Updated: Nov 15, 2022
"Get your butt back on the downhills”
Recently, we put out a post on our social channels asking, 'What's the WORST piece of mountain bike advice you've been given? We then posted the top five worst suggested pieces of advice as a poll on our Instagram Stories asking if the advice was true or false to use. Some of you were on the right track, and some of you weren't. They weren't trick questions, though - the answers were all false because they're techniques that aren't correct due to the decrease in rider safety and understanding about what we're doing on our bike. These posts received a lot of engagement, so we'd love to dive a little deeper to help you understand why these pieces of advice aren't great to be sharing or using.
"Get your butt back on the downhills."
Okay, I'm happy to share this post because there are way too many people who think this is what you need to do when descending on a bike.
In some circumstances, it appears that we are moving our butts behind the seat and over the rear tire to counterbalance gravity pulling against us as we ride downhill. However, we should actually only be moving our butts back over the rear wheel in extreme circumstances or under powerful braking forces.
When we move our centre of mass (COM) too far behind the centre of the bike, four significant things are going to be impacted:
1. Over-compensation: Riders immediately move too far backwards, even on grades where it is not required.
2. Range of movement: Think of your arms like an extension of your suspension. Your arms will become outstretched, meaning that you will have a limited range of movement, impacting your ability to properly absorb the terrain. Have you ever felt like you were going to collapse into the bike riding through the "G-out" at the bottom of a steep section? It is probably because your arms were near locked out and horizontal to the trail (at the bottom) rather than being vertical and supple to absorb that impact.
3. Steering: You will also have a limited range of movement to steer. So if you need to make any sudden changes in your direction, you're going to be pretty limited. You'll feel like a T-Rex trying to reach for something on the top shelf.
4. Braking power: Front brake = more braking power = greater for slowing down. As you decelerate, your centre of mass moves forward relative to the front wheel. This additional weight on the front wheel provides more traction, and traction equals more stopping power.
What you should be doing instead while coasting: get lower and wider on the bike while maintaining as close a centred position as possible (chin over the stem, hips over the seat).
What you should be doing instead while braking: while staying low and wide you can then position the hips and COM slightly towards the rear of the bike to help with stability with the brakes being applied. Be careful to not go full-back seat. Additionally, we can brace by dropping first the heels and then the elbows.
Use your dropper post while descending. This is what they were primarily designed for!!!! I can't stress enough to get in the habit of using your dropper post if you're not already. You will find it much easier to avoid getting back seat.
Now, I'd like to point out that I'm well aware of the variety that comes with descending on the trails, so this is generally speaking. Different obstacles call for slightly different techniques.