Mountain biking requires a combination of strength, endurance and skill. To get that combination right, you need to train, and how hard you train depends on how serious you are about the sport. Weekend riders might need little more than the right gear, some practice and a good warm-up, but those who want to be mountain biking pros might need to spend months -- or even years -- perfecting their tricks and techniques.
Mountain biking has its own set of rules, many of which were created by the International Mountain Biking Association. Here are few key rules to remember:
Ride only on open trails. Always follow the signs and route markers, and get to know the trails well.
Stay in control. Watch your speed, slow down around tight corners, and don't try any tricks beyond your skill level.
Yield the trail. When you get near another person, slow down. Let them know you're approaching and signal that you want to pass.
Be prepared. Bring along a repair kit and extra supplies, so you don't get stuck out on the trail.
Clean up. Any trash you bring with you should go back home with you or be disposed of properly.
Watch out for animals. Never approach wild animals or startle them.
Trails can range from smooth and easy to rough and rocky. When picking a trail, choose wisely based on your skill level and how far you want to ride.
Beginners should stick to smooth, flat trails with few sharp turns or steep descents. These trails should be pretty similar to riding on the road.
Intermediate riders will want a few added rocks, hills, narrow spots and switchbacks (zigzagged trails) to challenge them. Before trying these trails, you'll want to be in good aerobic shape and have at least a few technical skills.
Advanced riders can try more technical trails or go for longer rides.
Professionals will want the challenge of long, technical trails with plenty of rocks, switchbacks, high climbs, steep drops and tight twists. Novices should not try these twisted trails.
How do you know that you've found a trail that's worth riding? A good trail should have:
Plenty of signs to show you where you're going
Signs that indicate the skill level needed to ride the trail
Ground that isn't too muddy
Alternating clear runs and more technical areas with rocks, jumps and tight switchbacks