Balance for Corners and Switchbacks




There’s no substitute for mountain biking on good trails to improve your mountain bike skills.  But what if you don’t have time to get the trails?  What are some simple beginner mountain biking tips can you practice to boost your bike balance and bike control?

Let’s show you a couple.  But before we get to them and before you start saying BORING! know this…

These are real tips that give real results.  And they work whether you’ve been mountain biking for ten minutes or ten years.  You can do them almost anywhere.  The back yard, the park, or under your house.  And it only takes minutes a day for these tips to advance your skills.

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Why You Should Bother

Because it takes less practice than you think.  And because you’ll notice the improvements very quickly out on the trail.  Here’s what these balance booster tips will give you

-   Better balance – your balance will improve, particularly for slow speed corners and up and down technical trails
–   Increased confidence – your ability to relax and focus under pressure will help you make better decisions
–   Finger-tip precision – the ability to make the tiniest braking adjustments with absolute finesse
–   Dual control – learn to brake while pedaling.  Yes it is a skill!  And you’ll learn it
–   Better body – you’ll improve your body positioning and weight shifting for tricky situations

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Before You Start

So that you’re relaxed and pedaling before the first turn, it’s best to

  • practice these drills on dry grass if you’re a beginner mountain biker
  • use easy release pedals or just sports shoes – so you can step off the pedals quickly
  • start from a distance and ride into the circle from the side

And if you don’t one-finger brake already, why not start now.  The balance drills will be a good way to get used to this advanced mountain biking skill.  Check out how to brake on a mountain bike with one-finger braking here

How to do Balance Circles


(view the video here)

  1. place a marker on clear open ground.  Sports marker cone, a shoe, a rock, anything
  2. start pedaling circles, seated, around the marker
  3. pedal an easy gear, perhaps second or third
  4. lightly feather the brakes while pedaling to keep you from speeding up

Remember to…

  • relax your handlebar grip so that you’re not strangling the bar
  • relax arms and shoulders, taking your weight through the seat, not the handlebars
  • look to the center inside the circle as you pedal.  Your peripheral (side) vision will automatically take care of the path your front wheel travels

and, if you find yourself falling into the circle instantly add a touch more power to the pedals.  This will pull you out of the fall and back into balance.  Once you’ve mastered the circles try some…

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How to do Switchback Eights

  1. start the figure eight just like the circle drill
  2. ride in a figure eight fashion crossing over between markers to make a continuous ‘8’
  3. continue the figure eight without stopping
  4. look to the center inside the circles
  5. ride with your eyes – shoot your eyes from the center of one circle to the center of the other as you begin to cross

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It’s not hard is it?  Give it five minutes and you balance will already be improving.  And now you’ve got something you can test your friends with too.  Practice while you’re waiting at the trailhead or at the top of a climb.

And when it starts getting easy because you’re getting better you can…

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Max The Challenge

handlebar inside your knee

Mix these suggestions together to advance your bike balance skills even more:

  • ten of the smallest circles and figure eights in both directions
  • one handed circles and eights, right hand for clockwise, left hand for counter-clockwise
  • as fast and as slow as possible

then set up a slalom course of multiple markers in a straight line.  Zig zag or figure eight up and down the line with turns at each end, taking turns using higher gears then lower gears, seated and pedaling off the seat.

You know you’re getting really good when you can circle one-handed so tight that your handlebar goes inside your knee like in the photo.

Shakes no more.  New incredible slow speed control.  Give yourself a pat on the back because you’ve just boosted your balance in a big way.

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Super Tips:

Even Better Balance – try these bike balance tips for mountain biking over logs and narrow bridges

Clip in clip less mountain bike shoes and pedals – Practicing these drills on grass is an excellent way to get more comfortable with your clip in mountain bike shoes and pedals.  If you’re worried at first, adjust your pedals so they release easier, then tighten as you get better.

Mountain bike protective gear – wear some mountain bike knee pads and elbow pads if you’re afraid of hitting the ground.


The easiest circle and switchback eights – The Video

Better Cornering 50 Times Quicker – The Video