List of Mountain Biking Skills
Mountain biking is a popular outdoor activity that involves riding specialized bicycles over obstacles on technically demanding trails. There are several disciplines of mountain biking, but they all require some basic physical and technical skills. Here is a list of the most important skills for mountain biking.
Mountain Biking Skills
Below is a list of the most important skills needed for mountain biking, listed by order of importance:
- Body Position
- Pedal Stroke
- Front Wheel Lifts
- Bunny Hops
- Riding Drops
Being able to maintain an active body position is the most important skill in mountain biking. When riding through a technical section, you should always be in attack position. To get in attack position, stand on the pedals at an even height, with your weight shifted over the bike and knees, and elbows slightly bent. Look as far ahead as possible and cover the brake levers with your fingers. Good body position will significantly decrease your chances of falling.
Balance is essential for keeping your bike upright while navigating technical parts of the trail. High-speed descents require balance to stay in control. Steep climbs are also a test of balance, as their slow speeds may cause a rider with poor balance to tip over. Doing exercises to improve your balance can help increase your abilities as a rider.
Learning proper cornering techniques is one of the best ways to add speed to your runs. Leaning into turns and taking the right line helps you keep momentum and get out of turn faster. The most important step in cornering is looking where you want to go. Keeping your eyes on the trail ahead rather than right in front of your wheel will help you pick more efficient lines. Remember to look all the way to the exit of the corner. Your pedals should be level as you lean into the inside of the turn. Stick out your outer elbow as a counterweight and keep your joints loose.
Good climbing form can help you get to the top of the steepest trails. Choose a low, comfortable gear, and stay seated in the saddle rather than standing up. Use a smooth, even pedal stroke and look ahead to pick the line with the easiest grade and fewest obstacles. Lowering your tire pressure can help you get more grip on steeper climbs. If a big climb seems overwhelming, break it up into smaller sections and only focus on finishing the current section.
For many mountain bikers, the descent is their favorite part, as it is fast, fun, and technical. To safely descend, shift your weight to the back of the bike, despite your natural tendency to lean forward. Keep your weight centered laterally. Use your brakes occasionally rather than constantly, and apply them in gentle bursts.
Learning how to brake safely will give you greater confidence, control, and speed. The front brake on a mountain bike has much more traction that the rear brake, leading some beginners to avoid using their front brake entirely. To brake confidently, apply the front and back brakes at the same time while shifting your weight backward and onto your pedals. Keep your knees and elbows bent and stay relaxed.
Well-timed shifting is important for keeping momentum and minimizing effort while riding. As you approach a downhill, shift into the smallest cog to give yourself the most power when pedaling. In flat sections, shift into a faster-spinning gear for better maneuverability by applying less force to the pedals. Shift into a large cog as a climb approaches, selecting the correct gear before you must start applying force through the cranks. This will help you keep a steady cadence and prevent damage to the bike or chain.
Improving your pedal stroke will add power and efficiency to your ride. Beginners typically stomp down on the pedals while neglecting the upstroke. However, both strokes should be utilized equally for a smooth and constant application of power. Plus, more efficient power delivery means you will be able to ride longer before you get tired. To train a proper pedal stroke, ride on flat ground while envisioning your stroke as a perfect circle, applying power equally throughout the circle. Once this motion feels comfortable on flat ground, take it to the trail and feel the increase in power and control.
Front Wheel Lifts
Front wheel lifts are an important skill for getting your front tire up and over small obstructions in the trail, as they temporarily raise your front tire off the ground. To execute a front wheel lift, coast in attack position, then push down hard on the pedals while exploding upward with your core, moving your weight backward. Do not pull with your arms, as using your legs and core to initiate the movement will give you more control. Lean forward to return the front wheel to the ground.
Bunny hops are an advanced technique for navigating small obstacles. Learn to bunny hop using flat pedals so that you are not simply pulling up on the clips. Get in attack stance, with your toes curling down over the front of the pedals. Push away from the ground on your handlebars while you make a jumping motion with your legs, similar to jumping on solid ground. Transfer your weight backward as you complete the hop.
Jumping is a highly-advanced skill in mountain biking, which takes a great deal of practice to master. It involves a complex series of movements that can be difficult to execute. In order to jump an obstacle, begin by raising yourself slightly out of the saddle and keeping your weight centralized over the bike.
Next, compress your weight down on the front wheel to ready the suspension, and then push your arms and feet forward while throwing your weight to the back in order to lift the front wheel off the ground. As you do, spring upwards and forwards slightly to lift the back wheel off the ground, completing the jump over the obstacle. When landing, make sure to align your tires with the path and point yourself in the direction you wish to travel.
In order to ride a drop, you must first be aware of the steepness and terrain of the drop by scouting it out. Next, approach the drop at a rather fast pace, as going too slow will not permit you to clear the drop effectively. A couple of seconds before the drop, get set up by centering your weight above the pedals, lowering your chest, bending your knees and arms, relaxing your grip, and keeping your eyes on the landing.
Push your hips back as you reach the drop to take pressure off the front wheel, and keep the front wheel level until the back wheel leaves the drop. Keep your weight over the rear wheel as you fall, and extend your legs as you land, bending them as you hit the ground so that you can use them as a suspension to soften the impact.
What are the basic skills of mountain biking?
The basic skills of mountain biking are pedaling, balancing, braking, and shifting. Each of these comes into play at crucial times on a biking trail. Solid pedaling will ensure that you are able to maintain effective control of your bike while balancing keeps you steady through rough terrain. Braking is vital for managing difficult elements of a trail, such as descents, while shifting is a crucial skill for navigating uneven terrain.
What is the hardest mountain biking skill to learn?
Steep climbing and descending are the hardest mountain biking skills to learn. Both of these skills involve different aspects of biking. Climbing requires incredible strength and balance while descending requires both balance and control. Even experienced mountain bikers can easily get thrown off their bikes on a steep climb or drop, so practicing these skills is vital for any aspiring biker.
How can you improve your mountain biking skills?
The easiest way to improve your mountain biking skills is by practicing. In order to practice mountain biking, seek out trails in your area and practice vital skills like balancing, corner turns, and climbs on the easier parts of the trail. As with any sport, mastering easier obstacles will prepare you for greater challenges. Additionally, practicing with friends and trained professionals who can give you advice will vastly improve your mountain biking ability.