Friday, April 30, 2010

The Trick to Getting Over Obstacles on a Mountain Bike

One of the first technical challenges that a beginning mountain biker will invariably face is, "How do I ride over something that my front wheel won't roll over?" Perhaps they won't even think to try to ride over something if their front wheel won't easily clear it.  Mastering one simply technique will allow you to conquer all new territory.

It is called: the power wheelie.

Using this technique, you will be able to conquer:

  • Curbs
  • Downed trees
  • Large roots
  • Big rocks
  • Ledges
  • Any other small, abrupt elevation rise
 Doing a power wheelie is conceptually really simple, if you follow these steps:
  1. Approach the object straight on, with your bike perpendicular to the obstacle. Hitting an obstacle at an angle is much harder and can cause your tires to slide along it, especially if it's wet.
  2. As you are about to reach the object, give one or two hard thrusts with the pedals (thus the power).
  3. Simultaneously, with your body acting as a fulcrum, lever the front tire up onto or over the object (the wheelie). Instead of thinking about lifting up the front of the bike, think about driving the back into the ground and levering the front up.
Number 4
If the object is small, keep pedaling and let the back tire pop over the obstacle.

If the object is larger but your chainring still clears, pedal 1/2-1 stroke right as your tire hits the object, and then surge forward, shifting your weight from your rear tire to your front tire, allowing it to follow up onto the ledge.    Roughly the same applies for a small-medium sized log.

Medium Sized Log
Let's say  you are trying to cross a log that you can pop your front tire over pretty easily, but your chainring won't clear without hitting. If the log is small enough and you have enough momentum, a little snag on the large chainring won't mess things up too much, but be wary so it doesn't knock you off your bike..

If the log is a good bit larger than that but you can still pop the front wheel over, when the chain ring hits the log, keep pedaling a bit and you should be able to wiggle your way over it.

In this video, I rode over a medium-sized log:

Sorry it was a little further away than I had anticipated.  But if you look closely, you can see me turn to get perpendicular to the log, pop my wheel over, jimmy my pedals a bit when the chain ring hit, pop my back tire up, and then ride it out.  It was actually in a pretty sticky situation, as I had to basically run off the trail to ride it, with a log about 3 feet on the other side of the first one.  But I made it!

And here is one from a different perspective:

In the example above, my chainring also stuck a little bit, but usually not enough that I can't just ride through it with enough momentum and a little jiggle.

Hopefully with both of those different video perspectives and the step-by-step directions, you'll be able to master power wheelies in no time!  Once you have it down, it is a skill that will become very ingrained, and be almost an automatic response to certain types of obstacles.  Soon, small trees and ledges won't be a problem at all!

The Rest of the Series
Be sure to round out your arsenal of Mountain Bike Skills by reading the rest of the series here.

If this was helpful, I'd love to hear about it below!  And if you are a more advanced rider, please feel free to share additional advice in the comments section.


Greg Heil May 2, 2010 at 7:28 AM  

Hey thanks man! Planning on writing a lot more skills-related posts in the future. Should be good!

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Greg Heil is the Editor in Chief for He's been writing and publishing online since before blogging existed.

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