Beginner Mistakes & How To Avoid Them | Mountain Bike Skills
Losing Control Under Braking
When you're getting into mountain biking, it's really easy to make some big mistakes. I know I did loads. Yeah, we still make mistakes to the date. - That is true. This is some of the most common mistakes you're likely to make when you start mountain biking and how to avoid them. Your brakes can cause loads of crashes when you're learning to ride a mountain bike. They definitely did for me. I clearly remember my first proper mountain bike ride, and the enthusiasm turned into pain and frustration when I grabbed too much front brake then I was super keen to get back up and ride a really fun section. When I fell off, and that first bloody knee was also my first lesson in respect for the brakes, and how much they can affect the grip you've got. The way to solve this problem, really, is to learn to modulate the brakes. By that, I really mean just altering how hard you pull on the brakes depending on the situation, how much grip you've got, if you're cornering, etc.
Also, brakes can get you in to problems. Obviously, riding steep downhills when you're a beginner can be really scary, but the problem I often see or used to see is, people try and go too slow, and stay in the middle of the bike. Therefore, with a big pull of the front brake, you know, the weight's going forwards, almost over the bars, and the back was lifting, not gripping, but it's also feeling pretty scary. Feels like you could go over the bars. In these situations, it's about sort of easing off the brakes a little bit.
Not Adjusting Body Position
Just try and get the wheels turning. You're going to find a bit more grip, and actually sort of committing to rolling down this section and not being on the brakes so much that the bike is picking up the back wheel off the ground, but also, you're going so slow, the bike's going to want to fall over 'cause you don't have that gyroscopic effect. Also, if you have your seat up, your weight's probably going to be quite high and quite central on the bike. Actually, as you dip down the seat a bit, your waist will start going forward. Too much brakes, it starts getting sketchy, so it's important to realize that, if you get your seat down and out of the way, it just makes it so much easier to get to the back of the bike, and that makes it safer. You can start using your rear tire to do more of the stopping.
It's just a safe place to be. If you're new to this, you've got maybe a beginner's bike, you haven't got a dropper post, just maybe get a quick release on there so you can lower your seat just until you get really comfortable riding steep stuff or invest in a dropper seat post. Makes it really easy to do that.
Coming Off The Pedals
Okay, this is a super common mistake when it comes to a beginner riding out on the trail, and that's when your feet start to bounce off your pedals. Now, there's a quick solution to this if you haven't done it already, and that's having a good pair of riding shoes and a good pedal to go with it to give a mount of good grip on those pedals to the shoes. What you want to look for is a good sole that's thick, it's strong and grippy.
Now, when it comes to the pedals, now, you want a good platform with good pins in it as well. Now, that amalgamation between the pedal and the shoe with that good, nice stickiness is going to help keep your feet on your pedals. Now, if you don't have riding shoes, and you have a pair of trainers, just make sure that the trainer has got a nice, thick rubbery sole, and that's going to give you a lot of support in your foot when you're out riding on the trail. But what if you've got a good set of riding shoes and a good set of pedals, and your feet are still bouncing off your pedals? Then it's all about riding technique. Now, the most common place that feet do tend to bounce off when you're a beginner is jumping. Now, your feet will probably bounce off this if you're doing the wrong technique, and the wrong technique is, you probably have all your weight on your toes. Keep your toe down.
Now, the best technique is to drop your heel, bring your foot up a bit more so your pedal's nearly in the middle of your foot. Drop your heel so, when it comes to a jump like this, you can rotate your foot to bring up that rear with your toe, not just having your toe down, and trying to pull off 'cause it'll just bounce off just like this. That's what happens if you ride toe down. Now, heel down, especially when you come to landing, is going to give you a nice support when you land as well. You're going to drop down just like this. All your weight is going to go down onto your pedal, not onto your toe, and force yourself off those pedals. Right, the most common place for your feet to bounce off your pedals is when the trail gets rough, where there's brake bumps, and your feet are going to bounce off. Now, why? It's because you got your toe down on your pedals.
Now, when it gets rough, it's just going to be bouncing forward. By dropping your heel, your body weight's going to be quite central to your bike, where you want it to be. You feel a lot more stable when your body weight's quite central to your bike, and not fully over the front, especially when it comes to descending.
Front Wheel Wash Out
Whoa, a front wheel wash out. That was what I was talking about earlier, that was my first big mistake, where it was a case of too much front brake, the wrong time. Most of the time, you end up on your knee, and it's painful, but it can be caused by other things as well, like bike setup, weight distribution, or even misreading the trail.
First, let's look at bike setup. Of course, when we're talking about grip, the first thing this brings to mind is tyres, so a good set of grippy tyres is really going to help you find traction in corners. Also thinking about front and back tyres. Sometimes, people go for a slightly grippier tyre on the front to make sure that the front tire isn't sliding, 'cause you can get away with a little bit more slide on the back. Also talk about a perfectly balanced bike. What I mean by that is really getting the weight balanced on it.
That is affected by many things, like the geometry of the bike, your suspension setup, trying to get the sag right, front, and rear, so definitely look into that. If you are on a full suspension bike, I would say watch some videos on setting those up, but also read the manuals. For me, a big one is bar height, so where you set your stem and how much rise you put on the bars as to how much balance I feel I've got on the bike. Of course, a cross country bike is a bit lower on the front just to get up those climbs. Downhill bikes or enduro bikes, a bit higher on the front because you're predominantly riding down the hill, but i really try to get my weight sort of in the middle of the bike so that, when you push it too much, and you lose traction, my front and rear tyres slide pretty much equally.
Going Stiff On The Bike
Okay, I'm not going to lie. I still do this on the trail, and that's stiffening up on the bike. That's the worst thing you can do, and it only happens when I'm scared, tired, and I'm a little bit hungry. All my thinking gets thrown out the window, and I start to stiffen up. Now, let me give you an example. I'm coming down a bit of a trail. There's a blind rise. I launch off this blind rise into a bit of an unknown number of trail, and then the trail just suddenly goes to the left. Now, I'm in the air. I'm going to stiffen up. I straightaway look at the front wheel, seeing where I'm going to go, and I lose all concentration. My whole body stiffens up in the air, and that's the worst thing you can do. Now, how do you solve this? Okay, this is a perfect example.
There's a lot going on on this trail.. this jump is into a turn. Then, after this turn, you're introduced with a gully section. Being scared straightaway, you automatically stiffen up on your bike. Now, you don't want that to happen when you come to a bit of trail just like this. You have a drop on the left, and you got to roll on the right. Now, when you're going off the drop into that left hand turn, you don't want to be stiff for this because you start to lose concentration, and it all goes wrong. You want to get into that nice attack body position on your bike.
You want to lean back. You want to believe in yourself when you can do this. By doing that, you've already spotted this drop when you're coming into this right-hander here, off this drop, and then, when you're doing the drop, you're already looking at what's at the exit of that left hand turn. It's all about looking ahead and being supple on your bike.
Losing Momentum On Climbs
Losing momentum on climbs is all about, really, not predicting what gear you need to be in early enough. You might notice, actually, that the good riders are shifting gears all the time. Whoa, that was a nasty shift. Basically, what you need to do is to try and predict what gear you're going to need to be in early so you can keep a consistent cadence with your pedals. By that, I mean just how fast you're spinning them. So keep a nice momentum. Keep your pedals turning at a good rate. It's going to help you keep grip and get up those climbs. The best thing to do is to ease off the power a little bit as well. That, again, is trying to predict it early, 'cause if you shift a bit like I did then, when you're putting a lot of power through the cranks, it can lead to snapped chains, or even just a slip, and you're stopped, and it's hard to get going again.
It will inevitably happen, where you get caught and get stuck. There's actually a bit of a trick to getting going again. I had to line myself up a bit diagonally so I'm not going straight up the climb, make sure I'm in a nice, easy gear, get my seat as high as I can, and then get cranking, and hopefully, you'll make it up the climb. Obviously, the fitter you get, so the more you ride your bike, the easier you'll find getting up climbs, 'cause actually, sometimes, you have to go hard just to try and keep that momentum, that grip. You're never going to stop completely making mistakes, but there's a few tips on how to help, I suppose. You still make any big ones? - I do. The main one is stiffening up on a trail. When I go too fast, I get a little bit out of my comfort zone. - I used to wash out my front wheel quite a lot.