When choosing a trail, read some of the comments left by other mountain bikers. These can sometimes be helpful to get information that might be missing from the general description. For example, there will be some terrain that does well after rain, while others will just get muddy and are only really usable when dry. Also, some locations will be more popular than others, and you naturally want to avoid crowded trails, especially in the beginning. You don’t want the pressure of a faster rider behind you on a single trail, which is a trail that can only fit one rider at a time. That’s also one of the reasons you want to start with a green trail – you’re less likely to be caught up to by faster riders. Besides, the green trails are likely to have features that are completely avoidable, but which you’ll need to learn to ride before you get onto an intermediary trail, where such features will not have a bypass.
Ride everything there is on your chosen trail system before you move to a more difficult one. If there is an obstacle that keeps throwing you off the bike, that other riders make look like a piece of cake, there is likely some kind of technique that you’re missing. That’s why it’s best to get introduced to mountain biking through a more experienced friend. Not only will you have someone to hang out with, but also someone to point out your mistakes, give tips and help fix mechanical issues that may arise.
However, it can be the case that both you and your friend are absolute beginners. And while you ride through white and green trails, you always feel like you are passing through the features in a shaky way without improving. In that case you can apply to an absolute beginner’s class, which will usually not involve a trail. The purpose of these classes is to make you familiar with certain kinds of features and enable you to learn techniques for riding them smoothly. The features will be arranged on a flat, grassy terrain that will allow you to fall without much consequence. This also allows you to turn around and try the feature over and over, which is key when you are learning and practicing technique. Mastering an obstacle is called “cleaning” a feature. This basically means trying over and over until you pass it smoothly.
Beginners tend to feel like their primary concern is to keep balance and hold on to the bike at all costs, but this isn’t the case. For an obstacle as simple as a bunch of roots or a log, you’ll need to learn to shift weight around the bike to lift the front wheel slightly. Some terrain will require you to lift yourself off the seat and balance the bike beneath you as it passes a series of undulations. Other exercises will involve learning how to pass two or more consecutive features back to back, recovering quickly from one and immediately preparing for the other. These will seem like a grind at first, but once mastered, the trails become so much more fun.