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.
Howling along a fast trail, only to come face-to-face with a section that looks like a macabre exaggeration of the rockery in your nan’s garden, can be pretty scary. Rocks are nasty, evil things that would like nothing better than to pitch you over the handlebar and then bounce your bike off your noggin, just to rub salt in…
Well, that’s what they want you to think, those pesky lumps of, er, rock. In fact, rocks aren’t evil at all, and if you learn to ride them correctly, they can be amazing fun.
Hit rock sections standing so you can shift your weight and react to bumps. Rocks and roots will buck you forward if you hit them fast, so set your weight just behind your saddle.Keep the pedals level to avoid clipping errant lumps.
Spot your chosen line through the section and set your trajectory firmly in your mind. Once on your line, keep looking towards the exit and you’ll be more inclined to stick to it – even if you do take some hits on the way.
Maintain your speed by staying smooth but loose and choosing the cleanest line. It might be fun to bounce off rocks, but clean, straight lines are quickest. You may still have to negotiate a few big lumps but aim for an uncluttered route.
Get fully in control before you reach the section so you’re in the best position to tackle the trail. If the rocks/roots are wet, stay off the brakes inside the section. If you have to brake, modulate the power to avoid locking up and slipping.