4th July 2019

Top Tips: How to Improve your Mountain Bike Body Position

Written by Jack Nicholl

We asked PYB mountain biking instructor Chris Evans to give us his top tips for body position, to make sure you're getting maximum mileage, and maximum enjoyment, out of your ride.  


Getting your body position right can make all the difference when it comes to how much you enjoy your ride; improving your riding by conserving energy, protecting your body, and making travel easier. All this ultimately adds up to more miles on your bike, and consequently, more memories from the trails on your solo and group rides. We asked PYB  instructor and British Cycling Level 3 Mountain Bike Leader Chris Evans to give us his top tips for body position, to make sure you’re getting maximum mileage, and maximum enjoyment out of your ride.


What these top tips will do is get you thinking about a few fundamentals of rider position that can help you get the most out of your ride. Be it a downhill bike, gravel beast, hardtail or enduro rig.

To get the picture of the correct positions on your bike I’ll break it down into climbing and descending and go big picture first then look into some the smaller intricacies that can make a big difference.

Hill Climb

Correct position on your bike during a hill climb can make the climb feel easier. By easier I mean that you will have the tools to find a sustainable pace and utilise a range of muscles to efficiently spin to the top of that amazing descent.

  • Correct seat height.

Raise your seat to the point where you have a straight leg with your heel on the pedal. This gives you full movement in your legs when riding, avoiding cramping or having to stand up to gain power.

  • Saddle placement.

With your seat up, try and get a straight line from your hip through your knee and to the ball of your foot on your pedal. Keeping everything in line like this will help to avoid injury.

  • Bike length/stem length.

With this above set up there shouldn’t be an excessive amount of pressure on your bars (leaning too far forward) or feel like your knees are hitting your bars/perched on top of your bike. If you feel too much weight on your bars, try either raising them or go for a shorter stem. If it’s the other way around, try a longer stem before the expensive option, a new frame.

Strictly speaking the above are technically more along the lines of bike set up, I’ve put them into this because if the bike is set up well, it’s holding you in a good position. Below are a few tweaks you can try to help you on those long or technical (or both) climbs.

  1.  Keep your body as still as possible. Try to keep your upper body as still as possible when climbing, any ‘body bob’ can be wasted energy.
  2. Thumbs on the top of your grips. Not one for technical ground this… on the easier stuff, you could move your thumbs above the grips to avoid over gripping or pulling on the bars, neither of which are beneficial on a prolonged climbed.
  3. Bent elbows dropped torso. This is one for the steeper climbs, on the steep stuff sometimes it can feel as though the front wheel wants to lift and there’s the temptation to move forward. Low and behold the rear wheel starts to wheel spin. Stay sat down, move your chest down and forward by bending your elbows. Hey presto, rear wheel traction, front wheel stays put!

Down hill

To get the most out of your bike on a descent you want to be fairly neutral on the bike and as relaxed as possible, tensing up means that any buck movement that the bike makes you follow. Relaxed and the buck doesn’t matter, you naturally absorb the movement. To achieve this, try;

  1. Your core over the core of the bike. Try lining up your belly button with the bottom bracket on your bike, you should now feel quite a bit of weight on your feet.
  2. Stand tall. I see a lot of half squat type positions going on, this results in over griping of the bars and leg pump. Stand tall with a slight bend in your arms and legs. This not only is more sustainable but will allow you to look further ahead on the trail and use natural suspension, your arms and legs!
  3. Drop your heels. How long can you stand on tiptoes before your calf muscles scream at you? Dropping your heels puts you into a naturally relaxed position and reduces the chances of you slipping off your pedals resulting in pedal strikes (I hate them….)
  4. Put pressure on the outside of your palms. Over griping puts tension through your shoulders, try loosening your grip and changing the pressure points to the outside of your palms. This loosens your shoulders and stops your forearms from getting the dreaded pump on longer descents.
  5. Raise your head. Simply put, you can look further ahead…..

If you’re looking to improve your riding, sign yourself up to one of our two-day mountain bike improver courses and Chris or another of our highly experienced Mountain Bike Leaders will show you the way. These courses are a great way to iron out some of the kinks in your riding and set you up properly for years of enjoyment on your bike – and you’ll get out on some world-class trails while you’re at it!


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