Improving your mountain biking techniques and learning a few biking tricks, you’ll have more tools to up the enjoyment of your ride. It can also be good to avoid bad habits, which will develop and cause mishaps.
Practising the basics and mastering a few foundation techniques like positioning, cornering, braking and more means greater control and consistency. Read on for ten ways to improve your mountain biking.
TIP 1: FOCUS ON BODY POSITION
Once you are more comfortable on the bike, you can give more mental energy to improving this element. Body position refers to your stance when entering a technical section, as opposed to climbing or cruising along.
Here are some key points to keep in mind:
- Have your wrists positioned down slightly and rolled back
- Keep your head up and look down the trail instead of just in front of the front wheel
- When standing, remain constant and sustained (known as the ‘ready’ or ‘attack’ position
- Keep your arms and legs bent slightly with your torso upright
Always remember, when tackling the challenging terrain, dropping your heels will make it easier to transfer force down and through the bike.
TIP 2: RIDE AS MANY PLACES AS POSSIBLE
The more time spent on your bike, the better you will ride. Mastering simple obstacles like a few stairs on your way to work makes it easier to tackle bigger obstacles when you are out on the trails.
Downhill runs are fun but technical, so the more time you spend on your bike, the more comfortable you’ll become, making it easier to react and learn where to put your weight.
Pro tip: Getting comfortable enough that you avoid braking sharply on downhill sections is the goal!
TIP 3: UNDERSTAND THE TRAIL
Even though you are rushing through it, you want to understand your trail as best as possible. To do this, always look where you want to go. This will give you as much warning as possible about the roots and rocks that you need to navigate.
Target fixation is looking ahead to find your preferred line & will lead to a smoother ride. Eventually, you’ll master your regular trails, so it’s time to explore new ones when you are ready for something fresh!
TIP 4: PRACTICE CORNERING
Cornering well is a great way to speed up your ride. When cornering you should always set your speed before you hit the corner. Any braking should happen before entering the corner. So essentially, you want to set your speed and avoid the brakes.
Always commit to the turn with your body following the line with your head, shoulders and hips. If you are tackling flat corners, keep your outside foot down and remember that your pedal position will vary depending on the corner. Try to avoid automatically dropping the outside pedal; if your pedals can remain level, you’ll be more balanced.
TIP 5: LOOK AFTER YOUR BIKE
Basic bike maintenance ensures that you can always rely on your ride and be safe when out on the trails.
Check over your entire bike before and after every ride, Small issues can grow bigger very quickly on a mountain bike. Ensure that you’ve chosen the right frame for your size. Anything too big or small can make things harder than they need to be!
TIP 6: MASTER THE CLIMB
Control is the main mountain bike technique to consider when it comes to mastering the climb. Attacking a climb too much can result in your back wheel spinning or lifting up.
Saddle height is a big consideration on steep climbs. If you lower the height slightly, you’ll be better centred on the bike, which also keeps the front wheel from lifting while maintaining balance and traction. Always keep your head up to negotiate the terrain and set your gearing early. Remember, smooth, steady pedalling is the key to keeping traction up a hill!
TIP 7: RELAX
Your arms and legs will do a lot of the suspension work, so be sure to stand up, relax yourself and let your arms and legs absorb the intricacies of the trail.
If you can feel how to let your bike move beneath you, you’ll tackle the various obstacles you encounter with ease. Relaxing your grip is also beneficial; white-knuckling will tire your forearms and hands quickly, and you’ll actually have less control of your bike despite thinking you have more.
TIP 8: DESCENDING
When riding downhill, avoid braking too sharply, as this can cause you to lose balance and skid. Instead, stay tall on the bike and always set your sights on the end of the section.
By setting your speed before hitting the downhill section, you’ll be able to increase your confidence and enjoyment of your downhill runs. Always start small and build up to the bigger sections; they’ll always be there waiting for you when you are ready!
TIP 9: THROW IN SOME WHEELIES
Wheelies are not only just fun mountain biking tricks, but they are also a good way to get your front wheel over an object on the trail. You don’t even need to get your wheel off of the ground; even just lifting your weight makes your run smoother in specific sections.
TIP 10: HEAD OUT ON TRAILS WITH BETTER RIDERS
It’s always easier to learn from those that are more experienced. You’ll likely push yourself a little harder as you pick up tried and proven riding habits. If you can ride with experienced mountain bikers, you’ll have a lot of fun and be able to watch how they position their bodies, handle rocky sections and even fix a flat tire from the side of a mountain.
Join a riding group or simply network when you are out on trails to meet like-minded riders. You’ll make some new friends along the way as well!