The 1 South West project in England, who are dedicated to ensuring everyone experiences a great off-road adventure in the area, has worked with cyclists at all levels and has put together some great advice to get you on the off-road track and on your way to achieving your south west mountain biking (http://www.1sw.org.uk/
Firstly, If you haven’t been on a bike for a while or don’t feel like a confident rider then don’t let it put you off. Being honest about your current ability is the most important step to having a great adventure. Fitness also comes into it; perhaps you don’t want to find yourself climbing steep hills. You may have never ridden a bike off-road.
Most good off-road areas will have graded MTB trails (http://www.1sw.org.uk/
For those who are just learning to ride a bike, try a Trail Hub or Promoted Route as these will offer a mostly care-free experience and should have a well-maintained surface throughout the year.
While you may have bundles of enthusiasm when starting out it is always good practice to remain aware when going off-road. Novices contemplating Green or Blue graded landscape rides should keep in mind that trail conditions may have deteriorated since the route was last surveyed. Landscape Rides tend to vary depending on weather conditions as many are un-surfaced. These types of routes will tend to suit novice riders who are already outdoor enthusiasts but are looking to explore on two wheels rather than on foot.
Remember that the grading system refers to the technical challenge of the trail, not how long it is, so it’s always good to check this before setting off to make sure your fitness is up to the challenge.
Check out the 1SW site at www.1sw.org.uk for a complete guide to starting out on an off-road adventure and make sure you are set for the ride of your life.