Jane Andrake making progress on her manual with the Manual Machine!
The manual is a useful skill for lofting your front wheel over an obstacle. Yes, lofting as opposed to lifting. Once you know how to manual you will start to see the trail from a different perspective. You’ll no longer have to ride over small trail obstacles, you’ll be able to effortlessly loft the front end at will and avoid losing momentum. Getting up small ledges will also become much easier as you learn how to use your hips instead of your arms to pick your front end up.
But, if you’re like most mountain bike mortals — learning to manual is much easier said then done!
This manual machine was designed and built by avid mountain biker (and a Civil Engineer), Steven Andraka from Crownesville, Maryland. Steven built this machine to help his wife, Jane Andrake, get her manual on point! Take a look at the following detailed photos for inspiration on building your own manual machine.
The hinged top-cap prevents the rear wheel from twisting.
Rear view of top cap. Works with 27.5 and 29er wheel sizes.
Note the hole in front board for the safety strap. The markings on strap allow you to progress getting front wheel up incrementally.
Front view of the Manual Machine
Here are the steps to help you once you’ve got your machine built (or on the trail if you’re not so mechanically inclined).
1. Ride at jogging pace, or a bit faster. You want to go fast enough to provide momentum, but not so fast that you can not control yourself.
2. Start in a ‘high’-ready position (standing neutral) above the saddle.
3. Pumping down towards the saddle, then just as you are about to hit the saddle, shift your weight back. You objective is to make an L with your body movement, down and back.
4. Lock your arms out and all the handlebars to come back with you.
5. Once you’ve cleared the obstacle (or are done with your attempt), bring your weight back to the neutral or ready position. This will bring the front of the bike back down.
Still having trouble with your manual? You’re most likely having trouble with one of the following …
1. Going too big, too fast does not work. Start small and work to feel the balance point on the bike.
2. Use your weight, do not pull up with your arms.
3. Shifting your weight back is what brings the front of the bike up (“lofting”), not ‘pulling’ the bars up (“lifting”). If you pull the bars up without shifting your weight back, the front will quickly go back down.
4. Do not cut the corner. Down and back at the same time, does not work. Think L shape, down THEN back.
5. Are you getting the front end up, but it wont stay up? Lower you center of mass by bringing your hips down closer to the rear wheel.
6. If on the the trail, keep a finger over your rear brake at all times. If at any point in this move you feel you are going to flip off the back of the bike, applying the back brake will bring the front wheel back down.
7. Once you’re ready for the trail, practice this skill by placing a stick on a slight downward (smooth) path and see how long / far you can hold the wheel lift. Some speed will keep the bike more stable.
After some focused practice on this skill you’ll be riding manuals all over the place – good luck!
We’d love your comments below — what do you think of Steven’s creation?
Richard La China is a Professional Mountain Bike racer, USAC Certified Cycling Coach and a IMBA Certified Mountain Bike Skills Instructor who coaches beginner to pro cyclist. Currently working with mountain bike XC, Endurance and Enduro racers and other competitive and non-competitive mountain bike riders seeking to become their best.
Best investment ever. The Ninja mountain bike skill clinics will definitely bring up your riding level a notch or two....
Best investment ever. The Ninja mountain bike skill clinics will definitely bring up your riding level a notch or two. Being able to get instant feedback from the instructor (s) in this case Richard La China and his assistant is invaluable. From getting the correct riding position to improving the skills necessary to have a fast flow through the trails builds confidence and is the key to having more fun when mountain bike riding. Also I've taken one-on-one lessons (with Richard La China) and it really speeds up the learning (in my case it was basic jumping) in any area where you deem to be weak in or just need improvement. ~ Thad G.
I would recommend this to riders of all skill levels and ages.
I want to thank the Ninja Mountain Bike Camp and instructor Richard La China for a great weekend on April...
I want to thank the Ninja Mountain Bike Camp and instructor Richard La China for a great weekend on April 22-23rd. As an 59 year old ex-MX racer and 28 year Mt bike rider, found the personal instruction and group demonstrations were instrumental in my growth as a rider. You can teach an old dog new tricks. The seeing "new" lines, different jumping techniques and cornering skills all helped me open my eyes to a world of riding I had not experienced on my own. I want to all of the attendees for a great experience. I would recommend this to riders of all skill levels and ages. ~Joel Palmer
I went to the clinic that was offered April 6-9 at Mulberry Gap in Elljay Georgia. The coaches were awesome!...
I went to the clinic that was offered April 6-9 at Mulberry Gap in Elljay Georgia. The coaches were awesome! I was riding faster with more control than ever before! If you want to get better take one of their camps! ~Bill S.
Within one hour we we clearing a 5 foot jump easily!
Wow, a friend and I just did a one day private lesson with Richard and I can’t believe how much...
Wow, a friend and I just did a one day private lesson with Richard and I can’t believe how much we learned. I’ve been riding for over 10 years but with all self taught skills. We wanted to learn fundamentals the right way and Richard took us through all of that (along with critical bike setup) and the intermediate stuff that they teach in one day plus he spent an extra hour at the end to teach us jumping which I had always been nervous about. Within one hour we we clearing a 5 foot jump easily and with confidence, we even learned to move the bike in the air on a crossed take off and landing. I think my favorite part thpugh was riding fast on the very gnarly technical descent. We will be booking up more private lessons during the summer at Big Bear. Thanks Richard you are a very good teacher! ~John U.
I attended an intermediate skill clinic last year and had an awesome time. My riding improved instantly and I have...
I attended an intermediate skill clinic last year and had an awesome time. My riding improved instantly and I have really enjoyed the increased confidence jumping my bike over obstacles. My muscle memory takes a while to kick in and Coach Richard and his crew of master Ninjas were really patient with me. I even got some bonus education on climbing faster during one of our warm-up laps! Even though I have been riding for years I learned something new with every skill taught. The clinic was worth every penny and I will be signing up for an advanced one this summer. ~Michael W.
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