How to climb roots on a mountain bike – 3 simple steps


Learn how to ride over roots on a mountain bike uphill with more skill, speed and traction than you ever thought possible, using three simple steps and a magic little climbing technique called the ‘Saddle Stop’. You’ll find this same technique works for uphill ledges, steps and rocks, too.

Make sure you check out the step-by-step video and Super Tips below, too. They’ll accelerate your learning to help you master this great mountain bike climbing technique even sooner!

How to climb roots uphill on a mountain bike

Step 1 : The Approach

  • Approach the obstacle with momentum and put in a short burst of power at the last minute if you can
  • Look ahead to the obstacle at the line you want to ride over
  • Make sure you shift in advance to the gear you want to pedal once you’re over the obstacle. Shifting in advance means you might have to spin faster on the pedals to keep your momentum to the obstacle, but it’s better than shifting late, crunching gears uphill, and loosing precious momentum right when you need it most (see video below for example)

Step 2 : Lift and Rise

  • Pedal lift the front wheel over the obstacle, then quickly rise off the saddle and give a short, sharp lunge forward over the bar
  • This gets the front wheel over and un-weights the rear wheel to help it roll up and over the obstacle
  • BUT, and here’s the saddle stop technique – only rise off the saddle the height of the obstacle. If you’ve got a few obstacles in a row, like the climb in the video, rise the individual height of each obstacle

Step 3 : The Saddle Stop

  • When the back wheel climbs on top of the obstacle, the saddle will hit your bum, stopping the rear wheel from bouncing off the step edge – that’s why I call it the Saddle Stop!
  • As soon as you feel the saddle hit your bum and the rear wheel is up, immediately drop your weight on the seat to grab that positive traction back and ‘bang’ resume pedalling straight away
  • Notice the steep climb in the video below requires use of the Chest and Nose technique to improve centre of gravity, so the contact point for the saddle stop is up near the nose of the saddle, rather than back near the wings


Super Tips to help you climb roots and steps easier

  • Grippy tyres can aide traction and improve your capability
  • If you’ve got the skill a rear wheel hop-up over obstacles can help in some situations
  • Lower tire pressures offer more traction – just don’t go too low that you risk wheel damage or punctures!

With practice you can perform the saddle stop technique very quickly and repeatedly in rapid succession. You’ll really notice the extra capability the saddle stop gives you when climbing very technical trails that have multiple obstacles.

How to get better, sooner, without losing confidence – practice on smaller and fewer obstacles first, like a single log, pegged down on a slight slope in your backyard. Then try bigger challenges up steeper climbs as your technique and confidence improves.

More mountain bike climbing techniques to get you to the top of more tough climbs:

How to climb steeper with the Chest and Nose technique
Learn the mountain bike Hill Start in 90 seconds
Unstoppable pedaling technique for loose and slippery climbs