Elevate your riding.
Take your riding to the next level with these simple tips. Photo: Courtesy of Daniel GomezCourtesy of Daniel Gomez

5 Tips to Elevate Your Next MTB Ride

Just because it’s starting to snow up high in parts of North America, it doesn’t mean mountain bike season is over. Far from it, because fall has the best temps and it’s the perfect time to polish up your riding (i.e. kick those bad habits you’ve picked up over the summer).

Increase the stoke with every pedal stroke.
Ride smart and have more fun. Courtesy of Cassandra Prochera

Candace Shadley is well versed with adjusting techniques and, as the founder of the Trek Dirt Series mountain bike camps, sees room for improvement day in and day out. In an effort to help people learn good habits, correct bad ones, and essentially love riding their bikes, Shadley developed one of the first instructional programs – a set of weekend events that’s now in its nineteenth year.

“I designed the Dirt Series to be what I wanted: a program with step-by-step progression, on-target assessment and development, and the kind of support that really sets you up to expand what you’re capable of,” Shadley tells ASN. “It started as a uniquely women’s-specific program but now a quarter of the camps are co-ed; sometimes creating or adapting things for women actually makes them better for everyone.”

Here are some simple tips that Shadley and her team can offer any rider (even those who have been riding a long time). Make the most out of the rest of MTB season and incorporate these tips into your next ride. 

One finger is all you need.
Brakes are powerful, so you only need one finger.

One-Finger Braking

“It’s best to use our index finger only for braking because the hydraulic brakes on the current bikes are super powerful,” says Lynsey Dobish, one of the coaches on the Dirt Series. “By doing this it allows us to have more grip on our handlebars for the important things like steering and hanging on, as well as enableing us to modulate our braking with more precision to increase our control on the bike.”

Pro Tip: If you still aren’t convinced, try picking up your bike with one finger over your brakes, then try with two fingers over each brake. Trust us, it will all make sense.

Stay loose and ride tight.
Keep your riding tight by staying loose. Courtesy of Tyson Swasey

Continuously Move

“When going downhill, remember that you are riding, not ‘surviving.’ Have your body reflect that: arms wide, legs wide, weight balanced over BOTH wheels, looking where you are going. And a smile helps! We’re having fun out here,” Says Dee Turner.

Turner, who races enduro has been coaching on the Dirt Series for three years. “I always say it’s a lot easier to move a 30-pound bike versus a 150-pound body.”

Pedal in circles!
Pedal in circles, yes there is more to it. Courtesy of Anne Keller

Pedal in Circles

“It is important to think about applying pressure evenly throughout the pedal stroke,” Dirt Series coach Laurie Citynski tells ASN. “Think of a circular motion where you’re articulating at the ankles rather than an up-and-down motion. Especially for those on flat pedals who may feel like they are losing that extra ‘pull’ from being clipped in, this will give you the most consistent power and also help keep the most traction on your tires.”

Pro Tip: Imagine driving in the snow. You have more traction consistently applying the gas rather than just gunning it.

Keep up your skills wearing flats.
You can’t cheat in flats. Kate Erwin

Try Wearing Flats

“What I love about riding on flats is the control and foot technique I gain with them,” says coach Tracey Gage. “Flats set your foot up to be in the best position to push or ‘pump’ the bike through the terrain, ensuring that you are the driver of the bike, not just a passenger. Riding on flats has definitely made me a better rider.”

Gage has been a coach for six years and often blows the minds of clip-less riders by asking them to wear flats.

“A lot of people who ride clipped-in pull up on their pedals and ride really light through their feet, transferring that lightness through their whole bodies,” Gage continues. “This doesn’t work well on a mountain bike. Mountain bikes are meant to be driven into the ground. Riding flat pedals helps you to do this. In order to make sure that you keep your feet firmly attached you need to put pressure into the pedals which really helps to keep the tires firmly planted on the ground, as well. This is a technique I spend a lot of time explaining, showing, and teaching to my clients.”

Yes you can!
You can do more than you think. Kate Erwin

Yes, You Can

“People come to camp with a certain idea of what they can do and leave with a completely different one,” Shadley tells ASN. “Thinking back to an afternoon earlier this summer, I stood at a rock face with a group of women on one lap and they all shook their heads, electing to give it a pass. Then after a lot of work on body position, braking, and roll downs, we returned to the same rock to find that it looked different, the idea of doing it felt different, and one solid demonstration was the last bit that was needed. Every participant in that group was so thrilled when she made it down, and I was super excited, too.”

These “ah-ha” moments are what keep the coaches and clients coming back. Although, you can apply this to your own everyday riding.

“It’s really important to know that you can do, and it’s so fun to slowly and deliberately increase what that is, whether through instruction, practice, or a combination of the two,” says Shadley. “It’s not necessary to go far outside your comfort zone, but expanding what that comfort zone is, and pushing at the edges at the right times, is a dream.”

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