Hints and Tips: Be A Better Mountain Biker : Part 1

I saw a blog on this topic on BikeRadar and thought there were some key points missing.
So here are just a few useful tips to make mountain biking easier and safer.

1) Cadence: Keep it high; this is more important than on a road bike, where changing up a gear and powering it up to speed is possible, on a mountain bike it is key to keep the cadence going so that if you hit an unexpected small incline or bump you have the momentum and power to push over it. Aim for 85-95 r.p.m.

2) Climbing: Looking ahead at the trail, rather than down at your front tyre is one thing for balance and peripheral vision, but it also important for thinking ahead. As you near a climb think about your cadence. It needs to stay high when you hit the climb, so change down a few gears, spin up to above the r.p.m you would normally use; then as you hit the climb it will gradually decrease back to normal and maybe a little below. This is the most efficient way of climbing and again allows you to push over small obstacles far more easily than churning away at a hard gear; it also avoids the chance of dropping a chain if you try to change down suddenly because you realise you were in too higher gear.

3) Steep Climbs: Body Position is key on a steep climb, shift your weight forward onto the nose of the saddle, lead forward over the bars and drop your wrist slightly, this all helps to stop the front wheel from lifting; a definite no, no in terms of control and speed. If the back wheel begins to spin, shift your weight back slightly, but don't get out of the saddle if the wheel stands any chance of spinning, that extra power will just spin it out straight away.

4) Cornering: Visualise the racing line as you approach the corner (wide in - close to the inside apex - then wide out). Lean the bike more than the body into the corner; thinking about getting the side knobs on the tyres gripping. The inside foot should be high and the outside one low, with you body weight being placed on the outside pedal, so you can flick the bike upright out of the corner. If the track doesn't have a natural berm, you can even use the grassy edges of single-track to bank on, anything that will offer grip to the side knobs of the tyre is useful, so make the most of verges and bank edges to gain grip.

5) Riding through mud: The two main things to consider when you are approaching mud is that your speed is going to fall dramatically when you hit it, and the resistance is going to seriously increase. To counteract the increased resistance change down a few gears and keep the cadence high, so that you can keep pedalling through the mud/water and you don't stop or spin out by using a gear that is too high. In terms of the decrease in speed you need to pre-empt it; shift your body weight back on the saddle, maybe even behind it if you are going very fast; so when you hit the water the sudden decrease in speed doesn't send you over the handlebars.
Once you are in the mud, if you feel yourself losing traction you can try bouncing your weight on the saddle, this can allow the tyre to work down through the slush to the hard-bottom mud underneath and allows you to regain momentum.

I hope these tips are helpful as a start, when I have another moment spare I'll expand upon them and add some more advanced techniques as well.


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