One Must Do Riding Tip For Every Mountain Biker
A group of us were sitting around eating tacos after a humid ride the other day and we got to talking about riding tips. The conversation really started to center around tips and tricks that apply to 99.9% of the riders out there as we had several different riding styles at the table.
Then it hit me…there is one tip for riding your mountain bike that every rider needs to do and it is one of the most abused mistakes in riding. If every mountain biker on the trail would take this one tip to heart, their riding would improve drastically.
Loosen Your Grip and Prevent White Knuckling
The natural tendency within every mountain biker is to tighten up their grip when things start to get rough on the trail or they start to climb. I am pretty sure it all stems back to the brain wanting to protect the body by making sure your hands don’t come loose from the bars. However, when you do this, you create problems for yourself on the trail that not only keep you from riding at your best, but also create dangerous situations on the trail.
What Goes Wrong When You White Knuckle
So what exactly does keeping too tight of a grip do to your riding on the trail?
1 – You Are Exerting More Energy
When you grip the bars too hard, you are exerting much needed energy on the top half of your body that could be used later down the trail. Think about it…when you grip your fist, your arms tension, your shoulders get tighter and everything else in your upper body starts to use energy just because you don’t want to loosen that grip. If you start adding this up over the course of your entire ride, that is a lot of wasted energy that could have been used somewhere else.
2 – Your Body Tenses and Locks Up
Just as you observed the energy being wasted in your upper body when you made a fist, your upper body also tenses up and prevents fluid movement when you put the white knuckle, death grip on your bars. This creates a dangerous situation on the trail as your biggest suspension component (your arms) and your ability to move the bike up and around obstacles is basically gone. As you navigate rocks, roots and other trail features, you are not going to be able to make the necessary adjustments as your upper body has minimal movement available.
Fight The Urge…Loosen Your Grip
The trick…you have to consciously remind yourself while you are riding to loosen your grip during climbs and downhills. After awhile, you will start to do it naturally and it will become less of a forced action and more second nature. So what happens when you loosen the grip on your bars while you are riding?
1 – You Save That Energy
All of that energy you were wasting previously on removing all of the blood from your hands by gripping the bars too hard is now preserved for other riding activities…like getting over that stupid steep climb. I like to think of my body much like the gas tank in my truck. I start each ride with a set amount of fitness in the tank, and once it is gone…bonk. So anything I can do to use that fitness efficiently…the better I perform on the trail.
2 – You Open Up Your Entire Upper Body
When you loosen your grip, you open up your largest amount of suspension travel and the ability to move the bike fluidly under your body. Your arms are the #1 most important riding tool outside of your legs. It is not about the equipment…it is all about how you move that equipment on the trail and your ability to adapt the bike to changing trail conditions. The bike is not meant to stay perfectly in line with your body while you ride. It needs to move left, right, forward and backwards in relation to your body in order to function correctly and safely. Loosening up your grip enables you and the bike to accomplish this.
There are times that I keep an extremely loose grip on the bars where it feels like they are floating around the grips to keep the bike completely fluid underneath my body. There are also times…on climbs…where I physically take my hands off the grips and rest them on the sides of the bars to make sure I do not tighten up from being tired. You have to find what works for you, but…in the end…if you loosen up your grip on the bars…you will ride a hell of a lot better on the trail and have more energy to finish out the ride strong.
What do you think?