Although not completely essential, mates do bring out the best in mountain biking. Finding someone who knows the best places to ride, how to put a loop together or – most importantly – how to do good tricks will accelerate your enjoyment and progression like nothing else. Sharing the fun with others is all part of the ride but, thankfully, bikes are also a great social lubricant. So if you’re pedalling solo, don’t worry, be chatty, and you’ll soon meet like-minded folk on the trails.
Tools and spares. If you’re heading further away from home or the car than half an hour’s walk, it’s probably a good idea to go equipped to be a bit self-sufficient. Carrying a spare tube, pump, tyre levers and a descent multi-tool will get you out of most situations. However, you do need to know how to use them all. Thankfully the internet is full of folk happy to tell you what to do, so watch a few videos and learn how it’s done. If all else fails, flag down a passing rider and admit your inexperience – they will probably be happy to help.
Although not mandatory, a helmet is a good idea when riding. Trails are uneven and unpredictable and you’ll probably be pushing your limits before you know it. Even the most experienced rider will have the odd daft crash and wearing a helmet is better than nowt.
The most essential thing when riding is to leave no trace. This means don’t drop litter and don’t be a dick. Make the most of the environment you’re enjoying and leave it as you found it. Riding bikes has the tendency to make you smile, so make sure you pass that on to other trail users rather than any ill feelings.