Beginner’s Guide to Mountain Biking in Pisgah

Getting started in mountain biking can be a daunting proposition, especially if you don’t have friends to show you the way. If you find yourself wanting to ride in the greater Asheville/Brevard/Hendersonville area – you’re about to join the company of thousands of mountain bikers (at all skill levels) who ride the hundreds of miles of trails that can be found here.

When you are brand new to the sport, it can be confusing and often overwhelming to know all the ins-and-outs of mountain biking… so we’ve written this guide to help get you started.

1) Get the Right Equipment

While it is possible to ride on cheap gear, chances are you won’t have a very good experience. This can be one of the most difficult things to stomach as a new comer, when you see bikes that cost anywhere from $2,000… all the way up to over $10,000! But the truth is, you get what you pay for up to a certain amount… and then you start seeing a diminishing return at the upper levels with brand new gear.

The big differences come with the “stiffness” of the bike frame (which means it will behave more predictably) and with the “suppleness” of the suspension (which means it will be more forgiving and less jarring as you descend rocks and roots). There are two major categories of mountain bikes: hard tail and full suspension. Of course, the difference being that the later incorporates a suspension on the rear as well.

Typically, you can find a decent hard tail for around $500… and an entry level full suspension for around $1500. Bikes depreciate pretty quickly… so you can often find great deals on used equipment that’s just a few years old. Even so, if you’re still a bit confused about which route to go, please visit any of our partner service shops who can help guide you toward the right bike. If you’re not ready to make the purchase, many of them will have a fleet of rentals bikes to get a taste.

2) Know the Etiquette

Most of the trails in PNF are multi-use, which means they are shared by bikers, hikers and horse riders. It is very important as a new comer to know how to react when you encounter other people on the trails. Please take a moment to educate yourself with our more general guide to riding in Pisgah which has a section on etiquette. As you ride, please LEAVE NO TRACE and pick up any trash you encounter. It helps mountain bikers keep a great reputation in the trail user community.

3) Choose a Trail

Beginner riders have two incredible options for riding in and around Pisgah: Bent Creek Experimental Forest and Dupont State Forest. Both of these systems have trails that are designed for novice riders, as well as several that are intermediate and a few advanced.

In addition to having varied skill levels, both are very interconnected. In this way, a rider can go out and link up a ride by choosing different trails and weaving their way back to the car. If you were to ride in the Pisgah Ranger District instead, you might find yourself on trail that does one big loop, or an “out and back”. If you find yourself needing to bail on a loop or out-and-back… it can be much more intimidating.

Before you ride, please also review our Trail Conditions page to familiarize yourself with any obstacles you might come across. Please do not ride trails that are wet or beyond your skill level.

4) Bring Proper Gear

At a minimum you must wear a helmet and should bring water, your phone and a good multitool. You might additionally consider bringing a bike/helmet light the appropriately sized back up tire tube and air pump. Other smart things to bring are a basic first aid kit, zip ties, tire levers, snacks and an epipen.

Each expedition can bring unexpected challenges, so it is best to be prepared for anything you might encounter. Many riders will have a dedicated mountain biking backpack or hip pack that contains most of the above and a built-in water bladder. It’s a small investment to make for peace of mind.

5) Find a Friend

Nothing is better than riding mountain bikes with a crew of friends. It’s also good practice for safety as they can be critical in the case of equipment failure or injury. If you’re new to the area and are looking for people to ride with, a good place to start would be any of the open group rides that are sponsored by local bike shops and our trail maintenance crews. If you’re interested in getting set up with a group ride, please feel free to reach out to us via our Contact Form.

6) Give Back

Many people don’t consider how much work goes on behind the scenes to keep our mountain biking trails operational. Groups like Pisgah Area SORBA, The Pisgah Conservancy and Friends of Dupont are all non-profit and volunteer driven. They exist solely for the purpose of clearing trails of downed trees and debris, aiding in erosion control, and maintaining the water quality of countless streams and rivers.

As mountain bikers, we must do our part to give back to the trails we love. Please consider donating directly to these groups and/or volunteering for trail days. Additionally, you can join Pedal Pisgah and all of the proceeds from your membership will go to build and maintain trails in Pisgah National Forest. As an added benefit, you’ll get access to discounts at many cycling adjacent businesses.

Hope to see you on the trails!