Essential bike handling – Basic drop and descending techniques
By: Vineet Sharma
Also featured in Issue #1 | Jan 2011
Basic Mountain Bike Handling is essential to learn in the first few times you start riding your bike. It is not learned overnight but riding and practicing on your Mountain Bike frequently would indeed help a lot.
Knowing how to handle your bike will help prevent you from falling off your bike and will also give you confidence to try new things on your mountain bike. Now we will guide you how to distribute body weight while riding a mountain bike and how it helps. We will be showing you the importance of weight distribution by basic bike balancing, Landing a small drop, and riding downhill and uphill. Some readers may already be aware of this part, but this chapter is designed keeping in mind beginners too. However we will progress to advance techniques and tricks in our coming issues. For the Advanced Mountain Bikers, this chapter could be a good refresher.
Mountain biking is a sport where you will encounter different kind of unpredicted terrain. The best part is – you can ride your mountain bike any time you feel like. Be it in rain, wind, or shred somewhere during winters. Here; our fellow mountain biker Kabir Dhillon, riding on a narrow platform. This can be a good exercise to gain good balance on your bike and you can also get confidence for riding on different kind of terrain or obstacle. You can choose a place anywhere, in your locality, or somewhere in park. Select the platform which can be found at many places or even on a side walk.
Things can go wrong if you are not thinking of at-least 2 to 3 moves ahead.
In the above photo, notice how the rider has his finger on the brake all the time. This does not mean that you have to apply the brakes. It’s for controlling your momentum and balancing the bike at the same time. Make sure you are not sitting on the saddle at any moment while riding on the narrow platform. Things can go wrong if you are not thinking of at-least 2 to 3 moves
ahead. This can be done by not focusing on one obstacle for a long time while riding.
Here you can see the rider is careful about balancing the bike on the narrow platform and planning ahead for the next move.
… and now you can see the rider has shifted his body weight on one side in order to maintain the balance of his bike. Regular practice of riding on narrow trails- which can be in straight line, zigzag line or some Drops can be scary, but real fun at the same time. You can find curb anywhere in a city. Foot paths, small stair case etc are good place to start if you are a beginner.
Inspect the area carefully before you attempt any obstacle.
1: To do a small drop make sure you look ahead before you approach the drop-off.
2: Stand slightly – position your body and shift your body weight more to the rear wheel by leaning back as shown in the second step. Pull back on the handlebars at the same time you approach the end.
3: Drop off landing your rear wheel first and then the front wheel. Absorb the shock of the landing by your knees and elbows as shown very nicely in the third step.
4: If you hit the brakes at any point during the drop, you may fall and get hurt. Keep the flow while you land and settle the balance of your bike before you grab the brakes.
Descending or going downhill on a mountain bike is the most exciting part of Mountain Biking. Here is some advice to do it safely. Make sure your brakes are in good working condition before you attempt this.
1: Inspect the area carefully from top to the bottom and choose your line.
2: Be ready with your fingers on both the brake levers – just in case you have to slow down. Make sure you don’t lock your wheels while coming down hills or any type of descent. You may lose your balance and fall badly.
3: Shift your body weight back by moving towards the back of the saddle and gripping it with the inner thighs. Try and keep your arms and legs relaxed as it will help you to absorb more shock.
4: Always keep your pedals in horizontal position. This helps you to gain more ground clearance, otherwise
you can hit an obstacle while riding downhill.
5: Do not descend fast if you are a beginner. * Never lock the front brakes while descending. This will throw you off the bike and you can land in a hospital too. Use both your brakes evenly and hold the grips nicely but not locking to them.
6: Increase your speed only when you have gained confidence. You can chose a path with more obstacles when you are comfortable descending on your mountain bike.
Combining all three sections here can pump you to do something like this:
Have fun while riding! Don’t forget to share your riding experience with us.