Technique/Tips/Skills for Aspiring Freeriders

Forums Mountain Bike Forum Technique/Tips/Skills for Aspiring Freeriders


This topic contains 6 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Heretics 7 years, 2 months ago.

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  • #100600

    [i:105ne6sj]To better understand freeriding, freeriding is a state of mind… a passion for discovering one’s limits, and then pushing those limits to take you to new heights (literally!). Freeriding can free you, at least for a while, from whatever balls you up during the day.[/i:105ne6sj]


    In general, there is no concrete definition for freeriding besides what is mentioned
    above (shortened to “FR”); it can be pretty much anything you want it to be. But it is
    generally accepted that freeriding includes foreboding terrain that may or may not have
    been spiced up with man-made stunts or features. These can include ladder bridges, teeter-totters, jumps, and drops (also known as “hucks”), but also might simply be downed trees
    or natural faces.

    In short, freeriding is mountain biking at the fringe or sometimes on
    the edge of insanity, and as such, it demands cutting-edge equipment and


    Most FR bikes boast 5” to 7” of suspension travel, powerful disc brakes,
    and hugely fat (as wide as 2.6” tires) tires with monstrous,
    dirt-munching knobs. A handful of die hard’s swing their legs over
    hartail (also known “HT”) frames equipped with long travel suspension
    forks, but most rely on the increased margin of error, control, and
    comfort afforded by a rear shock. There are literally dozens of FR
    bikes on the market; choosing the right one for you is simply a matter
    of riding, riding, and some more riding. Most bike shops (well, the
    smart ones anyway) are not going to let you take a new FR bike on a test
    spin over terrain it’s designed for…..there is simply too great of risk
    of damage. Some bike shops do rent FR bikes, and if you hook up with a
    group of local riders, there should be plenty of opinionated advice.

    Another option is to modify your existing bike. Even if you have an old
    cross country (also known as “XC”) HT, you can realize dramatic changes
    in its handling over gnarly terrain simply by swapping out some key


    If your bike is currently equipped with flat handlebar (also known as
    “bar”), pull it off, and replace it with a riser bar that has at least
    1” of upward sweep. This will effectively reduce the height difference
    between your saddle and your bar, making it much easier to get your butt
    behind the seat on hyper steep descents. It will also give you more
    leverage on the front end in tight, technical terrain. Oh, and it might
    just eliminate that nagging soreness in the lower back like the XC
    riders commonly get.

    Another thing to consider when replacing your old handlebar is the
    width, because the width does affect your ride considerable. For
    freeriding or DH purposes, a wider 26” to 27” width bar works great and
    offers more stability and control, but not so much for XC riding. These
    wider bars slow down the input from hitting rocks, ruts, and roots at
    speed, but also for hard hits from jumps and drops as well. The wide
    bar seems to soften the hits because, while it is not something you
    would classify as flexy, the wider bar offers more give with the riders
    weight farther away from the handlebar. The biggest downfall to wider
    bars is that you scrape your hands on every bush, tree or rock face that
    may line a tight section of trail. As per climbing, usually a rider
    feels like they magically gain two horsepower when grabbing those wider
    bars and while powering up a climb out of the saddle.


    Your choice of stem on a mountain bike determines you’re riding
    position, and that in turn has a big effect on the bike’s handling. If
    your bike is equipped with a long stem (90mm or more), pull it off and
    replace it with a shorter stem. FR, DH, DJ’s and 4X riders use short
    stems (80mm or less) to quicken steering, and to shorten the distance
    between saddle and handlebar, making it easier to get off the back of
    the bike. This makes them great for snap direction changes or
    controlling a sliding front wheel mid-race, but it can make the bike
    more of a hyperactive handful at high speed. Cross-country (also known
    as “XC”) racers tend to use longer stems (around 120mm) to increase the
    stretch in their position. Long stems also stabilize the steering of a
    bike, making it less keen to turn suddenly on tight singletrack but less
    nervous at high speed. It is recommended that you use a four-bolt stem
    though, but this is a controversial thing, as Easton makes some
    exceptional two-bolt stems.


    Outfit your ride with the fattest set of tires (usually between 2.35” to
    3” wide tires) that will fit, while still leaving enough space for mud
    clearance. On older XC bikes, you might not be able to go much wider
    than your current rubber. If you can fit 2.1” to 2.3” wide tires, do
    it. You’ll be amazed at the increase in traction, bump absorption, and
    overall stability and control with the fatter tires.


    Many older frames are devoid of rear disc mounts. The secret is, that’s
    okay. That’s because almost all modern suspension forks are disc
    compatible, and since 80% of your braking power originates at the front
    brake, you can still realize huge benefits by replacing your front rim
    brake with a disc. Hydraulic (also known as “fluid”) models are best,
    but they are also the most expensive. If you’re just getting started
    and don’t want to spend a ton of money, mount on an inexpensive
    cable-actuated disc. You’ll still be blown away by the increase in
    braking power and modulation.


    If your suspension fork has less than 4” of travel and you’re not
    racing, then now’s the time to upgrade. A good 4” to 5” travel fork
    will dramatically change the way you ride. Don’t go more than 5” of
    travel, though, unless your bike is designed for it. That’s because
    while the fork is built for big hits, your frame might not be. With the
    extra travel, you might be goaded into writing checks your frame cannot
    cash. So, the end results?? You’ll end up writing a real check…..for a
    new frame. Also, the tall legs of a long travel-travel fork will raise
    the front end of your bike, which reduces the head angle and makes the
    steering less responsive. To a point, this is good thing (especially on
    fast DH runs), but you don’t want to take it too far, or you’ll end up
    with slow, floppy steering that will make your bike hard to manage in
    technical terrain. In two words…..Not good!


    If you’ve been riding with clipless pedals, consider swapping them for
    old-school, large-platform flat pedals without the toe clips. Sure,
    you’ll lose some pedaling power, but you’ll also gain the ability to
    instantly dab a foot on the ground should your freeriding antics go
    awry. Simply knowing you have this option will lend more confidence to
    your riding.


    Most FR bikes incorporate some kind of single chainring with a
    chainguide and bashguard set-up even though some also incorporate a two
    chainring with a bashguard and quite possibly a chain tension set-up.
    For a single chainring set up, you could use either a 32T, 34T, or a 36T
    chainring for freeriding purposes, the 34T and 36T being the most
    popular of the three. Along with one of these chainrings, you will need
    to use a chainguide to keep enough tension and also keep your chain
    inline with your chainring. A chainguide eliminates the chain from
    jumping off and from chain slap. You will need to install a bashguard
    to protect your chainring as well. Now, for a two chainring set-up,
    either a 32T, 34T, or 36T chainring for the larger chainring and either a
    22T, 24T, or a 26T smaller chainring combination works great. You will
    also need to install a bashguard for this set-up as well, so you will
    have solid chainring protection.

    There you have it…..Your budget FR machine. Of course, there’s only so
    much you can do slapping parts on a bike that simply was not designed
    for the rigors of freeriding in the first place. It’s a bit like
    putting race fuel in a moped. But you might be surprised by just how
    much difference it makes (the bike tweaks, not the race fuel)….it’s
    certainly enough to let you know what all the hype is all about. And
    given that good FR bikes start out at almost two grand, it’s downright
    fiscally responsible!

    Hold on. Think about it for a moment…..What’s the most important part
    of any ride?? Hint…..It’s not on your bike. That’s right, were talking
    about you, about your flesh, bones, blood, and the grey matter. Of
    course, you already wear a helmet (well, I hope so anyways) every time
    you hop on you bike, but freeriding demands something more
    than an ultra-light XC helmet and a pair of spandex shorts, which offer
    a descent level of protection for buff singletrack but simply aren’t
    going to cut it when you are nosing your front wheel off a 10-foot

    Here’s what you will need:
    Full-face helmet
    Motocross-style chest and back protector
    Elbow/forearm pads
    Knee/shin pads
    Full-finger gloves


    Now that you’re geared up, its time to have some serious fun and throw
    yourself off the nearest cliff, right?? Uh, sure! Just be certain your
    health insurance is paid up. It also might be a good idea to park a
    few paramedics at the bottom of the cliff. You know, for safety’s sake.
    Actually there’s a better idea…..Below is five great tips for
    achieving freeriding greatness or at least competence.


    Whether you’re dropping (also known as “hucking”) off a 6” curb or a 6’
    rock, the technique is the same. In fact, I encourage new freeriders to
    think of all drops as simply a big curb. The technique for riding
    drops is pretty simple. The problem is that people get freaked out by
    the height. So the best thing to do is to just think you are riding off
    a curb. Keep your speed steady, lean back, and let gravity do its
    thing. You don’t want to pull up on the bar too much, instead just lean
    back enough that your arms are nearly straight, but be sure to keep
    some bend in your elbows to help absorb landing shock. The other key is
    to land on the rear wheel first. “The flatter the landing, the sooner
    your rear wheel should touch down. If it’s a steep DH landing, your
    rear wheel should land just a moment before your front wheel.” Remember,
    have your shoulders squared off with the landing as you are getting ready


    The allure of jumping is universal and timeless, and that’s why you
    should add this skill to your freeriding repertoire/game. Jumping is
    more complicated than dropping (even though people do think otherwise),
    simply because you have the uphill transition of the jump to consider.
    Many new riders on long-travel suspension bikes get themselves in
    trouble by approaching with too much speed, getting nervous, and then
    slamming on the brakes just as they reach the jump. This causes their
    suspension to compress and then release as they leave the ground,
    turning their bike into a big spring and tossing them high into the air.
    The end results can be carnage!! Instead, start on small jumps that
    don’t cause undue emotional distress. Start slow enough that you won’t
    feel nervous. Approach the jump with your arms loose and you eyes
    looking over the stem. As you leave the ground, gently pull the bike up
    toward your body and keep your eyes on your landing. Try to keep your
    weight centered over the bike. As with drops, you want your rear wheel
    to touch down first. If you don’t believe this, try landing on your
    front wheel. On second thought, lets not! As mentioned in the drops,
    always have your shoulders squared off with the landing when landing.


    OK, this is not my strongest skill when it comes to skinnies, but I do
    love ladder bridges, so I borrowed this from freeriding great Richie
    Schly. Schley, who lives in Whistler, BC, and runs FR camps for all
    ages, is one of the original freeriders. Even as younger riders emerge,
    Schley remains relevant and often shows up the youngsters at
    competitions and exhibitions around the world. He is, in short, the
    Michael Jordan of mountain biking.

    Nothing says “freerider” louder and clearer than the ladder bridge. In
    the forest of British Columbia, some ladder bridges run for hundreds of
    feet, twisting and turning and even incorporating other stunts, such as
    drops and teeter-totters. Still, for the most part, ladder bridges
    demand more courage than skill. Think about it…..If someone asked you
    to ride on flat ground within two lines a foot apart, you’d have no
    trouble. Heck, you might even throw in a wheelie or two. But when
    those lines are elevated 10’ above the ground, it’s a whole new
    ballgame. It’s all about conquering the fear and not looking over the
    edge. Schley recommends starting on flat ground, either riding along
    the painted stripe at the edge of the road or along the yellow painted
    portion of the curb. “The key to learning ladder bridges is to ride the
    low stuff as if it were high and the high stuff as if it were low.”
    says Schley. In other words, when you’re on the ground (or close to
    it), try to pretend you’re 10 feet in the air and imagine that wavering
    from your chosen path will have serious repercussions. To keep from
    wavering, “always look at where you want to go, not where you don’t want
    to go,” says Schley. Try to block everything from your mind and vision
    but the terrain that’s immediately in front of your front wheel. As
    you work your way onto higher bridges, maintain the same focus and
    remember that the actual riding doesn’t demand great skill. The only
    real skill is to fool yourself into believing you’re on the ground. If
    you can do that, you’ll soon be a ladder bridge master.


    Like ladder bridges, steep slopes, whether they’re made of rock or dirt,
    typically bark worse than they bite. In other words, they just aren’t
    that difficult once you get your head around them. The trick is to drop
    in slowly, keeping your pedals level, maneuvering your butt well behind
    the saddle (Warning: You may get a bit of butt burn on the rear tire.
    Consider it a rite of passage), and feathering the brakes. If the
    transition out of the steep face is gradual, you can carry some speed,
    but if it ends abruptly, you need to proceed very slowly, or you’ll do a
    nosedive when your front end hits the compression. Proper braking
    technique is absolutely critical on steeps. Too many riders shy away
    from the front brake, afraid that it will send them hurtling over the
    handlebar. That will not happen, so long as you apply it slowly and do
    not do a “panic grab” on the brake lever. In fact, in many cases, it’s
    the rear brake you should be cautious with because of its tendency to
    lock the rear wheel, which can send you into an out-of-control skid.
    Again, your best and safest bet is to practice on shorter, less-steep
    slopes, getting a feel for the body position and braking technique.


    Watching a top FR flow through a corner is like watching poetry in
    motion. It seems as if they hardly touch the brakes, and while most of
    us have to sprint like a bloodhound to regain the speed we lost. They
    rocket out of the turn. How do they do it?? It’s all about body
    language. First, you’ve got to look ahead. “The slower and sharper
    the corner, the more important it is to lead with your head.” Stick it
    out in front of your body a bit and keep your eyes locked on the exit of
    the corner. Everything your body and bike do will follow what you do
    with your head. Another critical piece of instructions…..keep your
    pedals level. This is harder than it sounds, as most riders tend to
    drop the outside pedal in fast corners. Keeping your pedals leveled at
    three and nine o’clock, respectively, provide better traction and
    improve reaction time. “When all your weight is on your outside pedal,
    it’s almost impossible to keep your body in line with your lean angle.”
    Although it feels more stable at first, you’re actually putting
    yourself at greater risk of losing traction and sliding your tires. If
    you keep your pedals level, your weight will automatically be centered
    over your bike side-to-side, and you’ll have much more traction and
    control. Plus, you’ll be able to pick up speed much more quickly coming
    out of the corner.

    There you have it. The basics of freeriding, but please understand that
    freeriding demands more than solid technique. Read on and for some
    great off-the-bike tips and you might find a surprise or two:

    Get Tough:

    “You are going to feel like everyone on the mountain is better and
    cooler than you. Heck, some of them might even tell you they are. Do
    not let them get you down, just concentrate on your own game and pretty
    soon you’ll be doing the same stuff as they are.”

    Gear Up:

    “If you do not pad up and protect yourself, you won’t get far. Unless
    it’s by ambulance.”

    Have Faith in your Equipment:

    “If you have a sick bike with 6 to 8 inches of travel, you should be
    able to land almost anything. Do not blame your equipment; instead,
    spend your energy working on your skills.”

    Embrace the Shuttle:

    “If you shuttle, you’ll get way more descending and your skills will
    soar. Do not stop riding uphill, though…..You’ll get to chubby to put
    your armor on.”

    Take a Riding Clinic:

    “Do you really think you know everything?? Of course not, so take a
    riding clinic and your skills will progress immensely.”

    Ride with people who are better than you:

    “It’s the best way to learn, but make sure to be the best on the ride
    sometimes, because you will need the confidence boost.”

    Don’t die wondering (this one is my favorite):

    “If you do not take chances, you will not know the outcome.”

  • #100601

    Thx soo much grat tips and what you should have, iv been on the web for hr trying to find info like thos, I have 1 queston tho, been riding for years now I hit big jumps and drops and want to start doing tricks. What tricks and how is a good way to learning tricks and practice. Thx

  • #100602
    "Ha_ha_693" wrote

    Thx soo much grat tips and what you should have, iv been on the web for hr trying to find info like thos, I have 1 queston tho, been riding for years now I hit big jumps and drops and want to start doing tricks. What tricks and how is a good way to learning tricks and practice. Thx

    Are you around other riders that throw in tricks or at least near a place where they do this? Like a bike park or a place where there is DJ’s.

    This is the best place to learn how to start throwing tricks in with your jumping or hucking. Start hanging with freeriders and watch and ask questions. The majority of freeriders are more than happy to welcome you in and show you some things, but you have to want to commit and go for it.

    For beginners, turning the bars RT or LT while in air is a start. A table-top or some form of tail whip is always good as well. Start learning hip jumps if you haven’t yet, they are fun and give you the feel of whipping. I do not know all the names to these tricks they do these days, but the main thing is to get with riders that do this and watch & learn from them, and then get out there and just do it. Practice is what makes you good bro!! Get over any fear and just let it ride….LOL. Good music helps as well, kinda gives ya a rhythm to work off in a manner of speech.

    Good luck bro and the best riding!!


  • #100603

    Thx bro, im from a lil place called tasmania off aus near new zeland. We have nice bush seance and sweet spots to build spots (wich are privet). A few tracks of our biggest mountian wich was built by pros but is more for ppl to feel for freeride then going beond your limets. As for riders Im I bit of a loan rider lol but I am trying to find more ppl that ride like me or better for that reason, my idear is to go to the community center and put up a flyer or program to help build a sweet as freeride trail, allways wanted to build one and it will b a gr8 thing for riders like myself to get together and have fun, most ppl down hear would have trails on there land tucked away just for them and ther m8s so I think but building one hope other ppl uncover what tracks there have, as for tricks iv just been watching youtube and dvds, thinking for finding a fome pit or building one to try out tricks lol. As you can c I think about freeriding 24/7 if I could. O and I was thinking of starting off with 360 spins ferst.
    Thx for evey think bro.
    On on what ever it means, bak to you bro.
    Ride hard or ride home 😆

  • #100604

    Hahahahaha….On-On just kinda means….."Let the ride ride, or other words….continue…."

    360 bar spins or bike spins bro? I can do the 360 bar spins on my little DJ, but not on my FR bikes (cable issues for that), but a 360 bike spin? Back in my day I was doing that on my BMX, but at 43 these days, I got to step down from some of that stuff, though not saying I couldn’t do it anymore, just would feel odd on my big steed. Being I am not getting any younger in physical age (got a heart of a 20 year old), I stick to the regular tricks but keep them mild, as I do not bounce back from injuries like I used to….LOL.

    Anyways, welcome to the forums bro, and glad to meet a rider from down under. Yeah man, I know what ya mean as per a loan rider, as I fit into that category. I get a lot of younger riders flocking around me though trying to learn something and a little old school stuff as well….LOL. It’s cool with me though.

    Anyways, yeah man, try to get with other riders like you, and learn from them, being young or old.

    On-On! 😄

  • #100605

    On-on bro and my that hart of yours ON-ON as well hahah, im only 23 and just got back into mtb due to money lol, but now bak on hit the big air and starting to get that feeling where you say, fuck this I want to do a 360 bike spin. I do keep thinking about doing back filps as I can do with out a bike, but I think its better to start lil like; the 360 bike spin, tailwipes and other lil tricks befor the big flip lol.

    Ill find riders soon as I will b building a track that will take sum time, only becouse of builing sweet big wooden jumps, dirt jumps, man made dorps, ladders the lot love to have sumthink that will push me to my limets to the piont I will camp the night just to hit the track asap lol love it.

    Im getting a helmet camra soon and ill get sumone tacking pics as well, and I will be posting them on hear, facebook and youtube, if I get lots of likes ill make a site of me and other riders that would like to post what thay do.

    bro you would have sum mad old school tricks up your sleave when you was a bit younger. Thx for your advice bro and yea as much as tassie h8s the manland (aus) but as soon as sumone arsk wher you from, you just say aussie m8 coz not alot of ppl know this beuitfully iland we have for MTB riding any style, better then the manland and the same as newzeland.

    On-on-bro on-on for life in your case lol

  • #100606

    That was the best instructions i have ever read.
    I used to ride on my property in Virginia when i was younger and i never knew the terminology or the diferent bikes available.
    I just biked through the woods, but now im definatly wanting to get back into it thanks to you bansai. awesome stuff!


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