RIDE WITH CONTROL
Mountain Bike Rider|February 2022
Get the basics right and your skillset can grow on solid foundations. Here’s how to set up your body and your bike
Andy Barlow

Winter is in full swing now and you’re most likely finding that all of your local trails are becoming more difficult as the weather does its worst. The ground is soft, slippery roots and rocks are everywhere, and wear and tear on your body and bike is amplified. These all mean your technique and consequently your confidence suffers. What better opportunity to work on your technique? If you spend a little time now ironing out some bad habits, or working on deliberate techniques to make things easier, then, as the weather gets better in a few months you’ll be able to hit the dry trails with more confidence and control. Whether you are relatively new to the sport, or have been riding for years, this is how to improve in the off-season.

ADOPT THE DELIBERATE SHAPE

It’s called many things: your attack position; your ready position; your reset position. They all refer to the same confident stance that experienced riders make. Why does it work though? And how do you know if you’re making the correct shape while you are riding? One thing to remember here is that the shape is constantly moving in reaction to what’s happening on the trail, so everything that we mention is a starting position. It works because as soon as you need to react to something, the ability to do so is maximised. Once things calm down again though, you can make a quick assessment to gauge how you’ve come out the other side. Here’s a checklist of the key components to help you get it dialled.

THE COACH

ANDY BARLOW

Before joining Dirt School Andy liked to win things – races like the Scottish XC Champs and the Scottish Downhill Champs. Since 2009, though, he’s coached some of the world’s best riders with Dirt School and helped bring on the BASE MTB course at Borders College lege in the Tweed Valley. But what Andy really likes to do is communicate those pro techniques to everyday rider

YOUR LEGS

FOOT PLACEMENT

Where you place your foot on the pedal is crucial to that feeling of having a solid stance. If you ride with the sole of your foot too far back, so that your toes are on the pedal, it will always feel like you are going to slip off. Try and place your foot so that all of your toes are hanging off the leading row of pins and that the ball of your foot is nudging up against the front of the pedal. If you are clipped in this might mean moving your cleats back so they are closer to your heels. The kids would call this ‘slamming your cleats’, but it’s popular for a reason. The feeling of riding ‘in’ your bike instead of ‘on’ it will start here, so it’s definitely worth doing.

HEELS

Standing up on your bike works for a lot of different reasons. It separates you from your bike, gives you a much bigger range of motion, and it lowers your centre of gravity. This last one happens because once you’re standing on your feet, all of your weight is in contact with your bike down at your bottom bracket. Dropping your heels will not only exaggerate this further, but on choppy or rough ground it will allow you to stay secure and attached to flat pedals. You have a lot of flexibility in your ankles, so if your neutral passive position starts here, it means you have even more flexibility if you need it.

KNEES

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM MOUNTAIN BIKE RIDERView All

MIDSOMMAR NIGHT'S DREAM

Åre in northern Sweden is Scandinavia's mountain biking hub. With one of the largest bike parks in Europe, adventurous trail riding and vibrant bike culture, this little mountain town is a bike destination to put on your bucket list

10+ mins read
Mountain Bike Rider
May 2022

SKEM TRAILS

Thanks to Tawd Valley MTB Trails there’s now a lot more to Lancashire’s Skelmersdale than Sixties’ urban sprawl

5 mins read
Mountain Bike Rider
May 2022

THANK YOU, MOUNTAIN BIKING

Mountain biking sometimes plays rough, but ultimately it gives us more than it takes, moulding us into skilful, resourceful, and ultimately happy people… albeit with some scars to back up the memories

9 mins read
Mountain Bike Rider
May 2022

HIGH-PIVOT IDLER ENDURO BIKES RADICAL RIPPERS

DH racers have been getting busy on idler bikes for years but does the design translate to enduro? We test two machines from Forbidden and GT

10+ mins read
Mountain Bike Rider
May 2022

STEPPING IT UP

Spring is here and conditions are (hopefully) getting drier; time to take your riding to the next level by tackling more technical trails

7 mins read
Mountain Bike Rider
May 2022

LAKELAND MUST-RIDES

The South Lakes offers real mountains, trails that range from mellow to hairy, Instagram-friendly views, and pubs and tea shops galore. What more do you want?

2 mins read
Mountain Bike Rider
May 2022

First rides

SWINGING A LEG OVER WHAT'S HOT THIS MONTH

10+ mins read
Mountain Bike Rider
May 2022

5 BIKES YOU'VE PROBABLY NEVER HEARD OF

Global supply chains may be struggling but there are plenty of smaller brands striving to get their products onto the trails. Here are five upstarts with new models in the works

4 mins read
Mountain Bike Rider
May 2022

PART 6: LOWER BACK

If lower back pain is the bane of your life, strength training could be the antidote

6 mins read
Mountain Bike Rider
April 2022

TESTING TIMES

We've come a long way from the boneshakers of the '80s and the wacky creations of the '90s; Guy Kestevan charts the last 25 years of mountain bike tech. "I were right about that saddle though"

10+ mins read
Mountain Bike Rider
April 2022
RELATED STORIES

The Humbling of Andy Dunn

This is the story of a founder who hit it big and suffered a mental breakdown-and his efforts to win back the trust and relationships he wrecked in the process. One day at a time. One person at a time.

10+ mins read
Inc.
May - June 2022

Style Points

Shaina Taub, writer and composer of the off-Broadway hit Suffs, takes on The Devil Wears Prada—with some help from Elton John

3 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 16, 2022

STATE OF MIND

With our personal and professional lives intersecting as never before, it's time for a serious conversation about how the workplace affects our mental well-being.

10+ mins read
Fast Company
Summer 2022

Shine a Light

ANDY TIMMONS FINDS OUT MORE ABOUT ANDY ALEDORT’S NEW DOUBLE ALBUM, LIGHT OF LOVE, FEATURING DOUBLE TROUBLE, STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN’S LEGENDARY RHYTHM SECTION

7 mins read
Guitar World
June 2022

NEW WORLD MAN

RUSH LEGEND ALEX LIFESON REEMERGES WITH A NEW BAND, NEW MUSIC AND A NEW, SCALED-DOWN APPROACH TO SERVING THE SONG.

9 mins read
Guitar World
June 2022

ANDY QUITS POSH CLUB!

DISGRACED Prince Andrew left the Royal Navy's prestigious In & Out club under a cloud as he continues to vanish into exile over his ties to the late pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

1 min read
Globe
April 11, 2022

Let's Click on It

Selling a company is complicated. Get advice from the founders of companies such as Qualtrics, Bonobos, and Chewy at inc.com/ exit-interview.

2 mins read
Inc.
March - April 2022

Things Change

Harvey Fierstein's I Was Better Last Night is part memoir and part firsthand account of modern gay history

7 mins read
Newsweek
March 18 - 25, 2022 (Double Issue)

Taylor

American Dream AD27e Flametop

5 mins read
Guitar Player
April 2022

FAR BEYOND DRIVEN

NO MATTER WHAT KIND OF MUSIC YOU’RE INTO, THERE’S AN OVERDRIV PEDAL (OR TWO) FOR YOU. IN THIS ISS WE ROUND UP EIGHT OF OUR FAVORIT

5 mins read
Guitar World
April 2022