Great New Mountain Bike Skills Video! Can you clear the Rock?

In my quest to create a series of mountain biking “competencies” (tests to show if you have mastered a skill) here is a wheelie and weight shift competency (see post titled: Ways to test your mountain biking skill and monitor progress in mtb skill).

Here is a great video of clearing a rock using two basic skills, a wheelie and weight shift. This is the exact same skill to get over a small curb correctly just done on a larger obstacle. Remember, always use “baby steps” when progressing a skill! It is much better to gain confidence through a series of victories than risk injury and/or a big failure that can set you back mentally.

If you can clear a 36″ rock with 12″ square edge at the bottom you have mastered the wheelie and weight shift (although there are definitely larger rocks on some trails if you can clear a 36″ rock you have the skill for a much bigger rock, you just need to work your way up).

10 replies
  1. WAKi
    WAKi says:

    Hah, great vid! But there’s a small cheating opportunity for those who run SPDs – when you are half way on top, with your front wheel and bars and most of the body weight over the boulder you can energicaly pull up the rear wheel thanks to the fact you are clipped in. When I switched to flats, suddenly I started having trouble with getting on top of boulders and large steps.

  2. Gene
    Gene says:

    Yeah Waki, you kind of nailed it. You can cheat with your clips, and if you have to use your clips it means you lost your momentum by doing a proper weight shift with good timing. Learning the correct way to do a skill allows to ride with more confidence, conserve your momentum and go faster with less effort.

  3. Mike Brodsky
    Mike Brodsky says:

    OK, but this on a flat. My problem has always been getting over obstacles on a steep or around a corner where I have lost momentum. In those instances even much smaller obstacles can frustrate me. When I try to pull back on a steep the way the rider in the video does, it always seems like I’m going to go over backwards. Suggestions?

    • Gene
      Gene says:

      Hi Mike,

      Sounds like your problem lies in not knowing some the core skills (which you wouldn’t know unless someone taught them to you as they are not intuitive). The rider in the video is me and I actually did not pull back on the bars (my nickname for pulling up on the bars (like I did for my 14 years of riding) is the he-man wheelie). Pulling up the bars can through you off balance, gives you an unpredictable wheelie height and takes a lot of energy. Lifting the front while coasting is actually a pushing motion, pushing down and forward (it takes about 5 minutes to fully explain in my camps and then we spend 20 minutes or so working on it with drills) and requires proper body position and vision (both of wish take over an hour to explain). All very basic, but not intuitive skills. If you are going over backwards it sounds like your weight is too far back, you are yanking up on the bars instead of pushing and your timing for the weight shift is off (suggesting that you are actually looking at the obstacle not past it.

  4. Mike
    Mike says:

    This is great Gene! This is the kind of visual feedback that I find VERY helpful. I wish I could run it in slo-mo. I started and stopped it several times to see your body and bike position at various stages of you clearing the rock. Even that was quite telling and I can’t wait to go try what I saw on some rocks that I have never been able to clear but believe I can now. Thanks again Gene!!

  5. Doug
    Doug says:

    Okay, so I’ve been at this riding thing for about 9 months now and I’m obsessed.

    Here’s the thing it took me about two tries (one too many)to figure out that to get over a curb I had to actually lift the front wheel, and to get that done I needed to not just pull up the wheel, but actually shift weight back.

    So now no problem going over a over a curb, small water bar etc…


    It seems that no matter what I do I still “smash” the back wheel/tire into the face of said curb.

    This of course limits the size of the obstacle I can get up and over, too much of a square edge, the back wheel just smashes into it with the result being… well you can guess.

    It get it that I have to shift my weitht forward to get the back wheel up, but getting it and doing it are two different things.

    What it feels like to me is that the back wheel hits before I have a chance to shift forward. In other words, front wheel up, shit wei.. back wheel smashes.. hello tuck and roll…

    This of course sometimes ends up with me going OTB if the “obsticle” has a much higher than a curb square edge. Or sometimes the dreaded “pinch flat” syndrome.

    Of course when I was using clipless pedals I could just “yank” the back wheel up, but, it didn’t take me long to figure out that wasn’t the best way to make this work (can you say cheating). So I swithed to flats now I can’t cheat.

    Any ideas… ???

    BTW, are there any clinics in the San Diego or So Cal area coming up???

  6. Chris Lombardo
    Chris Lombardo says:

    Push down & forward for a wheelie…. Man I never would have figured that one out. Can’t wait to try it now. I could never do wheelies as a kid, and now at 50 I’ve resolved to learn how, and be able to hold one for a few hundred feet. Someday I hope to take one of your camps Gene.


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