Improve your Mountain Biking Ride Skills

As much fun and thrill there it is to riding trails, equally requires continuous improvement of skill to get it to that level. However, as with every sport, it has to start with basics and then building upon the foundations to take it to the next level is the way to go. Let’s discuss 10 key areas that can help in boosting your confidence level and improve your rides on the mountain making it more enjoyable experience.

1. Take it slow

The urge to conquer everything right away always spikes when you watch a thrilling biking video, but it’s always best to take things slow. Most often, it is the rush that leads to disappointments because proper technique building and diligence is not baked into it before you try it out. Safety is a priority in this sport already, and at the beginning, every effort should be put into it to learn and apply skills slowly. This helps you gradually build your technique without getting injured due to rush, which can potentially slow down your progress due to large pauses.

2. Don’t cheap it out

When it comes to mountain bikes, I would highly recommend don’t cheap out on it, as you owe it to yourself and your safety. Cheaper bikes that are not worthy of taking to the trails to perform, perhaps are OK to ride on around the city. Tough trails would put them to a real test and you being the rider would feel it first hand, if it fails on you. Not only it has safety concerns that can impact your ride experience, but can also end up in a disappointment when you think back and know it was not your technique but the gear that has failed you. Make sure to take your time and invest in a quality bike that has good reviews from riders who rode it on decent trails. It doesn’t absolutely have to be brand new to break your bank, perhaps you can get lucky to find a good deal on an excellent used condition bike for grabs.

3. Approach

Often times, there is a hairline difference between the success and failure, and how you approach your task has to do with how you’re thinking about it in your head. As an analogy, I’ll bring up the shot you take at the pool table, imagine how can you precisely measure the smallest degree angle of the ball and to hit it perfectly is near impossible, yet when you aim and look at where you’ll need to pocket the ball, your mindset and instinct plays a big role in making that shot a success. Exactly the same approach can be used in biking on the trails as well. You can’t calculate every move on every hurdle of the trail, however it’s the game plan in your head when you approach certain hurdle and with positive thinking you can continue to perform better at it. At higher level, some degree of calculation is required in order to avoid being overly ambitious that can lead to a collapse, so I’d warn you against those.

4. Balance and Control

Balance and control goes hand in hand together. The more control and balance you have over your bike, the better handle you will have at the challenging turns and hurdles on the trail. I highly recommend starting with basic trails that are not very challenging. When I first took my friend for mountain biking, I realized he had a hard time controlling his bike, even though the trail wasn’t very difficult. At that point, I had to have him slow down to have better control over the bike through frequent turns that make him feel better and more in control.

5. Avoid excessive braking

While brakes are there to help you gain control and slow down, excessive use of it can really wear you off quickly, which you don’t want especially riding trails. Sometimes you need a good momentum to lead you through the steep and uphill runs. When in good moment, abrupt and hard brakes can lead to a skid by ceasing the tire, which is more dangerous as you lose control in this action and cause you an injury. Slow brush up braking is good when needed if you think the bike is going too fast on downhill portions of the track giving you a feel of loss of control. Also get in the practise of prioritising your rear brake over the front one, as we know a front brake can get you off balance very quickly and by instinct often cause you to apply more pressure given the situation, hence more prone to skidding and loss of control, so try to keep it at second priority as a follow up helper.

6. Don’t glue to the seat

Get in the practise of lifting yourself up from the seat while securing stance with paddle position for control, especially over bumpy areas. Never try to glue yourself to the seat before it’s too late and you’ve felt the shocks already. At start it may feel odd, but the more practise you do, you’ll get better at maintaining an optimal paddle position parallel to the ground to get through that bump or series of bumps and rocks. If you didn’t try it yet and get to try it after reading this and felt good, you can thank me later!!

7. Timing

Timing is a key factor as we make micro decisions through our rides, you can have a shot at a particular bend or slope in a number of ways, either of which can be “OK” to take, but timing on making that decision plays a big role. If you’re a bit late at making that decision will cause you poor handling of it so watch ahead and not to your front tire, to be better prepared and make timely decision on which route you’re going to take at the next turn or split point.

8. Gear Shifting

Use of gears is very important in riding trails, that are ever changing in steepness and uphill runs. To which, you will need to constantly adjust and apply proper gear to get through. Again, keep your eyes on what’s coming next as your target area rather than focusing on your front tire to get better control and positioning. This way, you will be able to apply proper gear on time to get you through. Timing is key for gear changes, and you want to do that when there is no pressure on the gear train to avoid any damages to your chain and gears.

If you’ve already started an uphill ride in a high gear, then it’s too late to drop it down, as it leaves you with no room or breathing space to shift smoothly. If you ever get caught in such situation, I’d recommend apply full brakes to bring bike to a stop while staying in control, go back and give it another shot even if you have to get off the bike and walk with it to get to the start point again. Get comfortable with your gear shifting and focus on the timing of changing gears to get better at it. You can practise this on smoother surfaces in a part or road where you find uphill and downhill moves.

9. Take a break

You got your bike, you’re at the trail, you’re pumped to conquer it and in the event you completely forget to be a bit easy on yourself and take a break. So, do take breaks often as you need them. It always helps to recharge, and also let you think through some of the challenging parts you’ve already covered on your track to spark up the good points and try to improve the not so good points. Sometimes we get overwhelmed being too focused and caught up on the task on hand, but one can always take a break and should, in order to re-gain some of the energy back and continue on to make it a better experience while improving skills.

10. Walk with your bike

Just like a horse rider, sometimes you need to get off and take a walk with it. If you feel the terrain is too hard for you to handle and feel being more exposed to risk, it’s no shame to get off and walk with your bike through that patch and continue riding after. With practise, there will come a time where you won’t have to get off the bike and ride smoothly through that patch with more confidence. Let it build slowly.

Last but not least, slowly build your skill keeping safety factors in mind to become a better rider without taking too much risks at the start. It is very healthy and important for your skill building and keeping yourself encouraged to improve upon more progressively.