Manuals are one of the most exciting, fun, and useful techniques in mountain biking. Not only does a manual look cool and make you feel awesome, but it can be a game-changer for navigating challenging trail features. Riding over a log or launching off a ledge or a jump are a few of the places where the ability to manual can come into play.
So, what is a manual? Essentially, you’re unweighting the front end of the bike and transferring your weight back to lift the front wheel off the ground. The difference between a manual and a wheelie is that to wheelie, you pedal to lift and maintain the front wheel off the ground, whereas a manual is initiated and maintained by shifting your bodyweight to the back of the bike without pedaling.
How do you manual?
- Start in the ready position with your knees bent with some speed
- Pump weight down toward your seat, compressing the suspension
- Transfer or roll your weight back (focus on shifting your hips) while gently lifting the bars up and back
- Lock your arms to guide your bars, don’t pull too hard
- Then just smoothly ride it out!
Practice, practice, practice
Practice this sequence over and over on a slightly uphill grade with a smooth surface to get a feel for the right balance. As you’re learning, the rear brake can be your friend to avoid going down on your backside. As you start to find your equilibrium, there shouldn’t be any braking involved–use your bodyweight to adjust your balance and height of the front wheel. Once you’re feeling more consistent with your execution, begin to apply it on the trails to get up and over obstacles more smoothly.
Throwing a manual off a ledge or jump
You’re essentially doing the same thing as described above, but you’ll want to focus more on throwing the bars forward and weight back so that both wheels land on the ground at the same time. Get into the ready position with speed, shift your weight down and back, and throw your arms forward and lock, nail the sweet landing! Your movement should be nearly identical to when you’re manualing to get up and over an obstacle, but you won’t need as much upward movement of the front wheel.
Manualing for all your Instagram fans
Get the basics down before you start one-wheeling in the limelight! As you’re working on finding consistent and comfortable manual form, wheelies (manualing while pedaling) can be great practice.
~Coach, over and out!
Adam Pulford, CSCS
CTS Pro Level Coach
USA Cycling Level 1 Coach
USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach