Balance for Log and Bridge Crossings

If you want to learn how to ride over logs and thin bridges on a mountain bike, then you’ve come to the right page. Here you’ll learn what you need to do to ride those crossings with confidence and ease.

And you’ll learn fast.  These mountain biking tips hit the bullseye of exactly what you need to know and how to do it.  Ten minutes every second day will have you riding with far better bike balance and control skills by the end of the week.

Just think about it…

…half an hour is all that’s needed to get so much better!  So now you’ve got…

No Excuse

Like the balance for corners and switchbacks tip, you can practice your balance for log crossings almost anywhere.  In the bush, at the park, along the gutters while riding to work, or along a line in the dirt while you’re waiting for others on the trail.

And once you fit it into your routine, regular practice will keep your balance skills finely tuned.  You’ll become a more capable mountain biker and you’ll seek out the technical log and plank crossings on the trail just for fun!

Set The Scene

Mark two lines on the ground about thirty feet long.  Make them parallel to each other and about eight inches apart.  Garden hoses were used in the photo below.  The two parallel lines you make will be the imaginary outside edges of the ‘log’ or ‘plank’ that you will aim to keep your wheels between.

For beginner mountain bikers practicing between lines on the grass is best.  More experienced mountain bikers can perform this exercise along gutters, lines or edges on the road, or the edge of your concrete driveway or riding path, just to name a few places.

Super Tip: Relax for Results

Keep your handlebar grip relaxed and firm. Relax your arms and shoulders so you’re not shrugging and let your legs and / or seat take your weight.  And remember, it’s not just your hands that steer the bike, it’s your hips and feet as well, so learn to make small subtle adjustments to your balance with your knees and hips.

Set Before Entry

Whatever the obstacle ahead of you, whether it’s a jump, corner, berm, log, downhill, or whatever, you’ll have more success if you get yourself into a position of readiness before navigating the obstacle.  This ready position includes having the right bike speed, being in the right gear, correct body position and attitude.

Take the bunny-hop for example.  There’s that moment just before you perform the bunny-hop where you get yourself into that ready position on the bike.  Well, the same goes for anything else, including riding between the lines.  Learn to set before entry the right way during practice and you’ll start to do it automatically out on the trail where it really counts.

To set before entry on approach to any obstacle, including the lines, make sure you have…

  • A positive attitude
  • The right speed
  • The right gear
  • Feet on the pedals
  • the right body position and balance on the bike including one-finger braking

Now you’re good to go.  Try third or forth gear.  Start a good distance back from the entry to your imaginary log or plank and go for it…

Keys to Riding along the Log

  • Feather and pedal – Feather the brakes to avoid going faster.  Pedal smoothly to maintain a constant speed to the end
  • Relax your grip – Loosen your grip slightly, relax your arms and shoulders
  • Go with the flow – Think of ‘encouraging’ rather than ‘telling’ your bike where to go.  This will reduce zigzagging and straighten your steering

and the big one…

  • Look forward along the path you want your bike to travel – This is the Golden Rule of Mountain Biking and one of the single most important mountain biking skills to learn.  Your wheels will follow your eyes, so look ahead along the ground between the lines and your wheels will follow that path.

If you dare to look at the lines or to the outside then that’s where your wheels will go.  And when that happens in the real world on that log crossing it will hurt.  A lot.  So use this grass exercise as good practice for getting your mind into that state where your thoughts are relaxed and only focused on looking exactly where you want to go.  Once you can do that with ease in the park, doing it out on the trail will be a cinch.

Then, once you’ve made it to the end of the lines, turn around and ride back through.  Again.  And again…because…

Proper Practice Makes Perfect

If you’re still zigzagging outside the lines don’t get disillusioned. Just relax. Widen the lines if you need to while your balance and confidence improves.  Be patient with yourself and expect that getting better can take a little time.

Before you know it, ten minutes every second day of this balance drill will add up to real gains on the trail.  Within a week you’ll have better bike control and balance, giving you the skills and the confidence to ride things you couldn’t before.

And make sure you learn one-finger braking.  Then, when you think you’re good enough to move on…

Raise the Challenge

Six ways you could increase the challenge to advance your balance skills even further:

  1. move the lines closer together
  2. ride as slowly as possible
  3. ride as fast as possible
  4. pedal out of the seat
  5. place obstacles across the lines to ride over
  6. do a Track Stand

Don’t underestimate the power of what seems like a basic balance exercise.  It really does boost your balance skills and help you…

Kill the Fear Inside

The ultimate aim of the mtb tips Bike Balance Tips is not only to improve your physical balance skills on the bike, but to improve your thinking and thought control for any mountain biking situation.  Riding between the lines teaches you to look where you want to go, that is, looking and riding along the space of nothing between the garden hoses, rather than looking at the hoses, or the ‘edge’ or outside the log and falling off.

When fear is staring you in the face before you commence that log crossing out on the trail, it’s how much you can control your thoughts and your mind that counts.  It’s what you teach yourself here on the grass in the park that gets you to the other end of that log crossing in the forest.

Know Your Limits

When you get to the trails start on less risky logs and bridges, then work your way up to bigger crossings and bigger challenges as your bike balance and mountain biking skill and confidence increases.  Follow the exact steps you used on the grass and, as always,

…use common sense.  Always ride with a standards approved mountain bike helmet and full finger mountain bike gloves.  And don’t be shy to wear mountain bike protective gear like knee and elbow pads, especially if you’re the type of person to take lots of risks.  Broken bones hurt!

How to ride over logs and planks – the video: