Mountain Bike Riding Techniques


Get your body position right, adapt with the trail and Just Ride

A lot of things can happen if you don’t adopt the right body position when you’re out on the trails. Foremost you might get hurt and damage your bike. But if you take the time to practice some basic skills and know when to implement them, you will achieve a faster, smoother ride, even when the going gets tough.

On difficult and challenging terrain, if you have poor positioning, you will have poor control and the bike can appear to take on a mind of its own, start bouncing around the trail and you find yourself fighting a losing battle with obstacles and gravity. A positive body position puts you in control, you stay balanced, relaxed and enjoy the ride.

Adopting good body position and keeping your head and torso properly positioned will enable you to roll over the trail in control and you get to decide on your ride line rather than the terrain and gravity doing it for you.

This post is aimed at beginners but I have to say that poorly positioned riders who have been riding for quite some time are out there. Getting the basics right will make a difference and a much better ride.

Basic (attack) Position – Ready for Action

This is the primary skill you need to develop from the start. Get this right and bringing in the other mountain bike skills will be a lot easier and enjoyable.

Attack Position

Don’t tense your body or squeeze the bar grips

If you’re well balanced, staying relaxed is easier and the bike will move around beneath you. Your arms and legs become added suspension as they absorb undulations on the trail. You’re not a metal bar, you’re an amazing and adaptable human.

Stand up

If you sit on the saddle on a bumpy trail, you will bounce around so, stand up, keep your chest toward the bars, and slightly bend your knees for more control.

Weight distribution

Your weight should be in your feet and your hands light. Drop your heels and support your head & torso with your legs, not your hands. Your weight should be at the bottom bracket, your arms free and light for control and steering. Too much weight on your hands is often indicated with aching or pins & needles.

Keep Your Heels down

With cranks level and the ball of your foot on the pedal axle or just in front of it, drop your heels towards the ground.

Head up

Your head position affects balance so keep your chin up and focus on the trail. The front wheel doesn’t need you to watch it and you will lose balance if you do.

Elbows up

Bend your elbows and hold them up so you can use your arms to control and lean the bike into turns and bends.

Engage your core

Try not to round your lower back like you’re slouched in front of a TV. It’s not good for power and efficiency when it comes to more advanced skills and you don’t want injuries. Think doing a moony at the rider behind you. Stick your backside out and involve your core muscles to keep your back straight.

Brakes Ready

I prefer a brake lever setup where each index finger rests comfortably on the end of the brake levers. Always ready for forced stops or just to temper the speed a little. Using the one finger setup also means I don’t trap any fingers under the brakes if I have to pull suddenly and hard.


Like anything else, practice goes a long way and there is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing a nice smooth trail or quiet street to get your position right. Once it’s right, it becomes second nature.

Join the debate, ask questions, make comments . . . you will always get a response. In the meantime, Just Ride!

In the next Skills Clinic post we will take a look at brakes and braking technique.

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