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Ask the Expert: How to Tackle Steps and Roots When Riding Uphill

Don't let pesky obstacles get in the way of your fastest time on that uphill segment

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We often hear from readers struggling with uphill obstacles when riding off-road – here’s one such scenario: 

“At some point in history, someone responsible for maintaining the woodland in my local area thought it was a good idea to embed concrete mini-steps into all uphill trails. As a beginner cyclocrosser, I find them quite tricky to get over. How do I overcome this?”

This is a question that boggles beginner mountain bikers and CX riders alike. We asked downhill mountain biker Lauren Jenkins for her advice on how to overcome steps and roots. Here’s what she said: 

When you encounter an obstacle when riding, especially when going uphill, it’s easy to panic and want to get off your bike. Knowing you have the ability to conquer the feature will help you tackle things like small steps on your ride.

The skill required to get over an obstacle on the trail, or even tackle kerbs around town, is in part very similar to a bunny hop. The body position and movements required will be very alike, so it’s worth practicing getting your front wheel off the floor to build your confidence.

Here we look at how to lift your wheel and carry momentum over things you may encounter when riding uphill such as a kurb, root or a small step.

Step-by-step

    • When approaching the obstacle think about your positioning, keep your weight central and ensure you’re in the right gear to keep your momentum.
    • Get out of the saddle and shift your weight forward slightly on the climb.
    • Just before you reach the obstacle, keep your feet level and keep looking ahead.
    • Before you reach it shift your weight backwards, dip your heels and lift your front wheel.
    • As your front wheel clears the feature, shift your weight forward to a more central position to unweight the rear of the bike.
    • Keeping your weight central, look forward and once you’re clear of the obstacle you can continue pedalling.

Extra tips…

flat pedals vs clip in for mtb

    • Keep rolling. It’s important to remember that keeping your momentum will really help, once your front wheel has cleared the obstacle your back wheel will follow if you keep your speed.
    • Stay level. Always remember to keep your feet level to ensure you don’t catch your pedal when clearing the obstacle.
    • Straightedge. It’s best to go into something straight if you can rather than going in at an angle, this isn’t always possible, but it will make it a lot easier.
    • Practice makes perfect. With anything practice is key and learning to manual will really help here. Don’t be disheartened if you find it difficult, the main thing is to relax and keep looking ahead when you approach.

We hope following these steps will help you the next time you encounter something out of your comfort zone when riding uphill.

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