Australian Mountain Bike - - Skills - WORDS: JARED RANDO PHO­TOS: NICK WAY­GOOD

Moun­tain bik­ing is rel­a­tively easy to learn, but takes years, or even decades to mas­ter. For some it comes nat­u­rally and with lit­tle ef­fort and for oth­ers it’s a long learn­ing curve. Through my time spent rac­ing and coach­ing, it al­ways seems that there’s a hand­ful of key, fun­da­men­tal as­pects of rid­ing which stand out, no mat­ter what style of rid­ing of what level of rider you are. So, to sum up what I feel are the most im­por­tant five, here they are in no par­tic­u­lar or­der. Keep them in the back of your mind when you’re rid­ing and hope­fully it will help you progress.


OK, so this one is more for be­gin­ners but if you’ve been rid­ing for any longer than 6 months and brake with 2 fin­gers it’s time to stop! Disc brakes these days are in­sanely pow­er­ful – even at the en­try level. Brak­ing with one fin­ger gives you bet­ter con­trol of the brakes and gives you strength where it’s needed the most; and that’s hold­ing onto your bars. The cor­rect setup for your brakes is crit­i­cal for rid­ing and there’s a bunch of info avail­able about how to do it right. Take the time to try some dif­fer­ent op­tions with your reach ad­just­ment, lever an­gles and lever place­ment un­til you come up with a setup which works for you. You’ll be amazed at the dif­fer­ence this can make to your rid­ing.


Any moun­tain biker out there has that one climb, that one lit­tle tech­ni­cal sec­tion, or that one pinch they just can’t seem to make it over. I still have sec­tions on climbs I’m yet to con­quer… If you have one of those sec­tions, try a slightly big­ger gear and a lower ca­dence. The lower ca­dence does a cou­ple of things. Firstly, you’re less likely to spin out as you’re ap­ply­ing more torque. Se­condly, if you need to get out of the sad­dle for a lit­tle ex­tra power to get you up and over, once again, you’re less likely to spin out. And fi­nally, the ex­tra re­sis­tance makes it a lit­tle eas­ier to bal­ance on your bike as the harder gear gives you a slightly more solid plat­form to bal­ance on and ad­just your weight at low speeds. While it seems counter in­tu­itive, in my books it’s a highly un­der­rated and of­ten over­looked as­pect of con­quer­ing climbs.


I know guys who have been work­ing on their cor­ner­ing for decades. Cor­ner­ing a moun­tain bike is a fine art and def­i­nitely takes a long time to mas­ter. If I could give just one tip for cor­ner­ing though, it would be to al­ways look for the wide en­try into any turn and brake early. A wide en­try opens up the turn and al­lows you to hit the apex and exit ear­lier and ul­ti­mately carry more speed out. You’ll also find that on most trails it will get you out of the “main line” and away from brak­ing ruts. Brak­ing early also al­lows you to get off the brakes ear­lier and carry more speed out. Once again, the world’s best grav­ity racers will give you the best ex­am­ples of this. Take the time to watch some World Cup DH rac­ing to see how it’s done at its best!


Us­ing the ter­rain to gen­er­ate speed is some­thing the world’s best rid­ers do in­cred­i­bly well. Every bump, roller, drop, cor­ner and jump can be used to gen­er­ate speed and al­low you to ride faster and more ef­fi­ciently. Pump tracks are the best ex­am­ple of how ter­rain can be used and where the skill can be best prac­ticed. Most im­por­tantly though, all that speed comes from pump­ing, and pump­ing is done pre­dom­i­nantly with your legs. Push­ing through with your legs is crit­i­cal for trac­tion in cor­ners and to gen­er­ate speed over rollers, bumps and jumps. One of the best things any rider can do is to spend time at a pump track or ride down trails with­out pedalling and fo­cus on gen­er­at­ing speed with­out pedalling. If you’re not fa­mil­iar with it, you’ll be amazed at how much “free speed” there is on any trail once you fo­cus on it.

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