Rory Macpherson, a route designer with Threshold Sports, gives us some tips on getting off road to help improve your road riding. Threshold Sports is the organiser of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain and Dulux Trade London Revolution.
- Best bike: our buyer’s guide to which bicycle type you should buy
- Best mountain bike: how to choose the right one for you
- Beginner mountain bike setup and maintenance tips
1. Get a bike fit for purpose
Key components are designed for strength over speed, so a road bike won’t cut it.
For a first mountain bike, spend £500–£600 / $600–$700. Anything cheaper and you’ll probably spend more time fixing it than riding.
2. Convert your kit
You may not ride for the same amount of time as a road ride, but you’ll still be exposed to the elements. I’d advise merino socks underneath waterproof socks, mountain bike boots and gloves.
On top, wear a baselayer under a micro fleece, a waterproof outer layer and windproof gilet. Three-quarter length shorts with padded bib tights underneath or padded inner shorts are a sensible choice too.
3. Maintain your bike
If you bought your mountain bike in the summer and have ridden it through the dry months, get it serviced. Check chains and cables for stretch and wear.
Consider some winter tyres — the larger the gap between the knobbles the better in wet conditions because they’ll work like paddles in the mud. You can let a bit of air out of your tyres for more traction too — 40psi is a good starting point.
4. Off-road extras
The general essentials for off-roading are standard: inner tubes, tyre levers, pump, a multi-tool and spare brake pads as these tend to wear faster in wet and muddy conditions.
You should also carry a phone, money, hydration pack and fuel — like bananas, flapjacks or gels — and a map or GPS device.
5. Pick a path
Trail centres are a good place to start because the routes are well marked and graded and there’s usually a good cafe and a bike shop nearby.
If you’re planning to go off the beaten track it’s worth talking to a guide.