The 4 Most Important Factors for Cycling Safely
If you want to ride a good mountain bike, you need routine and experience. In addition, four factors must interact to master demanding trails safely: posture, speed, trajectory choice, and balance. Below is what you need to focus on to be confident on the road. Of course, a modern mountain bike is also useful (more on that in this blog post), but we’re going to skip the hardware here.
With today’s mountain bikes, the rider’s center of gravity is centered between the wheels. This ensures grip on the front and rear wheel and you are in a position where you can work with the bike. Relaxation is essential, your body is constantly on the move and you cushion the blows with your arms and legs. Only on very steep terrain is it necessary to push the buttocks back and stretch the arms. The gaze is always far ahead and follows the curves. Wherever you look, you go.
When you climb, you sit on the saddle and bend your upper body towards the handlebars so that the front wheel doesn’t lift. The steeper the slope, the more compact your body position is. It’s about being able to get all the traction on the ground and maintain propulsion.
Speed is your friend. You hear and read this over and over again, but speed is relative. For some, it can’t be fast enough, others prefer to take it easy. Basically, though, a certain amount of speed is required for the ATV to ride better over obstacles and steps. It’s simple physics. The 29″ wheels and plenty of spring travel don’t help either, if you’re too slow you’ll still get stuck on roots and stones.
If you want to drive as controlled and safely as possible over root mats and through stone fields, release the brakes. Trust your ATV, let it roll and play, jump over obstacles and use your body as extra suspension.
When it gets steep, though, speed isn’t everything. The faster you get on a steep incline, the harder it will be to slow down. In such situations, it is better to drive slowly and brake continuously without the wheels spinning.
Choice of line
When choosing the line, we dive into the depths of the race. As a former World Cup downhiller, I tried to find the best line on each course in order to be as fast as possible. The topic is not only interesting for racing drivers, amateur bikers can also benefit from it. For me, it’s even useful for gravel bike rides and road bike rides.
In bike parks and on busy trails, there is often a light trail, which is the one most mountain bikers choose. But be warned, that doesn’t mean it’s the best line. Mountain bikers are like lemmings, they follow each other blindly without looking left and right. The “main line” is often even worse and more difficult to drive because it has many braking holes, is washed away, and roots and stones protrude from the ground.
Play with the terrain and always keep an eye out for small bumps or protruding edges that you can use as jumps or small berms. Every once in a while, a targeted bunny jump helps jump over the bigger pieces.
If you’ve been paying attention in geometry class, you know that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. When riding a trail that has few turns, the most direct line is usually the fastest and often the safest. The situation is different with tight corners, where even more distance is invested, but the speed can be kept as high as possible. The more round you take, the more speed you can take with you.
Note: This tip doesn’t mean you have to take shortcuts. The curves are fun and they’re there to be taken. Only idiots and misbehaved people take shortcuts.
The last point should actually come first. But since I recently wrote a blog post about the importance of balance, I’ll mention that for the end. Good balance is the basis for safe driving. Only then will you be able to use certain techniques, ride demanding trails, and avoid falls. Unfortunately, this is completely underestimated by many mountain bikers. I’m very direct now, also with my customers: a bad balance equals bad bikers.
The good news is that balance is easy to train. There are many different exercises that you can do on a daily basis, both on a bike and on foot. It’s just routine and you’ll quickly see your balance improve. Come on!