Similar to a wheelie, a manual on a mountain bike is a technique used to keep the front wheel off the ground while you roll on the rear wheel. What makes it different from a wheelie is that you don’t pedal.
Manuals provide a few benefits besides just being used to show off to your friends and spectators.
When you manual on a mountain bike, it helps increase your speed and efficiency on the trail.
Manuals are smoother and quicker than a standard wheel lift for getting over bumps like water bars or little roots. And they help you carry speed through pumpy sections of trail.
How to manual on a mountain bike
In order to successfully do a manual, there’s two parts you must master.
The first part is successful getting the front wheel in the air. Part two, is finding the balance to keep it there. The key to both parts is being able to use your body weight.
Getting the Front Wheel Up
To get the front wheel off the ground, you need to preload and punch.
- Preload: The preload part is pretty straightforward. You push your weight down into the bike to preload the suspension. This will give you some rebounding energy that’ll help get the wheel up.
- Punch: As soon as you’re low over the seat, it’s time for the punch. As quick as you can, push your feet and arms forward and throw your weight back. You want to keep your arms locked straight so that it’s your weight that brings that wheel up rather than pulling the wheel up with your arms.
Keep even pressure on both sides of the handlebar and on both pedals to keep the bike in balance.
Don’t try to lift the bars with just your arms. Or you’ll drop your chest forward, which forces the wheel down.
Once the wheels are up, you can work on holding it there by balancing.
- It’s all in the hips: The key to balancing a manual is in your hips. Keep your hips low and over the back wheel, and move them forward and back to stay in balance.
- Keep a finger on the brakes: Keep your finger on the rear brake—if you feel like you’re going to tip backwards, all it takes is one tap on the brake and your front wheel will drop down.
How to Practice a Manual
Start, by focusing on a line on the ground. Now, time your manual so you get your wheel up over the line. Next, try it over a small stick. Once you have the timing nailed, you can take it to the trail.
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