Biking From Roads To Mountain Trails


If you're hoping to try mountain biking away from your current road routines, there a number of things to know and new skills you need to acquire to do well in these adventurous paths. This is a guide for road cyclists who want to try the different challenges found on the hills and trails.

Biking From Roads To Mountain Trails

Learn to shift on your bike. Cyclists used to road biking are mostly seated while riding on pavement. It’s rare for them to rise up off their saddle and pump unless they’re on a route with lots of ups on the way, because on flat and level runs there’s rarely any need to. The opposite is usually the case in mountain biking, dirt riders are off their seats for much of the time on most off-road terrain with hard uphill and downhill segments which require more focus and technique to get through.

Sit to the front when ascending. When ascending steep trails or tracks with shifty surfaces, you have to shift your center nearer to the front to balance your weight better between both wheels so that they can retain their best grip on the ground. Shift too far front and you shed traction, but too far to the rear and your front may actually rise up a bit or lose grip and slip too much.

Keep going as much as possible. Many riders tend to stop pedaling once they encounter obstacles or difficult ground on the way up, mostly just to see what’s there before deciding what to do and continuing on. Once you’ve killed off your momentum this way, you’re more likely than not to fail to get over or through. At least not without doing a series of wheelies which should not have been needed at all.


When on the uphill you’ve got to make up your mind on how to safely handle obstacles without constantly stopping or coasting. Pumping without letup while finessing your steering and your tires’ moving contact with the rising terrain should power you over or past most small rocks and depressions. Remember your personal limits for safety, and always scan ahead for the really bad obstacles and ground which you just can’t safely power through.

Stand to the rear on steep downhills. On pavement you are used to making tiny adjustments to your stance while mostly seated on your road bike, even on uphill and downhill segments. A mountain bike veteran should be ready to stand on his pedals so far to the rear of his frame that his body would be well behind the seat when descending really steep terrain.

Rely on your gear to get by. Lots of riders try not to hit hitting hard along their routes because they’re worried of sustaining damage to their stem and frame as well as tires and wheels. But the frames of mountain bikes are designed with torsional parts and in-line absorbers which can dissipate much of the shock transmitted by rolling hits on off-road terrain. Even falls off high ledges can be handled by good MTB frames. Learn to rely on your bike and its tough qualities on tough trails, and you will better learn the skills you need to be a better rider with more confidence to handle anything in the wild.

Get used to scratches, dents, dirt, and mud. You were likely able to keep your road bike looking almost like new for years at a time but for a few falls or run-ins. You’re serious about biking away from roads on difficult terrain, you will mostly not be able to do the same for your nice new MTB frame. Technical mountain biking is just as much about the rider’s conditioning as his bike’s. Those who aren’t comfortable with getting dirt and dings on their nice frame and wheels may look for more level paths in bike parks, or custom trails which offer less technical challenges.

Ride over biggies when you can. On the road, you avoid any size rocks and other debris by passing around them. Mountain bike veterans see the bigger outcroppings with few if any sharp edges on the ground as tougher parts of the trail which they can get through by simply going over them. Many times you’re better off cycling over tough but passable rocky terrain than finding another path.

Instability on the move is natural. You’re off smooth and hard road environments, so skidding around and sliding on loose surfaces like dirt and gravel and shrubbery is to be expected. You should accept that the ground underneath your tires is liable to shift or scatter too many times, and constantly ready yourself for when it happens. Once you’ve zoned into acceptance of the nature you’re facing, try to be as relaxed as you can while your bike slips and slams beneath you. It’s easier to keep an upright stance when you are relaxed enough, which enables you to keep your torso and arms flexing effectively in tough situations.

Anticipate what you’ll be doing by looking ahead. Beginners tend to focus too much on handling what they are already encountering. In doing they lose sight of most obstacles farther ahead and thus usually fail to anticipate how to quickly get through them, which slows their run overall. You need to decide your options for the next obstacle even as you’re passing the current one, and rely on your bike to handle both.

From Roads to Trails to Roads Again


You must always practice enough to master your skills on the move, so that you can adjust your controls and body stance instinctively in response to changing conditions. As a road biker, you already know this to be true. But maybe your problem these days is with the mostly unchanging conditions and scenery you get on pavement. Barring mishaps with trucks and cars, it can all get a bit too routine at times.

Ironically, mountain biking can be a cure for the doldrums of road biking. When done safely, it’s not only good cross training for cyclists of every stripe, but the more stressful activity will get them fit faster and zestfully recharged for road duty.

About the author


Hey there, I'm Lisa, founder and editor in chief here at Recreation Space. We found fitness through recreational activities. And we want to share it with you. We believe in empowering people with knowledge to make smarter, healthier choices in their lives.

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