13 Apr 2021
Going off the beaten track can be quite unusual when you’re used to cycling on the road only. When road rider known on social media as Katie Kookaburra first jumped into MTB, she tackled it with a surprising mix of anxiety & curiosity.
We all know the phrase ‘you never forget how to ride a bike’. What it less commonly known though, is that riding one bike is not always the same as riding another! All cyclists have learnt to ride their bikes, whether it be a road bike, a mountain bike, or a kids bike. Practice, practice & practice again, in order to develop your natural ability.
What happens when someone starts riding a new type of bike though? They go through that process again, adapting and challenging the skills they’ve developed in the past.
Our Lazer road rider Katie started this a few months back, when she got into mountain biking for the first time. While this seemed to be quite an intimidating challenge at first, she gradually apprehended the specifics of this discipline and started enjoying its very unique thrills.
So, how did the process go? We’ve asked Katie to tell us more…
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Katie and I’ve been an avid roadie for the past six years. I bought my first road bike in 2014 while on a year out in Australia. At that point I had no idea how the gears worked on a road bike so it was a pretty steep learning curve for me. I was also around 100kg so the up hills were pretty tough. I also started my YouTube channel at that time and documented my whole cycling journey. I lost around 35kg and now I love the hills and mountains of any type, endurance long-distance rides are my absolute favourite.
What do you like about road cycling?
Road cycling has been my way to go on so many adventures and a way of exploring so many countries. It has also been how I built up my fitness over the years so it will always be my favourite.
How did you get into MTB?
Even though I have always been a roadie, I was on a trip in Scotland last year with Shimano and part of it featured mountain bikes. I had literally never even ridden a MTB before and rode one off-road for a few hundred meters and was hooked. The section I rode on - for me - was pretty rocky terrain. To a mountain biker it was nothing. But to be honest I bottled riding part of it. I’m very determined & stubborn so I wanted to go back and conquer it. I did and from then I decided I wanted to get my own MTB. I think I got addicted to learning something completely new.
Was it tough to learn?
It was pretty intimidating at the start. As someone that has purely ridden road bikes for years, it becomes ingrained that you avoid any obstacles ahead of you. It takes some time realising that 2.4” MTB tyres and suspension can roll over pretty much anything. I think the hardest part was getting over that, and trusting that my bike, and I, could do way more than I ever thought we could.
What do you like about MTB?
The main thing I love about being off-road is just that you’re not near cars and you can ride pretty much anywhere you want. That is a whole new sense of freedom. Also, I love the different type of adventure you get from being on the trails in the forest. I love that it’s very different to the road in that distance isn’t really a thing, that’s it’s more about the fun as opposed to the data. It’s just about getting stuck in, giving things that scare you a bash, and enjoying yourself.
What is your MTB/road split now?
During winter, going for an MTB ride is pretty much the only time I leave Zwift to ride outside. The wind chill on a road bike and cold fingers and toes just isn’t for me. But you just don’t get that as much on the MTB. It also doesn’t matter if it’s a bit snowy either. Although, my new MTB friends are telling me I’m learning in the hardest months as I’ve become accustomed to riding in ‘slop’. So it will be incredible to get out in summer for the first time when the trails are dry.
Any big goals coming up in MTB?
This year, I would love to do bikepacking on the MTB and just improve my skills overall. I have done way more than I thought I could already (there’s still a LOT of improvement to be made) but I am just loving learning a new discipline. It’s also really helped my handling on my gravel and road bike too. So it feels like a win-win all around really. I just wish I had started it a lot sooner.
What are your top tips for MTB beginners?
1. Look ahead. This might sound really simple but I was so focused on looking at what my front wheel was going over rather than looking to the line ahead. This gives you time to adjust gears, your dropper and body position. I still keep having to remind myself to do this.
2. Go out with mates who ride MTB. I can't even tell you how much I've progressed thanks to friends who have taken me on varying levels of trails and taken the time to help me. There are loads of Facebook groups too if you don't personally know anyone who rides MTB. This is a major tip though as they can help teach you the right body position when riding over different terrain. Thanks Darren, Phil and Chris!
3. Have fun. Sounds simple but when I first started it was quite frustrating being a complete beginner again and feeling like I couldn't really do anything. But as soon as you loosen up and enjoy it for what it is, then you will naturally ride better. Also, I got taught early on that it's about the little wins. So if you ride a section you didn't ride last time, that's amazing. Or if you tried an obstacle you didn't think you could master, well done on that too. Appreciate the progress you are making.
Head out to Katie’s YouTube channel to know more!
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