Ok, so I may have only been once and I my experience is limited to Florida riding, but I wanted to share some of my lessons learned from my first experience mountain biking:
1) Bring nutrition (Gels, powerbars, etc) and carry your water in a Camelback. When I prepare for my normal rides, I pack plenty of nutrition and I bring lots of water bottles. When gathering my things for this ride, it didn’t even cross my mind to grab a Gu or Luna bar- I guess I didn’t think that I would need some mid-ride calories? I definitely could have used a little pick me up in the middle of the ride, and I could tell I really needed it by how exhausted I was at the end of the ride. Water bottles also aren’t ideal for a ride filled with lots of bumps in the road- use a Camelback instead.
2) There is no shame in walking. I was riding with a great group of guys and not once did I feel bad about getting off my bike and walking down a hill that scared me or an incline that would have send me backwards. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
3) If you get off your bike on an incline, hold your brakes, otherwise your bike will want to slide down the hill and take you too!
4) Shift often. When road biking, especially in Florida, I don’t really need to use my shifters all that much. When mountain biking, you are CONSTANTLY adjusting because the terrain changes so quickly. Anticipate the hills, so that the hill doesn’t stop you in your tracks!
5) Stand up and/or stand and hover back on the bike when going down hill. If you’re on the seat or your weight has moved forward, you are at a high risk to flip over your handle bars. And that wouldn’t be good.
6) It’s not as scary as you think. This is a lesson I’m still trying to learn. Bill reminds me that he would much rather fall while mountain biking, where he’s not on hard pavement and he’s going a lot slower than 20 mph. Good point.