Riding through V-shaped terrain

Hi Lee,

I wrote a while back asking advice about hopping the dreaded bucking log. I’m still having some timing issues to get a solid bunny hop going, but after picking up MMBSii, I’ve realized there’s a ship load of pumping and cornering technique for me to master that are really improving my flow! I’ll conquer the log some day.

Anyway, I’m having a hard time with “V” shaped terrain: Steep 15′ or so down to a tiny creek with a few rocks and then back up the other steep side. The bottom of the “V” is narrow enough that my front tire starts going up the other side before my back tire is done going down.

I’m having a very hard time figuring out what to do with my body position and bike while making the transition at the bottom. In fact, I’m not really sure what I’m doing. As the rear tire hits the rocky bottom, I seem to have all 200+ lbs of my weight multiplied on it, making a rough transition that ends up with a pinch flat 1/3rd of the time (that’s better than a few years ago before practicing the heavy feet technique when the forks would bottom out and almost through me over the bars!).

I know you are a busy man with the family and your various bike-related events, but I would be stoked to learn the technique for this type of terrain!

As a side note – I have a hardtail 29er and keep my seat at XC height.

Thanks Lee!

– Eric

Hey Eric,

Thanks for the great question.

What you’re doing

You are shifting your weight back for the Down, which is great, but you’re still back back when you hit the Up. Your rear end is extra heavy, and it’s hitting extra hard.

This is very common. I see it all the time, even with pro riders.

How to fix it

Your situation cuts to the heart of what I’ve been teaching lately.

It’s all about fore-aft balance. Heavy feet, light hands.

– When your bike changes attitude, you have to adjust3 your position to stay balanced above the bottom bracket.

– When you’re going down a steep slope, that means getting way back on the bike.

– When you’re going up a steep slope, that means getting way forward on the bike.

– When the terrain quickly transitions from down to up, you have to adjust your position just as quickly.

– This requires more range and quicker movement than you think is possible.

Here’s why infographic artists get the girls:

If you can follow the above advice, this post is worth $600 in private coaching!

Bike setup note

You can learn to move this way with a long cockpit and a high seat, but it’s way easier with a short cockpit and low seat.

Also: Suspension forgives imprecision. Hardtails develop precision.

Mastering Mountain Bike Skills 2nd Edition note

Check out the photos on Page 53. Imagine transitioning quickly and smoothly from the steep down position to the steep up position.


— Lee

Know more. Have more fun!

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5 replies
  1. Ray says:


    I have a related question: How should I deal with a significant obstacle, like a large rock, when going down a steep slope. I’m already back on the bike and don’t feel like I can pick up or even lighten the front end to get over it. Thanks.


  2. Adam says:

    Would a manual/pop the front wheel up, just before the bottom, be a good move? Get the bike pointed in the right direction…then only the rear wheel has to roll through the V.

  3. Chris Cowan says:

    This is where the pump track can really help. I use the same techniques on V’s as I do pumping a roller except you start on the tops and end on the tops. I really try to keep my body the same level but I’m just moving my bike down then back up. I think James Wilson answered a similar question today on his Q&A post about G-Outs.

  4. leelikesbikes says:

    Adam and Chris: You are both right.

    Ray: As long as you’re driving into your feet, you’re good. To get over a big obstacle on a steep descent, you might have to pull yourself forward to get over the obstacle, then push back to get down the backside. I’ve seen photos/videos of Mick Hannah doing this.

  5. Nate says:

    Ray: It seems to me that when a lot of bikers are going down a steep slope they will straighten their arms and legs too much trying to get even further back. Instead, they should keep their arms and legs bent so they can weight and unweight the bike and still be heavy feet and light hands. Doing this will bring their bodies back and down closer to the bike.

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