“Hang off the back! Hang off the back!” I often hear this being shouted at riders by their mates as they try to ride steep sections. But hanging off the back of the bike makes chutes dangerous for several reasons.
It gives you zero front wheel grip, bucks you forward if you hit a bump and gives you the least amount of stability on the bike.
So, what should you do to make sure you get max grip, zero bucking and complete stability?
- How to whip a mountain bike
- How to ditch your backpack on MTB rides — six alternatives to lighten your load
How to ride steep chutes
1. Bend at the hips
This is the main change you should make to your position on the bike as you drop into a steep section.
When the front wheel rolls over the edge of the chute, bend further forward from your hips. It may feel counterintuitive, but it will lower your chest, which will help you keep some bend in your arms.
This will mean you’ll have better control of the front wheel. Adjust the amount you lean forward to suit the steepness of the slope.
2. Less front brake
The front brake is useful, but in situations like this, it can be the devil.
Using it in steep sections generally puts you and the bike out of balance, especially when the trail is loose or rutted, so try to use it less. If you’re trying to ride a rut, applying the brake can drag the wheel out of it.
Practice modulating your braking so you can use less front brake.
3. Upright legs
To stay stable on the bike, you need to keep your weight going through the bottom bracket.
For this to happen, you have to keep your legs perpendicular to flat ground. (Picture an imaginary line heading straight up from the bottom bracket and try to follow it with your legs.)
This can be tough in extremely steep chutes, but the closer you are to this position, the easier riding steep sections will become.
Putting it all together
Approaching the chute, make sure you have a solid posture on the bike, with elbows bent, weight through your heels, legs straight but supple and hips bent.
As you roll into it, keep your legs as they are and allow the bike to pivot forward by bending more at your hips. Modulate your braking so you use less front brake than rear.
With all these actions combined, you should have great grip and stability.
Reacting to trail features
You need to be able to squash (allow the bike to come up to you) and pump (push the bike into the terrain) over undulations while riding the chute. So try to keep your legs extended, because this will give you the space to squash and pump when you get to the bumps.