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Coaching E-Zine - Mounting and Dismounting by Ian Bailey

By:  Ian Bailey
Date:  03rd September 2014

Mounting and Dismounting

This sounds far too easy, can you really improve the way you get on and off a bike?  In short, yes!  Not just beginners either.  These few simple tips and games can make your mountain biking safer, your style smoother and your race times quicker!

But I can already get on and off my bike I hear you say!  True, but can you get on and off both sides equally effectively?  What about when running?  What about on steep slopes?

If you’re usually riding on the road then the chances are that you probably dismount and re-mount on the left.  This makes perfect sense and is definitely preferable to getting squashed by a bus.  However, in a mountain bike context you may not always have the option.  Just ask my friend James who stopped on the edge of a very steep bank covered in stinging nettles and forgot to clip out of his pedals.  Unfortunately his natural instincts kicked in and he leant left towards the chasm instead of right towards the soft muddy bank!  His bike ended up in a tree and he was battered, stung and deeply embarrassed.

With that in mind I’d like you to consider whether you do always find yourself sneaking round to your favoured side of the bike to get on?  Go and put two hands on your handlebars and just see if it feels unnatural to swing your leg up on to the saddle from both sides.  If it does feel distinctly easier from one side than the other then it’s time for a bit of training.

I use three different ways to get on my bike.

1) From sitting on the top tube (usually chatting about bikes) I’ll put one foot on the pedal which is raised up and using the momentum I gain from pushing down on that pedal I’ll then have time to get the other foot up and my bum on the saddle.  This is my standard way of getting moving after being static.  It is totally reliant on you having the right size frame (2-3 inches between the top tube and your body parts).

2) The ‘scoot start’.  From beside the bike, place the correct foot on a pedal (i.e.; the right foot on the right pedal if you’re on the right of the bike).  Then use your other foot to ‘scoot’ the bike along the ground.  Once you have enough speed for the bike to stay upright you swing your leg over the back of the saddle and place your other foot on to the other pedal.  I very rarely use this in an MTB context.  It’s good for looking elegant but not hugely practical in uneven terrain.

3) The Running Mount.  This is the key one for re-mounting a bike off road, especially if speed is important to you.  Run along on one side of the bike holding the handlebars.  Once you are up to a speed where the bike will roll upright jump towards the bike and land your INSIDE LEG on the saddle before comfortably sliding the rest of the way on and placing your feet on the pedals simultaneously.  If you visualise this properly, or even better go and attempt it I don’t need to tell you the repercussions for getting it wrong!  Start to practice this technique on even ground on your favoured side before graduating to uneven ground, your less favoured side and ultimately off camber slopes where you need to alter your technique according to whether you’re on the downside or the upside of the bike.  Decent Cyclo-Cross and XC racers definitely practice this technique but it is also well worth putting in some time even for recreational riders as it’ll make re-mounting much smoother.

In terms of getting off the bike, practice is again key.  Many people are unaware that they always dismount the same side.  Make sure you can slide easily sideways off the saddle and get a foot on the ground in both directions as well as confidently sliding forwards and straddling the top tube.  When you’re stopping in close proximity to steep drops, fast moving traffic or other people you’ll quickly see the benefit of your practice.


A game I like to incorporate into sessions is to simply see if my students can dismount and re-mount their bikes three times from each side within a specified distance using the all important running mount.  They need enough speed to keep the bike upright but not so much that the bike is running away from them as they try to jump on.  Once this is mastered I tend to move on to dismount and re-mount races and also incorporate uneven ground and off camber slopes.

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