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It’s hard to stay focused on your technique every time you ride, but letting your guard down can cause bad habits to form. Photo by Bryon Dalton.

Even the best riders can develop bad habits. Complacency often sets in once you reach a certain level in your riding. That, in turn, leads to a reduced focus on technique, which then opens the door for bad habits to develop. Bad body position on the bike or poor line choices are among the bad MTB habits that riders can be susceptible to. Once these habits develop, they can be hard to break.

After I transitioned from riding hardtails to riding full suspension bikes, I developed a bad habit that I recently discovered. I am still working on eradicating it, but I have learned four things that are helping me to break my bad habit.

Identify the bad habit you need to break

If you look closely, you can see my left foot is lower than my right foot, and I am sitting on the saddle instead of being up off of it. That’s not the best position when descending. Photo by Bryon Dalton.

I discovered I had a poor riding position on my bike, especially when I hit descents. I was not high enough out of the saddle, and I gripped my seat post with my thighs going downhill. This poor riding position made technical descents harder than they should be because my seat kept slapping my rear end, and my legs were restricting the movement of the bike, making the bumps amplified instead of muted by my legs.

I could tell I was doing something wrong, but I didn’t know what the issue was until my riding partner filmed me descending while riding behind me. He later watched the video and instantly recognized my problem. Now that I knew what I was doing wrong I could begin to break the bad habit I developed.

Have a good rider or MTB skills coach teach you the correct technique

My riding partner, Bryon, has a lot of mountain biking experience, and gladly shares his knowledge with me every time we ride together.

I am fortunate enough to ride with someone who has over 40 years of biking and motocross experience, and he learned the proper techniques very early. He acts as my skills coach, and gladly gives me tips and advice whenever we ride together. Once he figured out what I was doing wrong while descending, he explained the correct body position to me, and demonstrated it for me. Now that I know how to correctly position myself on my bike, I can put it into practice.

Practice, practice, practice

It takes a lot of practice to develop good habits. I keep hitting descent after descent to make sure I have the correct body position every time. Photo by Bryon Dalton.

Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to breaking bad habits. Once I learned the correct way to tackle descents, I needed to keep practicing descending over and over again until it was natural for me to use the correct technique every time. I didn’t develop the bad habit overnight, so I couldn’t expect to break it quickly either. It is a slow and frustrating process, but sticking with it will pay off in the long run.

If you use a bike computer regularly, do yourself a favor and quit using it while you go through the process of practicing the correct technique in order to get rid of a bad mountain biking habit. Your speed and ride times are naturally going to be worse during this period because you are focusing on technique, not speed. It’s pointless to obsess over seemingly poor results, and doing so might cause you to quit the process before you’ve succeeded in breaking the bad habit. Once you have the correct technique down you can start using the bike computer again. Chances are you will see some great results in your time and speed.

Use reminders to help you eliminate the bad habit no matter how silly they might seem

Taping a note to yourself on the top tube of your bike, or repeating a phrase while you ride can reinforce the good habits you’ve developed and make sure the bad habits do not come back. I have even seen a video of a rider who sings while riding as a reminder to stay relaxed. These ideas might seem unconventional or even weird, but they work for the riders who use them. I’ve started repeating the phrase “hang loose” to myself while descending so I remember to maintain the correct body position. It works for me, and makes my rides better.

It might take time, but you can break bad MTB habits

It’s rewarding when your hard work pays off and you nail a feature like this gravity well. Photo by Bryon Dalton.

Breaking bad MTB habits is a process that involves considerable time and effort. Just be patient. Remember that you developed the bad habit over time, so you can’t get rid of it quickly. However, if you stick to the process, and utilize these tips, you can eliminate the bad habit eventually, and become an even better rider.

How have you broken a bad MTB habit? Please feel free to share your tips in the comments section below.

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# Comments

  • Oldandrolling

    Your opening statement should be on all riders wall. After many years of riding I still find at times my body positions need constant monitoring as I roll through a challenging trail.

    • Richard Shoop

      I’m glad to hear I’m not alone in that regard. Thanks for your comment.

  • rmap01

    Richard, your article is a great reminder for all of us. KNOWING proper technique/positioning is one thing (and that, in and of itself, is critical) but APPLYING that consistently on trail is a constant battle… at least for me.

    • Richard Shoop

      So true. Thanks for your comment.

  • michaelcole

    I dont have a problem sitting or hugging the saddle on descents at times . Especially if they are long and quads and calves begin to fade . The saddle lets me know where I am on the bike so standing just above the seat and letting it bump me a bit lets me know that . I like to move my body around a bit to give muscles a break . As long as I am loose on the bars and not have a death grip my body moves with the bumps quite well . That for me is the worse habit being tight on the bike and holding onto the bars with a death grip . I know after a ride when I do this having hand and finger pain , elbows and upper body may also be sore . Another thing being tight leads to more crashes I believe trying to control the bike completely and not flowing with the trail . I have even noticed climbing is more efficient being loose so your not pulling up the front wheel with tight grip on bars

    • Richard Shoop

      Ah, the death grip. I do that every once in a while, but not a lot. My friend always reminds me to guide the bike, not fight the bike.

  • kangaldog

    What i find amusing is that all of this insane high speed descent , jumping , riding on a razors edge etc, is taken as, this has always been Mt Biking.
    In the beginning , Mt. biking was , riding your bike in the mountains .
    The wheels remained on the ground as intended , speed was a non issue and the ability to go farther into remote areas than one could do by hiking was super fun.
    Then along came mad man Fisher and Cunningham careening down the fire trails in marin county . After that , there was no turning back from one entering the world of the Kamikaze .

  • conrad.ingrammill

    Useful article, with some great advice.
    There’s little doubt that the most cost effective upgrade is a skills lesson.

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