Skills Fundamentals

This mountain biking skills section will teach you a set of fundamental skills that will make your riding safer, better and faster. This section's content is brought to you by Julien Lallemand. Julien developed a mountain bike skills teaching method and taught regular mountain bike skills clinics in Hong Kong

Steps up and down

Steps are a too common feature of Hong Kong trails. If you ride in Hong Kong you must learn to ride over steps!

stairs

Going down a single step

We’ve seen above how to deal with your bike tilting. Riding at moderate speed down a step will make your bike tilt. You can ride slowly over almost any step not higher than your front wheel axle (13 inch / 33 cm). A higher step requires more advanced techniques (drop off or wheelie drop off) .

Graphic: getting ready for the drop

drop a step

 

  • Line-up with the obstacle, come at moderate speed. Acknowledge the step’s height. You must try to hit the step as head on as possible.
  • Prepare to drop. Get as low as possible on your bike by shifting your hips backward and flexing your arms. If it’s a small step you only need to lower your upper body accordingly. For a big step you want your arms extremely flexed to have enough room to let the bike drop.
  • Be sure your pedals are leveled, you don't want to clip the ledge with your foot (crash guaranteed)
  • DO NOT use your brakes as soon as you are half a bike length from the step.
  • When the bike’s front drops, extend your arms.
  • Let the back wheel follow and extend your legs when it drops.
  • Now you can brake again if you need to.
The same skills apply for a very steep and abrupt incline.

CAUTION: Do not use your brakes while going any major obstacle

brake and fall

Photo sequence: rolling down a large step. This step is almost 15 inc. Notice how flexed the arms are right before hitting the step.

drop off small

Going down a set of steps or stairs

Going down steps is relatively safe. Steps are nothing else than a rough slope. Start practicing on a few steps (3 to 5) with a clear run-out. Make sure that all the steps are even.
For just a few steps use the single step technique. The bike won’t tilt as much. Avoid using your brakes for a short flight of steps (just 3 to 5)

For larger flights of steps:

  • Come at moderate speed and quickly scan the stairs for irregular steps or other obstacles.
  • Let the bike drop into the steps as if it were a regular steep slope (Use the DH posture accordingly to the slope).
  • Control your speed. Brake enough to do this. Concrete steps offer enough grip for you to slow down and steer.
  • The faster you go the less vibration you get—with speed, your tires will not have the time to get between the gaps of each step, and will make therefore make it feel smoother.
  • Prepare to land. Lean back more in order to prepare for the final impact with the ground surface.

Going up one or more steps

Your bike can roll up and over a wide range of obstacles. Steps can also be ridden up. Again steps are just a rough surface that you will tackle in the uphill direction.

A single regular step

You don’t need to hop your front wheel on a step smaller than 5 inch, just roll over it but brace for the impact and transfer your weight from the back wheel to the front wheel in order to go over the step.

  • Approach the step at moderate speed and stop pedaling a bike length before the obstacle.
  • Extend your legs.
  • Pull back on your handlebars before you hit the step. Slightly flex your legs when you lean back. This will transfer your weight to the back wheel.
  • The front wheel will hit the step and immediately go over it.
  • Extend your legs.
  • Now use the impact against the step to press on your handle bar and shift your weight onto the front wheel. Flex your legs to let the bike go over the step.
  • Push the handle bar forward again in order to come back to a downhill posture and stabilize.

A few steps

The technique is similar but you must try to push the bike up the steps and place the wheel on top, then press on your handlebar.

Photo sequence: going up stairs. Let the bike suspension do the work, shallow stairs are like a rough slope up. The torso remains stable, arms are flexible and relaxed to the the bike go over each steps

stairs up sequence

CAUTION: Trying to climb steps often results in a rear tire flat. To avoid this it’s very important to absorb the rear wheel impact against the step with your legs.

NEXT: Bumps and Ditches 

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