Tim’s off-road masterclass
The Don is as handy off-road as on it. Here he shows you three MTB skills to practise
Get all your braking done while you’re travelling in a straight line before you reach the turn. This way, you can brake hard and late while reducing the risk of skidding and losing control. “This is key,” says Tim. “You don’t want to lose too much speed but you do want to stay upright.” Approach from the outside and look through the corner to the exit or, if you can’t see that, the apex.
Lean the bike, not your body, into the turn. You can do this by pushing the bars nearest the inside of the corner while pulling the bars nearest the outside. Keep your head up but move your upper body down towards the bars. This lowers your centre of gravity for added stability and puts extra weight over the front wheel to improve grip. Come in from the outside towards the corner’s apex.
Start accelerating out of the corner once you reach the apex. Keep your knees a little wider than usual to allow for the bike’s lean and pedal smoothly to reduce the risk of your rear wheel losing traction. Follow a widening arc to the outside of the corner. The nearer you get to the exit the more you can straighten up the bike, gradually reducing its lean and moving your upper body back away from the bars.
“For long slogs up smoother climbs, stay in the saddle and keep your weight over the rear wheel for greater traction. Just straightening your arms out a little should be enough to shift your bulk back so you can apply more power.”
“Gear selection is crucial for climbing. Find one that allows you to hold a smooth cadence. It’s often better to use higher revs than higher power because it lowers the chances of your rear wheel losing traction and spinning out.”
“Don’t let your head drop – keep your chin up and your eyes looking forward. This way you’ll be better able to see where you’re going and find the smoothest possible line, so you can carry your momentum up the climb.”
Keep it down
“Traction is an issue on shorter, steeper climbs too but so is keeping the front wheel down. Bend your arms to shift your weight forward when the ramps rise sharply. If the front wheel is still popping up, move on to the front of the saddle.”
Unlike cornering and climbing, you want to get up and out of the saddle when it comes to going downhill. By doing so you put more of your weight over the back of the bike, which frees up the front to float more easily over any obstacles. It also allows you to brake harder on steeper slopes without having to worry so much about being pitched forwards over the bars.
Even if you have suspension, it’s worth keeping your arms bent and as relaxed as you can. This will help absorb any bumps but also allow you to steer more easily.
Keep your knees bent, too, but also spread apart a bit so there’s room for the bike to move about. And, as always, keep your head up and your eyes looking ahead to pick out the best line.
“Descending fast off-road just takes practice,” says Don. “The more you do it, the better you’ll get. It’s all about looking for the smoothest, fastest line and having confidence in your skills and kit.”
Bent arms and a relaxed grip on the bars will give you greater control of the front wheel.
Look ahead to spot any obstacles early and give yourself time to deal with them.
Get up out of the saddle to shift your weight back over the rear wheel so the front is free to roll over any bumps
Keep your knees bent to help absorb any big hits, and hold them wider apart to allow the bike space to move.