Hello there fellow riders!
I’ve compiled 29 mountain biking tips that I think can help you improve your riding or your enjoyment of riding. Whether you ride crosscountry or downhill, I think there’s something here that can help you.
Let’s not waste any time.
Check out the list and then hit the trail!
Mountain Biking Tips
- Braking 101 – Your front brake is more powerful and important than your rear brake. Just don’t mash it unless you want to endo (fly headfirst into the ground).
- Less Braking – Skidding is bad form, damages the trail, and reduces your control, especially in corners. Save it for the parking lot.
- Avoid Rocking – When you’re accelerating or powering up a hill it’s common to see someone swing their bike side-to-side in an attempt to go faster. It ain’t a rocking chair. It just wastes energy.
- Hang Time – In addition to other technical skills, practice your jumping and landing skills. After you build up your skill and confidence, go tackle a bike park like those in British Columbia.
- Speed – Many obstacles, like rock gardens, washboard, and steps (staircases) can be overcome with speed rather than slowing down because speed increases your stability.
- Pedal Smooth – Focus on smooth pedaling in a circular motion rather than mashing your pedals down. If you have clipless pedals this is easy and you can create a lot of power, evenly throughout each revolution.
- Climbing – Adjust your body position to keep your rear tire weighted enough to not spin out. But don’t give up if it does spin, just adjust and keep pedaling.
- Climbing 2 – When you’re climbing drop your elbows so your forearms are almost parallel to the ground. Pull slightly back (toward your rear tire) to help maintain traction.
- Trials – Not trails – trials. Level up your trials riding skills. You might be amazed how you end up using these skills during technical riding sections or to overcome obstacles. Not sure what I mean? Here’s a very talented trials rider.
- Ride at Night – Buy a lighting system and try riding at night. Start off on an easy trail if you’re new to night riding as it can be more dangerous. But night riding is a great way to improve your reflexes.
- Duct Tape – Keep some duct tape in your saddle bag, it has multiple uses limited only by your imagination. If something breaks, duct tape can sometimes hold it together long enough to get back to your car.
- Shifting – Ease back on pedaling for one revolution during a big shift, like your front chain ring, or rapid shifting on the rear. This smooths things out. If you need to maintain speed, do a quick pedal before the shift.
- Breathing – Maintain steady breathing, but every few minutes exhale vigorously to clear your lungs.
- Relax Your Shoulders – Keep your shoulders relaxed and open so you don’t impede your breathing.
- Jingle Bells – Add a small bell to your handle bars or downtube. As you ride it will jingle alerting animals (like bear) and hikers that you’re approaching. This of course, doesn’t preclude proper trail etiquette but it can help in areas with a lot of sharp corners and steep descents. Jingle all the way!
- Pick a Line – When you’re bombing downhill, make sure you look ahead and pick the line you want to ride. Look where you want to go, not at what you want to avoid. Your body will follow your eyes.
- Traveling – Planning to fly with your bike? Although they’re expensive, a hard case is best. Padded cases decent too and cost a lot less. When I moved from the US to Korea, I had a bike shop in Portland, Oregon box my bike (for $45) in a regular, cardboard bike box. They removed my pedals, front fork, and seat, wrapped foam padding on important components and used cardboard pieces to protect the chainrings, pedals, and front rotor. Read up on your airlines rules regarding bikes.
- Saddle Height – On crosscountry (XC) rides, raise your saddle so your knees are only slightly bent when in the down stroke. On downhill rides, you’ll want to lower your saddle a few inches. Don’t feel like stopping to adjust? Invest in an adjustable seatpost.
- Gear – Keep an airpump, tire tube, energy bar, and multitool with you. If you’re doing an all day ride, it would be a good idea to carry the 10 essentials. Mountain biking rides can take a turn for the worst just as easily as a hike.
- Safety Gear – Helmets are no joke, invest in a nice one. If you downhill a lot, consider body armor and a full-face helmet. Knee pads, shin pads, and elbow pads are also popular with extreme riders.
- GoPro – Buy a GoPro and share your rides with the rest of us. I use the HERO3: Black Edition. If you set it up along the trail and ride by, or have a friend film you, you can critique your riding afterwards. Kind of like watching football game tape.
- Switchbacks – Unless there is a berm built up, you’ll have to slow down. Look through the turn, past the exit and down the trail ahead of you.
- Feathering – In most cases, you can properly adjust your speed by feathering your brakes. In other words, lightly pumping them.
- Ride Mentor – Now and again, ride with people that are above your skill level. You will learn a lot by watching them and following their lead. This “mentoring” is informal but can be invaluable.
- Watch Races – If you can, go watch a local race in person. Pro races are best but you might be surprised at the skill level at your local race. Much like reviewing video of your own riding, this gives you a chance to critique others. You can see what lines they’re picking and how it works out for them.
- Fitness – Maintain your fitness level throughout the year. This way, you’ll be able to kick the season off at a higher level. Plus, being in great shape improves the quality of your rides.
- Warm Up – Like other physical activity, it’s a good idea to warm up and then stretch. Yoga is a great way to do active stretching. Pick 4 to 6 poses and create a routine.
- Group Rides – Ride solo or with a friend? Go for a group ride. You’re sure to meet a few riders that challenge your skills. This is how we learn and grow as riders.
- No Complaining – No one wants to hear about how you’re out of shape. If you didn’t ride well don’t make up lame excuses like how you’re not feeling well today. Especially if you’re new to a group, people don’t want to spend their time shoring up your ego. Be positive and kick ass!
I hope you’ve found a few helpful tips among them. If you have a tip you’d like to add, please leave a comment below.
Thanks for reading!