Navigating ledges is an important part of mountain biking. While bigger wheels and better suspension have made it easier to simply ride over things, the trail still throws ledges and other obstacles that you have to get your front wheel up and over.
Unfortunately, though, for a lot of riders being able to get their front wheel on top of a 12 inch or higher ledge can be a challenge. This means that when these kind of obstacles come up you have a lot of riders walking them or, worse yet, creating go-arounds and widening the trail.
The reason a lot of riders struggle with this skill is that they don’t make good use of their standing pedaling position. Being afraid to stand up and put any weight on their hands, they live in a perpetual state of being on-top-of or behind their bike’s center of gravity.
This position makes it almost impossible to push your bike in front of you so you can unweight and lift the front end in a balanced way. This front wheel lift/ manual is only possible if you are in the right position, which isn’t with your butt on the seat or in the “attack position”.
This is especially true when encountering ledges on climbs. Trying to get over ledges from the seated pedaling position or riding up to them while seated and trying to stand up at the last moment simply won’t work.
To ride ledges while climbing you have to follow these 3 steps:
- Make sure you are standing up with your weight on the front end of your bike.
- Approach the ledge in a gear that gives you some tension at the pedals so you can use ¼ and ½ pedal strokes as needed.
- Use your weight shifts from front to back and then to the front again to get you over the ledges, not momentum (the slow-speed balance needed for this is why you need to work on your trackstands, but that’s another subject).
In this video I show you how this works on the trail. This is a well known double-ledge move on the Mary’s Loop Trails near my house in Fruita. It stops a lot of riders but only because they are using the wrong strategy to climb it.
Now, I know from experience that the first reaction a lot of riders have to this is “I’m not good enough at standing pedaling to do that”. And that, my friends, is where the first challenge actually lies.
Nothing gets you better at standing pedaling like standing pedaling. No amount of prerequisite work will make it easier to make the transition to a rider who can use standing pedaling as a strength instead of a position to be avoided.
Until you are able to confidently stand up and pedal on a climb, you will struggle to execute the skills for getting up and over a ledge. And once you are a better standing pedaler, it will be easier to get into the position you need to execute a front wheel lift to get over ledges.
Don’t fall victim to the sit-and-spin mentality that came from road riding or the “light hands, heavy feet” advice that came from motorcycle riding. Stand up and learn how to be the dynamic driver that your mountain bike needs and unlock its real potential.
Until next time…