Rule # 1 of The Golden Rules of Mountain Biking: Look Where You Steer
It’s a fact that you go where your eyes are looking. Don’t focus on things you want to miss. Look where you want your wheels to go. In other words, if you focus on a large rock in the trail, it’s likely you’ll clip it with your derailleur as you pass by. It’s an easy rule to say, but a hard one to accomplish. Think of it like this; your wheels follow your eyes. Another example is ruts; you see one on the left, and choose a line to the right. There’s no need to keep looking at the rut out of fear as if you do, you’re likely to end up in it.
Rule #2: Scan Ahead
After consulting rule number one, continue scanning ahead. Dismiss obstacles that won’t bother your line. Reach forward with your eyes as far as possible while maintaining control of the bike. This rule varies depending on conditions; if you’re swerving in and out of trees, focus on scanning the next move no matter the distance. If you’ve got wide open trail, scan as far as you can, but stay in control. Don’t look down unless you absolutely need to. Looking down serves no purpose, and takes focus off of the trail.
Rule #3: Two up, Two Down
Ride with two fingers on the brakes at all times. Use the other two to steer. Get used to this position. It allows you to steer and brake simultaneously the instant you get in trouble or to avoid a nasty collision with an obstacle. The constant pressure on your brakes also allows you to feather the back brake for corners or trim it slightly for more control when you get moving too fast. When you get good at it, it’s fine to use your back brake for controlled slides around corners. But do so only if you’ve practiced the maneuver.