Skip to content

Riding like a Natural Born Mountain Goat

A dropbar trailbike has potential to shred the trails like no other mountain bike can. Its a fast and agile machine, perfectly suited for obstacle navigation at speed. But having a bike suited for mountain goat fun, and being able to operate the bike like a true mountain goat, are two separate sides to the same mountain goat experience. The fun comes when both bike and rider take flight as one goatified trail turning bio-machine. Yea, that sounds like the kind of fun we’re looking for. Here’s how to prepare your mortal coil for the union that awaits. Here’s how to ride your Dropbar Trailbike like a natural born mountain goat.

On the trail, just remember these headlines :

1) Hands in the Drops for Technical Riding
2) Fingers grip Softly, Elbows In, Shoulders Relaxed
3) Stabilize Through the Core
4) Pubic Bones Sit Lightly on the Saddle
5) Dynamic Balance Maintained over the Pedals

1) Hands in the Drops for Technical Riding

Hands in the drops is the safest and most effective position from which to maintain control of your bicycle in technical conditions. If you’re not comfortable in the drops of your Dropbar bicycle, then the bicycle needs to be better fit for you. Usually, people put the bars too low, either to effect some sort of aero advantage or just to look “slammed” and fast. But with trail riding, we’re not concerned for aero advantage, or even how fast the bike looks. (srsly ppl) The second reason drops are not used is simply that they are too shallow for a deep full palm grip. People end up putting their hands at the bottom of the bars to “get low”. If you can’t operate the brake levers, your not safely “deep in” the drops. Get comfy in the drops and use them to their full advantage. Here’s why:

This is technology proven over generations.

The first reason to use the drops, is that they are the safest and most secure hand position. This is simply the case because of the additional handlebar material above the drops.This may be used in a number of ways to help keep your hands in contact with the handlebars, when the going gets tough. From inner arm bracing when your palms are sweaty, to front of the wrist retainment when your hold bumps loose, the nature of drops being a curved pocket for your manus to grip provides a measure of safety and reliability in unreliable situations. This is technology proven over generations.

The second reason to use the drops is that they help position the body for optimal performance on the trail. For the remainder of this article I will describe this position in detail, how a Dropbar Trailbike will naturally support this position, and what makes this position so optimal for trail riding. But first, we’ll start by simply stating that this is NOT a “tucked” or “hunched” position for aerodynamic road riding. While drop handlebars have been made popular by the road racing aero hype machine, they provide so many more benefits to bicycle riding that are typically glossed over. The benefits for technical riding in particular, have been largely under-represented due to the fact that road bikes are not built for technical riding. But benefits are indeed the case. Without the drops to help position the body for technical riding, this entire website would not exist, and we’d be having way less fun. So, give them the props they deserve.

#RockTheDrops

Once your hands are comfy in the drops, go get rolling on the trail! Movement is key to learning how this all works. So read a bit, ponder some more, and experiment lots.

2) Fingers grip Softly, Elbows In, Shoulders Relaxed

Think of the control wheel in the cockpit of an airplane. It moves forward and back as well as turning side to side. This is the same action as your handlebars, in relation to your upper body. They are in constant motion, while your torso remains relatively stable.

We don’t actually grip the drops with the palm of our hands, but rather (mostly) we press the base of our fingers to sides of the (somewhat flared) drops, with the thumb hooked around for security. With the finger bases pressed, we avoid impacting pressure on the delicate carpal joint. This will naturally bring the elbows in close to the body, rather than pointed out, and encourage the shoulder blades to descend in support of pressing the hands together. With scapula descended the back muscles (lats) can help stabilize the shoulder joint, holding the humerus snug into the socket, while the arm itself extends and contracts in sync with the terrain bellow.

3) Stabilize Through the Core

To support the upper body as the arms move in and out, we need to stabilize through the core. What does it mean to stabilize? Simply put, we’re gonna use our abdominal corset to maintain internal pressure between the pelvis and ribcage. This abdominal pressure will help keep the upper body steady as the arms follow the front of the bike.

Fitness doesn’t matter here. Everyone can do this.

Fitness doesn’t matter here. We’re not talking about rock solid abs, or a super core workout. This is a fully supported beginner level challenge for the largest and strongest muscles in the upper body. We’re simply contracting the abdominal walls (all around) to support our extended torso. Everyone can do this.

The important point here is that a stabilized core body will keep tension and strain from accumulating in the shoulders and lower back. Both of these areas are susceptible to fatigue and injury when challenged in a compromised position. This style of riding is certainly a challenge, but we don’t have to burden the weak parts, nor do we have to accept compromise. We can recruit the deeper parts of our body to support us in this trail riding effort, to simultaneously increase our power output and minimize the chance of injury to other parts that are not designed for such dynamic support.

4) Pubic Bones Sit Lightly on the Saddle

By extended torso, I do mean that the back will get flatter and the pelvis will roll slightly forward from the sit bones, and lightly onto the pubic bones. This is a key component of torso extension that sets a body up for safe, powerful, and well balanced trail riding. This is also a position that exposes even more soft tissue to the saddle for bashing. We don’t wanna bash our parts, so please do consider a split nosed saddle of some brand. I will dedicate future blog posts to their review, as I consider this an essential build component for the mountain goat style of riding.

The benefits of a forward pelvic position are two fold. First, the pelvis rolling forward slightly (without spilling out) is a key indicator of effective core stabilization. Without this flattened position, the core muscles have a difficult job of supporting pedal rotation while protecting the lower and upper back from shock and injury. Second, with the core stabilized and a comfy saddle, this is a position that allows the pelvis to virtually float on the saddle, maintaining a light touch contact simply for control rather than resting. And when one does rest on the saddle, with the core stabilized and pelvis rolled forward, the weight is more evenly distributed between the three touch points of the bicycle (handlebars, pedals, saddle) resulting in less effort to pedal through and recover from bumpy trail conditions.

Everything we do, in the context of body positioning, is focused around enabling our core body to effectively power the pedals and stabilize our ride.

To be clear, when I say flat back, I’m not talking about flat horizontal. The back can be in whatever angle is most comfortable for the rider. Accordingly, the pelvis will be rolled forward only so much as is needed to allow the core to stabilize. This usually results in a flattening of the lower back (lumbar curve). We have no interest in “getting lower” just for the sake of getting lower. Nor do we have much interest in “flattening the back”, just for the sake of flattening. Everything we do, in the context of body positioning, is focused around enabling our core body to effectively power the pedals and stabilize our ride.

5) Dynamic Balance Maintained over the Pedals

When you get acquainted with the previous four techniques, this one will make more sense. This is the last essential step needed for riding like a natural born mountain goat. If you were to remember only one, this would be it. Thats simply because it requires all the previous four techniques to be in play for it to be effective.

This is best practiced while actually riding, and even better if you’ve got bumpy trail conditions.

Having set all the previous steps into motion, a rider should be stabilized and comfortable enough to (somewhat) effortlessly move his/her body weight fore and aft on the bicycle. Shifting weight smoothly between the handlebars and the saddle, the rider’s center of gravity should float above and somewhat in front of the bottom bracket (crank arm axle). This is best practiced while actually riding, and even better if you’ve got bumpy trail conditions. The more distracting the challenge, the better you will forget about thinking and just allow yourself to do. But make sure also to check in and confirm that all four previous steps are still in play. Always, attention to these needs to be refreshed in order to maintain dynamic balance over the pedals.

Epilogue

This has been a crash course overview of the essential techniques needed to ride a Dropbar Trailbike like a natural born Mountain Goat. I will post many more in the future. If you’re interested, you will pick up these tips in no time. Come back and tell me how it went, and what you’d like to do next. The whole purpose of this blog is to spread awareness and build community around the zippy and crazy fun that is this sport. I encourage you all to carry on and ping me back often.

One thought on “Riding like a Natural Born Mountain Goat Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s