Fall Mountain Biking Tips:
Fall is my favorite time of the year in the Mid Atlantic. The colors, the smells, the weather, the food, and family are all amazing. It is the perfect time to get outside to take it all in and enjoy a nice trail ride.
The leaves are now falling and they sure look nice, but this is the time of year to be careful on the trail. Freshly fallen leaves are slick and act just like ice. They also hold moisture longer, which adds to a slippery ride. These tips will not only benefit you now, but can help you to become a better rider when conditions are ideal. Here are some tips to enjoy the fall mountain biking season.
First thing is first, know the trail if you are planning to get after it. Knowing the trail does not make it boring, it makes it more fun. Riding new trails are exciting, but it is not as enjoyable not knowing where you are going or the typical conditions. Your "home trail" is more fun, because you learn where you need to carry momentum to make it up a hill more easily, or hit off a log or rock to catch some air. You also learn where to slow down so you do not take a spill in sections of the trail that are technical or wet. Lessons are often learned the hard way and you remember them.
Second, always keep your eyes down the trail picking a line of attack. This will help you to avoid obstacles that slow you down and decrease the chance of pedal strikes. Sometimes with the added leaves and sticks that have fallen it will actually smooth out the trail in certain sections. Maintaining speed and keeping your eyes up allows you to hop obstacles that may be obstructive and help you to maintain a more direct line of attack on the trail. Always stay on the attack with the most direct route.
Third, stay light on your bike. This includes your hands and feet. There is no need to give your handle bars the death grip, it will just increase fatigue. Staying light on your bike allows you to roll over obstacles easier. For example helping to pull your bike or hop over an obstacle by first pulling up on your handle bars and then lifting your bike with your feet will decrease hard hits that slow you down. Use your legs to absorb the hits rather than holding your body stiff, and you will last longer on the trail.
Fourth, you must understand center of gravity and not be afraid to move around on your bike! Riding in a straight line it is definitely more efficient to keep your body still, but how often is your trail straight?
Keep your weight over your rear wheel the majority of the time. This will assist descending and even more so ascending. Keeping your weight over your rear wheel and maintaining a seated position will ensure that all the power you put out goes directly into forward momentum. If your weight shifts too far forward to your front wheel, then those difficult ascents will turn into hike a bike because your back wheel will lose traction and spin out especially on the leaves. On descents keeping your center of gravity low by either hanging off the back of your seat or hitting the dropper post will allow you to have greater control. The front wheel will float over obstacles and have less chance of hanging up causing you to go over the bars.
Watch the camber of the trail. For example, if the trail is on an angle from left to right with the left being the high side, DO NOT lay your bike on edge to left in attempt to turn left. These extremes cause decrease tire to ground contact area and with the slick conditions make you prone to slipping out. Instead shift your weight on the bike by moving your body to the LEFT with gentle handle bar turn to the left. Try to keep the bike more upright, which increases tire to ground contact area and helps to maintain traction.
Fifth, we just touched on: maintain maximum tire to ground contact area. This can also be achieved by running lower air pressure in your tires, which increases surface area of tire to ground contact. This can be achieved best tubeless, or with plus sized tires. 29 inch wheels have more contact area than 27.5, but fat bikes rule when conditions are not at the best.
Enjoy, stay safe out there, and see you on the trails!
James Dulkerian, DPT
Active outdoorsman with an honest soul and a passion for health.
M-F: 8am - 7pm
All information on this website is intended for instruction and informational purposes only. The authors are not responsible for any harm or injury that may result. Injury risk is possible if you do not follow due diligence and seek suitable professional advice about your injury. No guarantees of specific results are expressly made or implied on this website.