Mountain Biking Techniques
to Improve your Riding


The following are some basic mountain biking techniques that helped me improve my riding. If you are a beginner, you may wish to check out our beginning mountain biking page for some skill builders that will help you become more confident and comfortable on your mountain bike.




Climbing Hills
Mountain Bike Downhill
Mountain Bike Speed
Curves and Corners
Braking
Shifting
Riding Over Obstacles

Free eBook on Riding Techniques


Climbing Hills

mountain-bike-uphill


Mountain biking techniques require many different positions. When climbing hills, I like to be bent forward at the hips, while keeping my back straight and elbows flexed.

If I am not leaning forward enough, my front wheel will lift up, which throws off my balance and sometimes stops me in my tracks. I also want to keep my butt far enough back on the seat to keep my weight evenly distributed over the front and rear wheels. That way, my rear wheel won't spin out.


I then make slight adjustments to keep both mountain bike wheels firmly on the ground. If I feel the front wheel lifting or if it feels loose, then I lean forward further but still keep my butt back on the seat. If the back wheel is spinning out, then I don't lean forward as much. The steeper the climb, the more I need to lean forward.

For extremely steep inclines, more drastic measures are needed. If I am on a super steep incline, I slide forward onto the tip of the saddle and lean forward so that my nose is inches above the handlebars. Then, I pull back on the handlebars as I am pedaling to give the rear wheel traction.

[Back to Top]


Mountain Bike Downhill

mountain-bike-downhill



Relax! That was what my mountain biking buddy Francisco told me to do when riding my mountain bike downhill. I thought he was nuts! He told me to relax and slightly bend my arms and legs so that they act as shock absorbers. He said that if my arms and legs are stiff, I am more likely to get thrown off the bike. I took his advice and it made a world of difference.

[Back to Top]


If you have ever flipped over the handlebars while riding your mountain bike downhill, I feel your pain! An important mountain biking technique I have learned is to slide back behind the seat and bend my knees and waist. The steeper the descent, the farther back I am.

I sometimes have difficulty getting as far back as I want to be on extremely steep descents or on descents where there are a lot of obstacles. I used to manually drop my seat down a few inches before doing steep descents. This really helped lower my center of gravity and it was easier to get back behind the seat, but it was a real pain to have to get off my mountain bike and adjust the seat height, plus then I would have to readjust it again after the descent.

I now have a seatpost that makes it possible to adjust seat height with a lever on my handlebars. When I click the lever once, it pops down three inches. Then, when I am ready to climb again, I click the lever again and it pops back up. It is so awesome because I can cruise on the downhill sections and then keep my momentum up when the trail goes uphill again because I don't have to stop and readjust my seat height.

This seatpost upgrade was one of the best things I have done to improve my mountain biking skills and confidence. I have the GravityDropper brand, but I see that Crankbrothers also has a remote seatpost called the Joplin 4. I don't know as much about the Crankbrothers Joplin 4, but I have been extremely happy with my GravityDropper. Learn more about both of these seatposts by clicking on the links below...


GravityDropper Seatpost
Crankbrothers Joplin 4 Seatpost


Another important downhill mountain biking technique I have learned is to keep my feet in a position so that the pedals are parallel to the ground, in the nine-o'clock and 3-o'clock positions. If one foot is lower, it could hit rocks or other obstacles that can throw you off balance. Believe me, it's no fun throwing off your momentum or even worse, flying off your bike, after smacking your foot or pedal on a rock.

[Back to Top]


Mountain Bike Speed

Speed is our friend! Believe it or not, riding faster is usually safer and it gets you over obstacles that may look impossible. Mountain biking slowly was one of the biggest mistakes I made as a beginner. When riding slowly, I didn't make it over many of the obstacles because I didn't have enough momentum. Also, bicycles are more likely to tip over when they are going slowly or standing still than when they are moving at a faster pace.

There are days where I am not in the zone and mountain bike too slowly, maybe because I am stressed or tired. These always seem to be the times I have mishaps. It can be scary as a beginner mountain biker to ride at a faster speed but try increasing your speed by gradual increments on familiar trails. This mountain biking technique will increase your ability to get over obstacles and will also give you more confidence.

It helps me to mountain bike with someone who is above my ability level. Because I have a competitive nature and do not want to be left totally in the dust, I try really hard to keep up with them, which causes me to increase my speed and forget my fears (at least for the moment). I always ride better when I ride with someone who is a better rider than me.

[Back to Top]


Curves and Corners

mountain-bike-cornering



When mountain biking around curves that aren't extremely tight, I have learned that it works best to tilt my bike by leaning it towards the inside of the curve while maintaining a good speed. At the same time, in order to prevent skidding out, I put my weight towards the outside of the curve and on the outer pedal. This mountain biking technique helps the tires grip.

For me, one of the most intimidating things about mountain biking has been trying to make it around tight switchbacks, probably because I have had my share of wipe-outs trying to accomplish this task. A mountain biking technique that works for me is to ride to the outside of the trail while approaching the switchback. I then try to ride to the inside edge at the sharpest point of the curve.

Throughout the rest of the curve I try to keep a good speed while staying close to the inside of the curve if possible, but I often end up drifting to the outside, which is OK. This mountain biking technique works because it reduces the angle of the curve.

It works better to try to brake before the switchback rather than while riding the switchback. Also, I try to keep my weight on the outside pedal and the inside handlebar while cornering.

[Back to Top]


Braking

>


As a beginner mountain biker, I heard horror stories about riders flipping over the handlebars because they hit their front bike brake too hard, so I had a tendency to only use the rear brake. This mountain biking technique is not very effective since it often causes the back wheel to skid out, which provides poor traction and erodes the trail.

Using both mountain bike brakes is much more powerful, reduces skidding, and helps maintain control. Since learning this mountain biking technique, my riding has improved significantly.

The front mountain bike brake is controlled by the left brake lever. The rear mountain bike brake is controlled by the right brake lever. The front brake is more powerful than the back brake. When using the front brake heavily, it is important to stay back behind the seat to prevent flying over the handlebars.

If you are new to this mountain biking technique, it may be helpful to start out using the front brake very lightly along with the rear brake and gradually increase use of the front brake as you develop a feel for it on different terrains.

[Back to Top]


Shifting

The left shifter controls the gears that are near the pedals. There are three gears in this area on most mountain bikes. I use the smallest and middle gears the most. The small gear is for climbing and slower speeds. The middle gear is for medium speeds, and the large gear is for fast speeds.

The right shifter controls the gears in back, which allow for more subtle gear changes.

One of the most important things I have learned is to anticipate when I am going to need to shift. For example, if I am going downhill in a higher gear (large gear), and I see that I am going to need to climb soon, I know that I need to downshift so that I will still be able to pedal when I abruptly began climbing. If I don't shift before I start climbing, I will be stuck in a high gear on the climb and will have great difficulty moving the pedals. Once in this position it is also difficult to shift and is hard on the bike chain and other bicycle components.

Knowing which gear to select in anticipation of what lies ahead can be difficult as a beginner, but this mountain biking technique becomes more automatic with experience. When I first started mountain biking, I found that just playing with the shifters to see which gears were most comfortable on various terrains was helpful.

[Back to Top]


Riding Over Obstacles

mountain-biking-obstacles




If I stare at obstacles on the trail, I tend to tense up and ride right into the obstacle I am trying to avoid. A mountain biking technique that works for me is doing a quick scan of the obstacle so I know what I am encountering and then focusing on where I want to ride.

While riding, I visually scan the trail sort of in a sweeping motion from directly in front of me to several feet up the trail and then back again. If I am riding at faster speeds, I increase my "eye sweeping" to much further up the trail so I have enough time to prepare for what is ahead.

While scanning the trail, I try to concentrate on the cleanest route past obstacles. This route is what mountain bikers refer to as the line. As mountain bikers gain experience, this mountain biking technique becomes more automatic.

Finding the perfect line obviously becomes more challenging when there are more and larger obstacles, but there are usually subtle changes in the surfaces of the rocks or logs that provide a way to get over them. Clearing these larger obstacles may also require some more advanced riding tricks and techniques.

[Back to Top]


Free "How to Mountain Bike" eBook

mountain-bike-ebook



I have compiled the essential mountain bike riding techniques of this site in a handy little eBook that you can download, print, and enjoy at your convenience. You can even take it with you on the trail :).


Receive this eBook, "How to Mountain Bike" absolutely free when you subscribe to my free monthly newsletter, "Attack the Singletrack!"

Check out examples of previously sent newsletters here.

Catch the buzz on new products, gear, and riding techniques delivered conveniently to your mailbox. After completing the form below, you will receive an email asking you to confirm the address given just to be sure someone did not submit your email address without your knowledge. Upon confirmation, you will receive a link to download the eBook.


Enter your E-mail Address
Enter your First Name (optional)
Then

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Attack the Singletrack!.



Return from Mountain Biking Techniques page to Mountain Bike Riding page

Return from Mountain Biking Techniques page to Mountain Bike Buzz home page

Get Your Free
"How to Mountain Bike"
Ebook

mountain-bike-ebook

Receive this eBook, "How to Mountain Bike" absolutely free when you subscribe to my free monthly newsletter, "Attack the Singletrack!". It's loaded with mountain biking tips.


Check out examples of previously sent newsletters.

Enter your E-mail Address
Enter your First Name (optional)
Then

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Attack the Singletrack!.








Contact Us

Questions, comments, feedback?
We would love to hear from you!



joomla statistics