Common mountain-bike mistakes the pros don’t make

Over my years of working with off-road cyclists there are some mistakes that everyone makes in their career. Every cyclist makes them, but only the good ones learn to rectify them. Here are four of the more common mistakes and simple solutions.

1 Staying in the saddle too much 
The way that novice bikers keep their butts planted on downhills and rolling terrain makes me wonder if they are Velcroed to them. The saddle transmits every jolt and vibration straight to your buttocks and spine.

Use your mountain bike’s primary suspension system.

I’m not talking about forks or seat posts, and I sure don’t mean your butt. I’m talking arms and legs. Your wrists, elbows, shoulders, ankles, knees, and hips create a superbly flexible and efficient suspension system that will do wonders to float your torso and head above the action.

But the equipment only works if you use it right. Leave your rear on the saddle and you eliminate the suspension.

Instead, stand up. Keep your legs and arms bent and loose let them carry your weight. You can’t ride this way all the time, of course, but do it when the terrain has you bouncing around.

2 Ignoring the front brake 
Your real stopping power resides in your front brake. In fact, a skidding rear tire doesn’t even slow you much, if it all.

While it looks spectacular with all its accompanying dust, it only tears up the trail and wears out the tire. The steeper the descent, the more you need your front brake. The rear one should be employed lightly, just to keep the back wheel from locking.

As an exercise, practice using just the front brake on descents. This can be risky, so start slow. Feather the front brake, using it with respect.

Clench too hard or stay too far forward and you might exit over the handlebar. As you gain confidence, gradually increase your dependence on the front brake. Then practice, practice, and practice some more.

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