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Home » How to Ride a Mountain Bike: Tips & Techniques

How to Ride a Mountain Bike: Tips & Techniques

    Basic Mountain Biking Techniques

    Mountain biking doesn’t require mountains. Any off-road riding will provide you with a healthy dose of exercise, fresh air, and—if there are hills or mountains nearby—the thrill of beautiful scenery and long downhill sections.

    There are several abilities that mountain biking does not require that road cycling does. To get you started, this article offers some fundamental strategies.

    Your body position is perhaps the most important factor in good mountain biking.

    The surfaces of mountain bike trails may be made of rocks, roots, ruts, sand, or mud. Although the unpredictable landscape and potential hazards add to the pleasure, newcomers may find them unsettling. You can navigate challenging trail sections more easily if you are in the proper body position.

    The neutral and ready positions are the two most common.

    Neutral Position

    You want to be in a neutral posture on the bike when riding less challenging parts of route. This allows you to get into the ready position on tough terrain with ease and keeps you moving along swiftly and comfortably. Included in the neutral posture are:

    • Weighted level pedals that are level
    • modest bending of the elbows and knees
    • the brake levers, using the index fingers Every every time (rim brakes often require 2 fingers)
    • Look where you want to go, not where you don’t, with your eyes roughly 15 to 20 feet in front of you.

    Ready Position

    It’s time to assume the ready position when the terrain becomes more rocky or steep (sometimes called the attack position). You get physically and emotionally ready to tackle tough trail sections by adopting the ready position. Those in the ready position are:

    • Weighted level pedals that are level
    • Knees and elbows bending deeply (think of making chicken wings with your arms with a 90-degree bend.)
    • hips shifted back and the back end of the seat was raised
    • Your index fingers are always on the brake levers, and your back is nearly parallel to the ground (rim brakes often require 2 fingers)
    • Eyes forward, around 15 to 20 feet in front of you; focus on where you want to go rather than where you don’t

    Adjusting Your Seat Position

    You can get in the right body position for climbing and descending by positioning your seat properly.

    Climbing: When climbing, place your seat so that you can cycle as effectively as possible. You should see a minor bend in the leg at about 80–90% of complete leg extension with your foot at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Using your main leg muscles, you may pedal more effectively and forcefully as a result.

    Drop your seat by around 2 or 3 inches from the height you put it at for climbing hills when it’s time to descend. Your center of gravity is lowered as you lower your seat, which improves your control and boosts your confidence during steep descents. To determine the most comfortable seat height, you might need to experiment.

    Picking a Line

    Looking at places you want to avoid instead of concentrating on where you want to go is a beginner’s error. To navigate challenging trail sections, choose a route and stay on it.

    What dangers should you be aware of? Your degree of skill will determine that. For one rider, a log may be a joyful bunnyhop, but it may halt them. Generally speaking, keep an eye out for loose rocks, deep sand, water, wet roots, logs, other cyclists, walkers, and wildlife.

    To locate your line, look 15–20 feet down the route in front of you to check for dangers. After that, turn your gaze back to your tire. Your eyes can take in a lot of information by doing this up-and-back motion. Knowing potential hazards in advance can assist you in adjusting your balance and choosing a path around them.


    Squeezing the brake levers causes the bike to slow down, which seems straightforward. That’s the basic idea, however being better at braking will significantly increase your sense of security and comfort while riding a bike.

    How to Brake

    Controlled and consistent braking is recommended. Although your front brake provides the majority of your stopping force, gripping too much of it will cause you to lose control of the bike. Instead, lightly and evenly apply the brakes to both the front and back wheels. To help prevent sliding, refrain from quick, abrupt squeezes.

    Brace yourself by shifting your hips back, bringing your heels down, and maintaining a modest bend in your elbows and knees while you brake. By maintaining this body stance, you may prevent riding too far forward and losing control.

    Keep the index fingers of both hands on the brake levers and the other three fingers on the handlebar grips if your mountain bike has disc brakes. This provides you with the necessary control and braking power when riding. Try using two fingers on the brake levers if you have rim brakes because they normally take more energy to engage the brakes.

    When to Brake

    When you are about to make a turn, brake before you do so and then allow your momentum take you through the turn. This enables you to concentrate on your technique during the turn and exit it quickly.

    Momentum can also be your ally while climbing over and around trailside barriers. When approaching obstacles, novice riders frequently drastically slow down. You’ll be able to navigate these challenging trail sections with controlled momentum.


    The majority of mountain biking involves at least some ups and downs, so knowing how to properly swap gears is important. In addition to reducing wear and tear on your bike (particularly the chain, front cassette, and rear cogs), good shifting techniques also help you propel yourself more effectively up and down slopes.

    Shift frequently: Novice motorcyclists should practice frequently changing gears. By doing so, you develop muscle memory that enables you to instinctively change gears as needed without having to consider whether you are moving up or down a gear that is easier or harder.

    Don’t wait until you’ve already begun climbing that steep slope to make a shift; do it now. Before you encounter the tough terrain, always change into the gear you will require. As a result, you can maintain a constant riding cadence for optimum power. Additionally, it avoids jerky shifting while under a load, which can be taxing on your gears and risk snapping your chain.

    Err on the side of spinning in an easier gear rather than slamming in a hard gear if you’re having problems selecting the best gear for the terrain you’re riding.

    A further guideline is to avoid cross-chaining. This happens when your chain crosses uncomfortably from the front small chainring to the rear small cog or from the front big chainring to the rear big cog. For both double and triple chainring configurations, this is valid. Cross-chaining might cause your chain to pop off due to stress; also, it strains your chain over time, reducing its lifespan.

    Last but not least, always keep pedaling even when shifting. The chain may break or be damaged if you don’t pedal while shifting.

    While falling off a bike is never fun, if you’re mountain biking, it’ll probably happen eventually.

    Try to keep your arms inside when you fall off your bike. Your natural inclination might be to reach out to cushion your fall, but doing so could break your wrist or collarbone.

    The majority of harm sustained in a fall is restricted to ego. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and make sure you are not hurt before continuing. then examine your bicycle. The chain may have detached and the seat or handlebar may have bent.

    Before moving forward, check your gears and brakes as well. Carrying a multi-tool and a compact first-aid kit is a good idea in case a trailside repair or adjustment is necessary. The first-aid kit should also have some bandages.

    Hiking the Bike

    You will eventually encounter a tight situation while riding the terrain. Avoid “fighting the bike” if you get stuck in a rut on the route. Try your best to endure it. Impossible? Stopping and walking away is not a sin. Walking is unquestionably acceptable when mountain riding. Many paths include required hike-a-bike sections that are too challenging to navigate on a bike, either up or down.

    Trail Etiquette

    Mountain riding frequently takes place on paths or roads that also accommodate other users, such horses and hikers. Always maintain control of your bike and ride courteously and responsibly. Ride exclusively on mountain bike-friendly trails. These are a few of the most significant guidelines:

    • Whenever possible, give way to riders going uphill (in singletrack, stop completely and lift the bike out of the trail).
    • When driving close to horses or hikers, slow down and give them plenty of room. Take direction from the horseback rider when dealing with the animal.
    • Give a courteous hello to fellow trail users to let them know you are approaching.

    Learn more: How to Use a Cargo Bike