Every mountain bike rider, pro or amateur, knows while participating on racing event that is almost impossible to finish it flawlessly, without any mistakes. Due to different terrain, surface and some tricky technical sections followed with rider’s individual physical capabilities, skills along with having competitive ‘tension’, it is difficult to predict how riders will handle themselves in each situation. In such conditions, rider who makes the least mistakes, having good preparation with combining his skill and strength, will make the best performance. Some mistakes can be overcome by honing skills & through riding experience and others by having in advance basic knowledge of handling, as preparation for event. Here are some tips on how to avoid some unnecessary and commonly known MTB mistakes:
Having Bad Preparation
It will certainly result in dropping out of event, so it is necessary to do something in advance in order to avoid that. Casual riding to explore route or simple warm-up laps will provide you with much information about the track, like surface conditions, obstacle position & frequency, hard effort climbs and downhill technical sections. Doing that, you will also know in advance how to set up your bike (tire pressure, seat height, pedal lock position or tightness, cassette ratio) and give you rough ‘feel’ for optimal gear selection on track. Of course you will need to bring appropriate equipment, like tools for changing inner tubes and enough liquid/food.
Poorly Overcoming Obstacles
Fast and efficient riding trough obstacles indeed requires practice and time, but poorly overcoming will not just slow you down, it will increase the chances of damaging your bike, the risk falling and injuring yourself. If you are riding fast through section of frequent obstacles (roots, lumps and chunks of rock or gravel) try not to focus on front wheel because it is better to look ahead towards the rest of the section. That way you will be able to predict your further movement and choose the shortest path instead of focusing one obstacle per time what would prolong the path, followed with loosing speed. On contrary, if you are advancing on big ascent, ride across one obstacle at time focusing on your front wheel. For bigger ones, where is required to elevate your front wheel from the ground, in order to pass it, shift your body weight much as you can back on rear wheel and before arriving, tap right brake for speed reduction. It will efficiently lift the front and when you land on obstacle, quickly shift body weight towards handlebar and use momentum to push rear end of the bike trough. Do not pull the front wheel over the obstacle with your hands, because it is almost impossible after to switch body weight on front in time and you will end up hitting rear wheel. That will result in loosing enough speed & momentum for passing trough and what is worse, you could lose control of the bike and fall behind.
Correct Gear Selection
Because of the variable terrain configuration and various riding styles, there is constant gear shifting and for mountain bike riders it is essential to always have good gear ratio selection, in order to give best possible performance. Learning and improving this skill needs time and experience, but still also requires some basics on how to handle it properly in some situations. Always prepare a suitable riding gear before decent or ascent, changing it during climb will not be good for your transmission and it could damage it. While climbing a steep hill, always try to choose steady cadence over force tilt pushing, so that you can save your strength and bike. On rough terrain filled with small obstacles, rather choose harder gears over high cadence, in order to easier predict foot push-down position, so you can avoid hitting rocks or roots with pedals.
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This will usually happen on technical sections of downhill where speeds & power collides with agility & skill. Before taking corner do not drop down pedal until you start cornering. Terrains can be rough and unstable and keeping flat pedals until corner will provide you with stability. While taking corners, do not lean the body as much as you lean bike, because that position is too unstable and it will result in sliding off or being unable to shift body weight on another side for taking next corner. Always brake before taking a turn and do not charge with full speed before corner or you will have trouble with handling. If you do not slow down enough, force from turning will throw you out from the course and if get caught braking during corner, you could slide off or lose too much speed.
Being Too Soft
It will often happen that some riders will not take obstacles or climbs too seriously and end up stopping or falling over, because they did not use enough of their energy or momentum to overcome those difficulties. In situations like that, it is always better to tighten the handgrip and give as much as you can, using your adrenalin rush and speed momentum. But be careful on longer sections and divide strength equally or you will lose your steam. If some obstacles happened to be more challenging, simply get off the bike and push it over.