Down The Trail: How To – Pro Riding Secrets For Uphills, Downhills & Ruts

Every so often we like to take a look back and remember the work we did when mountain biking was in its early years. This month we take a look at the March 1996 issue, published exactly 20 years ago. In that issue we had stories about the upcoming 1996 Olympics, which were held in Atlanta. We also had several shootouts between big-bike and suspension manufacturers, as well as a feature where we tried to determine if drinking beer and riding bikes mixed well. Spoiler alert: they didn’t. The article that seems to have stood the test of time best is the tips article, which covered everything from how to ride steep climbs to “death-defying downhills” to “slot-car rain ruts.” Most of the tips we gave then are still solid advice today. Here’s what we had to say.

Raging through ruts—there’s no turning back: Loft the front wheel just a fraction more than it takes to clear the far side of the rut. Keep your body weight back, but don’t exaggerate the rearward movement. Remember, you don’t necessarily have to jump the gap; just gently place the front wheel on the other side. Let your body fol- low the front wheel as you shift your weight forward, and wait for the rear wheel to hit the opposite side. A little speed helps ease the task immensely, but “little” is the operative word.

Climbing quick and enjoying the view: What is good in life? Out-climbing your buddies, seeing a pack of riders pushing up the climb you know you can clear, and listening to them lament as you pedal past. Step one: approach the hill with conviction. Ignore that knot in your stomach. Don’t plan to fail by choosing a potential spot to pop out of the pedals. Size up the hill from the bottom, assume the climbing crouch and roll up the grade.

Death-defying descents—optimal technique: Dragging the brakes continuously is a recipe for disaster on any downhill. It causes the wheels to slip on minor off-camber sections and can stick the front wheel firmly into any rock or shallow depression. Brake through the easy stuff and roll over the technical sections.


Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun. Start a subscription by clicking here or calling (800) 767-0345.

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