Get Started: Giving mountain biking a try

Debut of series on picking up a new sport

POSTED: 7:44 PM PDT June 26, 2013 
BEND, Ore. -

Central Oregon is no stranger to elite-level mountain bike races. But you don't have to be an experienced cyclist to take on all the trails the High Desert has to offer. 

"Our trails around here are very good for beginners to ride on -- they're not overly technical or tricky," said Mike Schindler, co-owner of Sunnyside Sports in Bend. 

As someone just testing out the sport myself, Schindler assured me it's easier and less expensive to start than you may think.

"You can rent, and that doesn't have to be a deal-breaker. "Most shops will give you that money back if you buy a bike," said Schindler. "You can borrow a bike from a friend."

No matter where the bike comes from, it must be in good shape, and fit you.

"You want to be able to stand over the top tube comfortably, so you're off the saddle," Schindler said while picking put my bike. "You want to be able to have your feet flat on the ground, and still have a little bit of clearance."

Once I was outfitted with a comfortable bike, Schindler helped me pick out gear to keep me protected while riding. 

Sunglasses, to protect my eyes from dirt and dust on the trails. Gloves, which reduce friction between my hands and the handlebars, and then one of the most important items: a helmet. 

"Your helmet from 10 years ago is probably not safe any more," Schindler said. "There are degradations, things that go on with helmets."

If you're not sure of a helmet's condition, Schindler says to get a new one.

A decent helmet can range anywhere from $35 to a couple hundred dollars.

A helmet is meant to protect your head in a fall, and a good one will break apart on impact. 

Schindler says once you're outfitted with your gloves, your sunglasses, your helmet  and especially water, the best thing to do is to get out there and take your bike for a spin.

I was a little shaky on my bike at first, but quickly felt comfortable after a few loops in the parking lot. After that, it was time to hit the trails.

"These trails are good for beginners and experts, because it's pretty flat you know right off the bat out of the trails, and they get steeper and more technical as you go different directions," said Schindler. "But you can definitely stay on the more flat terrain, which is a little less taxing."

During the ride, Schindler had me test my gears and brakes, to get used to how the bike works. He also gave me some tips on trail etiquette.

"The downhill riders should yield to the uphill riders, and by yielding they should really get off the trail, and step off and not keep moving forward," said Schindler.

Cyclists should also know not to ride on muddy trails, because they leave ruts.

Schindler said if you end up enjoying the sport, you should consider joining a club like Central Oregon Trail Alliance, which helps maintain the trails on the High Desert.

So if this story gets your gears turning, don't wait any longer: Get out and ride