Mountain Bike: Top 3 Tips

We’ve teamed up with the guys over at so that we can start brining our readers more articles on Mountain Biking.  We try to cater to all types of riders of all levels and abilities here at Loving the Bike, but seeing as I’m primarily a road cyclist the focus tends to shift mostly in that direction.

 Starting right now, we’ll be posting mountain bike articles each month courtesy of Greg Heil and Singletracks.  They definitely know their stuff when it comes to mountain biking, and we’re so happy to connect with them.

Top 3 Mountain Biking Tips

by Greg Heil

The relation of mountain biking to road biking/cycling fascinates me. On one hand, they each seem to be just a different side to the same biking coin. But on the other hand, mountain biking is oftentimes so radically specialized when compared to road biking that it seems like a different sport entirely.

Since these sports are so different, transitioning from the road to the trail can be a daunting task. Specifically, while road riders often bring an amazing fitness base to the mountain bike trail, the technical side of the sport usually proves to be challenging. While I could write for days about mountain bike skills, here are the three most basic mountain biking techniques that you should have in your arsenal:

1. Look where you want to go

When they first start mountain biking, many beginners have the tendency to look down at their front wheel in an attempt to see where it is going, or they focus their on obstacles in the trail. These tendencies are detrimental to good mountain biking. When riding singletrack, it is imperative that you look where you want to go.

For instance, is there a tree that you want to avoid? OK, well notice that tree, and then look down the trail and past it to where you want to end up. If you stare at the tree the entire time, you will run smack-dab into it. Are you riding along a steep cliff? While it’s tempting to stare off into the distance and enjoy the view, if you do without coming to a stop first, your front end will probably plummet straight off the edge.

While I’ve attended a skills clinic that spent literally an entire day discussing and practicing good vision, the simple truth is that you need to look down the trail. Focus on where you want to go. And the faster you’re going, the further down the trail you need to look.

All three of these tips melding together seamlessly in one photo. Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Jeff Barber.

2. Brake smart

Many times when I’m riding with beginners, I’ll see them get up too much speed and lose control, careening off the trail until the underbrush finally stops their forward progress. When I ask them what went wrong, the conversation usually goes like this:

“I couldn’t stop.”

“Were you using your brakes?”

“Of course.”

“Were you using both of your brakes, your front brake, or your rear brake?”

“Just my rear brake.”

“Why weren’t you using the front brake?”

“I’m afraid of flipping over.”

Since your weight is driving down the hill with the force of gravity and the momentum that you’ve gained, about 70% of your total braking power is contained in your front brake, with only about 30% of your total power in your rear brake. If you use just the rear brake, you are only using a fraction of the total braking power available to you.

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