Video – The Hinge – The Most Essential MTB Skill

I’m not posting this video on a Friday, because actually I have a lot to say about it. I’ve watched a metric ton of mountain biking how-to videos, and almost all of them were helpful in some small way. This one, though. This one is the one that goes before all others, because without this skill, the “hinge,” none of the others make much sense, and this video does an exquisite job of explaining why it works and how to do it.

As an aside, mountain bike instructors will often refer to the hinge as “pounce position,” but I like the ‘hinge’ as a name, because it implies movement, rather than a simple static state. What’s important here is the way this position moves relative to the terrain. I will add that this isn’t MTB specific. Hinging is a core skill on a road or gravel bike too.

This is all extra on my mind lately as I spend time on the trail with less-experienced riders who want my input on how to improve. That process has also been a good chance to break down my own form to understand what I’m getting right and what might be better. Like most people, so much of the way I ride is just intuitive, body memory shaped by decades of doing the thing.

So I’ve been slowing down and analyzing what I’m doing.

A lot of us take the hinge for granted. We’re not even really aware we’re doing it, because we rode BMX bikes when we were kids, maybe, or because our introduction to mountain biking was on a rigid, 26″ bike. The “hinge” made everything possible then.

As tires grew in both circumference and volume, giving riders more float over roots and rocks, and suspension came into the picture, the hinge or proper hinge technique became less important. Today’s bikes will absorb what a rider’s bad positioning wouldn’t, back in the day.

With the whole tone here shifting towards get-off-my-lawn territory, what I want to be very clear about is this: Have fun on your bike however you want to. If you want to buy all the bike you can afford and hurl along at maximum speed that’s really, genuinely alright by me.

There is no one way to get to fun. Mastering the hinge, though, will help everyone, even if they don’t want to nerd out on the other finer points of bike handling.

I will say, the most skilled riders I know mastered these basics early on. They can ride things on hardtails that a lot of people wouldn’t touch without 130mm of rear travel. That doesn’t mean they’re having more fun necessarily, but I think it does mean they’ve unlocked a more kinetic, proprioceptive way of riding bikes that can be really rewarding. While I’m nothing like a master, this more technical way of being on the bike, one that is more bike-and-rider-as-one rather than vehicle-and-passenger, is what I’m after.

When I’m riding my bike right, I don’t have to go fast to have fun, and I don’t have to have the optimal bike for whatever the trail serves up. I’m doing a lot more than just turning pedals, and I love it.

Join the conversation
  1. Bruce Pierce says

    Thanks – I’ve watched a ton of Lee videos as part of the NEYC curriculum but I hadn’t seen that one. Nice focused summary.

  2. dr sweets says

    @Robot I actually went out to Boulder sixteen years ago a attended a personal training course with Lee. It was decent and I still have the course booklet somewhere. 100% agree with him on pivoting around the bottom bracket and speak of this concept with new riders still. Some of his other concepts I am not so enthusiastic with such as his ideas on handlebar length (I’m keeping my 800’s dammit!). I have attended a number of courses and watched many videos. I have to say, that for watch-it-today/shred-it-tomorrow videos The Ride Series from Rich Drew are the best I’ve come across. I’m going to a course of theirs tentatively in December and will speak upon that thereafter.

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