Tips and tricks for mountain biking

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By Julie Norman and Sparky Moir
The Daily Sentinel

Some people learn best by taking the hands-on approach. They’ll just jump on a bike and rely on trial and error. Others prefer establishing a theoretical base of knowledge before they attempt the trickier aspects of mountain biking.

It all depends on your comfort level. Here’s some advice from some seasoned riders that should help anyone looking to up the enjoyment factor on the trail. 

Riding down drops or ledges
There are several ways to drop a ledge including bunny-hops and wheelie drops.  We are going to focus on the one we see most people use: the rollover.  Keep your weight back and your fingers away from the front brake.  Often we say, “get your butt behind the seat” but I sometimes have to think about flattening myself out more.  Depending on the drop you may want to be so far back that your chest/stomach is over your bike seat. Keep a little speed as you head into the drop. Once you’re on your line, keep your head up and look ahead to your landing zone.
— Julie Norman

Looking ahead
One of the best tips anyone ever gave me for biking was to “Look where you want to go.”  I use the opposite as well to remind myself not to look at the edge of cliffs. This tip of looking ahead and looking where you want to go holds for climbs, for steep descents, for ledge drops and technical rock sections. Stay focused on your line and on where you’re headed. Look about 15 feet in front of you. You’ll stay on course and ride more successfully when you just look where you want to go.
— Julie Norman

Shifting
You have gears on your bike for a reason. Famous mountain biker Ned Overend says to “shift early and often” and I agree. If I’m biking along the flat double-track section of Mary’s I’m probably in my middle ring in the front and fourth or fifth in the back. But I know when harder sections are coming and I prepare by downshifting in advance of steep hills. Shifting should happen while you still have a nice pedaling cadence. Once it becomes difficult to pedal, it’s too late to shift. This is called shifting under pressure and could cause you to break a chain. It’s another reason to look ahead: You’ll see the hill coming in time to downshift into a more appropriate gear.
— Julie Norman

Climbing
My best tip for climbing is to have an adjustable fork! That’s probably an expensive option for some, so here are a few less-expensive climbing tips. Scoot forward onto the nose of your saddle. This will keep more of your weight toward the front of the bike. Make sure to shift into a proper gear for climbing before you get to the hill. If you’ve still got momentum, you’ll be able to shift as you start to climb, but if you haven’t perfected your shifting techniques yet, go ahead and get in that gear before you start up the hill. Look ahead and try to keep a steady cadence throughout your climb.
— Julie Norman

Trust Your Instincts
There’s nothing wrong with walking an exposed or extremely technical section or with stopping to look at a section before you ride it. Only you know what you’re comfortable riding. Trust your gut and know when to take a break, when to look something over and when to take your bike for a walk. Chances are no one will remember that time you walked that one part, but everyone will remember that time you broke your dérailleur and your ribs.
— Julie Norman

Cornering
Mastering the art of cornering is a great way to maintain speed and flow on the trail. There are many techniques for cornering, but we will keep it basic here. Practice by braking before you reach the corner. Use your arms for stability, but refrain from turning the handlebars as you enter the corner. Instead, try to lead with your belly button by opening your hips and shoulders in the direction of the turn. Keep the weight on your outside pedal and open that inner hip towards the turn. You can practice this by taking your inner foot off the pedal while you corner! Most importantly, keep looking out of the corner to the trail ahead, release your brakes while in the corner itself to allow for maximum traction, and allow your speed to carry you through. A great way to practice corners is by setting up an obstacle course in your driveway! Spend the afternoon weaving through cones or rocks, opening those hips in the direction of the turn, and looking to the trail ahead.
— Sparky Moir

Descending
One thing to know about descending: speed is your friend when riding downhill, and applying sudden pressure to your brakes is what causes many over-the-bar crashes. Before you rip downhill, go ahead and lower your seat. Prepare your body for what the trail may throw at you by assuming your attack position: weight driving into the pedals, butt off the saddle with hips back, chest open and core engaged, knees and elbows open and bent, and gaze up. Once in the attack position, allow your body to relax as you flow downhill. If you feel the need to slow down, apply even, minimal pressure to the brakes. Keep in mind that inertia will fling your body forward if you attempt to stop immediately — scrub your speed periodically rather than stop all at once! Remember to brake on the smooth and high traction sections of trail. Unlike scree or loose rock, sandstone and packed dirt will better enable you to slow down without washing out. Brake accordingly! Keep looking ahead so that you are aware of obstacles on the trail and can choose a line that you are comfortable descending. Relax, have confidence in the traction of your tires, and enjoy the exhilarating rush of flying downhill.
— Sparky Moir

Uphill Ledges/Step ups
As with anything, practice makes perfect, and this especially applies to uphill ledges and obstacles. Instead of walking over a ledge the next time you see one, try these tips instead. As you climb toward the ledge, increase your speed. Choose a gear that allows you to maintain an even cadence. Stay relaxed and apply smooth (not frantic!) pedal strokes. Keep your head up and look past the obstacle to the trail ahead. Upon approaching the ledge, allow your weight to draw back so that the front tire can lift up onto the ledge. Time your pedal strokes so that you can continue to pedal once the front wheel makes it up. Keep pedaling as you shift your weight forward to move the back wheel up and over. Commit to making it: it’s common to wash out a little bit, but oftentimes one more pedal stroke is all you need to make it over. Don’t be stagnant on the bike; the shifting of your weight on the bike is what helps you climb over ledges! Most importantly, keep practicing. If there is an uphill ledge on a trail that you regularly ride, take some time to session it! Keep doing it until you make it, and then do it five more times.
— Sparky Moir

Pumping
Pumping the trail as you ride is an awesome way to use every bump and undulation in the ground to your advantage by gaining speed and traction, as well as limiting the energy you spend pedaling. To pump over a jump or bump in the trail, suck up the face of the feature by allowing the bike to come to your chest. As you reach the backside and ride through the transition of the jump, push down with the handlebars and with your knees and hips. Envision your body staying on an even plane as you pump, rising and flowing with the undulation of the ground to generate speed. Pump tracks are designed for practicing this skill, so head to the bike park in Fruita or the Lunch Loops to get a feel for pumping!
— Sparky Moir

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