Training for Your First MTB Tour: 5 Best Tips to Improve Your Pedaling Technique - Lizard Head Cycling Guides
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Training for Your First MTB Tour: 5 Best Tips to Improve Your Pedaling Technique

Training for Your First MTB Tour: 5 Best Tips to Improve Your Pedaling Technique

By Amanda Wilks

Before taking off for your first mountain bike tour across beautiful countryside or grueling mountain trials, chances are you’ll want to have your pedaling technique properly practiced. Knowing how to pedal is a simple task that can take years to master and requires constant adjustment and refinement to get the most out of the energy you put into it, but some of those methods may not be as obvious as they should be.

The solution is just as simple as the premise: practice. Unfortunately, practice makes permanent more than it makes anything perfect, unless that practice is perfect, and very few of us are capable of such a daunting requirement. Instead, focus on what makes proper pedaling form work for you. After just a few weeks of adjusting how you ride, you might find otherwise impossible tours well within your grasp and you’ll be well on your way to tackling longer and more technically complex courses in no time.

1. Keep Your Legs Aligned Properly

The first step to proper pedaling is knowing how your posture and positioning changes the power output of your stroke. In essence, your legs are acting as pistons that drive the pedals and eventually power your bike. In that sense, keeping your legs as straight as possible and your knees and ankles aligned in a straight line with your hips when viewed from the front of your bike means your pedaling will be smooth and properly formed.

2. Practice Your Pedaling in Ideal Conditions

Being intimidated by the prospect of a long bike ride in the wild outdoors is completely understandable. Without knowing your limits, it may be easy to over-exert and leave you unable to complete a ride. Even if you aren’t stranded, not being able to judge your limits can be a downer that throws you off of your biking game.

So before taking off for a tour, practice your mountain bike technique indoors on one of many stationary mountain bike trainers. Stationary bikes help build up the muscle tone and cardio you need to take on longer rides, but there are also roller-style setups that allow you to adapt your favorite bike to a stationary training machine, so you know exactly what ride height and resistance you’ll be pedaling against once you get outside.

3. Go on Short Practice Runs

When it comes to pedaling technique, the upstroke can be a real energy sapper for those who haven’t had practice in consistently pedaling across various terrains. The pedal is actually pushing against your foot on the way back up to re-prime, meaning your best bet in practicing getting your foot out of the way means getting out on your bike and going for a ride.

If you’re serious about improving your technique so you can tackle challenging courses to improve further, squats and other leg-centric exercises can be a key part of any cyclist’s form.

4. Pedal Smarter, Not Harder

Watching professional riders in any sort of biking competition across road and trails alike can inspire or terrify newcomers in just how smooth and concise their pedaling tends to be. This is no small surprise, as professionals are trained to apply consistent force rather than spike in power with lopsided strokes or other forms of inefficient pedaling.

If you need an idea of what proper pedaling looks like but can’t afford the tutelage of proper trainers, spend time analyzing what makes a pro rider’s ride so smooth and efficient. Study their form in detail. How do they sit on the bike? How high do they keep the saddle compared to their height? What angles do they shift their foot to meet through each stroke? Do they pedal or rest in any certain rhythm?

By finding what works for those who compete at the top, you might climb your way closer to their level in ways other hobbyist riders simply cannot.

5. Develop A Drill Schedule

Every exercise routine needs a little help here and there and biking is no exception. A full routine of leg exercises with a focus on techniques that transfer well to riding is one of the easiest ways to get yourself in proper form for a tour.

Do keep in mind that standard exercises without a bicycle don’t make up for time spent actually training on your bike, so ensure you keep your exercise routine fluid between strength training and actual riding experience. Leg muscle works best when paired with know-how.


If you’re waiting for a reason to get out onto the local trail and see just what sort of a view nature can provide from atop a bike, the first step is to start training, plain and simple.

Keep to a routine, study what proper pedaling form looks like and you might find yourself atop a mountain bike trail on a lovely morning just soaking in the ambiance. You just might get some proper exercise out of it, too.

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 7th, 2017 at 9:44 am and is filed under Blog, Featured Posts.
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