How to manual like a machine

Street-riding master Tom Cardy teaches you to love your back wheel

A manual is the same as a wheelie, just without pedalling. Riding on just the rear wheel, you use transfers of body weight and the rear brake to hold the bike perfectly on the balance point.

You can use the manual to link tricks and lines, whether out on the trail, down at the skate park or riding street. Learning to manual requires some trial and error, but once it clicks you’ll be able to go as far as your speed carries you.

Then you can try styling it up, by turning the bar or even taking a hand off if you want to be really cool! Professional mountain biker Tom Cardy explains more.

1. Get in position

Travel at a fast walking speed while standing up on the bike, keeping your weight central and your knees and elbows slightly bent, ready to lift the front wheel. It’s important to keep one finger over the rear brake lever at all times.

If at any point you feel the manual is going out of control, slam the rear brake on and this will instantly drop the front wheel back to the ground.

2. Find the balance point

You now need to lift the front wheel. The height is going to vary depending on your balance point, but it wants to be roughly 1.5ft off the ground.

Transfer your weight back, getting your bum over the rear axle, while pushing both feet into the pedals and gently pulling on the bar. The first few times, just get used to the wheel being off the ground.

You can even try pulling it slightly higher than necessary and then slamming the brake on, to get yourself used to reacting when it starts to go wrong.

3. Control the manual

Next, you need to learn to control the bike. As before, get your bum over the rear axle, with knees bent and arms almost straight.

If the wheel starts dropping, push with your feet and pull with your arms to put yourself into a more upright position.

If you find yourself going too far back, feather the rear brake to control the height of the front wheel. The more you do these movements, the more confidence you’ll have and in-control you’ll feel.

It’s crucial to have a sharp rear brake that you can feather with one finger

Advanced skills

Once you start to link these movements, you should be covering some distance. If the bike isn’t tracking straight, you’re probably pulling on the bar and pushing on the cranks more on one side than the other.

If you’re pulling evenly and the bike is still leaning to one side, use your knees to straighten it up. Once you’ve mastered the basics, it’s time to learn how to turn. Point your head in the direction you wish to go, lean your body into the turn and point your shoulders in that direction too.

Bike setup

It’s crucial to have a sharp rear brake that you can feather with one finger. This will stop you flipping onto your back! Making sure the saddle is down and out of the way will also make the bike easier to control.

Having trouble?

If you’re finding the manual hard to master, try sitting on the saddle with both feet on the ground and your front wheel in the air. Rock forwards and backwards, and feel for the balance point. This should give you an idea of how it should feel when you do it for real.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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