My thoughts on how to ride a MTB… with a 6am-er audience in mind

Not a real post… just the note I wrote to the 6am-ers in preparation for our mountain bike day at Buxton tomorrow.  Can’t wait for it and am looking forward to seeing those who haven’t experienced it, discover such a wonderful sport…


Hi all –

I thought I might give you some food for thought prior to Sunday morning.  Some things for you to ponder… then practice.

You may think me melodramatic in saying what I’m about to say… and you may well be right.  But my long ride yesterday which I enjoyed immensely, had me thinking about what mountain biking meant to me.  It’s not just about riding a bike; it requires all of your physical energy, much of your mental energy and a considerable part of your soul.  If you put all of this into it you will have a ball and you may even get through the day without falling off… says me.

"At one with the earth."

“At one with the earth.”

It always brings you close to nature, frequently has you wondering at your God’s creation and makes you one with the earth.  I particularly found this last Sunday week as I scraped my face along it for about five metres (right).

On a more down to earth note, there are a few golden and silver rules that I try to follow when mountain biking.  It would be silly of me to assume that you would already know this stuff so I thought it best to provide a few tips.  Whether or not you choose to follow them is up to you.  Many 6am-ers, as we know from recent mountain biking feats, already practice these rules very competently.  But those of you who are new to the game may like to give them a go.


The absolute number 1 – Look up and ahead of you – It’s all about the eyes.  Never ever under-estimate how important it is to be looking in the right direction – forward.  Never look down at your front wheel (no matter what is there… it’s too late!).  Always look up ahead of you along the trail.  I find it good practice to look slightly higher than I feel comfortable in order to continually train myself to be looking up and ahead.

I firmly believe this is the most important skill in riding a mountain bike; it’s also the key to descending fast on a road bike or riding a motor-bike in the twisties.

Smooth is fast If you ride rough and messy, you’ll be riding slow.  “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”  Repeat this mantra as you ride and before you know it – you’ll be going fast. Often this is simply about not making mistakes; sometimes you have the goal to go too fast; you make mistakes, waste time correcting them, involuntarily dismount, take a corner wide, oversteer the next one.  All of this wastes time.  When if you simply had the goal of being smooth regardless of perceived speed; you don’t make mistakes and you roll through all of that wasted time!… before you know it you’re flying.


When cornering keep your weight forward and into the corner It’s very tempting as a beginner to lean the bike in but not the body.  Enter the corner confidently at a comfortable speed and (say it’s a right hander) lean forward over the front wheel and towards the right.  It takes a bit of guts to do this at first but you will come to know the difference it makes to how fast you can ride through a bend.  There is a section on this ride called Snake Gully – It’s here that you’ll be able to practice this best.  Sweeping downhill bends going back and forth along a gully forever (so it seems)… absolute bliss.  This skill is also very important for climbing switch-backs as well though, not just flat or downhill.

When descending fast rocky or technical sections keep your weight back and low – bum off the seat if you need to.  This balances and lowers your centre of gravity which gives you much more stability when you may otherwise become a little untidy.


Ride a high cadence.  This will always make it easier for you to ride more technical trail.  Just like Lance (but without the juice) you have that immediate acceleration on tap when you need it – and you need it much more on a MTB than on the road.

See the smooth flowing lines, not the ruts and rocks.  There is always (okay… nearly always) a smooth line through any rocky, rutty obstacle course.  You need to see this line and ride it without getting distracted by all that clutter.  Luckily you won’t need this skill too much at Buxton because it’s all pretty smooth – but if you can nail this one on most trails you’ll go a hell of a lot faster than those searching through the rocks.

When climbing steep loose trail (there’s not too much of this at Buxton) stay seated – if you don’t, you’re likely to lose traction on your back wheel and you’ll probably need to stop straight away.  This next bits not to good for the knicks, but I find it good practice to stick the front of the saddle right up my a-hole and my chin on the stem – you have to keep your front wheel down too and sometime the balance is hard to find.

Continually plan ahead (by looking ahead) so that you put yourself in the right position and the right gear to handle the next obstacle whatever it may be (Of course this is one of the key reasons why people get faster and faster in endurance races when you’re going around and around the same lap.  You get to know it so well that you shave time but riding a certain line that you might otherwise not have seen).

When riding the berms at Buxton – try to picture yourself on straight level trail so that your body and the bike are at right angles to the angle of the earth in the berm.  I find this bloody hard; it’s mostly about the confidence but when you nail it, it’s an absolute hoot.

One last one – and this one I forgot to mention in the 6am-er email .  On about your fourth or fifth lap when you feel you’re completely  in the zone… pump up the volume on your iPod and hit the play button to Quees singing Don’t Stop Me Now… I’m havin’ such a good time – and you’ll go EVEN faster.

These few tips are brought to you to enable you to go faster.  Not necessarily to keep you upright.  You’ll need to speak to someone else about that.  ; )

I’m very excited and I’m really looking forward to seeing what I hope will be great enjoyment for those who haven’t experienced this discipline of riding before.

Bring it!

Bring it!

2 thoughts on “My thoughts on how to ride a MTB… with a 6am-er audience in mind

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