Home > 3.4

Mountain Bike Training – How to climb and descend

Improve Your Mountain Bike Skills. Climb and descend with confidence.

It takes years of training to handle a mountain bike like top pros Max Plaxton, Geoff Kabush and Derek Zandstra. Here are some quick and easy ways to improve your skills in two of the most technically demanding areas of trail riding — descending and climbing.


Descending can be a lot of fun, especially if you have the skills to ride downhill with confidence. The best position for descending is to bend your elbows, lift your butt off the saddle, and shift your body weight back behind the bottom bracket. This position lowers your centre of gravity and puts more weight on the rear end of the bike, allowing you to maneuver the front wheel over obstacles and around turns. It also decreases the risk of crashing over the handlebars. Practice this position on small descents to get comfortable.
Scan the trail about 10 m in front of you so that you have time to pick the safest line. If you’re on a descent you haven’t ridden before, walk down it first. This gives you a chance to look for any dangerous obstacles. Shift into a harder gear on a steep descent, but stay alert and switch to an easier gear if there is a hill coming up. Keep pedalling as you approach small obstacles like roots and rocks. Increasing your speed will help you get over them more easily. Keep your cranks horizontal over larger obstacles to avoid scraping your pedals.
Frequently tap your brakes to avoid riding at an out-of-control speed. Bike brakes have lots of stopping power, so only use two fingers on the levers. Don’t pull too hard on the front brake, or your front wheel could lock up and you could fly over your handlebars. Practice going down a gradual hill to get a feel for how much pressure you need to apply to the front brake lever.

Shift into an easier gear as you get closer to the hill. The recommended cadence for climbing is about 60 to 90 rpm. Fully extend your legs to get the most power out of each pedal stroke. Stay seated on steep climbs so that you don’t spin out the rear wheel, and shift your body weight forward to help keep the front wheel on the ground. Stand and rock your bike from side-to-side on shorter hills. Using your upper body will help create momentum.
Watch for obstacles on the trails and choose the smoothest line with the best traction. Ride over the smaller obstacles and around the larger ones. Watch out for rocks, roots, and loose dirt because they have less traction.
Using partial pedal strokes will help you maintain control when riding slowly around obstacles. Walk up technical ascents first, so that you know where the obstacles are. You can also take the same lines as other riders who have successfully made it to the top. Don’t get discouraged if you do not make it up the climb the first time. Try a few times and if you still can’t get to the top, come back to it later.

Mountain bike position tips – Start to improve your technique by riding a bike that fits. Here are some tips that will help you feel more comfortable on your mountain bike.-Proper bike position results in relaxed shoulders and slightly bent elbows.-Correct saddle position is essential for balance, control and pedalling efficiency.-Keeping your knees slightly bent at the bottom of each pedal stroke will give you maximum power.-Adjust your shifters and brake levers for a comfortable hand position.-Go to a professional for a bike fit. It’s worth the investment if you want to be comfortable on your bike.