Grip It and Rip It: Three Tips to Elevate Your Handling
Ali Halpin is a Level 1-certified instructor through the Professional Mountain Bike Instructor Association and works with Ladies AllRide, traveling the country to help women improve their mountain bike skills. Today she drops into the Eliel blog to share three tips to help you taking your gravel and mountain biking to the next level.
By: Ali Halpin
The leaves and temps are falling as fall has crept its way into most parts of the country, and that means it’s time for some of the best dirt riding of the season! Before you take to the trails or gravel, here are a three handy handling tips to dial up the fun and confidence on your gravel or mountain bike.
1. Get Low!
Have you ever been told to “just get back” on a steep slope or technical feature? Don’t believe everything you hear! This isn’t always the best move to gain confidence and control on downhills. As the terrain gets steeper, think about getting low instead of getting back. The sweet spot on a bike, where you are balanced and able to provide equal weight to both front and rear tires, is when your chin is over your stem and your bellybutton is over your bottom bracket. From this position, think about staying centered and moving up and down on the bike depending on the terrain. The steeper or more technical the terrain, the lower you want to get. If you ever played a team sport, you’ll know this as athletic position. I was always a smaller soccer player in high school – my nickname was scrawny Al – and I had to learn to get low to take the impacts of players bigger than me. The same applies to the bike: Get low and you are less likely to get knocked around when the trail gets rough!
2. Elbows Out!
Keep a slight bend in your arms so they are ready to absorb impacts and keep your elbows slightly out. This advice seems contradictory to road cycling habits, where you want to keep your elbows in to be aero, but keeping your elbows slightly out on dirt is going to provide you more power to handle impacts and give direction to your front wheel in more technical terrain. It also allows better leverage when leaning your bike through corners. This is particularly helpful on a gravel bike since there’s no suspension to cushion the ride. Think light hands, heavy feet!
3. Lean With It!
When you want to change direction on your bike or rail a corner, the lean is key! Being able to separate your bike from your body is important to create a counter-balance and keep even weight on both the front and rear tires. Start by getting comfortable leaning your bike back and forth underneath you while keeping your upper-body neutral and upright. I like to think of my arms as windshield wipers that are moving my bike back and forth under me. Leaning the bike underneath you, versus steering and turning your wheel, will also keep you safe and keep the front wheel from washing out.
Have fun and get playful on your bike!