in for 30+ years I cannot imagine not being attached to my bike that way for big climbs. But when I ride my daughter’s bike I use some Chrome commuter shoes and her flats and feel pretty solid most of the time. I’m sure name brand are better but we have 3 pairs of these Amazon cheapie (https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B07ZX9NF59?psc=1&ref=ppx_pop_mob_b_asin_title ) on all the commuter bikes and I would totally consider them mtb worthy.
 

just jane

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Well, we put the spd pedals on tonight and as soon as I clipped in I immediately felt more solid. It’s so funny how when you first switch it’s so scary and a turtle or two is nearly inevitable and after .... I don’t even remember how many years of road biking, being clipped in feels so much more secure. So maybe at some point I’ll look at decent platform pedals but at the moment the spd feels really good.
 

elemmac

Angel Diva
Flat vs. clipless is a never ending debate in mountain biking. There are people who are unbelievably passionate about one or the other. Both have benefits and downsides. IMHO, flats have a lot more benefits than clipless, but...I ride clipless most of the time. If you're riding flats correctly from a technical standpoint, there is absolutely no reason to be clipped in (just watch any Danny Macaskill YouTube video for proof that you can do pretty much anything on flats with the right skill set). At the end of the day, I like the feeling of clipless better for trail riding and sometimes that's what matters most --- a feeling. I'll also note, I almost always ride flats when on lift service downhill, during mtb clinics/camps, or when I want to work on technique and not just riding for fun.

Clipless is kind of like skiing a wider ski as a daily driver when you mostly ski hardpack (I do this too). A narrower ski will help you improve faster (so will flats) and you can't use it as a crutch because you lack technique (just like flats). But, when you get into those choppy conditions, want to be a bit lazy and want a crutch, the wide ski is there for you (so are clipless pedals).

For trail riding, I started riding with flats (some cheap pair...don't remember what), switched to Shimano SPDs after a year or two, tried flats again (another non-memorable pedal), back to SPDs. Last year I switched to Crank Brothers Mallet E and don't see myself changing them again as far as clipless goes. When I started riding lift access downhill with any type of regularity I picked up a pair of Canfield Crampons and realized "good" flats are pretty amazing. The Crampons live up to the name, the grip is intense and is the closest thing to being clipped in when riding flats (I've tried a number of different flats on my husband's bikes and haven't really liked any of them).

My husband on the other hand tried riding with clipless pedals once, felt like he had to re-learn riding a bike and promptly put the flats back on. To each their own.
 

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