At the heart of every tremendous mountain biking trick you’ve ever seen on the trail, in that sick edit, or read about in a magazine is one common theme: The Ready Position.
If good riding is a house, then the Ready Position — or “Ninja” position, as we’re fond of calling it — is the foundation. Every other skill is built around this one seemingly straight-forward thing. So let’s break it down, from bottom to top.
Even Weight on Your Feet
If you attend a Ninja Mountain Bike Skills clinic, we will never tell you to raise one foot or lower the other. All questions about what your feet should be doing are answered in the same way: Make sure you have equal weight on your pedals. Whether cornering, climbing, descending, or just plain riding along, if you were to put a scale under each of your pedals, the weight should come out equal.
Knees Bent and Out
Keep your knees bent to allow the bike to move up and down under you — basically, your legs are your suspension. Your bike moves up and down beneath you and it also needs space to move side to side, as it does if you were leaning into a corner. With your knees out, you can lean the bike that much farther; the other way and you can’t lean it at all.
Bum Off The Saddle
The only way your big, beautiful suspension system (your legs) can work is if it’s open and active. Putting your bum on the seat effectively means you’re “locked out.” To keep up with varying terrain, and to work the bike, you’re going to need your bum out of the saddle.
The lower your torso, the lower your center of mass, and the more stable you’ll become. Lowering your torso also makes room for your arms to lean the bike into ever-tighter corners. If things start to get squirrely, we’re betting it’s your torso that’s crept up on you.
Elbows Bent and Out
You’re much stronger with your elbows out, rather than in. Don’t believe us? Try doing pushups — two with your elbows out, two with your elbows in. With them out, you get to use biceps, triceps, chest, and back to support your riding and share the load. With them in, you have only your triceps to work with. Bending your elbows also helps protect your space, and you’ll get more extension in cornering, too.
One Finger on the Brake
Part of being “ready” is being ready to stop. On the trail, whether uphill or downhill, things can change very suddenly so having your index finger on the brake, ready for action is a must. But thanks to the power of modern brakes, you only need one. Save your other three fingers to maintain a good grip on your handlebars. [To learn more about effective braking, click here.]
“Look where you want to go,” is some of the oldest advice in mountain biking. Also its companion piece, “don’t look where you don’t want to go.” With your head up, you’ll be able to see where you’re going. We recommend keeping your eye on what’s happening 2–5 seconds down the trail. It’s too late to do anything about the obstacles under your wheels. Look — and think – ahead.
The Ready Position is used any time you’re out on the trail and need to be “ready.” There is one other position we use in mountain biking as well: the neutral position. This one is basically the same as the ready position, but feel free to put your bum on the saddle and even grab a drink or a snack. Ready position is what you use to shred glorious singletrack. Neutral position is how you roll back to your car at the trailhead parking lot.