Keep your weight back. "If you’re on terrain that’s a little bumpy, you have to distribute your weight properly to keep your bike upright and moving forward," says Yeager. Your front tire has to roll, especially if there are roots or bumps to pass over, she says. Shifting your weight off the handlebars is key. "Shifting your weight to the back, so far that your butt is off the seat on steep downhills. Make sure your hands are light on the handlebars."
Lay off the front brake. Sure, it can feel scary to let loose a bit. "But your front brake represents 80 percent of your braking power," says Yeager. "If you jam on it, you’re going to severely slow your momentum and lose control of your bike." Or you’re going to go over the handlebars. Bad news either way, so use a light touch.
Shift early. "One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is they don’t shift soon enough," says Yeager. If you're already straining to pedal, you've waited too long to shift into a lower gear. "Look at least 10 feet ahead of yourself at all times, and when you see a hill or even just a rise up ahead, shift early so you can keep your momentum and maintain your traction."
- Befriend your bike. As a beginner, you don’t need moves that make it seem like you’re in the X Games. But Yeager encourages new mountain bikers to test their bikes a bit in a parking lot or flat area. "Hop up and down on it, see that you can get a little air," she encourages. The more familiar you are with the bike, the more comfortable you'll be watching the trail instead of your wheels. "Your bike wants to roll and stay up—that’s just physics," says Yeager. "If you look ahead on the trail while you’re riding—if you look where you want your bike to go—that’s where your bike will go."
Here's what you need to do know to traverse trails like a pro: