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Mountain Biking Secrets

Updated on February 16, 2016

Basic Balance

The key to speed and handling on rugged terrain is simple weight distribution. Mountain bikes are designed so your "Bottom Bracket," or the middle crankshaft connecting your pedals to each other, is in the middle of your bike as a whole, so that the weight on both the tires are the exact same. Well what happens when you start going up a hill?

Weight Distribution

They key to maintain control, speed, and handling, is to keep your body's weight over the bottom bracket. When you start going up an unusually steep rise, you need to go "out of the saddle" (stand up off your seat) and bring the handle bars towards your hips, staying in the same level position as you let your bike handle the terrain, and don't stop peddling!

"Attack Position"

The concept of "weight over your bottom bracket" is a key element to the form developed by Lee McCormack, mountain bike legend and instructor. To avoid slipping while taking turns at any speed, and still feeling comfortable, apply these three points:

  1. Lean your bike by bending at your elbows, staying low with your chest towards the handle bars.
  2. Stay centered over your bottom bracket, leaning the bike, not yourself. You should remain mostly in one place, above the bracket and low.
  3. Bend your arms and legs, this gives you the extra clearance. Let them give when hitting bumps, and instead make your bike to move around, while you can stay level and in control.

By staying on top of your bike while it leans, as shown below, you can, theoretically, slide out on however lose of surface but not fall out because your bike remains under you. Also by getting lower than you may be comfortable and bending at the elbows you lower your center of gravity, so instead of biking like a bowling pin on wheels you become more agile and versatile to the terrain, and reduce your risk of tipping or slipping out. You can feel the control difference too!

Lee McCormack "Attack Position"


To handle turns with more confidence, you must keep your weight as even as possible between your front and back tires. Look ahead and lean into the turn by pushing your bike down. Extend your inside elbow, lowering the bar towards the ground to steer. If the turn is more sharp, let your outside pedal drop as you turn. It is okay if you need to to put your inside foot forward to catch you if you think you will slip.

Also don't use your brakes! (WHAT?) That's right, braking reduces traction! Practice instead braking to the right speed before the turn, then letting off or letting go of the brakes during. This may be scary on some steep descents, but will actually help you out if you can master it!

Switchbacks and tight turns may be more difficult to apply this with, but the key is to make the turn size bigger. First go to the outside edge before the turn, then cut the inside corner, and go back out to the outside.

Terrain and Braking

To handle jostling, bumpy sections you have to hold the bars not too tightly and keep only your pointer finger on the brakes for more bar control. Get out of the saddle and bend your knees, letting you bike take the hits and your legs and knees absorb the rest. Stay low and look ahead, spotting your line. On especially steep or rocky sections let go of the brakes, or brake lightly if possible keep your traction. Always brake evenly on both the front and the rear tire. Know which is which and never slam the front brake. You probably know why. If not, look at figure A.

Figure A

In Case of a Crash

Crashes will happen biking. Hardly ever like this picture, but still very likely so always wear a helmet! Even if you're going slow some bad-A park rat could meet you going 30 mph. Yeah I speak from expirience. Gloves are very good to have too. Try not to slide out by braking too hard, and in case you need to bail or you go over the bars, tuck onto your shoulder and roll if you can. And don't get discouraged! Have fun and comment if you have questions!


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