9 Tips to Becoming a Better Mountain Biker
Trek Dirt Series
Since 2001, professional coach Candace Shadley and her Trek Dirt Series team have taught more than 10,000 riders—both men and women—to become better mountain bikers. Whether you want to rip berms, air Whistler Bike Park jumps, or roll a dirt track for the first time, these nine tips will help you get more comfortable on the bike.
#1 Be Strong and Flexible
When you’re climbing or pedaling a smooth trail, you often want to stay in the saddle. But when you’re riding technical terrain, especially descending, stand on your pedals with a slight bend in your knees, waist, and elbows. It’s an athletic stance that helps absorb bumps in the trail. And it creates a frame to prevent you from getting pushed around in the process.
#2 Tune Your Fore-Aft and Lateral Balance
When you’re riding up steep inclines, down rock faces, and through corners, it’s important to move on your bike. Shift your weight forward while climbing to keep the front wheel tracking. Shift your weight back while descending to keep your bike balanced and to keep from being pitched over the handlebars. In tight switchbacks, shift your weight to the outside to counteract the pull to the inside.
#3 Weight and Unweight
To roll a log, pump through a trail, or air off a ledge, weight and unweight your bike. Sometimes it’s one wheel at a time. Other times it happens simultaneously. In either case, compressing and releasing, plus creating and managing pressure, will make your riding more dynamic and fluid.
#4 Use Both Brakes
Use your brakes like dimmers not light switches—feather them, don’t slam them. This will help you control your speed while riding down the trail and stop efficiently and effectively when you want to.
#5 Ride the Right Bike
Know where and how you ride, and where and how you want to ride in the future. With the help of a specialty retailer, find a bike that fits your style and the terrain where you live.
#6 Progression Is King
Success breeds confidence, and confidence breeds success. It’s tempting to take a huge leap in one day, but you’ll go further by taking small steps. Move from a little drop to a big one gradually, and you’ll be less likely to get injured in the move.
#7 Think Positive
If you ride a skinny elevated bridge and think you’re going to fall off, guess what? You’re likely going to fall off. You’ll be stiff looking to the side with your weight back, and that’s not a recipe for success. If you think you can ride the bridge, you’ll likely be looking ahead, staying athletic and balanced on your bike. That’s how to master a feature.
#8 Look Ahead
“It’s the key to everything you do: ride the trail with your eyes before you roll it. You go where you look, so look where you want to go,” says Shadley. And don’t just look with your eyes—your head, torso, hips and knees should all point where you’re headed.
#9 Remember Your Successes
Acknowledge the miles you’ve covered, the technical challenges you’ve overcome, and the great elements of every ride, and you’ll be anxious to hit the dirt and up the ante.
Want to bring all these tips together? Take a lesson. Having someone assess your riding and give advice specific to your needs will go miles toward making you a better rider. It will also make your time on the bike that much more fun.