Have gravel/road bikes...but want to try mountain biking. Tips?

I have been riding pretty seriously for about a year now and currently have a gravel bike (Cannondale Topstone AL) and road bike (Canyon Endurace CF SL 7.0). I’ve been itching to try mountain biking too and falling down that hole of watching youtube videos and scouring craigslist haha.

I know there are trails around (Western Mass/northern CT) and my LBS has MTB rides, or at least did before COVID. I want to try mountain biking but don’t know where to start. There isn’t much for XL cheap used bikes around me, and I don’t currently know who I’d ride with though I have no problem riding alone.

Is there a good way to scratch this itch? Has any body been in a similar situation who can share pointers? Thanks!!

Contact your local bike shops. They should know people directly, or of groups you can contact to meet for riding, learning trails, skills and such. You may meet people with spare bikes that can be borrowed to try it all out.

You can explore some lighter duty trails on the gravel bike for now. MTB is super fun but prepare to collect scars and walk a bit. The nature of my MTB trails is very up and down so almost like a criterium power profile

I think I’m in your general geographic and suggest you check with different shops in the area for demo bikes. I’m not sure if any of them do it, though…

I can help with getting you on the trails. Since you’re new to MTB, Robinson State Park in Agawam, MA is going to be where you want to start out. The trails are smooth & flowy with very little elevation change. You actually can ride pretty much everything there on your gravel bike, if you’d like. You can find maps on Trailforks or direct message me & I can write out a loop for you to follow from the parking lot at Robinson School on Begley Street. Once you get comfortable at Robinson, I’d recommend riding Earl’s in Amherst. Happy to give you a tour of Robinson, btw. Can’t help with a bike, I’m a little guy & if you ride an XL, your knees would be smashing into the handlebars when pedaling on any of my bikes :rofl:

There is a New England Mountain Bike Association chapter in the Pioneer Valley -pvnemba. They have a Facebook page that can give you info on group rides & whatnot. If you get into mtb, you’re going to find that there are some great XC trail networks in the area & no shortage of great riding to be had.


Yes, I would explore some of the local single track on your gravel bike. Just go slow.

You kind of have to decide whether you go hard tail or full suspension. Hard tails are simpler but I’d lean towards full suspension.

Next step, go test ride a bunch of bikes at the LBS. Ask them if most people like hard tails or FS for the local trails. Also see if you can rent a MTB anywhere close by. Or, if there is a MTB park within a few hours it might be worth a day trip. You could rent a bike and do some cool riding.

Personally I’d be inclined to get some kind of all mountain “trail” bike like a Stumpjumper or similar. If you do find something used (check ebay) you can find something in the $500-1000 range if you just wanted to get started and try it out. Actually, in that price range I’d just get the nicest bike you can find (hardtail or FS). don’t buy an old 26" wheel bike. Stay with a 27.5 or 29er wheel size.

Since I’m not a hard core mountain biker I can be perfectly happy with a decent but not high end MTB. It’s only on road bikes where I want make in Italy, Campagnolo, and high end wheels. I picked up a beautiful carbon Marin HT 29er for $1200. It had been a $4000 bike. It was a little bit old tech with quick releases but no big deal. For the money, it was an amazing bike. I later got a Specialized Camber because I wanted FS - again used, got a $8000 build for $3000. Honestly, I wish I had kept that Marin.

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