Whether you’re a beginner just learning how to mountain bike, or an experienced rider fine-tuning your abilities, understanding mountain biking techniques and how to practice and execute them is key to your success and progression.
New and experienced riders alike have plenty of questions about mountain biking techniques and the sport in general. These questions include:
- How do I get better at mountain biking?
- What are the skills for mountain biking?
- How do I get in shape for mountain biking?
- How do you advance on a mountain bike?
- Are there different mountain biking techniques?
- How do you improve your mountain biking techniques?
In this post we’ll try to answer each of these questions about mountain biking and provide some detailed tips, drills, and exercises specifically around how to improve your mountain biking techniques. Let’s roll.
How do I get better at mountain biking?
If you’re wondering how to get better at mountain biking, the simple answer is to find some mountains and start biking. As with anything, the more hands-on practice you get, the better you’ll become. But beyond just doing it, there are some aspects you can focus on to get better at mountain biking even before you hit the trail. To improve your mountain biking skills, you’ll want to practice certain techniques so you’ll have the muscle memory and strength needed for an otherwise nerve-racking, white knuckle technical ride. We’ll explain more.
What are the skills for mountain biking?
The skills needed for mountain biking include aerobic strength, core strength, leg strength, and arm strength. Also, to be an effective technical rider, you need mental toughness and the ability to think quickly and decisively. Above all, you must be resilient. No mountain biker gets to the top without making mistakes. Crashes happen. Bumps and bruises are the norm. Sore muscles are a constant. But perseverance pays off, as honing your mountain biking skills allows you to conquer more difficult trails and feel the sense of accomplishment that only comes after hours of dedicated practice.
How do I get in shape for mountain biking?
Obviously there’s no substitute for getting out on the bike and getting in a good ride. But with the changing seasons and a busy schedule, it’s not always easy to get out on the trails every day. This is where aerobic training comes into play. A stationary exercise bike is a great option for busy days or bad weather. Mixing in other workouts like high-intensity interval training and targeted strength training is also important. To be an effective mountain biker, you need to have a broad range of overall fitness from aerobic endurance to core, leg, and upper body strength.
How do you advance on a mountain bike?
To advance your skills on a mountain bike, you need to gradually increase the difficulty of your rides. Trying a technical ride before you’re ready could turn into a nasty crash. On the other hand, if you never challenge yourself, your skills could plateau. To advance on a mountain bike, you need patience, mental fortitude, and a strong work ethic. Put in time to build strength, gain endurance, and practice technical skills even before you get on the trail. We can help you there. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not advancing as quickly as you’d like. Everybody has to start somewhere.
Are there different mountain biking techniques?
Yes. There are a number of different techniques for mountain biking. They vary depending on many elements like the type of trail, level of incline, and number of obstacles, roots, and rocks present. The different mountain biking techniques and elements to consider include:
- Body position
- Seat position
- Riding bends and turns
- Falling technique
Mountain biking body positions
As you’ll encounter many different types of terrain, you’ll need to be familiar with different body positions. The main positions in mountain biking are neutral (or base) and ready position.
Neutral (or base) position
In mountain biking, neutral position is the preferred position for flat terrain. Here’s how things should look in the neutral position:
- Pedals - level, with weight equally positioned over both the right and left
- Knees and elbows - bent slightly, with the knees more extended
- Index fingers - on the brake levers the entire time
- Eyes - looking where you want to go, about three to ten yards ahead
The ready position in mountain biking is for aggressive riding where you’ll encounter difficult terrain, sharp turns, and steep grades. Here’s a description of the ready position:
- Pedals- level and equally weighted
- Knees and elbows - both bent deeply, think of your stance like that of a gorilla
- Hips - positioned behind your knees, more concentrated over the back tire, especially when going downhill
- Index fingers - on the brakes constantly with anticipation that you may engage them frequently
- Eyes - looking ahead, focused on where you want to go instead of where you don’t, and also coming back to the front of your tire briefly to scan for obstacles
Mountain biking seat positions
Positioning your seat is more important than you might think, particularly when it comes to controlling your center of gravity. When you’re climbing a hill, it’s fine to have your seat high enough to allow about an 80 to 90 percent leg extension when you pedal. If you’re descending, it’s best to lower your seat a good two to three inches in order to lower your center of gravity and keep yourself from flying over the handlebars if you hit rough terrain.
Braking on a mountain bike
On a mountain bike, you’ll encounter abrupt turns, changes in terrain, and often hikers on the trail. It’s critical to know how to brake quickly and safely. The best way to brake is to gradually squeeze both brakes simultaneously.
Mountain biking drill for braking
This takes some practice, but as a drill, start on flat, even ground and gradually try the technique on more difficult trails. Get to know your bike and be sure your brakes are functioning properly before a ride.
Balance for mountain biking
Once you have the fundamentals down, focusing on balance is critical. There are a number of drills you can do to perfect your balance.
Mountain biking drills for balance
- Push the very front of your front wheel into a wall or tree, squeeze the brakes, and practice balancing.
- Practice popping your front wheel up on to a small stump or block and back down.
- Use the TILT balance trainer to get in some great balance work at home or on the go.
Navigating turns and bends on a mountain bike
To become a great mountain biker, you’ll need to become skilled at quickly taking hairpin bends while staying in control. Before you try to tackle a difficult trail, practice turning on flat asphalt.
Mountain biking drills for turns
Start on asphalt and then progress to gravel. Turn in a figure eight pattern and try to make the eight progressively smaller. Once you’ve mastered that, try it on a slope.
How to fall safely on a mountain bike
In a sport like mountain biking, falls are common. If you plan to take on difficult technical routes, it’s likely you’ll fall at some point. It’s best to embrace this reality and plan for it so you’ll know what to do if you find yourself flying over the handlebars.
It can be tempting and even instinctual to break your fall with your hands. However, often it’s best to tuck and roll and pull your arms in. Why? It will help you avoid breaking your wrists. Pulling your limbs in and tucking might also protect you from broken ribs or a potential punctured lung. Rolling to transfer your momentum might also keep you from having more serious injuries. Obviously, not all injuries can be avoided, but if you can learn to fall “gracefully,” you’ll hopefully protect yourself from more serious wounds. Above all, wear the right gear. A helmet is a must, and gloves and a chest protector are a good idea.
How do you improve your mountain biking techniques?
To improve your mountain biking techniques, you need to practice, and you will make mistakes. That’s okay. Just keep at it. Many prefer to practice on the trail, starting with easier routes that allow them to hone their skills before conquering more technical rides. While this is a great option, there’s a way to get on your bike and improve your techniques before you even hit the mountain. We’ve mentioned it, but it’s called the TILT balance trainer.
The best trainer for improving mountain biking techniques
Riders are loving our balance trainer, and you will too. It’s portable, easy-to-use, and it allows you to practice advanced balance techniques in your garage or right out at the start of the trailhead. We even have a version that doubles as a service stand and wall hanger. Give it a try and see why people are calling it the best mountain biking balance trainer.