How To Ride A Mountain Bike – Tips & Tricks

Mountain biking is not as easy as it seems. Sure, it looks like you just need to point the bike down the mountain and go, but there are a few tricks of the trade that will help you navigate terrain better. 

Today we’ll be discussing some basic techniques and tricks that will greatly help improve your bike-handling skills. 

How to Ride a Mountain Bike – Newbie’s Guide

Know the right body positions to use.

Your body positions play a huge role in mountain biking. They will greatly determine your speed and control. Here are the body positions you need to use:

Sit on the saddle, feet firmly placed on the pedals, and place your hands on the handlebar.

Prepare for landing by squatting your position as you go over it. When landing, rebound and roll smoothly onto the other side of the obstacle. Repeat this process until you finish your run. 

When climbing hill overtime, shift your weight backward to help keep balance and move forward more easily.

When going downhill, keep your weight centered on the pedals and keep your bike at a consistent speed with good rhythm.

Ride in confidence

Most beginner at mountain biking tends to ride with a fear of crashing. You must build confidence in yourself by knowing the ropes of mountain biking.  Shrug your fears off and relax especially that you’ll have to roll over unpredictable technical terrain. 

You can learn the basics of mountain biking from a friend that is also a beginner by riding together off flat terrain. Beyond that, there are online guides and videos to aid you in improving your mountain biking skills.

Watch for signs such as where to go. Know landmarks such as a lookout or trailhead to be able to find the right direction on the trail. 

Likewise, you will also need to be able to spot potential hazards and obstacles on the trail such as rocks and tree roots before running into them.

Learn how to use the brake properly.

Several factors affect braking. 

Braking system: There are several braking systems to choose from. Using a low-quality system will result in poor braking, so you should invest in high-quality brakes for maximum performance and controlled stopping power. 

Bike setup: If your seat is too low or incorrectly positioned, you may end up locking the front or rear wheel resulting in a crash. 

Terrain surface conditions: Steep descents on a smooth surface can cause the brakes to lock, skidding your tires. 

Speed and momentum: Braking too hard or too late results in skidding and loss of control. 

However, if you brake too early or too abruptly, this can cause a loss of speed and stability. The rule of thumb here is to brake as you go downhill. When going up the hill, you should let off the brakes to allow your momentum to increase.

More importantly, don’t brake when going downhill. You can use your momentum and gravity to assist you in controlling your speed. Adjusting mountain bike brakes takes practice and time so make sure you remain patient.

Don’t hesitate to utilize all the gears.

One of the biggest mistakes of a rider is to think that gears are for a race and that they don’t need them. Don’t just ride on one gear.

Each gear serves a different purpose. Understand what kind of terrain you’re riding on and adjust your mountain bike’s gears appropriately

When going uphill, you will have to use lower gears in which you need to turn the pedals faster. Likewise, when going downhill, lower your gear so you can coast with ease and control.

When navigating a tricky obstacle, use the highest gears in order to move forward without losing control and speed.

Maintain concentration.

Mountain biking requires you to have a keen eye for obstacles and terrain. You must keep your focus on the trail even if you are going downhill or climbing a steep incline. 

Maarten Sierhuis, a professional mountain biker, states that “Your head should be up, looking 10 to 15 meters ahead of you, and only occasionally down to check the trail.”  Simply put, you should not be distracted during a bike ride, no matter what.

If you are at risk of crashing, there are ways of improving your odds against it. You can slow down to a stop, give your bike more airtime as the surface is less accurate than downhill, or use more crouching on the bike to help reduce your weight and therefore inertia. 

Make use of momentum (if needed).

When we say momentum, we don’t mean the momentum of pushing off with your feet. This isn’t important, per se, but it is good to know and understand what it is. 

Momentum is the force that moves your bike forward. Because you are actively moving your bike, it can be used to help push you through obstacles or climb up a steep hill.

You can use a gear that has a higher gear ratio for downhill and the lowest gears for uphill as momentum can help you out.

Thus, it’s a good idea to keep your momentum’s down to a minimum. You don’t want to waste energy, so just use it when you have to.

Wear a helmet and protective gear always. 

According to the World Health Organization, more than 100,000 people die from accidents in sports each year.

This is mainly due to things like head injuries and frequent accidents. Also, wearing a trail-specific helmet will help protect your face from injury in case of a crash or fall.

When you wear a trail helmet, make sure that the helmet is made of polycarbonate. The polycarbonate shell will offer greater protection against blunt force trauma and lessening the risk of brain damage. 

A helmet is not enough. Wear protective gear also. Body armor is the best form of protection in case of an accident. It has been tested to protect people from blunt force trauma and lasts for at least 5,000 lbs. 

Next Read: How to Adjust Front Derailleur on a Mountain Bike


Is it hard to ride a mountain bike?

Riding a mountain bike is a lot harder than riding a normal trail. 

The terrain is steep and rocky, and the corners are sharp. Your bike can get knocked around by the rugged terrain, especially when you go downhill.

The footprint of your bike is very small as it’s small in terms of length compared to the width; therefore, you have to make sure that you are not going off course. 

What is the correct riding position on a mountain bike?

Keep your body straight and do not bend or slouch forward or backward. Your head should be up, looking 10 to 15 meters ahead of you, and only occasionally down to check the trail.

Your arms should be slightly bent ready for any quick movements to avoid falling off or hitting something in the wrong direction.

How do you ride a mountain bike uphill?

The first thing you need to do when riding a mountain bike uphill is slow down. Reduce your speed as you come up the hill. If you’re still going too fast, you’ll lose control and crash into the trees or rocks on the side of the path.

To shift your body weight on a mountain bike, move it back. Put more weight onto your rear tires and let the front of your bike lighten up slightly. This will help to push through challenging terrain.

Should my feet touch the ground on a mountain bike?

Keep your feet in the shoes and do not put their full weight on the ground. Try to have the balls of your feet on the rear tire of your bike. Put your feet forward on the pedals and shift your weight forward.

It will take time to improve your skills. Don’t be frustrated with yourself or the trail. Practice makes perfect. Keep practicing the basic techniques and tricks that we have taught you today and you’ll surely see much improvement in your mountain biking skills.

Photo of author
Written By Robert Gibbons
From riding to school since the age of 13, attending BMX races and events with his dad to himself conquering 50+ trails across the globe. For Rob, his Giant Stance 29 2 2020 is the friend that makes everything better. He is also a proud member of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

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