It is too bad when road cyclists get discouraged after only one mountain bike ride and then never try the sport again.
If you're a roadie that's thinking about trying out mountain biking, arm yourself with a little upfront knowledge. For those new to the trail, here are a few tips to make the transition from pavement to dirt easier:
1. Get Comfortable Moving Around on the Bike
Road riders are seated on the bike for the majority of any given ride. They might get out stand on the pedals for some portion of a climb or a sprint; but most of the time a roadie stays in the saddle. Mountain bike riders are not seated for a good portion of any ride that includes technical or difficult climbs and descents.
2. Move Your Body Weight Forward on Steep Climbs
When you climb steep trails or roads with loose sand, rocks and dirt, you will need to move your body weight forward so your rear wheel stays in contact with the earth, providing optimal traction. If you move your body weight too far forward, you lose traction. Move your body weight too far back and your front wheel can lift off of the ground.
3. Pedal, Pedal, Pedal
A big temptation on uphill sections is to get to an obstacle or tough section of the trail and stop pedaling so you can get a closer look at it, decide what to do and then make your move. If you've stopped dead in your tracks, more than likely you won't make it over or through the obstacle—that is, unless you can do a track stand and stunts a la trials bike rider Danny Macaskill.
You've got to make decisions about what to do on the fly and then pedal, pedal, pedal. Most of the time, momentum is your friend. There are times when too much speed is bad, but we'll save that discussion for another column.
More: Momentum Is Your Friend
4. Move Your Body Weight Back on Steep Descents
A road rider will make minimal adjustments to forward and aft body position on the bike, whether climbing or descending. You can find photos of mountain bike riders descending steep roads and trails where their body position is so far back, the saddle is completely visible in front of their torso.