Just starting out? These techniques will help you ride safely and in good form.
Assume the position: You want to find a good neutral position, with equal pressure in your feet (i.e., not pointing your toes or heels). Practice with this setup tip from Olympic BMX medalist and World Champ in BMX and 4x MTB Jill Kintner: Stand tall off the saddle with your elbows and knees locked. Then slightly bend your elbows and knees by lowering your hips straight down. “This is by far the most crucial step,” she says, “because jumps and other progressions start from here.”
Switch it up: Don’t be afraid to tweak your stance. “Adjusting your body to the angle of the terrain is absolutely key,” says Kintner. As you ride uphill, think about shifting your weight forward, and lean back slightly as you go downhill to counterbalance the momentum pulling your body and bike forward. These slight adjustments will help keep you from falling. Just be sure not to lean back too much, since you’ll lose control of your bike.
Avoid looking down: Try to focus on the trail ahead and not down at the ground in front of your bike. The reason is simple: If you’re staring at a rock coming up, you’re more likely to steer right into it. Looking ahead also helps you slow down gradually. “It’s kind of like driving a car,” says Kintner. “You don’t slam on the brakes—you anticipate what is coming and gradually come to a smooth stop.”
Make adjustments: Whether you’re buying a bike or renting one from a shop, “make sure the suspension and tire pressure get adjusted for your size,” says Chloe Woodruff, an Olympian and pro mountain bike racer. It’ll make your ride much more comfortable. Also, learning a little bike maintenance before you head out (like how to change a flat tire) can help put your mind at ease, because you’ll know you are prepared to tackle challenges whether you’re riding solo or with a group.