Main Page Room 114
From Mountain Bike Action / June 2007 /
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The basic skill set (R. Cunningham)
Regardless of speed, skill level and the severity of the terrain, every trick that an off-road cyclist uses-from Nicolas Vouilloz to Joe Trail Rider-can be distilled into seven simple techniques. Used individually, or strung together in a sequence, these elemental moves can get you up, over, down or around anything that can be rolled on a bicycle.

New members of the mountain bike clan can use these seven skills to hone their riding, or as effective skin savers. Enthusiasts have probably mastered all seven, at least in an intuitive sense, but we should all take the time to practice, identify and name each move, so we will have them at the ready when we are faced with an unexpected rut, dropoff or twist in the trail. Consider these tips as MBA's seven basic bacon-savers.
There are two kinds of slides: a brake-slide and the type that occurs when the wheels lose traction mid
corner, or on an offcamber section of trail. To stop a brake slide-front or rear-ease off of the brakes.

A) "Pushing" is when the front tire loses traction and slides to the outside of a corner. The main cause of a pushing condition is that the rider has not leaned the bike enough and therefore must turn the handlebar excessively to get around the bend. To stop a push, use a flick of the handlebar to steer the front wheel opposite the turn and get the bike leaned over. Then quickly return to the normal steering position to catch the bike before it leans too far. If the turn is slow, tilt the bike underneath you to exaggerate its lean angle and the front tire will not slide.
B) Dabbing your inside foot will stop a slide. If a single dab doesn't raise the bike's lean angle and get
the tires to dig in, turn the handlebars slightly towards the direction of the slide (counter-steer), keep your inside foot down and let your shoe drag slightly behind you. Put enough leg pressure on it to keep you upright. Lift your foot as you feel the tires dig in.
C) Sliding sideways down a loose, offcamber washout or in a slippery section of a turn is quickly arrested by putting most of your weight on the outside pedal and turning the handlebar slightly in the direction of the slide. If it's an offcamber trail, keep pedaling at normal speed and let the tires settle out of the slide
gently. If you are drifting mid-corner, put all of your weight on the outside pedal and drive the tires into the ground until the slide stops.
The first time most of us use this technique is to roll up and over a sidewalk curb, but the move is the same for a three-foot-high ledge, a log, a large rut or gap in the trail. Momentum is the key. Once you get the mass of your body over the ledge, you can snatch your bike up and over with a push on the handlebars.

A) Pick up a little momentum-you'll need to hit the ledge (or the opposite side of the gap) near running speed.
B) As you reach the step, lean back, and pull the front wheel up and over the ledge. If it's a gap, get the front wheel well over the far side.
C) Lean over the handlebar to get as much of your weight over the top of the step as possible and to unweight the rear of the bike.
D) Upon impact, bend your knees, stiffen your upper torso and let the mass of your body push the bike up and over the lip. As you feel the rear wheel coming over the edge, shove the handlebar forward to force the bike up and onto flat ground.
Almost every trail has a stair-step, waterbar, or a small drop-off. Once you get comfortable dropping off a foot-high ledge, you can experiment with greater heights as your confidence increases. The move is the same for any size drop, but don't overdo it-both the bicycle and body have finite limits.

A) Speed is good here, because it reduces the need for precise timing to set up before the drop. The minimum approach speed should be an easy running pace.
B) Avoid staring at the lip. Fix your gaze on the trail beyond (or slightly ahead of your landing spot), lean back
slightly, bend your knees and, in one easy motion, extend your legs and pull back on the handlebar. Get the front
wheel slightly higher than the rear as it leaves the edge.
C) As you begin your short flight,
stay centered over the bike with arms and legs slightly bent. Keep your eyes ahead and help absorb the landing with your upper and lower body.
D) Don't sweat the landing. Most trail riders will feel more comfortable landing on two wheels, but arriving slightly front-wheel or rear-wheel first will not pose a threat.
The climbing turn, especially a steep
one, is the move that often stymies experienced mountain bikers. What makes it difficult is that leaning into the turn- the standard approach- usually sets up the rider for disaster. This move is useful for a surprise switchback or a tight, curving exit after a stream crossing.

A) When climbing, the rear wheel is heavily weighted, while the front is just skipping over the surface. As the turn approaches, swing the front tire wide, so the rear wheel will arc through the middle of the trail. Let the front wheel roll over the rough stuff. Only the rear wheel is important.
B) Standing or seated, pretend that your upper body is hung from a string. It should remain vertical in relation to gravity all the way around the turn.
C) You should not have to lean the bicycle very much at all. Steer the bike around and upwards like a bus driver. If you need to turn more sharply, stay upright and angle the bike underneath you as if it was hinged at the saddle.
Failing to lean into a descending turn is the most common error, and it leads to overshooting the apex and running the front wheel off the outside edge of the trail-which is often a sheer cliff. Do we have your attention?

A) Keep your eyes fixed well ahead and exactly on your chosen line. Avoid staring over the abyss where death or dismemberment awaits-or you will surely go there.
B) Start your corner high and from the outside. Slightly before you come abreast of the inside apex, weight the outside pedal to keep the tires digging and lean in about double what you believe is necessary. Don't angle the bike; lean with it and dive into the corner as if the crank arm is going to bang against the apex.
C) As you come abreast of the apex, release the brakes and physically twist your head (this is important) so that your eyes are facing down the trail beyond the corner. Keep the outside pedal weighted and your head turned until the bike has exited the corner.
SAVE SIX, BUNNY C The basic bunny hop is also the move
that is used to set up for a jump. The key is to thrust downward with your legs to preload the tires and suspension, and then snatch the bike upward and forward as both rider and bike rebound. Use the technique on the ramp of a jump to gain height, control the attitude of the bike in flight and to leap over small gaps, sharp rocks, or reptiles sunning themselves on the trail.

A) Timing is everything. About two bike lengths before you need to be airborne, get the pedals level, lean forward, and get your shoulders over the handlebar.
B) Push down hard, as if you are preparing to jump off of the pedals, and simultaneously compress the fork with your arms and torso.
C) As the two of you recoil from the effort, pull your legs up as you extend your arms and shove the handlebar upward and forward. The bike will ease up under your crouched body and the wheels will be about a foot off the ground.
Years ago, when disc brakes were in the development stage, an MBA test rider boiled the fluid and lost both brakes on a downhill run. The course was very steep and dangerously exposed, leaving no safe bailout option. The rider kept his cool and controlled his speed by pushing the bike so hard into the corners that it would almost come to a stop. It may have been the fastest run of the day. It was certainly the most dangerous run, but it was a good demonstration of energy management, which is how a downhill rider controls his speed.

A) Avoid dragging the rear brake most of the time to manage your speed. This locks up the rear suspension, prevents leaning the bike correctly and causes the front tire to push. Instead, use the front and rear brake together in intervals to burn off speed in the smoother sections that
lead into corners or technical problems.
B) Gravity is like an electric motor that starts slowly and then builds up energy. If you enter a steep downhill section at a slow rate of speed, you can use this lag in acceleration to stay off the brakes and maintain better control through a technical problem.
C) Don't skid. A bike won't steer or stay on line unless its wheels are turning. Listen to the tires. When you hear the hiss, ease off of the levers.
D) Drive the wheels into the turn and force a rear-wheel drift by pushing hard on the outside pedal while leaning over the handlebar. To stop the drift, ease back on the bars and the rear tire will hook up again. Use this technique when you enter a corner with way too much speed.

(Bicycling with Children)