8 Things your hands can tell you about your riding

While riding, how much do you notice what’s going on with your hands?

Mountain Biking has more to do with accuracy and paying attention to fine details than you might think. Let’s cover a few things you can easily check on your own, all to do with your hands and the handlebar.

Basic Balance

It is true that we might sometimes put some weight into our hands, for example when climbing or doing low-speed cornering and also for slight balance corrections, but for the most part we want our hands to be neutral and light on the bar.

You can test your basic balance while riding in the neutral and ready positions and feeling your hands. You shouldn’t be leaning on the bar or hanging off the bar, if you do feel you are weighing the bar, you should adjust your body position to a be more centered over the bike. Heavy feet, light hands!

Arm Pump

Getting into longer, steeper and more technical descents, you might experience discomfort and pain, also known as “arm pump”. This might happen even if you have good basic balance, as we need to refine our body position and balance as we get into more technical trails. Here’s a video about it!

Brake Modulation

Braking safely is obviously important, and a big part of that is modulating the brakes. If you find your self often jolted forward or losing balance, feeling like your braking is too aggressive, you might just want to work on your brake modulation. It will help you safety, stability as well as controlling your speed down steep descents and rock rolls.

Covering your brake

Make a habit of always covering your brake, even when you’re not actually braking. Having all five fingers on the grips might feel very solid and safe, but it will make your reaction time for braking slower which makes you hurry for the brakes in the last second and might cause abrupt braking and lack of modulation.

Thumb position

We do see sometimes riders having their thumb on top of the grip instead of under it. This can twist your wrist and arms making your elbows come down (most common is while climbing, Make sure your thumb is under the grip and you are holding the bars properly. In case we brake hard and need to brace against the bar, having your thumb on top of the grip could cause hands to come off up and forward for some serious trouble.

One finger braking

If your bike is equipped with modern hydraulic disc brakes, you should only use one finger to brake. This will ensure a better grip on the bar and better modulation on the brake. Two fingers or more will mean less grip on the bar in technical sections and probably too much power on the brakes.

This brake lever is properly positioned for 1 finger braking.
This brake lever is properly positioned for 1 finger braking.

Lever setup

Following up on one finger braking, check that you have set up your brake levers for one finger as well as that while in the ready position and covering your brakes – your wrists stay straight with your arms and are not bent sideways, upwards or downwards too much. This will ensure you can keep your form even while riding technical terrain and braking simultaneously.

Grip choice

This one is simply about comfort! Grips can be a very personal preference, harder or softer, thicker or thinner – the grips that arrived on your bike might not be the best for you. If you’re feeling any discomfort from your grips, it might be worth it to simply check another type and replace them.


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