Even JO DOBINSON was a trembling beginner, once. That was 25 years ago; today, she coaches MTB skills to some of the best, including us!
There are three fundamentals that hold true for all riders, experienced and not. Whether you are cruising a trail, bombing a rock garden (you will get there, promise) or whooping a section of singletrack, run these three mantras and most of your troubles will disappear.
It is your friend! When in doubt, keep rolling (obviously within the bounds of reason) and you will bounce through and over your obstacle, safely.
LOOK FAR AHEAD
Lift your chin and watch the trail four to 10 metres ahead of you, as your speed increases. Your brain will react and plan around what is coming, in time for you to choose the perfect line.
THE ATTACK POSITION
This is the key to it all; never ride over an obstacle or down a hill sitting on the saddle. It isn’t safe, and it certainly isn’t fun. Let’s look at it a little deeper. Find an open field and practice holding the position in a low-risk area; it will feel strange at first, with stretched calves as you drop your heels “abnormally”, but it is worth the drill.
- Raise yourself off the saddle and place your feet at three and nine o-clock, to balance your bike and stop hitting the pedals on the rocks and logs.
- Drop your heels – shifting your weight to the back of the bike. Your legs will be almost straight with “soft” knees for shock absorption.
- Elbows out – this lowers your weight on the front of the bike for better control. I created a saying “boobs2bar” to help the ladies remember but it works for a lot of guys too…
Elbows out, chest dropped towards the bars, heels down, chin up looking ahead, all sorted.
Practice with a friend and help each other find your descending sweet spot; straight arms, flat feet (or, even worse, ballerina toes) and thrusting your weight too far back will compromise your handling.
I recommend you concentrate once a week on this simple skills drill until you assume the attack position automatically off-road. Start easy, riding over smaller sticks and logs, and gradually build up. Make it fun, and make sure you are clipped in for it all, just like you will be (should be!) on the trail.