You may think the best way to improve your riding is a lighter bike… more travel or other fancy up grades. Yes, these may make your bike lighter, more able to soak up bigger impacts etc but they don’t make YOU a better rider.
A simple way to improve your riding is to start looking at your mountain bike technique. Today I wanted to talk to you about your feet and hands. You ride your bike mainly with your feet, standing up on the pedals in the ‘ready’ position, pushing your weight into them during cornering and driving the pedals forward as you pop off a drop off. Making your feet heavy allows you to control the bike and makes the bike work for you.
The other thing to mention is your hands, when we first start out on a bike, if things get a little hairy we tend to over grip clinging on to the handle bars for dear life… this doesn’t help you with your balance and control on the bike. Imagine you have your favourite chocolate bars in your hands if you over grip you will turn them to mush, so be light on those handlebars.
Mountain bikes are very capable, the best way to allow your bike to work is relax, bring your weight down into your heels, keep the ball of your foot on the pedal to create a stable platform and think about pushing yourself forward with your heels. Breathe out when you get to trail sections that worry you or find a good song to sing so your brain goes into autopilot.
It’s a great feeling once you flow effortlessly down the trails, but it takes practise keep at it and let us know how you get on by commenting below.
You don’t need mountains to go mountain biking. Any off-road trail can be an exciting adventure, a brilliant way of seeing our beautiful country, at the same time as getting fit.
Mountain biking is an exhilarating sport which everyone can enjoy. With some basic skills in your tool kit you can really make the most of your new-found hobby! Your position on the bike will make a big difference to how the bike handles and how you feel on the bike.
Mountain bike trail surfaces can include rocks, roots, ruts, sand or mud. The variable terrain and the obstacles are all part of the fun, but can be unnerving to beginners. Being in the right body position helps you get through tricky sections of trail.
The first thing you need to master is the ‘ready’ or ‘attack’ position.
This is the position you will use when going down singletrack trails to keep your feet out of the way of obstacles but also to allow the bike to move underneath you and grip the ground.
Body weight:You want to stay centered over the bike laterally, but keep your weight shifted back over the rear wheel. (The steeper the descent, the further back you shift your weight).
Bum:Off the saddle this allows the bike to move underneath you. Also creating a wider base for you to move around the bike than when you’re sitting down.
Feet:Keep your pedals level, heels down pushing the pedals forward. This keeps your weight balanced and helps ensure you don’t catch a pedal on a rock.
Arms and legs:Keep them loose – they’re your shock absorbers. Your knees and elbows should be bent. Staying relaxed and loose on the bike will also help you react quicker.
Hands:Maintain a light grip on the handlebar, don’t tense through your shoulders. No death grip!
Head and eyes:You should be looking down the trail at least 3 metres ahead so you can react to the changes in the trail.
Fingers: Feathering your brakes with one finger, trying not to over brake in the corners.
Picking a Line:
The rougher the terrain, the more you have to let the bike float underneath you, this is where keeping in mind the points above and staying in the ready position will help you feel relaxed and comfortable on the bike. Your wheels will move in different directions as you hit bumps, and that’s OK. Just keep your body upright, relax your grip and keep the bike pointed down the trail.
Another key point is to look where you want to go, not at the things you want to avoid!
Pick the path of least resistance down the trail. The hazards you will need to watch out for will depend on your skill level. A log that will stop one cyclist may be a fun bunnyhop for another. Generally, look for loose rocks, deep sand, water, wet roots, logs and other trail users and animals.
Pick your line: scan ahead for hazards by looking about 3 – 7 metres down the trail. Then, move your eyes back toward your tire. Doing this up-and-back action allows your eyes to take in lots of information. Knowing hazards ahead of time can help you adjust your balance and pick a line around them.
Braking on a mountain bike should be a controlled and considered. Most of your control braking power comes from your front brake, but grabbing a handful of front brake will send you doing cartwheels. Instead, lightly feather the brakes, and do so evenly on the front and back brakes. Avoid sudden, fast squeezes to help prevent skidding.
When braking stay in the ready position. Move your hips back, drop your heels down and keep a slight bend in your knees and elbows.
When to Brake
When approaching a turn, brake before you hit the turn, and then let your momentum carry you through. This allows you to focus on your technique through the turn and exit the turn with speed. Then apply the brakes ready for the next trail obstacle.
Momentum is your friend when getting up and over obstacles on the trail. Keep your momentum and you will often roll over or off certain features easily, if in doubt stop and look at the feature before riding it.
I hope you have enjoyed this article on body position and braking for beginner mountain bikers. If you would like to improve your mountain biking, like with any sport, getting a coach can mean you improve quicker and don’t pick up so many bad habits.
Kids will no doubt be counting the days until the summer holidays arrive, looking forward to the long six-week break from the classroom. Many parents, on the other hand, are likely to be busy counting their pennies to make sure they have enough to fund activities and excursions during the holidays.
The Sun revealed that parents spend an average of £502 over the six-week break buying video games and magazines, taking kids on day trips and covering the cost of extra childcare. When you add that to the average £335 they spend on food and drink for their youngsters as well as the £422.61 per teenager to go on a summer holiday, the costs mount up to over £1,000.
But do the school holidays need to be so expensive for mum and dad? With more than 40 per cent of parents admitting that they’re worried about affording the school break, there is a need for people to look for other options to entertain their children.
Chris Brown, from the National Citizen Service (NCS), said that the organisation could help give teenagers a productive way to spend their time, and alleviate the costs for parents.
“With the long break fast approaching, parents want to ensure that their teens are spending their time productively, without breaking the bank,” he told the newspaper.
An NCS summer programme lasts three to four weeks and is designed for 16 and 17 year olds. The aim is to help them develop life skills, gain confidence and become more active members of their community.
The Belfast Telegraph recently explained what’s included in an NCS programme, with one of the components being adventure. This involves youngsters trying a range of outdoor activities. Rock climbing, canoeing and archery were the ones suggested by the news provider.
But getting them started on mountain biking could be another option. The newspaper noted that the NCS isn’t the only way to get your teenagers involved in organised outdoor sessions. Encouraging them to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) award is another option.
Part of the DofE involves planning and undertaking an expedition. This can be on foot, or on bikes, boats or even horses.
With either option, there’s a lot of scope for your teenagers to get active and do something productive with their summer break, without putting too big of a dent in their parents’ bank balance.
If your kids are interested in getting more out of their bikes, sending them on a beginner’s mountain bike course during the summer holidays could be the ideal way to keep them amused and tire them out.
The great thing is that there are mountain biking courses all over the country, so it’s an option almost no matter where you live.
Last summer, Red Bull described Wales as “one of the best mountain bike destinations in the UK”, so if you also love getting out and about on two wheels, this could be the ideal choice for a summer holiday.
The organisation picked out some of the best places for mountain biking in Wales, which included Antur Stiniog, near Snowdonia, BikePark Wales near Merthyr and Coed Llandegla near Wrexham.
Two weeks ago before the British Summer time was swept away by a huge rain cloud we enjoyed a super weekend in the Surrey Hills. Not only was the weather tip top but the biking was pretty mega too!
Over two days our latest group of clients came on leaps and bounds as the honed their trail skills and crafted their flow on some of Surrey’s best known mountain bike trails like Barry Knows Best, Yogurt Pots and Summer Lightning to name but a few!
Here are some action shots from the weekend. If it looks like good fun and you would like to join our next adventure check out our mountain bike weekend page here.
Feedback from Candy:
What a great weekend thank you Hannah for specially helping me. I do feel much more confident now!!! And thanks to Paul who helped to set up my bike and guiding me. What a lovely bunch of people on the course.Thanks for your help and encouragement, guys, when I was flagging! The food was lovely too.Fantastic way to spend a weekend in glorious countryside! 🚴♀️
Drop offs come in all shapes and sizes, from rock steps, tree stumps/roots or purpose-built obstacles. Learning to negotiate these by jumping will help your trail flow and improve your riding.
At some point on red graded trails you will come across a drop off. In some cases these can be rolled, but sometimes and to add some fun they will need to be jumped. Rolling will only work with smaller drops. The bigger the drop the bigger the risk of catching your chainring and going for flying lessons, something we all try to avoid!!
Start with learning how to manual on a flat field (video on its way) then progress to little curb sized drop offs where if you get it wrong it won’t matter too much.
Enter at jogging pace
Spot your exit point
Pump down and back as you manual off the lip of the drop off, pushing the bike forwards
Try and land two wheels at the same time, if you are landing onto a downward slope your front wheel may get there first
Remember to keep your weight down and back, heels down
Once you have got your manual technique sorted on smaller drop offs it’s time to look at bigger drops. With more speed you can just slide your weight back and need less pump to get you over the drop. These will usually require a bit more speed and the entry and exit lines become very important. As you enter the drop off you need to commit, come off the brakes and spot your landing. On exiting let the bike land before cornering or braking, in an ideal world, look where you want to go!
Try walking a new line before riding it so you can spot the best line through the feature.
Thank you for reading, check back for more posts on mountain biking and Pilates soon!
Learning to ride a mountain bike is easy. Learning to ride a mountain bike really well is harder and takes practise and patients. However, get the basics right at the start and you’ll enjoy every minute you ever spend on your mountain bike.
Once you have the basic principles of riding a bike like, how to brake and use the gears. There is a whole world of new skills to learn that you can develop to take your riding further and faster.
There are two key elements to mountain biking, physical effort and mental awareness. It’s only when you combine them together that you can effectively start pushing your riding boundaries to new heights.
Mountain biking involves your entire body. Your core muscles, back, shoulders and arms all play a role alongside your legs and lungs. Mountain biking is a great cardio workout and to a certain extent is non load bearing on your joints which is great! This changes when you start jumping of course!
This is possibly the harder part. Mountain biking can be as much a mental game as a physical one. The belief in your own skill and ability holds a lot of riders back and it’s worth working on your mental ability to flow through a trail as much as the physical.
This is true for a lot of ‘extreme’ sports knowing what you are capable of and how far you can push your own limits is what keeps us safe and that mental ability to read a situation and keep moving forward and commit is key to riding a mountain bike smoothly.
Top tips for starting out mountain biking.
Relax, breathe and smile!
This is really important, to enable you to flow through the trail. Stiffen up and grip hard on those bars and you make your life a lot harder. Try to breathe consistent steady breaths from your rib cage. Visualise what it will feel like to nail the section of trail in front of you.
Look where you want to go…
You don’t find a lot of straight, smooth trails when mountain biking. Every trail evolves and you need to ‘read’ the sections as they approach. To do this you need your eyes up looking where you want to go. Pick the smoothest line of travel where possible to allow the bike to flow and maintain traction and speed.
Effective pedalling comes from being able to pedal in circles think about scraping your foot backwards, like your wiping something off your shoe, at the bottom of the pedal stroke and flicking your ankle as you return to the top of the revolution.
Cadence is also important don’t plummet to your lowest gear at the sign of an incline instead try and keep your feet moving at the same pace and when you cannot maintain your rpm (revolutions per minute) change gear.
The front and rear wheels both deliver traction, this keeps you gripping the floor and driving the bike forwards. On flat ground you’ll be sat on the saddle or up in the neutral or ‘ready position’ this is where you pedals are level (unless you are pedalling of course) your knees and elbows are bent and fingers are covering the brakes. In this position you are ‘ready’ for trail features with your feet well away from tree stumps etc… Both wheels are weighted due to your position over the centre of the bike. As the terrain changes from flat to up or downhill, you’ll need to adapt the position to slightly further back. For climbing this works in the opposite direction often you have to push more weight through your arms to maintain traction on the front wheel, remember not to unweight the back wheel or you will slip out.
You’ll need to constantly adapt the position as you feel the grip or lack of it from each tyre and make the necessary body adjustments to suit. Relaxing and looking where you are going help to make this achievable.
Lower pressures will provide more grip and when you are leaning your bike into a corner or tackling rooty trails, grip is king. Running too little pressure will expose your rims to possible damage and snake bite punctures. It can also cause tyre sidewalls to fold and deflect. More air pressure makes the tyres feel like they run faster, it will be easier to climb but you will lose a little grip.
Brakes – you have two, use them both!
As a child you probably learnt to only use your back brake, maybe you used your front once and ended up in a heap. Although your back break is needed to control your speed your control comes from the front brake on a mountain bike. This becomes especially important on steep terrain when too much back brake allows the bike to skip sideways you need to be using that front brake for traction and control.