Technical Mountain Biking Tips
Recently I received a comment asking about technical mountain biking tips and I thought I would dedicate a post to it as I have made improving in this area a clear goal of mine this year. We are less than three weeks out from the most technical race I have ever mountain biked in and I am feeling the pressure. RIG is going to be an incredible race.
For this post, I wanted to give a special recognition to one of my training partners, Kyle Nesbitt. There have been many summer evenings where we have ridden local trails with him quizzing me on the proper way to corner, challenging me to chose harder lines, teaching me bike care and trying to beat the road biking form out of my mountain biking. It is so amazing to have fellow racers invested in my success and I am beyond fortunate to have such a strong network of strong athletes to help me with my goals. He and the rest of his team, Black Swan Racing, will be competing at RIG as well so the evenings at base camp will feel a bit like a party with friends.
So back to the actual riding bit. Firstly, a disclaimer that I am still a relative newbie at all of this so I welcome any additional remarks from seasoned riders. Secondly, here are some of the biggest things I have learned this season when riding technical terrain:
Keep your pedals even
With my road biking, I get a bit complacent going down hills and tend to drop my dominant pedal towards the ground. This is a travesty with mountain biking because if you catch your foot on a rock, it can take you out for a season. Keep your pedals at 3 and 9 o’clock and ride lightly on your saddle.
Always look about 5 feet ahead
A lot of technical work is anticipation. To know where to keep your gears and how to pedal, it is important to know what is coming at you. When I am taking corners, I am always looking to the trail on the other side to keep it as smooth as possible. If there is a big hill ahead, I am already dropping my gears in anticipation for the quick pedalling that will be required.
When cornering, drop the opposite leg
When you are screaming around corners, drop your leg to the opposite side from where you are turning for maximum balance. If you are riding a rock field or something, disregard and see point #1!
When you are riding rock gardens or rooty sections, lift yourself out of the saddle and let the bike take the brunt of it
There is nothing more painful over a multi-day adventure race than continually pounding over rough terrain on your bike, even with full suspension, which my bike thankfully has. I’ll leave it at this, but practising riding out of the saddle is a vital part of riding safely and keeping healthy nether-regions.
When you come to a scary or difficult line, commit
This is a challenge for me but thanks to the dares and pleading from my fellow riding buddies, I am getting much better at this. It is much easier to drop into a ditch when you have a group of peers standing on the other side all yelling at you to do it. Your body knows what to do. Your bike can handle the force. Your fear will only make you tense which makes the whole experience worse. I often take a deep breath and just go for it without doing much thinking. Wear a helmet and remember that it doesn’t hurt THAT much if you fall.
Going faster is better
When you are riding over a technical portion, the faster you ride it, the smoother the ride. If you must break, which I still often do, do it lightly and only use your back breaks or you may just end up doing a face plant.
So there you have it. Some of my biggest learnings on the bike. I am seeing big gains already and although mountain biking on technical portions still sometimes is scary for me, I have seen huge improvements this year and look forward to doing some solid racing this fall!
This is great! Learning to keep my pedals even has taken work that’s for sure. Committing and keeping speed for technical lines has probably been my biggest challenge. I’m slowly learning that my 29ers will get me over most things. That and climbing trails with big roots and rocks.
Falling a few times and it not being a big deal has also helped 😉 I have pretty much stopped wearing dresses and skirts to work since my shins are pretty battered most days though…
Trusting is the hardest thing 100%. We should go riding together soon – I can always use someone to push me!
You may have to wait for me to psych myself up to go down tough spots 😉
AHA – then there will be two of us doing the same thing because I still need to do that myself. Full confession? I walked my bike down a huge drop in and up the other side at the Hydrocut (on Stinky Girl if you ride there). I’m still learning… 🙂
I am terrible about biking and committing to “scary” situations. I don’t mountain bike, but this would definitely challenge my comfort zone. You’re a badass, if I haven’t said that enough before.
You are too kind. Seriously – I keep waiting for mountain biking to stop being scary and it just doesn’t.
Lisa @ Lisa the Vegetarian says
I’m seriously impressed by people like you who can go out there and do things like this that would completely scare me. Way to go!
HAHAHA, Lisa – I am not exaggerating when I say I am scared almost every time. It does get easier! 😛 Thanks for your encouragement though!
Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat says
Ok, so I have no desire to take up mountain biking because my road bike scares me enough (yet I managed a half Ironman, so I guess it can’t be that bad)… with that said though, this was SUCH a fascinating post. I knew the tip about cornering because it applies to road riding too, but all the others were so interesting and totally make sense. And that whole thing about committing to difficult lines and not hesitating….. I think that’s a lesson for life in general! Awesome stuff!