Core Skills: Balance

Good mountain bike riding is all about remaining balanced however your bike tilts or hits an obstacle. If you just sit on your saddle and hit a rock the bike will transfer all the impact’s energy to your buttocks and you will simply be kicked off. That’s why your best shocks are your legs and arms: you don’t want the impact to transfer to your upper body.

Bike adjustment

You’ll need a bike your size to be able to balance correctly. Here are a few very simple tricks to choose a bike that fits you.
Bike Fit
Saddle height:
To know if a bike is your size you must first adjust the saddle so that it’s in “optimum position”. This position will let you fully exploit your leg power.

Bike length:

A rule of thumb is that when you’re riding you shouldn’t see your front wheel axle (or hub) because the handle bar masks it. If you can see it in front of the handle bar it means the bike is too small for you; if you can see the front axle behind the handle bar, it means it’s too large for you.

Correct riding posture


STAND on your bike

As soon as the terrain gets rough or unstable you must STAND on your pedals, not sit on your saddle. Strictly no obstacles can be overcome with your buttocks on the saddle.

Graphic: Center of gravity falls  in the middle between the wheels.  Get off the saddle and  shift your help back to brace for an impactstand on your bike
Consider your heart as your center of gravity. You want to keep your heart as stable as possible. To do so you must use your legs and arms, they are your suspension. They will help you keep your center of gravity as stable as possible by absorbing sudden impacts and counterbalancing the bike’s tilt.

Now imagine a line that falls vertically from your heart towards the ground, tracing a point on the floor – it’s the projection of your center of gravity on the ground.
When sitting correctly on a bike that fits you, this point falls midway between your two tires’ contact points with the ground.

You want to keep this point as much as possible in the center or slightly behind. The more the point goes forward the closer you get to going over the bar. (We’ll develop this more in the next chapter on braking.

Crouching tiger

Getting a lower riding positure when the terrain gets rough allows you to have more flexibility with your arms and legs. The bike doesn't only hit obstacles, it also drops and tilts.
You want to have to keep contact with the ground at all time. Without any weight on your tires it is impossible to steer or brake. Crouching on your bike is the only way you can force your wheel to stay on the ground when hitting a steep or rough trail section

Photo: low posture for high step

crouching tiger


Practice: Find your Balance point

balance practice
Now how to know if you’re well balanced?

Now explore your range of movement:
Graphic: the bike will tilt in many different ways, but your center of gravity must remain stable
movement range

Practice: Balancing down a slope

Please read first the chapter on braking because you’ll need to brake while riding down a slope.
balance on a slope
It may feel strange to lean so low on your bike while going down, but this posture allows you to keep your arms flexed and lets you steer and absorb impacts.

Practice: Curve on slopes

Practice Conclusion:

The crouching position is the base of good riding technique. It will allow you to let the bike drop down a big step. Your arms will have plenty of extension capacity to overcome the bike’s tilt and to remain able to turn.
You’ll gain experience getting off the saddle and knowing how far you can get behind it without losing balance.
The lower you are and the more balanced on your feet you are, the easier it will be to overcome difficulties.
This skill applies for going over very rough surface, bumps and even curves.

NEXT: Core Skill - Braking