If you’ve just gotten into the world of mountain biking, you’re very likely impatient to start developing some of the MTB skills that make the pros the great riders they are. And while it takes anyone a great deal of time to become a great rider, the good news is that you, as a beginner, can start working on some of the skills the pros use daily. Here, we’ll look at some of the skills you can start working on today.
Skill 1: Balance on Uphills, Steep Downhills, and Challenging Trails
You might be surprised that “balance” is on a list of pro skills, because you’ve probably been able to balance on a bike since you took off your training wheels. However, you’ve probably seen pros navigate bumpy, challenging trails like they’re easy. While MTB pros make it look like second nature, maintaining your balance and the balance of the bike is a difficult art to master.
Cecilia Potts, a professional cyclist and former junior mountain biking world champion, explains that riding a mountain bike involves a constant effort to stay upright. She notes that, when riding uphill, you will need to move your body weight somewhat backwards on the bike. This is because too much weight on the front wheel makes it more likely you’ll come off the bike if you hit a bump. In going uphill, you need stop shift forward, or even stand up.
As a beginner, you may need to think about these shifts, but as you practice, you will get to the point where it becomes second nature and you won’t have to think about it anymore.
Skill 2: Stoppies
Stoppies, otherwise known as rolling endos, can make you stand out on a trail, and a well-executed stoppie can impress your friends. Practicing this skill can also help you to become more familiar with your bike. The goal with a stoppie is to pop up the back wheel while the front wheel is still rolling slowly.
To execute a stoppie, crouch down in the pedals and pop up quickly, pressing down on your front brake. Getting the timing and the degree of braking down can take some practice, so be patient with yourself. It’s a good idea to practice on a slight downhill on a trail with good traction.
Skill 3: Manuals
A manual is essentially the reverse of a stoppie: instead of rolling slowly on the front wheel, you want to balance on the back wheel. In order to practice getting the front wheel off the ground, it can be a good idea to first practice a front wheel lift, as illustrated by Phil Kmetz. Practicing getting your front wheel up can help you ride over curbs and other objects.
As will all MTB skills, you probably want to challenge yourself once you’ve mastered one skill. Once you’ve got the front wheel lift, you can move on to a manual. To do this, you’ll need to sink down into the pedals and then pop up with your arms straight out. The goal is to continue rolling on the back wheel. The key is to balance your weight over the back wheel, although this can be very challenging to master.
Skill 4: Switchbacks
If you are planning on riding difficult trails, you’ll probably run into some switchbacks, which are very tight turns that may have you turning almost 180 degrees. Riding switchbacks takes practice, as each rider may find a slightly different flow through them.
One thing that is good to keep in mind on a switchback is keeping your weight low over the bike. Additionally, when going into the turn, it helps to swing your front wheel somewhat wide if possible. As you go around the turn, think about keeping your weight to the bike’s outside. This can help the bike to grip the trail on the turn. Once you become more experienced, you will be able to navigate switchbacks quickly, and even use skills like the stoppie to maneuver through especially tight turns.
Skill 5: Bunnyhop
Knowing how to bunnyhop can help you get over obstacles and to quickly reposition yourself on the trail. There are two types of bunnyhops: the English and the American.
In the English bunnyhop, you get both wheels off the ground simultaneously. To do so, you need to bend knees and elbows to get lower on the bike, then spring upward to get both wheels in the air.
In the American bunnyhop, the beginning is essentially a manual. Then, to get the back wheel off the ground, you think about “scooping” the rear wheel up by bending your knees and bringing the back of the bike up so you land back in the saddle.
While some of these MTB skills take some work to master, each will help you navigate trails as you advance as a rider. Working on them as a beginner will help you get in enough practice that you’ll be bunnyhopping obstacles and speeding through switchbacks soon.
About the author: Amanda is a veteran MTB-er who uses her hands-on experience to contribute to the reviews found on WWW.MOUNTAINBIKEREVIEWED.COM. Her love is a Fattie 6 Specialized Rhyme and the trails she’s most fond of are most certainly the raw European ones.