Mountain bike riding has become more and more technical over the years, as riders push the boundaries of what's rideable. Nowadays, there's virtually nothing that some maniac wouldn't ride down, through or over.
This has largely come about because of advances in technology: proper, effective suspension, decent brakes and stronger frames and components. But riders themselves have also found new ways to hit stuff, and have picked up new ideas from sports such as snowboarding, motocross and BMX. New riders come into the sport, discover the established limits and set about destroying them - everyone progresses and riding stays fresh.
Although this is happening in all aspects of mountain biking, the most visibly developing area is technical riding. You only have to look at some of the North Shore stuff to see the extreme end of that movement. But alongside the ridiculous drops and ladders through trees, technical riding techniques filter down to everyday trail use, and sections that might have seemed impossible before end up looking like a walk in the park.
Professional UK riders Oli Beckingsale (cross country champ) and Will Longden (downhiller and 4X champ) give you some pointers to get your tech game up to speed.
Major trail obstacles
Sometimes you'll come across a trail where it looks like the big guy upstairs doesn't want you riding it. Your way will be blocked by an obstacle such as a fallen tree, a big rock or even a log put there by mean-spirited walkers who think it's funny to sabotage your favourite track. You have two choices: get off and climb over, or strap on your happy hat and ride.
Obviously, there are limits as to what's possible without a kicker ramp but, for an average rider, anything up to about a foot high is more than possible to conquer.
Get out of the saddle with your pedals level. Pop the front wheel up at least a foot before the obstacle. With the front wheel clear, un-weight the rear end by popping a bunnyhop or shifting your weight towards the front and using your momentum to carry you over.
It's not cool to clear a big log and then disappear down a hole, so always try to have a recce before you attempt one. This is one time when you might want to keep a check on the obstacle itself so you can adjust your position accordingly.
You only need enough speed to clear the obstacle with a bunnyhop or enough momentum to drive the bike over. It will be obvious whether you need to speed up or slow down on your first run, but err on the side of caution to begin with.
You don't need to be too concerned with braking when clearing most obstacles, but keep your brakes covered just in case. Depending on the size of the obstacle, if you don't make it over grabbing the brakes can save you slipping back off it.
© BikeRadar 2007