top of page

How To Ride A Mountain Bike: Tips and Techniques

You don’t need mountains to go mountain biking. Just about any off-pavement riding will reward you with fresh air, great exercise and—if hills or mountains are present—the exhilaration of scenic views and long downhill stretches.

Mountain biking does require some different skills than road cycling. This article shares basic techniques to help you get started.

1. Body Position

Perhaps the biggest key to successful mountain biking is your body position. Mountain bike trail surfaces include rocks, roots, ruts, sand or mud. The variable terrain and the potential obstacles are all part of the fun but can be unnerving to beginners. Being in the right body position helps you get through tricky sections of trail. There are two primary body positions: neutral and ready.

2. Adjusting Your Seat Position

Positioning your seat properly can help you get in the correct body position for climbing and descending.

Climbing: For climbing, position your seat for maximum efficiency while pedaling. With your foot at the bottom of the pedal stroke, you should see a slight bend in the leg, reaching about 80-90 percent of full leg extension. This helps you pedal efficiently and powerfully using your major leg muscles.

Descending:When it’s time todescend,drop your seat about 2 or 3 inches from the height you set it at for climbing hills. Lowering your seat lowers your center of gravity, which gives you better control and more confidence through steep descents. You may need to experiment with different seat heights to find what feels best.

3. Picking a Line

A beginner's mistake is looking at spots you want to avoid rather than focusing on where you want to go. Pick a path and stick to it to get over and around tricky sections of trail.

To find your line:scan ahead for hazards by looking about 15 – 20 ft. down the trail. Then, move your eyes back toward your tire. Doing this up-and-back action allows your eyes to take in lots of information. Knowing hazards ahead of time can help you adjust your balance and pick a line around them.

4. Braking

Braking seems simple: you squeeze the levers and the bike slows down. That is the gist of it, but learning more about how to brake goes a long way in making you more comfortable and secure on the bike. You must master how to brake and when to brake for better riding technique.

5. Shifting

Since most mountain biking involves at least some ups and downs, it’s good to know how to shift your gears properly.

Shift often:Beginning riders should practice frequent gear shifting.

Shift early:Don’t wait to shift until you’ve already started up that big hill.

6. Falling Off

When you fall off your bike, try to keep your arms in. Your instinct may be to reach out to brace your fall, but this can result in a broken wrist or collarbone.

7. Hiking the Bike

As you ride the trails, you’re bound to get into a tight spot eventually. If you get in a rut on the trail, don't "fight the bike." Just do your best to ride it out.

8. Trail Etiquette

Mountain biking is often done on trails or roads shared with other users, such as hikers and horses. Always be a courteous and responsible rider and be in control of your bike. Ride only on trails open to mountain bike use.


bottom of page