Video: Front Brake & Body Position Skills for Steeps with ZEP Mythbusters

May 12, 2020
by Paul Howard  


In this second video, we dig further into the fundamental front brake and body position skills, for riders to master their speed control on steeps. While a lot of this info seems best suited for intermediate riders, we see many advanced and expert riders in Whistler every year, that could really benefit from practicing and refining these skills! Don't forget to also make sure your front brake and body position skills are dialled in, like we covered in Part 1: Front Brake Skills for Steeps & Rock Rolls. This is a common "myth" we see with riders of all ability levels struggling with, as they tend to bias the rear brake more than the front, when often they should be doing the opposite.

So dig in for more details, play safe and remember to always build up to things gradually. The terrain in this video is kept mellow to show you guys how to build these skills when you're on easier terrain, which is ideal given the current situation we're all in.

Stay safe, wash your hands and all the best from the ZEP crew.




About the Author

Paul Howard is the Owner-Director and Head Coach of Whistler-based ZEP Mountain Bike Camps and the President & Technical Director of the internationally recognized Professional Mountain Bike Instructor Association - PMBIA. Paul has been teaching mountain biking and training mountain bike instructors and guides around the world, since the late 90's. Paul lives in Whistler, B.C., with his wife and two kids.

About ZEP

Established in 2006, ZEP Mountain Bike Camps is Whistler's premier coaching and instructor training company; running kids and adults camps, weekly programs and youth development racing teams from May to October. ZEP continually strives to offer the ultimate mountain bike learning and riding experiences through the industries finest instructors; those who train and certify other instructors.

ZEP is proudly supported by

Transition Bikes, Shimano, Marzocchi, Troy Lee Designs, DT Swiss, EVOC, Five Ten, Chromag, MRP, Maxxis, Cushcore, Oakley, Bike Park Photos

Previous ZEP Mythbuster articles

ZEP Mythbusters - Position & Balance for Steeps & Heavy Braking
ZEP Mythbusters - Position & Balance for Descending & Corners
ZEP Mythbusters - Braking in Downhill Corners
ZEP Mythbusters - Climbing in Technical Terrain
ZEP Mythbusters - How to Learn, featuring a discussion on Pedal Positions in Corners
ZEP Mythbusters - An Intro to Buying Bikes Based on Geometry


21 Comments

  • 26 0
 Pretty excited to do my PMBI level one course next week and learn new coaching techniques !!! "INTO THE GNAR" will be back more detailed Smile
  • 3 0
 Thanks Yoann... excited to ride with you soon!
  • 3 0
 Good stuff! I have seen alot of riders using high rise bars, too many spacers etc with the thought that would help on steeps. Found lower front ends helps similar to steep skate park transitions. Need to get some footage of the infamous Candy Rock in Central Park. You would never guess one of the craziest rock roll downs going is in Manhattan. 5-6 stories of dead man steep, tourists can't tell if they should clap or call the police.
  • 5 0
 i think i've become pretty good at being neutral to aggressive for descending steeps, in part because of these videos and experience. where i struggle maintaining good form is when it's steep, loose and chunky, with turns, trees, root balls, etc. when their is minimal traction i start to get very defensive and sometimes end up right in a seriously defending position, arms straight and way over the back, surfing it out. i hate it, but these sections of trail can be tricky and terrifying. i'd like to be the boss, but sometimes the trail owns me....
  • 4 0
 Thank you for the video - always trying to learn. I always thought I needed to shoot for the body position at 5:45 (bent elbows/knees, body centered over the pedals regardless of bike downward angle.) I don't understand the "standing tall" at 2:40. It looks like a high center of gravity without much leverage "behind" the bike - looks like a good way to launch over the bars. As a newbie to intermediate at best, what am I missing?
  • 2 0
 Agreed. I've never seen anyone attack a rock roll in that position,The straight legs and hunched over waist looks horribly unnatural.
  • 1 4
 I haven’t watched the video, so take this with a grain of salt, but a lot of newer riders tend to squat/compress before they have hit the feature. It’s similar to skiing bumps, people tend to be overly compressed before they hit the bump and leave no body suspension to soak it up.

In mtb you’ll notice most pros have straighter legs and hinge at the waist, that way you can soak big hits or compressions up with your legs.

You can’t just stand straight legged, it’s more of a activated glute strong stance, but ever since I sort of figured that out my riding has gotten immensely better, and I thought I was pretty decent to begin with.
  • 2 1
 Just looked at the part of the vid you referenced and it looks awkward af lol, I’ll have to watch the whole thing later
  • 4 0
 Good question @tewks... that's more for approaching rock rolls, then you can get lower as you ride down the rest of it. When you're tall it can help the rider see "over" the edge of the rock roll, to get a better line choice as they enter, for example. For more experienced/expert riders, they can ride more mellow features in a taller position and save a bunch of energy as bracing with arms/legs that are more extended can be easier compared to bracing with arms/legs really bent. But you're right, it can feel (and look!) weird for people trying it the first time, but it can feel great for some riders who have done a 100 rock rolls. We try to always look at things in terms or "pro's and con's" more than "right or wrong". Hope that helps!
  • 4 0
 @nvranka: This. I think there's a recent video on Paul the Punter channel with Remi Gauvin and Miranda Miller coaching this exact point. If you just squat down with a vertical torso you don't have any power from your hips to control the bike, and limited leg movement. Can see some of this in slow mo when Gwin is attacking as well.
  • 1 0
 @JamesGTi: Isn't he using the straight leg technique to teach balance and brake usage?
  • 3 0
 If you go watch Remi Metallier, he uses a similar position bending at the waist with long legs. And he is considered a master at rock rolls.
  • 3 0
 I've been training my kids to ride steeps on those Toads rolls for years. Oh, I really can't wait until they open the border, hotels, village, etc. and we can return to our home away from home.
  • 3 0
 This is good info, I struggle with getting into a weird shape on rock rolls and steeps.
  • 3 3
 Did a day with James at RideBC in Squamish last year to work on slab riding. It's absolutely crazy how much front brake is required to maintain speed and control on these long rock faces, much different than normal trail riding...
  • 3 0
 Good way for people new to slabs to practice is to find more mellow angled ones and realize that you can literally stop mid slab if you want (on granite, with decent tires/brakes). You can go much slower than you think with good front brake control and body position.
  • 2 0
 @gramboh: Totally! We rode Ruperts first so I could work on technique on the mini slabs then moved on to Bony Elbows and Wizard's Sleeve, a ton of progression by the end!
  • 4 4
 I think this is one of those scenarios where its easier to teach riders to try a few different positions and to explain that every rock roll is different then it is to actually spend the time to develop one simple approach that works nearly all the time. Personally I think every rock roll can be approached the same way. As you approach any roll down or steep descent we move from an athletic stance (fairly neutral position, knees slightly bent, slight elbow bend, spine should be upright, folding at the hips makes it very difficult to look up and see what is coming and reduces leg travel) as the rider approaches the roll down they move forward into the descent when the front wheel meets the "horizon" line of the steep terrain. The steeper the decent the farther forward. The faster the rider enters the faster and more aggressively they move forward. We can think about moving forward at the knees to create elbow bend so when the front wheel wheel rolls down our arms can extend. Riders often struggle on long undulating rock rolls because they start too far back and never move forward when the roll undulates to the next steep section. If you've ever got that feeling of being pull forward its probably because you were too far back or too tense to let your arms extend. It looks like pros dig their heels in but the pedals are staying level to sea level. That's the beauty of having pedals that rotate. We often see pros on super steep terrain so it looks like their heels are digging in but again, the pedals are relatively level to sea level. This process happens organically if a rider is carrying their weight over the bottom bracket. Locking the knees as shown in the video for the tall positions only hurts a rider's ability to absorb and move with the terrain. When a rider is centered over the bottom bracket the front and rear wheels move around the bottom bracket. This is why pros can go so fast. It kills me to see riders out practicing all these positions only to go over the bars on steep terrain. Then they blame themselves for not understanding a coaching video that tried to teach them every scenario is different so just practice a bunch of weird body position drills. Rant over!
  • 2 0
 Great vid. The sound quality could be better. Wondering if using a mic would help.
  • 3 2
 do yourself a favour and get an on body mic...
  • 4 0
 Yeah, we here you... we've had one on order for a while but it keeps getting delayed!

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