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
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.