More weight forward on an all-mountain hardtail?

Hi Lee. I am reading your book. Love it! Your skill and experience are unquestionable.

My question is: You say keep the weight into the BB at all times to keep balance. I have heard magazines here in the UK say some hardtails make possible a more weight forward position and this works well as you can “lean on the fork”, and allow the rear wheel to be lighter to skip over things and generally dance about while the front stays glued and where you want it to go. The rear just follows in its own way!

I’m from England and have recently got a Ragley Blue Pig. A big step up from my previous XC bike. I think you should check them out. They are more all mountain hardtail than anything. Really strong, stiff, super slack front end (67.5 sagged, 65.6 no sag – 140mm fork,sagged 40mm), and SUPER steep seat angles for climbing. Long top tubes designed to run really small stems and super wide bars. Optimized for 130-150 forks.

When I tried what you mentioned on it, it felt the rear wheel was getting hammered and I felt like I might be getting more beat up (than normal!). I am wondering if I would be best putting a little pressure on the bars as well for this kind of bike? And if I do, would I do this at all times, inc. for braking? And how much would “just a little” be?

I know you are the best man to ask for this.


Hey Andrew,

Thanks for the great question (Please folks, no more “I am totally bad ass and go big, should I buy a black Epic or a red Demo?”).

And thanks for the compliments. You know how to butter someone up while telling him he’s wrong!


• Your Blue Pig looks awesome. I was looking into something like that (or an On-One 456 Ti, oh man) when I was scheming Captain America. Alas, Specialized is not playing in that market (but I’m nudging 🙂

• I’m dogmatic about Light Hands, Heavy Feet because most people are way too far forward (until they’re scared, then they’re too far back). By mastering Lights Hands, you learn to maintain a neutral balance. From there you can intentionally work the front and back of the bike — but these deviations must be intentional, not habit.

The P.3 isn’t all that slack, but the weight-forward concept applies.

• When you’re cornering a slack bike, some weight-forward action can really help stick the front end. But: You better master cornering with neutral balance before you start bench pressing 300 in the turns. See Weight distribution for turning.

• I’ve been riding Captain America on trails. He’s not an all-mountain hardtail. He’s light, steep and stiff — especially with that Fox 831 firmed up. I guess he’s a “smooth part of the mountain hardtail.” But: Even in the gnarliest sections, I find the most smoothness and flow with Light Hands.

Caveat: My shoulders are imploding. The less I use them, the better.

• Keep in mind that being too far back will pummel you just as hard as being too far forward. Are you sure you’re in the middle? Are you maybe a bit too far back? The sure test: Loosen your grip and see whether you fall forward, fall back or stay in attack position.

• When you brake, try to drive the net force into your feet, not your bars. That means light hands. On a hardtail, it’s extra important to pick smooth braking points. If you have to brake in roughness, I suppose you can bleed some of that force into your fork, but it’s dangerous and takes a lot of upper body energy.

• On a hardtail with slack geometry, a short cockpit and a big fork, I can see the sense in “leaning on the fork” in short rough sections and definitely in the turns. The big thing here is do it with intention. Intentionally ride the fork when you rip a turn or pump a rock garden. Do this with deliberate, graceful violence — on a case by case basis — then return to neutral position.

• If you lazily camp out on the front of the bike, you will end up too far forward, and your riding will suck.

Do those last two points make sense? I think this cuts to the heart of your question. Yes: Work that fork. But: Do it intentionally.

This is about the best I’ve seen a hardtail (or really any bike) ridden on gnar. You can see him — especially in the crazy sections — working that front end with graceful violence. But check out how balanced he looks (light hands and supple arms) everywhere else.

What do y’all think?

— Lee

Know more. Have more fun!

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5 replies
  1. Andrew says:

    Wow Lee what a reply.

    I did butter you there but you deserved it. I’ve seen you pumping Captain America on a pump track like it was a pump bike. And your book gets the best reviews.

    The 456 Ti, awesome bike. It is designed by the same guy who designed the Blue Pig, Brant Richards. Perhaps Specialized should get in touch with him, perhaps with a nudge 😉 He works for contract for various makes. He also does a Ti Blue pig.

    Now, to the chase of the point. I could well have been too far back. I will use your tip of loosening the grip and see which way I fall. The time I got really beat up was always a tricky section. Maybe I was just going faster, but I was on my own, I could not tell. I will wait until I ride that section again with my buddy. Assuming he has not been reading your book!

    Oh man that guy in Whistler. Some people on YouTube suggest it is speeded up. Now that’s a complement. But you can tell it is not. You can actually see he his weight pushed into those pedals now you mention it. You are right, you can see him actively pumping the front end down, and only when he needs to do so. He seems to especially pump when going off rooty drop offs. I will have to read your steering section now to see how I can corner like that!

    I’m taking easy at the mo as I had a fall on some stairs last week, so strangely enough my shoulder is now sore too. My first fall from the Pig, I was beginning to think it could conquer anything..

    I heard about your shoulder in the book. I wish you well with it. And glad to see you still carry on riding; I like your site, I will be looking at it regularly.


  2. Sean says:

    Great response, Lee.

    I wonder also if Andrew might need some focusing on how and when to lighten up the heavy feet. For example, when I see a large obstacle in the trail ahead, as I approach it I’m going to first give the front wheel a mini-loft (little manual) and as my rear wheel gets near it, I’m going to actively absorb with my ankles and knees, much like I would absorb a bump in terrain while skiing.

    If a rider assumes “heavy feet” means pushing down hard all the time, he might assume that means no unweighting for obstacles… and might feel he’s getting knocked around even more.

    In addition to your website’s comments and your excellent book with Brian Lopes, I’ve found that watching pro DH racers on Clay Porter’s and Alex Rankin’s videos has helped me see how fast, smooth riders are dynamic with their foot-pressure and how they use the natural suspension of their ankles, knees, wrists, elbows to deal with obstacles.

  3. leelikesbikes says:

    Great one Sean.

    Weight usually in the feet, but moderating your weight to fit the situation. If you weigh 160 on the scale, you seldom want to weigh 160 on the bike. Great riders know how to weigh 0 … or 400.

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