We’ve been around since 2006 and professional mountain bike instructor the RIDELINES team have taught thousands of riders to become better mountain bikers. Whether you want to rail berms, start your airborne career, improve your jumping or take charge on roots, rocks and technical trail features, these essential tips will get you started and help you get more comfortable and confident on the bike.
#1 Work on being both Strong and Flexible
When you’re climbing or pedaling on fire road or non technical trail, you’ll be fine if you just stay in the saddle. When you’re riding technical terrain, especially descending, you need to move out of the saddle and stand on your pedals (keeping them level) with a slight bend in your knees and elbows and keep your tail up (show your butt off), waist, and elbows. It’s an athletic stance that helps absorb the bumps in the trail. It also prevents you from getting pushed around in the process as it allows the bike to freely move around under your body. We call it “bike and body separation”.
#2 Tune Your Balance
When you’re riding up steep inclines, down rock slopes, and powering through corners, it’s important to move on your bike. Shift your weight forward while climbing to keep the front wheel tracking. Allow the bike to roll forward underneath you on descents but be careful not to shift too much weight back as you still need to keep the front wheel gripping. It is, after all, the wheel that steers. Riding switchbacks shift your weight to the outside to counteract the pull to the inside.
#3 Weight / Unweight
To roll a drop, pump through a trail, or get air off a ledge, you need to learn to weight and unweight your bike. Sometimes it’s one wheel at a time. Other times you need to work on both wheels at the same time. In either case, compressing and releasing (once you’re practiced in the technique), plus creating and managing pressure, will make your riding more dynamic and fluid.
#4 Use Both Brakes
Use your brakes like dimmers not light switches—feather them, don’t grab them. This will help you control your speed while riding down the trail and stop efficiently and effectively when you want to.
#5 Ride the Right Bike
Know where and how you ride, and where and how you want to ride in the future. With the help of a good quality retailer find a bike that fits your style and the terrain where you live. Local bike shops will give you the best advice that will exactly suit you and your riding. Go on – ask them, they are usually a friendly and helpful bunch.
#6 Progression Is Key
Success breeds confidence, and confidence breeds success. It’s tempting to take on too much and try to achieve great leaps or lots of different techniques in one day, but you’ll go further by taking small steps. Move between smaller challenges to bigger ones gradually and you’ll be less likely to panic and fall back into bad ‘survival’ habits.
#7 Think Positive
If you ride a tough off camber rooty section of trail and think you’re going to fall off, guess what? You’re likely going to fall off. You’ll be tense and probably looking to the side with your weight back, and that’s not a recipe for success. If you think you can ride the feature, you’ll likely be looking ahead, staying athletic, relaxed but focused and balanced on your bike. That’s how to master a tricky feature.
#8 Look Ahead
“It’s the key to everything you do: ride the trail with your eyes before you roll it. You go where you look, so look where you want to go,”. And don’t just look with your eyes—your head, torso, hips and knees should all point where you’re headed.
#9 Remember Your Successes
Remember and acknowledge the miles you’ve covered, the technical challenges you’ve overcome, and the great bits of every ride, and you’ll be anxious to keep progressing, improving and setting yourself new challenges.
Want to bring all these tips together in the flesh and out on the trail? Take a lesson. Having someone assess your riding and give advice specific to your needs whether that’s mental barriers or niggly bad riding habits will go miles toward making you a better rider. It will also make your time on the bike that much more fun.