Proper Braking Technique

Mountain bike brakes are generally quite strong and, used improperly, can be very abrasive on trail systems. Improper braking, like locking the brakes and skidding, not only destroys trail, but can also force the rider into an uncontrollable situation.

For best braking results, use two fingers -- your index and middle fingers. This allows the rest of your hand to have a firm grip on the handlebar. Remember to always focus 2-3 meters ahead to avoid unexpected gullies or other hidden obstacles. While breaking, slowly engage both levers in a smooth and simultaneous motion. Interestingly enough, approximately 70 percent of stopping power comes from the front brake. Make sure that you do not over-emphasize the front brake as this could result in an, over-the-handlebar experience.

When you have developed enough balance on your bike, try shifting your weight back on the saddle. This provides a mechanical advantage that is helpful in braking, and allows greater control on steeper descents. Proper braking should combine smooth modulation of the brakes with the motion of shifting your weight back and off the saddle.

For the best braking performance, keep both your brake shoes and rims clean by scrubbing them with a plastic brush using soap and water. This should be done after each ride, especially after wet conditions.

Riding Over Obstacles

The mountain bike is designed to tackle small obstacles such as tree roots, logs or rocks. Remember, you want to have the thought that the bike wants to ride over or through that thing, and I'm just along for the ride.

When approaching an obstacle, give yourself enough room on your bike and good leverage by positioning yourself slightly off the saddle, arms and knees slightly bent, with the cranks parallel to the ground (this prevents the crank arms from smashing into things). As you encounter the obstacle, orient your weight toward the back of the bike and pull up ever so slightly on the handlebars so that the front end has a smooth flow. Having cleared the front, focus your attention to the back and shift your weight forward. This not only gives the rear the smooth flow needed to clear the obstacle, but also lessens the blow to the wheel itself, helping prevent a breakdown. Riders should practice this technique using smaller objects before attempting more challenging obstacles.