Mountain Bike Skills How-To Videos with Leigh Donovan 4

Learn the skills for a solid foundation of mountain bike riding technique with pro rider, Leigh Donovan.

Leigh Donovan, world-class mountain bike coach and former world-class mountain bike racer shares her tips, tricks and expertise to help riders become confident bike pilots out on the trails.

How to Drop on a Mountain Bike


Safely learning drops on a mountain bike is as easy as starting small, practicing and repeating proper body and bike position and eventually progressing up to higher and higher obstacles. Leigh Donovan shows you the techniques to successfully enter, exit and land drops while moving up in skill level.

Keys to Riding MTB Drops

  • Start small - a street curb is a great place to begin and refine technique.
  • Utilize neutral, ready and neutral back riding positions (See bike and body separation below for more)
  • Unweight and lift front wheel as end of drop approaches, land with weight evenly distributed over both wheels
  • Gradually move to bigger, faster drops when comfortable

Bike and Body Separation


Think of bike and body separation as the ABCs of riding technique. Balance, traction and fluidity on the trail come together through lowering the center of gravity and providing more control through four different riding positions that Leigh shares - neutral, ready, neutral-back, and side-to-side.

Keys to Bike and Body Separation, neutral, ready and neutral-back positions

  • Level pedal position (lead pedal at 3 o'clock, rear pedal at 9 o'clock)
  • Heavy feet, light hands technique
  • Practicing awareness for applying each position

Keys to Bike and Body Separation, side-to-side position

  • Outside pedal down, inside pedal up position (6 o'clock outside pedal, 12 o'clock inside pedal) for cornering
  • Outside hand and foot heavier than inside
  • Body does stabilizing
  • Lots of practice to perfect

Mountain Bike Cornering Technique


Mastering corners on a mountain bike is a life-long achievement. Utilizing bike and body separation movements is key to finding traction and speed through berms and flat corners under any trail condition.

Keys to Successful Cornering

  • Practice in a safe, comfortable environment. Cones can be used to create a corner anywhere, anytime.
  • Approach the corner in the neutral riding position with eyes up looking through the corner.
  • For bermed and non-technical corners: Once into the corner, use outside pedal down, inside pedal up position (6 o'clock outside pedal, 12 o'clock inside pedal) and transition to the ready riding position, allowing bike to lean through corner.
  • For technical trail corners: keep pedals level (3 and 9 o'clock position) and transition to the ready riding position, remaining centered while allowing the bike to lean through corner as feet drive the bike through the turn.
  • Exit corner by finding neutral position
  • Avoid using front brake in a corner
  • Rear brake can help initiate a turn

Generate Speed with Pumping on a Mountain Bike


Using the body to weight and unweight the bike on trail bumps and rollers is called pumping. The technique, when done properly, can create speed without pedaling. Leigh demonstrates pumping technique to maximize momentum and fun on the trails.

Keys to Pumping a Bike

  • Find a bump or roller that can provide repeatable practice
  • Start in neutral riding position, with level pedals, keeping upper body strong
  • Drive bike through low areas more with feet than with arms, ensuring sure chest is not lowered toward the bars
  • Shift between neutral and ready positions through high and low points on trail features. Faster speeds mean faster switches.

Balance a Bike without Moving - Track Stand


Practicing and mastering the track stand will improve skills for many situations on the trail. Balance, traction and even braking are all improved when the track stand is perfected.

Keys to the Track Stand

  • Level pedals
  • Feeling the bike and body balance
  • Heavy feet (pushing down on heels/pedals) and light hands
  • Braking

The Manual Lift


The manual lift is an important skill for trail and park riding. Lifting the front wheel will help get you up and over trail obstacles and will open up the next level of riding as confidence builds.

The Bunny Hop


The bunny hop is the movement of getting both wheels of the mountain bike off the ground without the use of a jump or obstacle. It is a skill that takes practice to perfect and does not require the rider to be clipped into the pedals. A great place to leanr the hop is in a flat open area like a grass field or parking lot. Do not drive initial movements with your arms; instead drive the movements from your legs and feet first .

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