From moto to MTB

Top mountain bike pros like to muck around on motocross bikes — but what are they learning and why?

>>> 10 secrets to going fast on a mountain bike

1. Line choice

Moto riders get good at reading terrain because they see a lot of it — the bikes move faster and cover more ground, making it an accelerated practice school for trail reading. MX bikes chop up the ground too, so the best lines are always changing, with the best riders reading it fastest.

Apply it to the trail

Ride more — the more ground you cover, the more practice you get. If you’re time poor though, concentrate on one corner and try riding as many different lines as possible — you’ll get a feel for how the bike works, and work out which lines are fastest.

Trail centres are ideal; look as far ahead as possible and try to see lines where the masses haven’t ridden. Practice every approach — the goal is to make your mind recognise different lines in an instant.

Moto to MTB body positioning

2. Body positioning

If you can dominate a 100kg MX bike, a mountain bike is easy. Crossers do this with body positioning, starting in the attack position from where they can throw their weight about, using every inch of their reach to balance the bike.

Apply it to the trail

Practise really exaggerating your body positions, not just moving your centre of balance. Let your body hang off the sides and back of the bike. Lean the bike over more in corners and really drive your weight through the tyres by making your body low and over the tyre contact patches. Remember to straighten your back, lower your heels and keep your head up and elbows out.

Moto to MTB brake control

3. Brake control

Heavy bikes high speeds mean good braking is vital in moto — there’s more weight to control, which forces riders to get good at it.

Apply it to the trail

First, the obvious stuff: use one-finger braking (save those extra fingers for gripping the bar) and work both brakes together. Use them progressively: not just on or off, gently squeeze the lever in until you’re at the limit of the tyre’s grip.

Improve that tyre grip by getting your hips just behind the seat to keep the back wheel hooking up, and by dropping your heels and pushing the bike into the trail with your feet as you pull the lever, finding traction just as you would on the front wheel when cornering.