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Riding the Rocks: Mastering Advanced Fat Mountain Biking

Fat Bikes Advanced Techniques

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Mountain biking brings adventure, freedom, and new challenges around every corner of the trail. Pushing your skills to the next level opens up even more epic rides and stunning landscapes. Are you ready to graduate from green circle beginner routes to double black diamond terrain? Do you want to ride with control and confidence no matter the rocks, roots, drops and steeps the trail throws your way? Then it’s time to level up your mountain biking mastery.

Keeping Your Cool When the Going Gets Steep

Riding steep descents tests your nerve almost as much as your skills. Approaching a steep section, stay centered and loose on the bike. Grip the handlebars lightly to allow the front wheel to track over obstacles. Shift your weight back and low to keep weight on the rear wheel for traction. Resist the urge to lock up the brakes, instead braking smoothly before obstacles, letting the bike roll over, then braking again.

Look ahead to pick your line instead of staring down at the obstacles right in front of your tire. This will help you maintain momentum and stability. Choose lines that allow you to ride as directly down the fall line of the slope as conditions allow. Sometimes an indirect line avoids bigger obstacles and pitches that could force you over the handlebars. Semicircles work better than sharp switchbacks for maintaining control.

If you do need to brake hard, bend your elbows and knees deeply to absorb the deceleration force with your body rather than locking your joints. Practice braking bumps sequentially with your front then rear brake to keep the bike stabilized.

Rolling Over Rocks and Roots

Rock gardens, root mazes, and uneven terrain can force dismounts and lead to crashes if not handled correctly. But with some finesse and practice, your mountain bike can roll right over surprising obstacles.

Approaching technical rock and root sections, scan ahead to read the best line instead of staring down right in front of your front tire. Look for spaces between obstacles to thread through. Allowing your bike to roll minimizes loss of momentum compared to brake-skid-brake sequences. Unweighting both tires briefly lets them skim over bumps more easily. Time unweighting lifts for when your wheels contact obstacles. Bend your elbows and knees to allow the bike to move beneath you as needed.

To lift the front wheel, shift your weight rearward slightly and pull up gently with your hands and feet at the same time. For the back wheel, press down into the pedals and bars to pop the rear end upwards. Initiate these subtle lifts just as the wheels reach the obstacle to unweight. Too early and you may compress into it instead. The timing takes practice to perfect.

Handling Drop-Offs Like a Pro

Drops, ledges and abrupt downslopes that compress your suspension or bottom out your tires require special technique. The keys include maintaining speed, getting low, and keeping loose.

As you approach a significant ledge, charge towards it confidently, pumping your legs to generate speed. Added momentum makes it easier to suck up the drop. Stay centered over the bottom bracket as you reach the edge. Just as your front wheel begins to drop, bend your elbows and knees deeply, bringing your body downward. This levels out your bike’s angle compared to the landing surface so you don’t nosedive too steeply. Look ahead to spot your landing, not down at the front hub. Allow the bars to dip independently of your upper body. Your knees and elbows act as suspension here.

As the rear wheel leaves the edge, let it follow through however it needs to while your loose limbs absorb the impact. Stay balanced centered over the pedals. When approaching larger drops, preset your suspension if your bike allows it. Once rolling smoothly again, gently apply the brakes to further regulate speed.

Practice finding that balanced body position on curbs and small ledges before moving up to bigger drops with consequences. The technique remains the same. Crank up the commitment factor gradually as your experience grows.

Handling Techy Climbs Without Hiking

Maintaining momentum over obstacles gets you only halfway up the mountain. You still need to tackle technical climbs without resorting to hiking.

Scoping out technical uphill pitches before charging into them allows you to plan your approach. Can you zigzag across fall line? Is there an easier line wrapping around to the side? Numerous small switchbacks sometimes prove less taxing than attacking straight up.

Standing upright allows for more control wrestling the bike upward compared to sitting. Keep your arms bent to avoid getting bucked over the handlebars if the front wheel suddenly lifts or hits an obstacle. Maintain weight centered over the bottom bracket, not hung out over the back tire which can cause wheel spin.

If you have a choice between rolling over a obstacle or powering straight into it, conserve momentum by rolling. But if unavoidable, attack head-on. Shift your weight rearward just before the rear wheel impacts immovable obstacles. Then drive down and forward to keep from stallling out.

Pedal strokes synchronize with body movements to maintain acceleration. As you sink into each downstroke, allow compressed legs to extend which simultaneously throws the bike underneath you upwards. Time this so your next downstroke catches the pedal just as it reaches the bottom to continue propulsion. This coordination replaces brute power. If you do lose all speed, don’t burn out or waste time spinning your wheels fruitlessly. Dismount and walk for a bit if you must before remounting to build speed again.

Mastering Off-Camber Traction

Traversing side slopes demands utmost precision. Letting your wheels slip downhill leads to rapid loss of control as the bike accelerates sideways. Commit to keeping those tires glued to the earth.

Approaching off-camber sections, transition to your lowest, most stable attack position. Grip the bars firmly with straight wrists aimed directly at the front axle. This braces your handlebars solidly side to side. Concentrate pressure onto your downhill pedal and straighten that downhill leg forcefully to drive the pedal directly downwards. Bend your uphill leg exaggeratedly to smash this pedal directly upwards, clawing for traction. Together this mushes your tires sideways into the soil.

Pick lines that cross the fall line as directly as possible. Sketching sideways too much leads to slippage. If conditions allow, carve gradual switchbacks working your way diagonally rather than traversing the entire slope’s length. Hike-a-bike is no coward’s retreat if simply riding the section at all risks injury or bike damage. Some slopes demand walking. This also conserves energy for the rest of the ride.

Progress gradually at your own skill level. Seek coaching, take skills clinics and session advanced maneuvers in safe environments. Mastering the integral techniques discussed here will transform even the rowdiest high country epics into rideable terrain.

About the Author

Tony K

Senior Technical Writer,

Tony K is a technical editor at He has a focus on downhill bike riding but still loves xc bikes too.

With more than ten years of mountain biking experience and more than 5 years testing mountain bikes, Tony has ridden and tested hundreds of different bikes and products, everything from XC to enduro bikes. Tony regularly competes in mountain bike races while seeing how long those compontents can hold up which gives me a lot of insight.

When he isn't shredding down a mountain or camping out, he is writing reviews for Mountain Bike Experience.

Rides: Surly Lowside, Canyon Exceed