A few small changes in your mountain bike riding can make a HUGE difference. And here’s the good news: you can make those changes right NOW.
Are you a beginner mountain bike rider?
Are you ready to learn a few essential tips and tricks that will instantly improve your riding?
Are you ready to progress faster and start riding more technical trails?
If you answered YES to any of these questions…then you are in the right place. So, keep reading and learn 12 tips and tricks that will improve your mountain bike riding right NOW.
1. Get to Know Your Mountain Bike
The more you know about your mountain bike, the faster you will progress. There are many advantages to its features that are designed to improve your riding.
For example, what if you only found out today that your bike could switch gears? Think about how much that would improve your performance!
Okay, I know, you are aware your bike can switch gears. But what features could you learn more about?
Maybe it’s adjusting your suspension to absorb more shock, or monitoring your digital riding metrics to ride more efficiently.
The point is this: most riders just throw the manual aside and start riding. However, there’s a world of information within its small print about features that can excel your riding.
Here’s a tip: before each ride, pick one part of the bike you want to learn more about and focus on it during each new ride. Eventually, you will get through the whole manual, and WOW will your riding improve.
2. Keep Your Eyes on the Trail
Always keep your eyes down and look toward where you want to go. Sure, this may seem obvious to some, I get it. However, you’d be surprised how many times our eyes wander away from us while riding.
Instead of the path ahead, you may look towards a branch you don’t want to hit or a rock you don’t want to clip. But know that wherever you give your focus is where you will ride.
So, if you focus on where you DON’T want to go, then there’s an increased chance you will actually go there even if you have no intention on doing so.
What’s the solution to this problem?
Easy! Always keep your eyes around 15-20ft ahead of you in the direction you DO want to go.
Remember–look where you want to go…not where you DON’T want to go.
3. Keep It Loose
Relax… and let your bike do the work. Know this–YOU are not riding over the technical terrain…YOUR BIKE is doing the riding.
So what’s your job?
- Control the bike
- Stay Loose
Pretty simple, right?
By staying loose, your bike can move underneath you more freely. When this occurs, you will do much better riding over rocks, roots, and down technical descents.
Here’s a tip for staying loose–when riding downhill PUSH-UP your arms and BEND your knees.
4. Shift Your Center of Gravity as Needed
In regards to shifting your weight, there are two rules to remember.
Rule 1: When riding UP hill…shift your weight FORWARD.
Rule 2: When riding DOWN hill…shift your weight BACKWARD.
The key is to make sure your center of gravity stays over the rear wheel. This will keep your riding as efficient as possible so you can ride farther and faster with less effort.
5. Do Not Over-Break
Mountain bike brakes are POWERFUL…and rightfully so. However, as beginners, most mountain bike riders tend to overuse the brakes. But this only hurts them in the long run.
Yes, brakes are important, and they are designed to keep us safe. But when mountain bike riding, you want to adjust your speed BEFORE the need to brake arises.
It’s a matter of finding your flow. Try to let the terrain dictate your speed not the other way around.
Use brakes sparingly. And when you do, it should only take a finger or two to stop. Try to avoid braking with a full hand. Breaking hard will significantly disrupt your momentum when riding trails.
But if you are not ready to give up the excessive breaking at the very minimum stay off the front breaks. Overuse of the front brake has the potential to throw you over the handlebars.
So be safe, brake efficiently, and keep your momentum flowing smoothly.
6. Make Use of All Gears
You have a bunch of gears on your mountain bike for a reason, so … use them!
Switch to a low gear during accents and when the trail becomes flat, shift up and let it RIP. The key again is to keep your MOMENTUM going if you want to ride further with less effort.
What’s momentum exactly?
Well, when you were a kid did you ever push a FULL merry-go-round of friends? It sure was tough to get started, wasn’t it?
But once you gained MOMENTUM pushing became effortless, right? Then once it was moving fast it only took a few pushes to keep it spinning, remember?
Then you jumped on yourself and enjoyed the ride.
Well, the same concept goes for mountain bike riding. By shifting gear, you can keep riding without stopping and keep your momentum alive.
But REMEMBER–don’t let that merry-go-round (your bike) come to a complete STOP. If you do so, it takes A LOT of energy to get going again. Energy that could be used to ride faster or further or up more technical terrain.
7. Ride Descents Strategically
As you probably know already, riding down descents can be FAST. But here lies an excellent opportunity to improve your mountain bike riding.
What do I mean exactly?
Well, most riders fly down hills without putting any attention on their form. But by practicing the right form down descents, you will gain incredible confidence. Now you can advance to the more technical terrain in a shorter time frame.
Here’s what you do when rolling downhill…
- Stand up.
- Flex your arms and legs
- Stay low
- Move your hips slightly behind the seat
- Drop your heels on the pedals bracing against them.
By practicing proper form, your body will absorb additional shock. You will also ride steadier and not have to worry about falling off your bike.
8. Sit Down Uphill
When riding uphill, instead of standing and pushing hard uphill…take it easy and…SIT DOWN. Yes, sit down.
Sounds a bit counterintuitive, doesn’t it?
But by sitting down, you gain a significant advantage. You see, sitting down provides better traction which makes riding uphill easier.
And the process is simple too. Check it out…
- Sit down
- Switch to a lower gear
- Lean forward.
- Pull back and down on the handlebars.
- Put thumps on the top of the handlebar grips (not under).
… and that’s it. With the extra weight on the rear, your bike will naturally dig into the ground deeper creating more traction making it easier to climb.
9. Control the Corners
Believe it or not, the way you take on the corners makes a big difference. Think about it, when riding on trails, most of the time you are turning in one direction or the other. There are not as many straight shots. So it’s critical to be strategic when cornering a trail.
What’s the best strategy when cornering?
Simple–CONTROL your speed.
As you come to a sharp turn, break BEFORE reaching it, and then roll through it. You don’t want to break WHILE cornering. If you adjust the speed before entering the turn, you will glide through the corner and keep moving forward.
Also, make sure you lean your bike, but at the same time, keep your body over the tires. You still want to balance your center of gravity. So make sure to stand up, and remember… stay LOOSE and keep your knees bent.
Learn how to corner, and you will advance quickly.
10. Carry Fuel
Carrying fuel while riding is critical when riding far. The more energized you are, the longer you can ride, period.
Mountain bike riding on trails takes a lot more energy then you may realize. Think about all the extra resistance from constant hills, turns, and objects in your path. Riding 10 miles on a trail is a WHOLE lot tougher than 10 miles on a road.
So be sure to bring along fuel to help you keep you riding for longer.
What should you pack?
Electrolytes, electrolytes, electrolytes! Also, consider some trail mix or performance bars if you plan on riding long distance. Some riders will even bring performance supplements like gels or blocks.
You can also carry a credit card and hop off the trail to a store if there is one close by.
Here’s the point: the more fuel you have, the longer you can ride.
11. Comfortable Clothing Is Key
In regards to clothing, COMFORTABLE is your best bet. You are going to be riding and putting a lot of stress on your bottom. That is, much more stress than its used to. So make sure you have protection.
I recommend a pair of shorts with a pad inside of it. A pad makes a HUGE difference in your comfort level. And the more comfortable you are, the longer you can ride. Without one, you’ll quickly realize that it takes time for your body to adapt to new stresses.
The key is to focus on ALL friction spots.
A pair of gloves will help prevent blistering from the handlebar bike grips, and compression shirts and shorts will help wick sweat away. You may also want to consider sunglasses to keep the dirt, sun, and bugs from getting into your eyes. And also consider a bandana to wear under your helmet to prevent sweat from dripping into your eyes.
So stay comfortable so you can ride longer.
12. Model the Best
Did you ever hear the saying: you are the company you keep?
We naturally become like those we surround ourselves with. It’s human nature. That’s because we hold ourselves to the collective standard of the group.
So, if you ride with mountain bikers who are better than you, you will begin to hold yourself to their standard instead of yours.
Remember– we always get our MUSTS and rarely get our SHOULDS in life. So by raising your standards, meaning, by making a SHOULD one of your new MUSTS, then you will undoubtedly reach it.
For example, if you SHOULD ride three days per week, it will always remain a SHOULD. But if you hook up with riders who ALWAYS ride three days per week, then it will become a MUST, and guess what?
Yep, you guessed it…you will ride 3 days per week!
It’s a simple concept but to become the best you must model the best. And by riding with the best, you will learn the best practices to do so.
So If you ride with those who are better than you then, you will become a better rider in a MUCH shorter time.
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The End of The Road
So now you have 12 ways to improve your riding right NOW.
I recommend to take ONE tip at a time, learn it, and move on to the next. This way you will not lose focus trying to follow all the tips at once.
And soon, that one new tip will become a habit, and you will feel like a new rider. Sure, it will take extra time at first, but sooner or later you will find your rhythm. And once your new skill feels natural, you will then begin to ride like an experienced rider.
Then riders will be asking YOU for the tips, not the other way around. That’s when you will know you have advanced to a higher level.
So try each tip, keep on practicing, and most importantly…enjoy the ride ; )