How to lift your front wheel


Our top trail tips…

On our mountain bike tours this year our riders highlighted how helpful our impromptu, on-the-trail skills training sessions were, so we thought we’d share them with you in a series of blog posts, and first how to lift front wheel!

We’re not claiming to be an alternative to professional mountain bike tuition, we just want to give you an insight into what we consider to be essential mountain bike skills, that will benefit your riding and leave your friends in the dust! Also when you arrive on tour with us we can continue your training and offer tips on how to improve your technique and get the most out of your mountain bike holiday.

In the images above and below, Jono deftly demonstrates the key elements of how to lift front wheel.

Key mountain bike skill 1: how to lift front wheel

This key skill is essential for riding over trail obstacles, such as roots or rocks, and drainage ditches on trails in Scotland, which you will experience on our all-mountain coast-to-coast.

Using the images above and below we’ll talk you through how to master this key mountain bike skill.

  1. Pick a flat surface with enough distance to allow you to practise comfortably, without running into things. Always cover the back brake when practising this skill; if you feel you are going too far back, pull the back brake and your front wheel will come straight back down to earth!
  2. Roll along at a steady, jogging pace, and use some weight to compress the front suspension. This will help when it comes to lifting the front wheel off the ground.
  3. As your front suspension starts to return, move your body weight backwards and push forward with your feet. Your arms are doing no pulling or lifting, they are straightening to allow you to move your body backwards.
  4. Your front wheel will leave the ground as your weight goes further backwards and your front suspension extends fully. You will notice in the image that Jono’s arms are still straight and his back-side is behind the back wheel.
  5. Once you have cleared the obstacle and you need your front wheel to come down, start to shift your weight forward. You can see Jono’s arms bending to start this action and to begin dropping the front wheel. Alternatively, you can scrub some speed by feathering the back brake, which in turn will lower the front wheel.
  6. Your front wheel will continue to drop further. You will see Jono’s arms are still bending further and his body is moving further forward, in turn putting more weight over the front of the bike bringing the front wheel down.
  7. Your front wheel will land and you will be in the perfect, balanced riding position to tackle the next trail feature or pedal out!

And that’s it – simple! You’ll find the front wheel lift invaluable in your riding, and it will come in handy on all of our mountain bike adventures, whether in, NamibiaScotlandNepal, or Spain. Practice makes perfect, so get practising and we’ll see you on the trails!

If you have enjoyed this skills blog, why not read “Skills part 2“, “Skills part 3” and “Training for your mountain bike holiday“.

2 thoughts on “Key mountain bike skills part 1: how to lift your front wheel

  1. I must have a bike far to big for me , my backside doesnt come near to being behind the back wheel.
    As soon as I try and push forward with my legs, my arms are already straight and there is no wheel lift unless i yank hard with my arms.
    My new bike came with a 90mm handle bar stem , i changed to a 60mm but still doesnt help.
    I am 5’7″ tall ans my inside leg is only 30″ , looking at calculators, this puts me on a 16-16.5″ frame .
    The bike the shop recommended for me was this 17.5″ 27.5 and being new to the sport, I accepted this as what I require.
    Its too late to try and change the bike , so do you have any suggestions for my wheel lift?

    1. Hi Bruce,

      Thanks for you question.

      Firstly, at you’re height it’s possible that a 17.5” frame isn’t completely out of range so don’t despair about your bike choice just yet! Having the shorter stem might be useful and as long as you can be on the pedals with some bend in your arms then there should be scope to pull this technique off.

      What might be helpful for you is to focus on your hips as your centre of gravity and use them to do the work as much as possible. Once you’ve gone through the positive downward motion on the front, really focus on shifting your hips directly backwards and letting your arms become two pieces of taut string that the bars then have to follow.

      This move needs commitment and, in some ways, you actually need to go too far to understand just how much oomph you personally need to get that wheel up. Always remember, though, that if it feels like you’re going to far that little dab of rear brake will bring the front down again.

      Keep trying this on a soft bit of trail and put a stick across the path in front of you. Challenge yourself to get the front wheel over this without touching it and you’ll be progressing in no time.

      As a final thought, remember that you don’t need to lift the wheel an entire foot in the air as a vast number of trail obstacles can be cleared just by the action of unweighting the front.

      I hope this helps. Check back in and let us know how you’re getting on with it.

      All the best,

      The H+I Team

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