Your First Mountain Bike Moves

When Braking Fails

It's likely you will find yourself in a situation, despite the proper braking technique, when the conditions exceed your ability. And like the joke goes,"It's not the falling that hurts; it's the sudden stop." But preparations can be made to help minimize injury.

First, the bad news: The front brake can be squeezed too much, flipping you and the bike over the front wheel's axis. It can happen suddenly, in which case you're pretty much in the hands of the biking gods. But if it happens slowly enough for you to think — and it can — try to get away from the bike and land upright on your feet. It's sort of like playing leapfrog as you push off the handlebar at the right moment. Hopefully, you won't get many opportunities to practice, and your luck will be better than your skill.

Now, the good news: Although your back tire should never skid, sometimes it's the only option open for avoiding a catastrophic dismount. As the tire begins to skid, try to release pressure on the brakes so that the tire begins to roll again. If it's too late for that, keep the bike in front of you so that you can push it away with your feet as you go down. Try to hit the ground like a baseball player sliding into second, with your bottom and thigh taking as much of the force as possible. Sure, it hurts, and you may trash your derailleur, but you'll live to pay the repair bill. And ride again.

Rainy-Day Rides

Few people go out looking to get caught in a rain shower on the trail, but it happens. The most significant change in technique after the bottom drops out involves braking. Although you will still be able to stop on most descents, brakes don't work as well on wet rims. Also, even a little bit of moisture can make surfaces slick and tricky to ride over. Keep your speed low and most problems will be avoided. If the rain gets too heavy for safe biking, get off and walk.

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