Royal Warrant
Osmb hero

Outdoor Skills: How To Mountain Bike

Flowing through the landscape on two wheels is a liberating experience – here’s our technique guide to help you get into mountain biking, or tune your skills

Most of us can ride a bike, but even if you can’t, or your old one is rusting in a shed, then it’s never too late to get back in the saddle. When you combine the health benefits of cycling with the psychological boost from being immersed in wild landscapes, then the upsides are obvious.

Throw in the fact that the UK is blessed with an extensive network of bridleways, allowing you to ride across some of the world’s most beautiful national parks, and mountain biking becomes a no brainer. Despite the appeal, it can be daunting to to tackle mud, rocks and steep descents, even for experienced riders. So, here are our top tips for successful mountain biking...

You have to pick your own path through the ever changing, natural terrain, making riding an absorbing and mindful experience

Osmb 1

Trending Products

Black Denim Jean
Black Hiker Trainer 1.0
Army Green Packable Insulated Blazer
Black Denim Jean
Black Hiker Trainer 1.0
Army Green Packable Insulated Blazer
Shop Now
Shop Now
Shop Now

1. Adopt The Ready Position
Spending all day glued to the saddle is a recipe for an uncomfortable experience. Instead, adopt the mountain biking ‘ready position’, as recommended by British Cycling. This involves standing up off of the saddle, with your pedals level, because standing with one pedal down is like standing on one leg and is inherently unstable.

If you’re riding flat pedals (rather than clip-ins) then you can also position the pedal more centrally under your foot and drop your heels a bit to get even more stability, and prevent your weight being thrown forwards over an obstacle. Keep your head up and shoulders back to balance your weight on the bike, keep your elbows slightly bent and ‘soft’ to absorb bumps, and cover your brakes with a finger at all times.

This is a lot to remember but don’t get too rigid. Even if you have a full suspension bike, the greatest degree of available suspension lies in your own body, which can soak up a lot of bumps and drops, and is another reason to stay out of the saddle when you can. If you’re on a steep climb, in a low gear then you may find staying in the saddle is necessary to allow your rear wheel to bite.

2. Keep Eyes Tracking The Trail
There comes a time in any mountain biker’s life where you bump your tyre into a tree, despite it being off the trail and there being no real reason for it. Well done, you’ve just discovered a cycling truth – where you look your bike follows. So, fixating on an obstacle as you approach it, or staring at the ground just ahead of your wheel, isn’t going to end well.

Instead, you need to develop the habit of your eyes constantly shifting up and down the trail to anticipate what’s coming. Your brain is good at making distance calls, so once you’ve seen a corner or obstacle and decided how to tackle it, then make sure you’re still flicking your eyes up the trail to see what’s coming next. If you’re in a turn, then look to the exit of it in order to make your cornering nice and smooth.

3. Counter Your Weight
Mountain biking involves more braking than road cycling, because you’re riding on dirt and rock rather than smooth tarmac, so you need to learn how to get the most from powerful hydraulic disc brakes. If you’re already in the ‘ready position’ then you’re primed to make a quick shift of your body backwards, behind the saddle, as you slam on the anchors. This will keep your body weight going down into the bike rather than forwards, and reduce the odds of an OTB (over the bar) incident!

Another braking tip is to brake well before obstacles in the trail, to check your speed, rather than as you reach them, because doing the latter will move your bodyweight over the front wheel, making it much harder to ride over a rock or fallen log – the front wheel digs in, basically.

4. Choose Your Line
One of the joys of mountain biking is that there isn’t a set line for your wheels to follow. You have to pick your own path through the ever-changing terrain, whether it’s rutted mud or a rock-studded track, making riding an absorbing and very mindful experience. The aim of the game is to find a line that creates the perfect flow on that particular trail, which is subjective and will depend on your own riding style, so feel free to experiment.

Generally speaking, the smoother the line, the more assistance you’ll get with traction, braking and cornering but there’s a balance between choosing this and the straighter, shorter line, which can be faster and sometimes more fun to ride!

Osmb 2

5. Nail Those Corners
Cornering is a basic skill but it’s one that even experienced riders can get wrong – again you’re on uneven terrain rather than a smooth road so grip becomes very important. Brake before the corner not during it, to maximise grip. Remember that the lower your centre of gravity, the more grip you’ll have – riders aim to get their weight to the outside of the bike, which is why they lower their outside foot and weight it (your feet come out of the ready position in this case.

On steep terrain you may have to brake in a corner, but keep off the front brake as much as possible. Once you have a grasp of cornering you can practise leaning the bike over and keeping your weight upright.

6. Ride Steep Descents
Whether you’re on a bridleway or mountain bike track, steep descents are fairly common off road, so learning to ride them well is key. The first thing to do is remember that the steeper the descent, the further your bodyweight is going to want to go forwards. This means getting your weight well behind the saddle, in the ready position, so you may have to adjust your saddle height to allow room for this

Something to consider is that on very steep, short descents braking hard during them can be damagingly dicey – the last thing you want is to for a wheel to lock because you’ll either go straight over the bars or wash out. So, make sure you go into them at a manageable speed and that you’ve scoped out where the trail goes at the bottom of the descent. You may be carrying more speed than you anticipate, so having a long, straight run out at the bottom is preferable. If in doubt then walk down until you’ve built up your skills on less challenging descents.

Mountain bike technology has advanced in leaps and bounds in recent years but possibly the single most useful bit of tech we ride is the remotely droppable seatpost. These affordable bits of kit can be fitted to any bike and allow you to drop or raise the height of your saddle with the touch of a handlebar-mounted button, giving you the flexibility to tackle a steep climb (with saddle up) and then a steep descent (with saddle down) without stopping.

7. Visit A Trail Centre
As well as the national network of bridleways, the UK has some of Europe’s best trail centres – purpose built mountain bike loops designed for different levels of experience and skill, which offer everything from leg-burning cross country epics to short and sharp freeride sections. They range from Scotland’s Glentress, the busiest trail centre in the UK with its miles of singletrack, to Bike Park Wales with its fun flow trails, to the southern dirt jumps of Chicksands.

If you want to practise riding trail features such as berms, rock gardens, jumps and drops then these are great places to do it. The trails are designed to flow well, so there shouldn’t be any nasty surprises around the corner, although riding conservatively for your first lap of any new trail or track is recommended. Wherever you choose to ride, follow our tips and a whole new world of outdoor travel will open up for you.

Credit: www.canyon.com
Words: Matt Ray @The_Adventure_Fella
Photos: Rafal Skiendzielewski

Trending Products

Electric Blue Raglan Polo
Army Green Jersey Over Shirt
Granite Garment Dye Rugby
Electric Blue Raglan Polo
Army Green Jersey Over Shirt
Granite Garment Dye Rugby
Shop Now
Shop Now
Shop Now