Ride Like the Wind

Curious about mountain biking? Our expert, an avid rider, offers advice for beginners.
Nurse Quincy Campbell poses for photo outside with mountain bike

Quincy Campbell, NP, grew up in a family of cyclists in the Pacific Northwest.

She rode the rural highways and backroads around the Puget Sound along with her father and brother. But as traffic increased in the area in the 1990s, they all began feeling uncomfortable riding on busy roads.

“Mountain biking felt like a good alternative,” says Campbell, a family nurse practitioner at University of Vermont Health Network – Central Vermont Medical Center. “It’s a relatively safe way to get outside.”

For Campbell, who attended University of Vermont and lives in Central Vermont, mountain biking is now her go-to for outdoor recreation. We asked her to share tips about mountain biking safety, trails and gear for beginners.

Mountain Biking Safety Tips

Whether you're new to mountain biking or an experienced rider, the following guidance is important to know to help prevent injury on the trails.

What kind of terrain should a beginner ride?

Biking in the middle of nowhere might sound like fun. But if you're new to the sport, choose an established trail system or outdoor center. Find a place where trails are marked, volunteers or staff can answer questions, and beginner terrain is available. 

Part of the fun of mountain biking at trail systems or outdoor centers is navigating obstacles like rocks, roots or logs. For beginners, walking a bike over or around obstacles is best. If you're eager to learn, enroll in a mountain biking clinic or ask an experienced rider to help you navigate.

Campbell also advises never to ride alone and only go on marked green trails.

"I think that there's a lot to be said about a buddy system and learning with someone," Campbell says. "Be sure to stick to terrain that you're able to ride. Don't push your limit by going too hard or too fast."

What safety equipment and other items do I need to go mountain biking?


Wearing a bike helmet is common sense. The age and type of helmet you wear can also make a difference.

A regular bike helmet is fine if you're riding flat, easy or intermediate trails. But Campbell says a full-face helmet offers better protection if you're biking downhill—at a ski area, for example—or on winding, rugged trails.

"No helmet is worse than the weakest helmet, so any helmet you wear is good," she says.

She also points out that helmets don't last forever.

If your helmet is over five years old or has been in a crash, it's time for a new one. Now that it's warm outside, Campbell also suggests not leaving your helmet in your vehicle. Helmets exposed to extreme temperatures can weaken and degrade in quality.


Wearing gloves while mountain biking can prevent hand injuries like scrapes and cuts. Campbell says common hand abrasions can be caused by hitting tree branches or falling off your bike onto rocks or tree roots.

"I see so many preventable hand injuries from mountain bikers who were not wearing gloves," she says. "Even the thinnest gloves can greatly impact whether you lacerate your hand."

Eye Protection

Bugs, pollen, debris or dirt can get into your eyes when mountain biking, causing irritation or even corneal abrasions. That's why wearing eye protection is a must, Campbell says.

She suggests sunglasses or transition sunglasses with lenses that adjust in shade and sunshine.


Sneakers are not the best choice for mountain biking. Instead, wear a solid leather shoe with strong toe protection and a stiff sole.

"Shoes really matter," Campbell says. "A good shoe will comfort your feet and stabilize you when you pedal. It will also protect the top of your feet if you fall."

Snacks and Hydration

Pack snacks like trail mix, a protein bar or fruit when planning a ride and bring a water bottle.

"You don't want to get dehydrated. And remember to keep up your electrolytes, too," Campbell says.

Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals that regulate nerve and muscle function, hydrate the body, balance blood acidity and pressure and help rebuild damaged tissue. You can replenish electrolytes with strawberries, kale, watermelon, bananas, almonds and yogurt. Electrolyte powders or hydration packs work, too.

Know your bike

Before you start riding this season, make sure your bike is tuned. Also, be sure to check your tire pressure regularly before each ride. 

"Get familiar with your equipment and what it can do for you. To become a stronger rider, you want to learn to trust your bike," Campbell says. "It's designed and meant for everything you're trying to do and an important part of a safe and fun ride.”

Helpful Resources for Riders

Learn more about mountain biking safety, trails and more through the following mountain biking organizations across Vermont and northern New York. 

Vermont Agency of Natural Resources - Mountain Biking

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation - Biking

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