Learn Tips for Riding a Mountain Bike Uphill and Downhill
Balanced body position is a key skill for maintaining control on a mountain bike! However, in order to maintain balance on a bike while riding over terrain that is changing, we have to MOVE! Having a good body position while riding up hills and down hills is all about finding stability.
What is a stable body position?
You are stable on your bike when your weight is evenly spread between your front and rear wheels. That means, on a flat surface you’d be centered on the bike with your body weight hovering directly over the bottom bracket. Lowering your center of gravity and getting wider on the bike often increases stability.
When riding uphill, shifting your weight slightly forward will keep your weight balanced between both wheels. In the image above, you can see that when the rider remains in the same position uphill, her weight is too far back and her front wheel would likely come off the ground.
When riding downhill, shifting your weight slightly back will keep your weight balanced between both wheels. In the image above, the rider’s weight is centered over the front wheel which would cause instability.
Downhill Body Position Tips
- Drop your heels. Bracing your feet against the pedals helps your body maintain stability and resist the forces that downhill braking puts on your body.
- Keep your arms and legs bent. When your arms or legs are locked out, you aren’t able to react to the terrain. Maintaining a bend in your elbows and knees will allow your joints to act like extra suspension on rough descents.
- Shift your hips back slightly. Your range of motion will depend on the steepness of the descent. Small body position adjustments go a long way!
- Chin over stem. Lower your chest and hips to build traction and stability. Keeping your chin over your stem while descending ensures your weight stays balanced and you don’t unweight your front wheel!
- Ease the squeeze. Stay in control by having a strong stance on the bike and feathering your front and rear brakes, being careful not to lock your wheels which could cause you to skid.
- Scan the trail. Move your gaze between the now and then next to scan the trail for places of traction and momentum blockers!
Uphill Body Position Tips
- Scan the trail. It’s important to not get stuck on where your front wheel is now, keep your gaze shifting upward to the next as you climb.
- Keep your hands light, drop your wrists. Don’t pull on the bar as you climb, it could cause your front wheel to move unintentionally!
- Boobs over bars! Move your chest forward and down slightly to build traction over the front wheel.
- Shift your hips forward in the saddle. Your range of motion will depend on the steepness of the incline.
- Chin over stem. If your body weight moves too far forward, you may lose traction with the rear wheel.
- Keep your momentum moving forward. Maintain a steady cadence, lighten up on your pedal stroke if you need to shift into an easier or harder gear on a climb.
Riding with a friend? You can practice uphill and downhill body position with static holds!
Looking to take your mountain biking skills to the next level? Here’s the deal:
The best and quickest way to improve your mountain biking skills is to take a skills clinic with a professional mountain bike instructor. If you’re unsure of your skill level, reaching out to a mountain bike coach in your area is a great place to start. Mountain biking is a dynamic sport – there are many different ways to approach a feature and we may not have covered all of those different ways in this tutorial. Always ride within your limits and do not attempt risky maneuvers when riding alone. Mountain biking is awesome, but does come with inherent risks – be safe, be smart and have fun!