Switchbacks were not designed for mountain bikes. They were cut out of the mountain way before mountain bikes were invented and originally developed for hikers (with an average shoe size of 10.5-inches, not a 44-inch wheelbase). And that’s where our problems start. How do you get around these 180-degree corners without resorting to hiking mode?
There will always be switchbacks that prove too precarious to pedal, but by understanding a few skills, you should be able to clear more switchbacks than you ever thought possible.
DOWNHILL SWITCHBACKS NO-NO
First, what not to do. Do not use the often-abused “flat tracker” technique for downhill switchbacks. A rider using the flat tracker technique locks the rear wheel, countersteers the front wheel sharply, skids the rear end around and then releases the rear brake. This can be destructive to the trail, and since you are skidding, and therefore out of control, you create a hazard for other trail users. Try the following techniques that won’t scrape the trail surface or scare other trail users.
Most switchbacks, even the tight ones with steps, can be ridden around without resorting to dramatic tricks or destructive skidding. If your bike is equipped with a dropper seatpost (a seatpost that lowers the saddle a few inches at the push of a lever), lowering will help you complete this maneuver.
Riding an uphill switchback requires patience, power and proper weight transfer. Your dropper seatpost (if you use one) worked great in the slammed position for the downhill switchback but needs to be fully extended for the uphill switchback.