5 Essential Mountain Bike Skills

In our heads we would love to think we look like Nino Schurter or Danny Hart. Free and loose on the bike, throwing the bike into berms, cruising up climbs and tail whipping off tabletops! In reality, if you are honest with yourself this really isn’t the case. In fact if you are reading this then it’s more like you are looking to improve your skills, get smoother, climb better and descent with confidence. We have picked out five essential mountain bike skills for you to practice to make your ride a satisfying one!


Steep descents and technical features

If you are mountain biking, chances are you are going to come across some steep descents, drop off and rock features. It is part of mountain biking and is often the most fun bit of a ride right? Knowing how to ride them makes it all the more fun!

The key is keeping your weight back over the rear end of the bike with your body balanced over the whole of the bike. feathering the front brake lightly if need be and using the back brake to help scrub speed off. Keep your heels down and your upper body relaxed with a slight bend in the elbows. This helps you to react quicker if the bike were to get out of shape and correct it if need be. Rigid arms and tense upper body will only add to the bike becoming out of shape and unable to correct is as efficiently as you will end up fighting the bike. Just think how relaxed a downhill riders looks.


Look where you are going.

This may sound obvious but it is surprising how focused you can become on the root, rock or rut that is directly in front of you! Try to look ahead as much as possible. This will help with line choice and being able to react quicker to upcoming obstacles. This is also a great tip if there are lots of switch back corners, berms or rock gardens. Without noticing it, looking ahead also helps with an even balance over the bike which helps with braking and stability.


Stay smooth

Smooth is fast. This is very hard to master but a simple technique to practice. We have all been there, we are trying to speed up in the single- track or come into corners faster or get over obstacles better. But the more you try to be fast the more mistakes you make and the slower you can become overall.

This can become a vicious circle. The more you panic about loosing speed the more mistakes you are likely to make so then you think you must try and be faster. When this starts to happen, take a breath and take stock. Slow down and be smooth. With smoothness come speed. Don’t try to do anything to crazy in and out of corners. Soak up the bumps and let your bike do the work. You will soon find that the speed will come naturally.


Change gear in advance on steep climbs.

Climbing! urghh, or for some you may love it! Remember what comes down must go up! You have to climb up to enjoy the best bits of the trails, so the key is to making them as less painful as possible. Climbs can come out of nowhere on a MTB trail so you have to be prepared. Short, sharp, nasty climbs can sneak in when you least expect them so make sure you have the right gear choice. It’s all about the gearing unlike the road, if you are in the wrong gear on the climb you just go down or up one, no dramas, but with Mountain Biking it is completely different. You need to choose the right gear preferably at the bottom of the climb as most can be quite technical and difficult and require not just power, but skill and balance to get up them efficiently. Lower gearing of course is better, keep your pedalling smooth and even and try not to put any sudden power down as this could cause the rear wheel to spin up or the front end to become light and unbalance you.

Keep your upper body relaxed.

Easy? Well not so easy if you have ever experienced being out of control on the mountain bike. It’s almost a natural reaction to tense up and become stiff when in a tricky situation. To avoid these situations in the first place try to stay relaxed. Ensure you have a nice bend in the arms and you aren’t gripping the bars for dear life. Use your elbows and shoulders as a secondary suspension arm to help soak up bumps and features on the trail. Especially on descents remember to breath as this will help you make better judgements. Use your upper body to move with the bike and not against it. You are part of the bike and not a rigid attachment!

We have loads more blogs coming your way to help you achieve the Danny Hart look! So keep checking in for our Mountain Bike guides. If you have learned the hard way or want to share your tips and advice with us then please get in touch on the #YourRide or

Writer and expert