It’s the first time any mountain biker remembers: you’re on a bicycle, which makes sense. But you’re riding over rocks, through waterways, and over all sorts of different terrain that doesn’t make any sense at all (at least at first).

It’s fun and thrilling, but all at the same time nerve-wracking and frightening. It’s getting simpler and more fun! With … with time. But every one of us wishes somebody had shared a few tips and tricks when we were just starting out. Here are nine mountain biking tips for beginners that you should know when you are getting ready to shred for the first time.

Stay Loose

Your bike’s job is to roll over technical terrain. Your job is to let your bike do its job. That means keeping your body loose, so it can move beneath you. Hover your butt off the saddle when riding over obstacles like roots and rocks. The more technical the terrain, the more room your bike needs to move. When ripping down a descent, think: “pushup arms” and “cowboy legs,” and flare out your elbows and knees so your body lets the bike flow rather than fighting it.

Maintain Momentum

It’s going to feel counterintuitive but holding speed—and even speeding up—when the terrain gets challenging makes clearing tough sections of trail easier because your bike has the one thing it needs most to keep moving forward: momentum. Momentum is your best friend out there, maintain it whenever you can.

Shift Your Weight

You’re going to hit some extreme terrain, including steep inclines and declines. When climbing a tough pitch, shift your weight forward and lean forward to keep your center of gravity over the rear wheel to maintain traction. When the trail tilts downward, go in the opposite direction, shifting your weight behind the saddle and over the rear wheel (dropper posts are a godsend for this) to avoid going over the bars.

Go Easy on the Brakes

You will be tempted at some point to grab both brakes and pull ‘em to the bars with all you’ve got. Resist this temptation! Mountain bike brakes are powerful enough that you need just one (maybe two) finger(s) to modulate your speed.

Adjust your speed before the tricky stuff, like rock gardens and corners, and then maintain your speed through them. If you do find yourself going into a turn too hot, stay off the front (left) brake. Stopping your front tire will send your front tire into a slide, which is likely to send you over the bars and onto the ground. Hit the rear (right) instead; you might skid, but you’re more likely to stay upright.

Use All the Gears

Mountain bike trail profiles tend to look like Jaws opening wide for his next snack. In other words, they cover undulating terrain that shoots up and down often. Anticipate changes in terrain by shifting before you need to. It’ll help you keep your momentum, which as you already know, is your best friend.

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