Marco Aurelio Fontana MTB manual
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MTB

5 top tips for nailing a MTB manual

Get cruising around the trail centre car park on that back wheel in no time.
Written by Richard Bennett
3 min readPublished on
A manual looks remarkably similar to a wheelie, but instead of pedalling to propel your front wheel up it is instead initiated by shifting your bodyweight towards the back of the bike.
We’ve all seen the web video where a rider seems to effortlessly manual down a road/trail/rock/ledge for ages, and we’ve all tried to emulate it with varying degrees of success. Manuals aren't easy and there’s no doubt that a whole load of time and practice needs to go into perfecting them. Here are a few tricks and tips that will help you along the way to mastering this awesome technique.

1. It’s all in the hips

When first learning to manual, many riders struggle to find the initial balance point; they lift the front wheel harder and higher but can never get it to stay up. This is most likely down to the fact that a good manual technique starts with your hips and bum, not your arms.
Next time you’re working on those manuals, don’t think about pulling too hard with your arms, instead think of sliding your bum off the back of the saddle and getting your hips in line with the rear hub in one smooth movement. If you get this right it will take the weight off the front wheel and shouldn’t take too much effort from your arms to get it off the ground and into the all-important balance point.

2. Straight arms, bent legs

Now that you’ve found the balance point, it’s all about working on the technique to keep yourself there – once again, it’s all in the hips and legs. Your arms should remain pretty much straight and you should have a bend in your legs.
If the front wheel begins to drop, extend your legs a little and drop your hips back. If the front wheel begins to lift, bend the legs further and shift your hips forward. These shifts in weight are subtle, but make up the cornerstone of keeping that front wheel in the air.

3. Cover the rear brake

When you have manuals dialled you shouldn’t need to use the rear brake, as all the balance will come from the shifts in your body weight. But when you’re learning, the fear of looping out and coming down hard on your backside is very real and it can hurt! Remember the rear brake is your friend and a quick dab will bring the front end straight back down if you feel yourself going, thus saving your backside from an impromptu meeting with the ground.

4. Lower that seat

If you have a particularly high seat, this can hinder your progress when learning to manual. We’re not saying that it’s impossible to manual with a high seat, but lowering it will make the job of finding that balance point much easier.

5. Some bikes are easier than others

When all else fails, remember that you can always blame your tools. You can learn to manual on any bike, but some are going to be easier than others. Bikes with riser bars and a high front end should be easier as less of your weight is in your arms. Bikes with short chainstays that keep your back wheel closer to the bottom bracket will also be slightly easier. Finally, flat pedals normally help riders to develop confidence when starting out, as it’s easier to jump off the back if you do end up looping out.
Just remember, putting in the hard yards and lots of practice are the only way to get this technique dialled, good luck!
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