MTB Body Position

Mountain Bike Body Position, The Fundamental Movement Video Tutorial

Mountain Bike Body Position, The Fundamental Movement

Body position is your riding foundation, and it requires a fair amount of effort and a strong and stable “core” (your core is more than just abdominal muscles, it also includes your lower back muscles, oblique muscles, and hip flexors). Every physical part of riding starts from proper body position and it protects your body.

That brings us to the proper Hip Hinge, something I didn’t learn about until 1999 (5 years into my pro career and 10 years after purchasing my first mtb!). Whether standing and descending or sitting and climbing I have always had a habit of bending at the belly button and rounding my back. Probably the only time I didn’t round my back was when standing and climbing.

Bending at the belly button is a weak, not athletic position that causes us to ride poorly and leads to massive back pain. The Hinge is your power center, it helps you stay centered and neutral and it protects your back.

How to practice the hinge:

  • First practice off the bike, find your hip crease, push slightly back on the crease and lower your chest by hinging.
  • Shoulders back and down, belly button pulled toward your spine, back flat
  • Hold that position, feel it in your hamstrings (if you can’t hinge so your torso is parallel to the ground your hamstrings are really tight! Stretch and roll them out!), feel it in your lower back, it should feel comfortable but require effort.
  • Now, bend at your belly button and compare how that feels, probably weak and painful.
  • Notice that the further you hinge the further forward your chest and head go and the further back your hips go, this is crucial to staying centered! When you bend at the belly, not only does it strain your back and make you weak but it doesn’t automatically keep you centered either.
    mountain bike body position, video tutorial
  • Once you have practiced it and felt it off your bike, find a mellow hill, preferably off trail, on a paved section ideally (whenever you are on a trail you tend to lose focus on what you are practicing as you are now more concerned with staying on the trail!) and practice this both seated and climbing and standing and descending.
  • Focus on exaggerating all the pieces of this like I am in the video. Notice my elbows are even more forward than they need to be and my chest while climbing is much lower than it needs to be for the grade I’m climbing. Exaggeration is a great learning tool, you will usually end up halfway between your old way and the new way, so if you don’t exaggerate you will end halfway on the trail.
  • Once you feel like you have created a “circuit” for your body to follow, take this to a mellow trail and practice. Check out this post on how we learn physical skills:
  • Then take it to increasingly steep hills and notice it gets harder to do as you start becoming more concerned about the trail than what you are practicing.
  • You will find that without a lot of deliberate practice the second you relax and stop thinking about this you will bend from the belly! It takes work.

Go work on this crucial body position piece and have fun.

Please feel free to post any questions are comments and share this with anyone you think could benefit from it.


Mountain Bike Bump Jump, Video Tutorial

Mountain Bike Bump Jump, Video Tutorial

Today’s two-minute video tip (closer to three minutes actually) is on one of my favorite skills! The bump jump is an almost zero energy replacement for the bunny hop, as long as there is a bump available. I first learned this following World Champion Myles Rockwell in practice at the Mount Snow NORBA National in 1996. It has become a staple in my riding ever since.

First, watch the video and then read my more detailed tutorial below.


Another thing I learned from a great racer and teammate, Ryan Sutton was not to take the smooth line fast but to take the fast line smooth. This should be every mountain bikers motto as it pays off big! What this means is often the fastest line may be rougher but if you can do it smoothly it will be faster and more efficient. An example is going around the “root ball” of a tree. Often, a tree’s roots are spread out in a half circle six feet or more away from the tree. So if the trail goes right next to the tree you have to make a six foot detour to go around the roots. What if you floated over those roots in a straight line instead? That would be more efficient, faster and most of all more fun!

Roots aren’t the only thing that can be bump jumped, I’ve used on three-foot diameter logs on the old Purgatory Downhill track in Durango, over a series of roots and rocks in Angel Fire, NM, over tall roots in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia (the wetter the climate the more the roots are above ground) and I use it probably 5-10 times a day on the rough trails of Moab.

Here is a deeper breakdown of the bump jump.

  • Start with enough speed to clear the obstacle.
  • Approach the bump coasting, standing in a centered neutral position (weight pressing into the pedals, hinged at the hips, chest down in a “half pushup” position) while looking ahead (looking to your landing, not looking at your bump).
  • Gently load your front suspension by pushing down with your hands (straightening your arms a few inches)
  • Time it so you finish the “loading” just before impact with the bump (a root, rock, stump, anything 1-3 inches high that won’t move, the more square the better.

  • Let the impact bounce your wheel into the air and push your hands back up the amount you pushed down or more if you need more height

  • As hands are being pushed up, start to load your rear suspension by extending your legs a bit. This is a crucial step as you need to bounce the rear wheel over the bump also. Many riders when learning this instinctively do a “cheater bunny hop” as the front wheel is popping up. DON’T do that. If you yank the rear wheel up you are A. wasting energy but more importantly B. You are starting to fly when your rear wheel is a bike length from the first bump, you have greatly shortened the distance of your bump jump. Be patient and let that wheel hit the bump.
  • As the rear tire hits the bump, relax your legs and let the bump push your knees towards your chest. This will level out your flight. Also, keep your goal in mind, if it is distance, practice getting as little height as possible and practically skimming over the tops of the obstacles. If your goal is height pop a little harder by compressing a little deeper (this is a really subtle move though, compress too hard and you will just slow yourself down, getting the right compression takes a few attempts!)
  • Relax and fly! As you get better at bump jumping you can focus on getting “backside” when you are landing. Instead of plopping down hard out of the sky if you can set your rear tire down on the back edge of a root, log or rock you can use that like a landing ramp and get a little acceleration and a smoother landing. (Again, with practice, coming up short can end badly!) mountain bike Bump Jump 4

With a little practice, this will become one of your favorite skills. If you are more comfortable clipped in learn it that way but, once you are confident with the bump jump practice with flat pedals, they will give you a much better feel for the timing.

This should feel easy and like you are letting it happen. There is no pulling, yanking or much effort at all. It is all about the timing.

I hope you learned a lot from this tutorial, let me know about your bump jumps in the comments. If you know anyone who would benefit from this tutorial feel free to share it. Tune in next week for my next two-minute tip on the most important part of body position. It will get you riding stronger with more comfort!

MTB, Take Care of Your Biggest Limiter Today

MTB, Take Care of Your Biggest Limiter Today

All the skills coaching, drill doing, fitness coaching and workout smashing in the world will not allow us to reach our goals until we overcome this issue. Whether you are self-taught and relatively new to riding or a veteran with skills coaching experience and years on your mountain bike this might be holding you back.

The number one issue holding you back from reaching your potential is in your mind! I cringe when I hear my students say these limiting beliefs out loud: “I stink at climbing!”, “I suck at descending but I’m good at …”, “I’m just not a natural”, but often we are not even aware of these beliefs, they are in our subconscious. The interesting thing is that many times these limiting beliefs have no basis in reality.

When your subconscious says, “I am not good enough” that is a self-limiting belief.  Sometimes the beliefs actually start out positive, “I can do that well but I will never be as good as ….” but in the end, they set a limit to your achievement/performance.

They are often caused by failing at something (as you may or may not know I believe that, “failure is a natural and necessary part of the learning process” quote from Dan Millman).  For instance, a former limiting belief I had was that I could not do a trackstand.  One day a friend and I each tried to trackstand and I ended up falling over. For years after this when asked if I could trackstand I would reply, “no, I can not trackstand” and for years I couldn’t trackstand.

Was this limitation real? Of course not, looking back on that day I fell over trying to trackstand I realized I did a trackstand for five, possibly ten seconds before I feel over but I guess my goal was an hour or so, so in my mind, I failed. One day I decided I would try using baby steps (working my way from one-second trackstands to 20-30 second trackstands) and in less than an hour, I was doing ten-second trackstands consistently.

Mountain Bike at Your Best

Don’t let self-limiting beliefs keep you from riding at your best! I don’t, even at 51!

From discussing limiting beliefs with my students it seems like society is often to blame. A parent, a teacher, an older sibling, a teammate, anyone whose opinion you respected may have had set something that is holding you back. In my case, when I was seven or eight I came home crying because I didn’t make the baseball team and my mom, trying to comfort me said, “honey, you’re just not a natural athlete but you are so much smarter than those boys. You’re IQ is ….”. Not exactly what a seven-year-old wants to hear!

At the US Snowboarding Championships in 1992, I remember looking over at my competitor in the dual slalom quarterfinals and thinking, “holy cow, look at the size of his legs! He is a natural athlete, what am I doing here, I am not a natural like him.” Not exactly the best thing to be thinking right before a race! I actually ended up barely beating him but, I got eliminated in the next round. Can you imagine how much better I would have raced if I had thought, “wow, look at the overdeveloped legs on that guy, too bad he doesn’t have my skill, I am going to smoke him!” With a more positive belief, I just might have one the competition!

How to do you stop this often subconscious self-defeating cycle?  Step one is to identify the belief, “I am a good rider but will never be great” or the most misguided one I heard the other day, “I only weigh 140 so I don’t have the muscle mass to climb like the bigger guys”, what, most great climbers are short, thin riders!

Once you have identified the belief check to find the source of the belief and see if it is real. Where did the belief come from? Does it make sense? Is there proof that the belief is true? Once you have these questions answered you can create a strategy to rid yourself of the belief.  If the belief was caused by a past failure tell yourself, the past doesn’t equal the future and correctly practice doing the skill/section of trail that you felt you couldn’t do.

If it has no basis in reality (your friend said, “wow you suck at descending” 10 years ago) tell yourself, “that guy was a jerk! besides, that was ten years ago. Now I understand body position and vision better, my bike is way better and I have the skill to descend much better”.  Often you will find that once you identify a self-limiting belief you laugh, realizing that it is preposterous and you move past it.

A simple cure is to correct yourself when you have that limiting thought. When I student says, “I’m pretty good at climbing but I suck at descending” I always say, “You said your Darn good at climbing and getting better at descending with practice? I thought that’s what you said.” The truth is, if you are practicing, you are getting better!

Don’t let fiction, fantasy, someone else’s opinion or conjecture hold you back.  Attack these self-limiting beliefs and achieve your best in 2018!

Please share any stories about your limiting beliefs. How have you overcome them? Feel free to share this article with anyone you feel may benefit from it!

Mountain Bike Crash

Mountain Bikers are Athletes, Act Like One!

Many “casual” mountain bikers and even some racers don’t feel like they are athletes. Well, I have news for you, mountain biking is an athletic sport, so mountain bikers are athletes and you should act like one. Acting like an athlete will make you safer, give you more control and allow to ride faster and more efficiently!

I get some form of this question once or twice a year from a student, “How do you prevent your quads from getting tired and burning on long descents while standing the whole time?” This always makes me smile, just because of how one of my coaches replied once when asked this question by a student.

He bluntly replied, “mountain biking is a sport, you need to be in shape an athlete to do it”. While he is right he could of been a bit kinder in his reply.

As I stress in my camps, mountain biking alone is terrible for you (physically), you need to add sound strength and mobility training to your riding. Yes, mountain biking is wonderful for your heart, lungs and some muscles in your legs but it causes imbalances (by working a muscle but not the opposite muscle). Your quads get really strong but your hamstrings don’t get much of a workout which puts uneven tension on your knees, which can lead to knee problems and an extremely tight IT band, causing major problems. Most riders favor a “forward foot” when standing and coasting, working your trailing leg and forward leg much differently leading to hip and back problems, etc.

Mountain Bikers are Athletes, Act Like One!

Mountain bikers’ IT Bands are notoriously tight!


Many riders think riding is enough and lifting weights will add weight and/or feel they don’t have time for it. Mountain biking is very physical and demands a stable core, coordination, strong legs and reasonably strong upper body , unfortunately cycling does little by itself to strengthen our bodies and keep our bodies functioning well so we must add strength training to perform at our best and stay safe (muscles protect us in crashes).

Yesterday I did ten 7-9 minute downhill runs then one 3,500 vertical foot 20 minute descent, all standing and yes, I was tired and a little sore but I feel great today. It was first my first lift served downhill day of the year and I expected to get worn out quickly and not be able to do top to bottom runs (how I felt last year) but working out this year saved the day!

Sarah Kaufman on her way to 2nd place!

Maintaining good body position requires a strong and mobile body! Sarah Kaufman in great position!

My back had been giving me trouble the last few years and I quit working out, at first I felt OK on the bike despite not working out, probably the lingering effect of working out for years. A few months after I stopped working out I noticed I couldn’t do a five minute descent without my quads cramping up a bit and I couldn’t make some climbs I used to make.

This winter I finally found some exercises that got my back feeling much better (more on them in a future blog) and I started working out again. At first I didn’t notice much (probably because you don’t gain strength quickly) but in the last few weeks I have been stoked to be able to hang with friends who last year would simply ride away from me!

Downhill riding at Deer Valley yesterday was the best I have felt on a downhill bike in years, despite being the first day this season actually riding downhill trails! I’m over the moon excited right now because I feel like I’m forty again!

Enough about me, how does this help you?! I HIGHLY recommend you find a qualified strength and mobility coach and start working out! No, you won’t bulk up but you will become stronger, more confident, faster, more efficient and much safer on your bike!

* Stronger/faster: James Wilson explained this to me years ago. He said something to the effect of, “… you are  right, by riding hard, pushing big gears up hills and doing intervals you will make your “engine” much more efficient. You will take you 1/8 horse power engine and get it running at 90-95% efficiency. However, if you workout and turn that engine into a 1/4 horsepower engine you can run at 50% efficiency and go faster with less perceived effort.” That really drove home the power of working out! Over the long term (that was 11 years ago) this advice has proven to be so true as I had one of my best seasons as a pro downhill racer when I was 40 years old!

* Safer: Many crashes happen when the rider is worn out. Why, being tired leads to bad habits, like sitting down while descending and sloppy control as your arm strength and coordination fades. Also, muscle makes great padding! A strong, limber rider is much less likely to get injured in a crash as a frail, weak rider.

* More Efficient: A good strength training program works movement patterns, not just muscles! A few years ago I worked out really hard in the gym and was surprised to have a personal best time on a climb the next day. I thought I would be worn out but instead climbed stronger than ever. When I asked James about this, he said that I had strengthened not only my muscles but my bodies ability to “fire” that movement pattern so, Of Course I climbed faster.  This phenomenon has happened many times since and it still blows me away.

What to work on:

Mobility/Stable Core: Years ago when I was a snowboard coach I was introduced to the idea of “effective strength”. There is a big difference between the strength one can produce pushing weight and the strength one can produce doing something that requires strength, mobility, balance and coordination. To ride our best we need “effective strength”! An example of this is doing squats instead of using the leg press machine or “leg sled” at the gym. With a squat you are not only working your quads, you are working the every muscle needed to produce that motion, including stabilization muscles and your core. When using the leg press machine you are bracing yourself against a solid platform and pushing away mainly working your quads (not your hips, gluteus maximus, core and stabilization muscles). When riding a bike we don’t have that solid platform to brace against and have to create that platform with our core and stabilization muscles. We Create that platform by creating a stable core.

Strength: All body strength and movement strength. We want to strengthen the movements we use when pedaling, absorbing shock and controlling our bike. This requires a well thought out, mtb specific workout program and the help of a personal trainer to make sure you are executing the program correctly.

You don’t have to bulk up, a good strength training program will pay HUGE dividends on the trails and allow you to effective use the skills I teach. So first, learn to ride a bike in control and in balance then invest in your body so you use the skills longer and more consistently.