Your First Mountain Bike Moves

Tips on How to Get Rolling

You're ready to ride. You've got a helmet and a quality bike that fit. You're well-shod and comfortably dressed. You've got water and food. All you need is a little practice before hitting that first tight single-track. A good practice area for many is the blacktop; a deserted section of parking lot does just fine.

The importance of practice cannot be overstated. Practice should be done in a controlled environment in order to try safe and simple moves that will keep you upright. Practice enables you to adapt recommended techniques to your individual riding style. And, most importantly, practice gives you confidence to take on what you know you can ride.

Setting the Saddle

Many beginning bikers underestimate the importance of seat height. Proper seat height allows a more efficient range of force to be applied to the pedals. You'll know your seat is about the right height when your legs almost fully extend on the downstroke. If your legs lock out, lower the seat slightly until you can keep pressure on the pedal at the bottom of the stroke. Likewise, raise the seat until you can deliver power at the top of the stroke.

In order to make any seat-post adjustments, find the quick-release lever at the top of the seat tube (where the seat post is inserted into the bike frame). Take the tension off the post by pulling the handle away from the frame. Raise the saddle until the maximum extension mark on the seat post shows. This indicates the farthest the post can be safely extended. It is unlikely you will be riding with the post extended this far, but you can. Now, estimate the proper seat height by standing to the side of the seat and lining it up with the middle of your hip. It may take several test rides to get it exactly right, but it's a critical adjustment. Make sure the horn of the saddle is pointing directly at the front tire. Once you've positioned the seat where you need it, take a file and scratch a mark on the post where it lines up with the top tube. Now you're ready for some practice in the saddle.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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