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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
First time poster, happy to be here and learn, first of all. Second, I'll try to keep it short. I just purchased my first mountain bike, a GT Avalanche Comp. Haven't touched a bike since I was a teen, used to ride BMX competitively. The amount of info, tips, etc. for mtb beginners is kind of overwhelming. I really just want more knowledge on how I should mantain and care for my bike, and what are some must-haves for a noob. Rather it be tools, accessories, or clothes. What are some golden rules, or things you should never do/forget to do? Is there maybe a YouTube channel you guys like? Or should I find a good bike shop and start building a relationship there? I just want to hit the ground running, or jogging probably, but want to be as prepared as possible. Any input at all is much appreciated.
 

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  • Must haves: helmet, chamois, hydration, flat repair kit on you or your bike (and know how to use it).
  • Strongly Suggested: gloves, MTB shoes, multi tool on you or your bike.
Everything else comes down to personal preference, where you ride, how you ride. I have MTB shorts I wear, but for shirts performance style athletic shirts are all I wear. Short daily rides (about and hour for me) 1 water bottle on my bike. For longer rides, I carry a Camelback.

Having a BMX background, your riding instincts will come faster than someone without that experience. As far as getting out there and riding with people, most experienced guys aren't going to ride with a noob they don't know. Start with your local shops, see if they host any beginners group rides. It might help if you shared where you're located with us, as maybe even we can point you in a direction in your area. I know a shop here in Phoenix host noob rides fairly often.
 

· since 4/10/2009
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37,141 Posts
first off, try not to do too much at once. you'll hit information overload fast.

Start off with this:
  • helmet
  • basic ability to repair flat tires (tube, pump, patches, etc)
  • multitool that will work with most fasteners on the bike, and whatever you need to adjust brakes and derailleurs
  • ability to carry water for a ride (bottle/cage, hip pack/bottle, backpack/bladder, whatever works for you), your tools (maybe on-frame storage, maybe on your person), and a small snack
  • eye protection (you can grab cheap safety glasses from lowes/HD)
everything else starts falling into personal preferences, comfort, and extra skills that'll take a little time to learn.

Park Tool website is one of the most reliable for service information outside of manufacturer's own service information. They have a lot of very good videos on youtube. Many manufacturers also offer good service videos specific to their own stuff. Not really bike manufacturers as much as component manufacturers. There are also a lot of very suspect sources on a place like youtube. You'll get good advice mixed with bad, and important stuff that gets missed, all in the same video about the topic of interest. It takes time to learn and develop a good filter for this information.

Many shops also offer service classes, but that's usually a wintertime thing when they're not so busy.

It's always a good idea to get to know at least one shop in your area. More than one if you have them. That way, you get to know what they're especially good at, and what they're not. When I need suspension work, I go to a different shop than what I might use when I need something else more routine. I have 3 different shops that I'll use depending on what it is. If I need something done fast and I just don't have time to do it, then I go to one. I mentioned the one I visit for suspension work. I also have another one I use for other jobs. I just had them doing some mechanical persuasion to my disc brake adapter that was a bit outside what most shops will do to get my rear disc brake better adjusted.

Signing up for a beginner mtb class from a skills instructor might be a good idea, too. Some stuff will transfer over from your bmx days, but considering that it's been a hot minute since then, you've probably forgotten at least as much as you remember and a refresher will probably help out. Mountain bikes are also different enough from bmx bikes that some stuff takes a little extra to pull off on a mtb.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you guys for the timely responses, I appreciate it more than you know. I've purchased most of the things you listed so I guess I'm off to an ok start. I'm going to check out Park Tool and see what mechanical knowledge I can get from their YouTube and whatnot, and definitely look around the area for some service classes. I obsessed over taking care of my things, no matter what it is. I just want to be sure I'm doing everything I can pre-ride, mid-ride, and post-ride, to get the best out of my bike.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
  • Must haves: helmet, chamois, hydration, flat repair kit on you or your bike (and know how to use it).
  • Strongly Suggested: gloves, MTB shoes, multi tool on you or your bike.
Everything else comes down to personal preference, where you ride, how you ride. I have MTB shorts I wear, but for shirts performance style athletic shirts are all I wear. Short daily rides (about and hour for me) 1 water bottle on my bike. For longer rides, I carry a Camelback.

Having a BMX background, your riding instincts will come faster than someone without that experience. As far as getting out there and riding with people, most experienced guys aren't going to ride with a noob they don't know. Start with your local shops, see if they host any beginners group rides. It might help if you shared where you're located with us, as maybe even we can point you in a direction in your area. I know a shop here in Phoenix host noob rides fairly often.
I'm in central Texas, between Austin and San Antonio in the hill country. I imagine there's at least a couple really good shops in or around Austin, just have to find em.
 

· Cycologist
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I obsessed over taking care of my things, no matter what it is. I just want to be sure I'm doing everything I can pre-ride, mid-ride, and post-ride, to get the best out of my bike.
Don't overdo it washing your bike. You don't want to force dirt and grime into bearings, etc. Gentle spray or trickle is much better than a blast. And most of time you can just brush dried dirt off, or leave it. I had to take a wire brush to my tires yesterday after a white clay hardened between the knobs but I didn't bother to wash the bike.
 

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Multi-tools are great to have during rides for trailside repairs but a "real" set of tools is smart to have at home (it makes working on your bike more fun). You don't have to go crazy either. I have a ton of bike tools. 99% of the time all I need are 3 allen wrenches and a small phillip's head screwdriver. A cable housing cutter is probably the only bike-specific tool you might want someday unless you go full DIY and open Pandora's Box to find a truing stand, spoke wrenches, presses, etc.

Oh, and a floor pump. You want one of those unless you already have an air compressor.
 

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Go ride!
Thats really all you need! What did u need to go ride when you were a kid? A bike!
Everything else can come as u go along.
Yes should get a helmet and gloves. Yes water. One of first mechanical thing is to learn how to fix flats. Hopefully you know that from BMX. Tubeless if u go that way is something new to learn. Lube your chain every once i a while. Wipe off fork stanchions with soft rag. Not a whole lot more maintenance required for a while.
stop into a local shop and ask about no drop beginner group rides.
As u get into it, you might want to learn how to tweak adjustments like saddle position, handbar and brake positions to better suit you.
 

· Inspector Gadget
Nor*Cal and I like bikes
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Yeah just go ride… talk to people and ask questions or seek out the answers to specific questions when they come up.

Also don’t forget your ABC’s. Every time before I ride… air, brakes, chain, everything else. It’s amazing how many small problems you’ll catch before they become big problems on the trail.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

· since 4/10/2009
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37,141 Posts
Don't overdo it washing your bike. You don't want to force dirt and grime into bearings, etc. Gentle spray or trickle is much better than a blast. And most of time you can just brush dried dirt off, or leave it. I had to take a wire brush to my tires yesterday after a white clay hardened between the knobs but I didn't bother to wash the bike.
Definitely 2nd this. I MIGHT use water to actually wash my bike once or twice a year. Usually it's just a dry rag and that does a pretty good job with it. When I do use water, I'll use a sponge/plastic bristle brush to clean and rinse with a light flow of water at most. Only use isopropyl alcohol to clean braking surfaces and only VERY sparingly if you absolutely need to (you've contaminated them, pretty much).

Don't touch disc brake rotors. That easily causes contamination which will make them HOWL. Trying to recover contaminated pads is possible, but it's fiddly. They're also kinda sharp and if the wheel is rotating, they can ruin your day. And they get hot when riding, and will burn you if you touch them.

If you have hydraulic brakes, don't squeeze the lever when the rotor is not between the pads (such as when you remove the front wheel). There are spacers you can use to fill that space if you transport your bike with one or more wheels off the bike.

Only shift while pedaling. Don't shift while coasting or while stopped (hey, bmx bikes are single speed, so we have no idea how basic we need to go).

I strongly recommend chain lube in a drip bottle as opposed to an aerosol spray. With an aerosol, it's easy to get overspray/splatter that winds up contaminating your brakes. With a drip applicator, you waste less chain lube and are less likely to contaminate anything else. My method for lubricating my chain: Use a dry rag to wipe off dirt/grime. Drip chain lube on top of chain rollers while pedaling backward. Some lubricants say to drip one drop on each roller. I don't get that tedious. I just drip and backpedal until I get a couple full rotations. Then I take my rag and wipe the chain while pedaling backwards. This gets excess chain lube off (you don't need much) and it also cleans things just a little more, as the solvents in the lube will break some more dirt/grime loose. How often I lube my chain varies. I almost never lube it after every ride unless conditions were really wet. Most commonly, I'll lube the chain every 50-100mi or so. When it starts to get a bit noisy, I know it's time to hit it with some chain lube. Sometimes that happens sooner (like if my ride has a lot of creek crossings). Sometimes it takes awhile, such as when conditions are about ideal (just damp enough to keep dust down/give "hero dirt" but not wet enough to be soggy or muddy).

As for which chain lube to use, you'll get lots of opinions on this. Regular ol WD-40 is NOT a suitable chain lube. WD-40 does make a line of actual bike lubricants, though. I've used some of them and they do well enough if that's what you find. I like to match my lubricant to the conditions. Wet lubes only go anywhere near my bike when conditions are persistently wet. Basically, wintertime. If it's dusty, wet lubes will accumulate dirt badly and make your drivetrain nasty. I usually use a "semi-dry" chain lube of one variety or another because like dry lubes, they don't tend to collect dust. But they hold up to at least a bit of moisture. So being caught in a downpour, or hitting a few creek crossings on a ride won't wash all the chain lube off. If you're in a desert environment or somewhere that trail conditions become a disaster when wet (and so you don't ride then), then a full dry lube is going to be a touch better, probably.

At this level, you don't need to be super picky about your chain lube. The fact that you're lubricating your chain is a victory. The next thing you want to do is figure out the middle ground between insufficient lubrication and over-lubrication. It's a reasonably wide zone, so not tough to find it.

There are a bunch of resources for trail maps. Trailforks is one (website is free, but extensive use of the phone app costs a subscription). MTBProject is another. AllTrails and Singletracks are others that are subscription-based. They're all going to be variable in quality because the data is all pretty much crowd-sourced. Some areas are going to have other hyper-local sources. In my area, there's a really good mapmaker who offers his maps in either print format, or digital format through the Avenza app. There are ways to use Strava to find places to ride, too. And RideWithGPS is another one you can use for planning to get distance/climbing metrics, directions, a course to follow on a GPS, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Definitely 2nd this. I MIGHT use water to actually wash my bike once or twice a year. Usually it's just a dry rag and that does a pretty good job with it. When I do use water, I'll use a sponge/plastic bristle brush to clean and rinse with a light flow of water at most. Only use isopropyl alcohol to clean braking surfaces and only VERY sparingly if you absolutely need to (you've contaminated them, pretty much).

Don't touch disc brake rotors. That easily causes contamination which will make them HOWL. Trying to recover contaminated pads is possible, but it's fiddly. They're also kinda sharp and if the wheel is rotating, they can ruin your day. And they get hot when riding, and will burn you if you touch them.

If you have hydraulic brakes, don't squeeze the lever when the rotor is not between the pads (such as when you remove the front wheel). There are spacers you can use to fill that space if you transport your bike with one or more wheels off the bike.

Only shift while pedaling. Don't shift while coasting or while stopped (hey, bmx bikes are single speed, so we have no idea how basic we need to go).

I strongly recommend chain lube in a drip bottle as opposed to an aerosol spray. With an aerosol, it's easy to get overspray/splatter that winds up contaminating your brakes. With a drip applicator, you waste less chain lube and are less likely to contaminate anything else. My method for lubricating my chain: Use a dry rag to wipe off dirt/grime. Drip chain lube on top of chain rollers while pedaling backward. Some lubricants say to drip one drop on each roller. I don't get that tedious. I just drip and backpedal until I get a couple full rotations. Then I take my rag and wipe the chain while pedaling backwards. This gets excess chain lube off (you don't need much) and it also cleans things just a little more, as the solvents in the lube will break some more dirt/grime loose. How often I lube my chain varies. I almost never lube it after every ride unless conditions were really wet. Most commonly, I'll lube the chain every 50-100mi or so. When it starts to get a bit noisy, I know it's time to hit it with some chain lube. Sometimes that happens sooner (like if my ride has a lot of creek crossings). Sometimes it takes awhile, such as when conditions are about ideal (just damp enough to keep dust down/give "hero dirt" but not wet enough to be soggy or muddy).

As for which chain lube to use, you'll get lots of opinions on this. Regular ol WD-40 is NOT a suitable chain lube. WD-40 does make a line of actual bike lubricants, though. I've used some of them and they do well enough if that's what you find. I like to match my lubricant to the conditions. Wet lubes only go anywhere near my bike when conditions are persistently wet. Basically, wintertime. If it's dusty, wet lubes will accumulate dirt badly and make your drivetrain nasty. I usually use a "semi-dry" chain lube of one variety or another because like dry lubes, they don't tend to collect dust. But they hold up to at least a bit of moisture. So being caught in a downpour, or hitting a few creek crossings on a ride won't wash all the chain lube off. If you're in a desert environment or somewhere that trail conditions become a disaster when wet (and so you don't ride then), then a full dry lube is going to be a touch better, probably.

At this level, you don't need to be super picky about your chain lube. The fact that you're lubricating your chain is a victory. The next thing you want to do is figure out the middle ground between insufficient lubrication and over-lubrication. It's a reasonably wide zone, so not tough to find it.

There are a bunch of resources for trail maps. Trailforks is one (website is free, but extensive use of the phone app costs a subscription). MTBProject is another. AllTrails and Singletracks are others that are subscription-based. They're all going to be variable in quality because the data is all pretty much crowd-sourced. Some areas are going to have other hyper-local sources. In my area, there's a really good mapmaker who offers his maps in either print format, or digital format through the Avenza app. There are ways to use Strava to find places to ride, too. And RideWithGPS is another one you can use for planning to get distance/climbing metrics, directions, a course to follow on a GPS, etc.
Several good takeaways from this. Learned more than you'd imagine. Thank you.
 

· ACHOO
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4,508 Posts
  • Must haves: helmet, chamois, hydration, flat repair kit on you or your bike (and know how to use it).
  • Strongly Suggested: gloves, MTB shoes, multi tool on you or your bike.
...
Good post.

I'd edit that gloves are Must-Haves for me because my hands sweat a lot. I remember my first ride ever where my hands were actually slipping off of my rubber grips at the time. If the OP has a similar glandular problem it might also apply. Unsure if silicone grips avoid this problem. (?)

I'd also add clear glasses to the Suggested area. They've saved me from branches, but mostly bugs-in-the-eye. Again, my sweatiness can cause them to fog up, YMMV.
 

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Good post.

I'd edit that gloves are Must-Haves for me because my hands sweat a lot. I remember my first ride ever where my hands were actually slipping off of my rubber grips at the time. If the OP has a similar glandular problem it might also apply. Unsure if silicone grips avoid this problem. (?)

I'd also add clear glasses to the Suggested area. They've saved me from branches, but mostly bugs-in-the-eye. Again, my sweatiness can cause them to fog up, YMMV.
I ride with gloves 90% of the time. But that for fall protection, not grip. PNW Loam grips do pretty well when wet.

I ride with glasses because I'm near sighted and seeing clearly past 30 yards is needed on a MTB 🤪 I found some thin cheap ($8 for 3) headbands on Amazon that fit well under a helmet. Those keep sweat off your glasses and helps prevent fogging.
 

· since 4/10/2009
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37,141 Posts
I definitely use gloves for grip first and foremost these days (fall protection more when I was a new rider). occasionally I'll forget my gloves and I definitely have to hold back because my hands aren't holding the grips quite as well. big fan of the various minimalist full fingered gloves on the market these days. Handup, Cognative, etc.

headbands have never done anything for glasses fogging up for me. I ride in conditions where fogging WILL happen no matter what.. this is one area where I've seen real benefits to spending more for glasses. ventilation. good, purpose-built glasses often have well-designed ventilation that helps (but does not eliminate) fogging. fit is the biggest factor for glasses, though, and that one is pretty price-independent (and it also plays a role in ventilation). that said, I find headbands pretty handy to keep sweat from DRIPPING down my face and into my glasses. but that's a different thing.

in the "nice to have" category that falls outside core safety gear, I'd focus on contact points with the bike first. footwear (and pedals), shorts (and saddle), gloves (and grips).
 
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