Are we Misapplying Light Hands-Heavy Feet to MTB?

Jul 28, 2015 at 9:43
by James Wilson  

So I know that this one might catch some flak. If so, I’ll admit that part of it is going to be my inability to articulate my points as well as I would like. Anytime I try to introduce a new concept like this I usually need a few tries to dial in what I’m trying to say and, unfortunately, a lot of that comes from seeing where I didn’t do a good enough job explaining myself in the first place. However, this is something that I have thought about for a while so I hope I am able to communicate the gist of it. And after spending a weekend working with some riders and seeing how bad this advice can be when taken too far I think it finally needs to be said…

“Light hands and heavy feet” is at best incomplete advice and at worst something that can make it harder to manoeuvre your bike.

I know, I know…this is one of the Holy Grails of mountain bike skills training advice and universally taught as a key to proper body position. Hell, it’s something I’ve used myself and taught to other riders. But before everyone thinks I’ve lost my mind, hear me out. At the heart of this isn’t that Light Hands-Heavy Feet is bad advice, just that a lot of riders are misapplying the advice. They are taking the concept too literally and that is causing them to develop bad habits that actually make it harder to manoeuvre their bike. So let’s start there…what is meant by “light hands, heavy feet”? Taken literally, this would seem to mean that you want little to no weight on your hands and as much weight as possible on your feet. And considering the source of this advice this application would make sense.

Great advice for moto but not for mountain biking?

Like a lot of things taught at mountain bike skills training courses, this advice comes straight from motorcycle skills camps. This isn’t good or bad in and of itself, it just needs to be known that this advice wasn’t necessarily meant for mountain bikers or arrived at based on our experiences. It is something that “the best motorcycle skills coaches in the world” teach and so it is assumed that it is something that we need to apply verbatim as well. However, as I’ve pointed out before, piloting a mountain bike is not like piloting a motorcycle. While the principles for piloting a two wheeled vehicle are the same, the methods used to achieve it are going to be different based on the simple fact that you ride a motorcycle while you need to be driving a mountain bike. On a moto it is the bigger, stronger factor in the equation. It is the driving force and you will tend to ride more on and behind it, letting it pull you through stuff.

On your mountain bike you are the bigger, stronger factor in the equation. This means that your body is the driving force. It is more like piloting skis, a skateboard or a surfboard where you need to be a little in front of the action and leading the bike through stuff. Because of the realities of riding a pedal powered vs. engine powered vehicle on the trail, the balance points that you need to achieve on each is going to be different. Specifically, on the trail this means that you will want to have some pressure on your palms.

Now, notice that I didn’t say “weight”. There is an important distinction that I think needs to be made. Having weight on your hands comes from one of two things. The first is leaning into the handlebars to support your torso instead of using your core to hold yourself up. You usually see this result in a bent wrist, which places too much weight on the handlebars and puts your wrists in a bad position for steering/cornering.

The second reason for having too much weight on the hands comes from death-gripping the handlebars all of the time. This usually results in excessive hand fatigue and a stiff upper body that is unable to quickly react to the trail. Both of these habits should be addressed, but the end result shouldn’t be having no pressure at all on the hands/handlebars. There is an important difference in how the pressure is being applied and purposeful pressure is different than worthless weight.

How to use Purposeful Pressure

Purposeful pressure on your hands comes from having your palms resting on the handlebars in the right position. You should feel pressure from the webbing between your thumb and pointer finger all the way across to the outside lower edge of your palm. When you do this you ensure that your wrists are in the right position (it is impossible to get the pressure across the palm like that without your wrist being in the right position) and that you will be able to most effectively apply pressure into the handlebars when cornering.

Are we Misapplying Light Hands-Heavy Feet to MTB

On a side note, there is something I call the “triceps trigger point” on that lower outside edge of the palm. There is a bundle of nerves that act as a signal to the brain to recruit to the long head of the triceps. That long head crosses both the elbow and shoulder joint, making it important for upper body function and stability. If you don’t have pressure on that pressure point then your triceps won’t work as effectively, giving you yet another reason that this palm position and pressure is important.

Are we Misapplying Light Hands-Heavy Feet to MTB

This also means that you will have some weight on the front end to help you steer effectively. Since you don’t have a throttle and have to rely on momentum you must have more weight on the front end of your mountain bike to get it to track properly. Obviously you can have too much weight on the front end as well, but I can tell you from experience that it is hard to steer a mountain bike properly with little to no weight on the front end.

So the goal on a mountain bike is to spread your weight out on it so that most of your weight is supported by your feet while having enough weight/ pressure on the front end to steer effectively. This means that you need a little bit of weight on the front end, which means that you will end up with a little bit of pressure on the palms. To me this still follows the “light hands, heavy feet” principle but it is a more realistic application of it for mountain bikers.

Sometimes you need to put weight on your hands.

With that said, there are times that you shouldn’t be afraid to put your weight on the handlebars, i.e. your hands. Finding your neutral position in a parking lot is fine but on the trail there are times that you need to shift your weight around. Taken too far, “light hands and heavy feet” can stop you from being able to move efficiently on your bike.

For example, when standing up to pedal – especially when climbing – you want to get your center of gravity slightly in front of your bike’s center of gravity. You should have a sensation similar to running where your center of gravity is just in front of you and you are chasing it without ever catching up to it (thanks to Bruce Lee in his book Jeet Kun Do for this wonderful description of the sensation). Note: Obviously you need to be ready and able to shift your weight back as the trail dictates, but most of the time you can get into this position without any danger of ending or losing rear wheel traction. In fact, you’d be surprised at how quickly you can transition your weight and how safe/ fun this position is once you get used to it.

My point is that when you stand up and get into this optimal standing pedalling position you will end up shifting some weight to your hands and the handlebars. If you took the “light hands and heavy feet” advice too literally then you wouldn’t allow yourself to do that and you would end up keeping your weight too far back, which would keep you from being able to tap into the true power and stability of the standing pedalling position. You also need some weight/pressure on the handlebars when cornering. Trying to corner with no pressure on the palms while on the trail is impossible, which is why we hear about the need for “counter-pressure” when steering.

In fact, I first heard that term after a skills coach admitted that there was indeed some weight/pressure on the hands when cornering and you couldn’t apply the Light Hands-Heavy Feet advice in a literal sense. The term we settled on was counter-pressure and it now seems to be a more popular description of what you feel.

Applying it to the trail.

I personally use and teach this palm pressure as one of the gauges for upper body position. If I feel that I am getting pressure on the fingers then I know that I am getting my weight further back than what will allow for the most effective steering. If I feel too much pressure on my palms or pressure in a different place, then I know that I need to fix my upper body position and/or stop leaning on the handlebars. The point is that a lot of riding comes down to knowing how and when to shift your weight in order to achieve the most efficient balance points on your bike. While you are mostly looking for that light pressure on the palms with heavy feet, you will have times that you need to shift your weight forward or backward. Your goal isn’t to avoid it as much as learn how and when to use it.

Taking the “Light Hands-Heavy Feet” advice too far will make it harder to get into the right position at the right time, especially if that position results in some weight/pressure on your hands. Just understand the difference between putting “worthless weight” and putting “purposeful pressure” on your hand and where you want to feel that pressure on your palms, and you’ll be able to apply this advice much more effectively on the trail. Before I wrap up, I would like to point out that I think every good skills coach would agree with most of what I said here. While we may not agree on 100% of how to apply this concept to mountain biking, they know that there are exceptions to the Light Hands-Heavy Feet rule and they do a good job of explaining that in their camps. Like I said, things like standing pedaling and cornering are hard if not impossible to do without some pressure on the handlebars and this is usually talked about.

The problem is that a lot of riders hear or read this advice and assume that it means that any weight on the hands is bad and they develop a riding style to avoid it. You also have a lot of, shall we say, less than competent people teaching bike skills at the lower levels, and they tend to simply repeat slogans since they lack the experience needed to discern when it is all right to shift your weight forward some. All I am trying to do is give the average rider who may not have access to a good skills coach some insight into why taking Light Hands-Heavy Feet too literally isn’t the ultimate goal. I’d also like to propose that we almost never need a true neutral position on the trail where we have no weight/pressure on the palms.

While it is a good drill to get the feel for it in a parking lot, on the trail you need to pro-actively have purposeful pressure on the hands to be ready to deal with the realities of maneuvering your bike on the trail. Try it for yourself and you’ll see that proper use of this concept can make a big difference in your riding.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems is the world leader in integrated performance training programs for the unique demands of mountain biking. As the strength and conditioning coach for World Cup Teams and 3 National Championships, his programs have been proven at the highest levels. James has helped thousands of riders just like you improve their speed, endurance and skills on the trail. Visit www.bikejames.com to sign up for the free Trail Rider Fundamentals Video Mini-Course.

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160 Comments

  • + 202
 alright somebody deliver the summary
  • + 47
 You need pressure on your bars, it is very bad if you don't because then you cannot move around properly. You should almost always have pressure on your hands and therefore the bars. Proper gripping of the bars is paramount and a slightly different grip to what is proper can result in a poor body position, and therefore less mobility. The slogan "Light hands, heavy feet" is pretty much in applicable for MTB, because you need pressure on the bars and the front wheel to corner properly and move around on the bike and on the trail.
  • + 11
 It really depends on the terrain you are riding at the time, that will dictate how you should be weighted on the bike, some times light feet and heavy hands and some times the opposite is true and some times heavy on both and some times light on both. This is where being an intelligent and intuitive rider comes into play and this can only be gained from practice and experience.
  • + 98
 TL;DR "Light hands, heavy feet" doesn't mean "zero hands, all feet".
  • + 1
 If you read the article properly you would be able to see that he pretty much said that Light Hands, Heavy Feet is inapplicable to MTB, because "I’d also like to propose that we almost never need a true neutral position on the trail where we have no weight/pressure on the palms." This is pretty much saying that you almost never need to head the rule in discussion, and I dare say he has more experience than you and knows what is correct and what isn't.
  • + 106
 Am I the only one who has never heard of this up until now?
  • + 1
 What I think is funny is he not once took into consideration the way a persons bike is set up. i.e. Short stem, stem mounted low on steer tube, or seat to far forward or backward or to high or low. Cause I have a few friends that when I ride there bikes on flat surface I feel like I'm going to go over their bar and my hands start really hurting.
  • + 10
 @imdabomb, I've never heard of this either.
How about this for advice: "Keep your balance at all times, and don't over think it on the trail."

There's no way a beginner could think of all the advice presented in the article in real time. But the author did say he would have a hard time putting his thoughts into words. I can ride very well (in my opinion), but I think teaching is very difficult. My only advice that works for every sport is,"Try again but this time bend your knees."
  • + 10
 Go faster and grow some balls.
  • + 2
 @dawnchairy best advice for anyone novice to pro
  • - 1
 I never. Then again I've never heard anything skills related haha. Get on the bike and go. Just found out last week shifting gears uphill is a no-no. Never would have known that if I didn't overhear somebody saying it in the parking lot.
  • + 4
 Shifting gears uphill isn't preferable. Ideally your able to pick the proper gear before going up hill. But it's definitely not necessary to stick with that gear. I shift occasionally during climbs. It's about the timing of the shift that is important to keep from being hard on your drivetrain, or losing to much momentum.
  • + 9
 @blazekelly u will eventually have to shift gears going uphill...just need to b light on the feet while shifting to avoid undue stress on your drivetrain
  • + 2
 But God told all man to be heavy footed snatchclown
In all reality I've never heard this rule but it makes sense for a straight (ish) descending skill.
Anyone who has washed the front end in a flat corner and didn't give up figured out the front needs weight for traction.
Still a great article because I love to learn and will definitely be applying the hand pressure point technique.
  • + 3
 I've also found for steep climbs, my new clipless pedals work a lot better than my flats. I've made it up Hills I never used to, without shifting, because I'm nervous as shit to unclip and jump off half way up the steep hill, so I just push through.
  • + 2
 I like to just make sure I'm not wasting my energy by holding on too tight Release the grip a little and loosen up the fore arms
  • + 3
 I don't think Brendawg gives a shit about it.
  • + 2
 In the words of Sir Danny Hart "come to think of it, I barely hold on at all".

I don't think there is a rider on the planet who couldn't learn something from Hart.

Though I've often thought the 'light hands, heavy feet' rule was overused. I think its really important in rough stuff and steep corners but when your want to pump stuff or do flat corners, you need to heavily weight the front end.
  • - 2
 Your weight should always be driving through your bottom bracket, and your hands should just be used for fine tuning (if in doubt, take a hand off the handlebar - you will learn real quick how much pressure you should be putting on your bars).
  • + 3
 I feel light headed.
  • + 5
 I've always thought you just grab bike out of shed/garage/bedroom, sit on saddle and pedal whilst holding on to bar with your hands...once at the top of hill point bike downwards and DEATH GRIP!!!

Isn't that how it's done?
  • + 1
 I understand, I've just gotten over that hump. I've really been trying to get used to clips. I've been on flats for 10 since I've started biking and being clipped in feels harder, I'm not used to the body positions and I'm a bit nervous to simply being clipped in. But I've started jumping and getting on steeper more technically demanding terrain. It's taken time! I'm still faster on flats
  • + 1
 @bikeguide
I rode flats for about 3 years before switching and was always so nervous about doing it, even though I always biked with my gf and she was clipped in and seemed to handle it fine. Once I made the transition, I don't think I'll go back to flats. I'm not to worried about being slightly faster plus a lot of stuff I ride is just flowy/ flat stuff nothing to crazy technical. I just love how they keep the bike with you over root sections or little Rock gardens. I love the flats vs clipless debate though. There was a good article on it on PB recently, I found that comment section pretty interesting.
  • + 100
 Sooo... get a good grip on your handlebars, lean far enough forward that you can push the front wheel into turns, but not so far as to go over the handlebars whenever you hit rocks, roots, or small drops. Basically, ride like every other competent mountain biker since the beginning of time has naturally taught themself to.
  • + 5
 totally agreed @bderricks

i love this era of over-diagnosis, where it seems that every condition has a negative component that absolutely needs to be solved.

basically i sum this up as: read the terrain, and adjust body as necessary. very simple.
  • + 3
 I always check that slider thing on the side of the screen of my phone that kindof indicates how long the article is.

"Man,this is wordy" slide....slide.......slide..slide...slide....slide
"Oh...Its James Wilson...........figures"
Nevermind.
  • + 1
 Yeah thought the same I've always riden like that its pretty obvious isn't it
  • + 1
 Same here, I just thought that was how you rode a bike. The hand positioning was interesting though, I do it but because that's how I was taught to roll on the throttle on a sports bike then tried it on the mtb and found I had way more control (and it kinda makes yah feel like your 200kph down trails Wink Now I got science backing it up, awesome hahaha!
  • + 0
 Um guys carbon is light right? and xc racers have carbon shoes... that means light feet. So thats the proof that xc road guys dont know how to ride bikes?
  • + 35
 Didn't read shit.
  • + 4
 Didn't read the article. Just your post. I'm good
  • + 8
 Got about half way through and fell asleep. Dreampt about riding. Much better use of time.
  • + 1
 Why is there a whole article on this??? surely if you ride allot then you pick up the right technique.
  • + 2
 I bike everyday, I never knew there was a pressure point in my hand I should be trying to put on the bar. I just grip it and rip it.
  • + 27
 Have people forgotten that everything isn't 144 characters or less? The above is not exactly War & Peace in size, but it has some practicality and usefulness if you spent the 5 minutes or less to read it.
  • + 5
 Yes, they have.
  • + 4
 144 characters? Eww, gross...
  • + 2
 Thanks to the author for a thoughtful piece that makes good sense. To those who lack the attention span to digest it, why are you reading this at all? To those who think they are so "pro" that any such advice is obvious, again why are you trolling here? This piece isn't for you.
  • + 28
 MTB 101: Stay loose, move your hips, drop your heels, and look ahead. Done, now get out there and practice!
  • + 3
 Get out and RIDE!! stop doing dumb exercises.... just go ride! find your own way to have fun.
  • + 7
 I get your sentiment, but many skills are not entirely intuitive and do require practice to learn. New skills mean new opportunities for fun. Just 'riding for fun' can be a self limiting choice that, over time, caps the amount of fun you will actually have.
  • + 4
 "drop your heels".

This. Heavy feet aint going to help if your momentum is going over the bars and not through the wheels. Plus anyone who watches a pro DH rider will see they are "light on the bike", not just the bars.
  • + 2
 No man can simply get light without being heavy first... You can get very heavy after being first heavy and then light. The man that rides the path of the holy sinal wave is a truly happy one...
  • + 27
 Over analyzing bike riding seems to be a media content trend these days.
  • + 8
 bingo. I don't disagree with what JW says in the article, but it just seems like common sense, no?
  • + 2
 my exact thoughts, but it seems this sentiment is too true nowadays: common sense isnt so common.
  • + 1
 Could be useful to someone who is completely new to not only mountain biking but just riding in general though. I would have thought the majority of us have grown up on bikes and have gained experience and knowledge of where to be on the bike in certain situations, to the point that now it comes naturally. A complete novice however may not have this experience to refer back to, and some simple advice may help them get an idea of where they need to be. Putting pressure through the front wheel in a turn may feel completely un natural to a novice, and without advice they may continue to ride like this until the amount of front end washouts theyhave makes them give up. I agree though that you can easily over analyse riding technique and style, and everyone will have their own way of getting things done. You cant make sweeping statements like light hands heavy feet as they dont apply to everyone.
  • + 21
 So this is the first time I have ever felt the need to comment on an article and I am not going to comment on the merits of the actual riding advice but rather a gross misconception about how the human body works. If the point of this article was to dispel a myth that is being propagated to those taught about this great sport then you have not only failed but have now successfully created a new one called the 'Triceps trigger point'. I would highly suggest checking with Dr. Google before attempting to talk about anything where facts might actually be involved because saying things like 'There is a bundle of nerves that act as a signal to the brain to recruit to the long head of the triceps' is highly inaccurate. The only nerve that innervates the hypothenar muscles which are located in that area of the hand you speak of is called the ulnar nerve. Before you say well that's a motor nerve not sensory the ulnar nerve is also responsible for the dermatome in that area so don't you worry. This nerve shares as much in common with the radial nerve that innervates the long head of the triceps brachii as Ray Charles does with Adolf Hitler. Yes both are branches off of the brachial plexus but that's like saying New Jersey and Alaska are the same because they are both in the United States. The reason I wanted to comment is because I have read other things you have written like how platform pedals are as efficient as clipless and it is clear that you need to do a lot more research before making claims that can easily proven without a doubt to be unfounded or even false. That article is another example that you do not understand the human body in general as the information and conclusion posited in the study actually proved the opposite despite the fact it was a sample size of 1 which is as useless as a penny in today's economy. "I said good day sir" -Barney Stinson
  • + 4
 "This nerve shares as much in common with the radial nerve that innervates the long head of the triceps brachii as Ray Charles does with Adolf Hitler."

It's like Rob Warner got a degree in physiology.
  • + 1
 bornhs, this is also the first time I've commented (for much the same reason), I'm glad someone pointed out the lunacy of James' "trigger point in hypothenar activates triceps", you clearly have some sort of background in kinesiology, PT, etc. A trigger point there would keep you off the bike for sure because it would hurt like hell.

That being said, you say that clipless are more efficient than flats and this is "proven without a doubt". Would you care to share these scholarly articles? Because JW cites two studies (Mornieux (et al. Int J Sports Med 2008; 29:817-822) & Korf (et al. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2007; 39:991-995)) in one of his other articles that supports exactly what he is claiming.
  • + 7
 If one more person starts another clipless versus flats debate I am going to punch a room full of kittens.
  • + 2
 James belief in himself leads him to state his opinions as fact, which he no doubt believes are facts. Problem is when you state something as a fact and it isn't your audience now has to evaluate everything you say. If the audience is evaluating your statements it might as well just be written by the audience because the writer has no credibility.
  • + 1
 I believe it was Willy Wonka that was famous for saying "I said good day sir".
  • + 1
 Ah, so its the internet Foodbabe phenomenon. To be fair, I actually really like the the figure where grip is illustrated. It's different than my old chuffer style, and seems to work better for me.
  • + 2
 Damn I thought Lil Jon said 'good day sir'.
  • + 1
 Thanks for commenting DasProfessor, I took a functional anatomy class with a full cadaver lab for my masters degree several months ago and have held these muscles and nerves in my hands which was a pretty awesome class. I agree with tbubier that the clipless platform pedal debate is so overdone that I am not going to say that one is better than the other. I have my opinions but they are as baseless as James so I am not going to state what mine is. What I had said and meant was that his claims he makes in his articles tended to be either false or unfounded. Personally I don't really care whether or not clipless pedals are more or less efficient than platforms because honestly I think it's really personal preference. My issue was that he took a test done with a sample size of 1 where the data did not support his conclusion and therefore his claim was without a doubt unfounded because he doesn't have enough info to draw any conclusion. Hopefully this clears up the confusion. tbubier you were 100 % correct about Willy Wonka saying that, I just finished up watching How I met your mother and I thought it was funny how Barney said it.
  • + 2
 He might be wrong about the reason, but if you press into that part of your hand your tricep tends to engage strongly. Simple as that.
  • + 1
 @acali FTW. Thanks.
  • + 18
 I ride with Jazz Hands and Hairy Feet
  • + 1
 What are Harry feet?
  • + 1
 his friend is gandof
  • + 2
 Hairy palms, light loafers.

Wait, what?
  • + 1
 what are Jizz hands...do you get hairy palms from that?
  • + 18
 Am i on drugs or did this guy just say......wait, i am on drugs.
  • + 31
 Light head, heavy eyelids.
  • + 10
 Light wallet, heavy drinking.
  • + 27
 Light saber, heavy casualties.
  • + 8
 Light bike, heavy metal.
  • + 2
 light bike, heavy balls
  • + 1
 Light work, heavy riding
  • + 0
 light's on, nobody's home.
  • + 5
 @vhp4315 nope you didn't followed the rules here please try again haha
  • + 3
 light humour, heavy rules.
  • + 11
 I'd like to see more articles stating obvious stuff. Like how do I pedal in circles. Does landing in may face hurt more than landing on my ass, and maybe one on which pedal is up in a corner
  • + 10
 So what your saying is, a blanket statement applying something with endless variables isn't necessarily always true. Shocking.
  • + 6
 'Light hands heavy feet' is used for traction and speed during cornering. It is the same as pumping a roller when the bike is upright.
If you lean the bike over 45 degrees in a corner then you should imagine the terrain is also tilted 45 degrees to match the bikes angle. Then when you apply light hands heavy feet you will be in turn pushing the back of your bike into the ground increasing traction and speed (just like the down side of a regular roller) whilst almost pulling the front of your bike around into the direction you wish to exit the corner (like coming onto the next roller).
This does not work for a beginner whilst cornering because firstly they do not have the speed to lean the bike to a point where this is acting efficiently and also because they will most likely not be riding a line that will require such leaning of the bike in corners and generally do not look beyond the exit of a turn to force the bike to continue around the corner. Therefore putting themselves in a worse position than they started and making steering (directing) the bike more difficult.
Basic skills first then light hands heavy feet can be taught.
Everybody should get themselves on a hardtail in a pumptrack! You will develop more skills in a few hours than you will months in a bike park.
  • + 4
 Being a professional mtb skill instructor myself I find this article intetsting and I mostly agree in the statement. But it is always very difficult to say something in general regarding good techniques on a mtb. In this case it is important to take into consideration, which bike we are dealing with. There is a big different riding a 8 kg xc hardtail with steep headtube or an 65 degree enduro bike. The front must be weighed a lot more as the front end gets longer and more flat. For a lot of more novice riders on xc and trail bikes, I think that the light hands heavy feet is a good way to explain a very fundamental position which can save their ass on the trails.
  • + 4
 If you work with 1000 clients during skill courses a year, you notice, that lots of them have permantly a high pressure on their hands, also when they stand on their pedals. The heavy-feet,light-hands-advice is a good tool to get them in a correct position. When you practice things like pumping or some situations in the descents etc. it's clear, that sometimes some weight gets on your hands. For me the HF-LH-rule has more advantages than disadvantages - it is a debate about words, we have this too in Germany ("Lastenfreier Lenker")... Ride and ride and ride Wink Marc
  • + 4
 "you ride a motorcycle while you need to be driving a mountain bike. On a moto it is the bigger, stronger factor in the equation. It is the driving force and you will tend to ride more on and behind it, letting it pull you through stuff."
This is ALL I could take of this COMPLETE BULLSHIT before I couldn't take any more.
Clearly this guy has NEVER ridden a motorcycle, 'cuz if he had, he'd realize that you do NOT simply 'RIDE' one. It takes a LOT of 'driving'(although this term is one that's universally HATED by motorcycle riders) to control two wheels with 60hp(for this case, I'm using a 450cc MX bike for comparison). Professional MX riders are considered only SECOND in fitness to professional soccer players, and that's NOT because the guy piloting the thing is merely hanging on for the ride.
Secondly, wherever he got the impression that you ride a motorcycle BEHIND the thing, he couldn't be MORE WRONG.
The FIRST thing you learn about piloting an MX bike, is to sit FORWARD, as far forward as you can go. This is the reason why seats have progressively crept up onto the tank over the last couple of decades, as you need to get weight onto the fricken front wheel to get it to bite in turns.
Furthermore, especially with the onset of 4-stroke MX bikes, mountain bikes and MX bikes turn using basically the same skill set. You rotate the bike underneath you, while weighting the outside peg/pedal. On both bikes, you do NOT lean into the turn(which is the opposite when taking high speed turns on a street bike). Your weight needs to be positioned so it is pushing the bike DOWN through its center. Granted, on an MX bike you are still seated up on the tank, and your inside leg is out and forward to put more weight on the front wheel, but if you had a seat on your mountain bike that went as far forward, you'd be seated forward in the same position, with the outside edge of the seat up your but crack. In both cases you need weight on the front wheel to get it to bite in turns.
Lastly, I don't know where dude was gonna go with weight on the bars, and obviously with a mountain bike you DO need to lean forward in situations in order to get weight over the front end. That DOESN'T mean however, that you also need to death grip the fricken things. With both motorcycles and bicycles, the front wheel will ALWAYS try to return to center when deflected for whatever reason. The harder you grip the bars the more you interfere with the front wheel returning to center, and the likelier you are to cause a tank-slapper.
Obviously there are other reasons for NOT death-gripping the bars, and being an old(er) person I can testify to the fact that keeping your hands loose is PARAMOUNT to keeping your hands and arms from not only pumping up, but from also bleeding away all your freaking energy.
  • + 10
 Pro XC skiiers actually have the highest base fitness levels. Just sayin.
  • + 4
 "Professional MX riders are considered only SECOND in fitness to professional soccer players"

Huh... sounds fishy to me. I guess it's all relative to how you define "fitness."
  • + 3
 i remember reading an argument on youtube about the most physically demanding sport on the planet, and i was kind of leaning towards rugby (as a team sport) or climbing (as an extreme sport).

but then a bunch of guys brought sx/mx into the argument and had some really good arguments.

i can definitely see where they were coming from, and i wouldnt disagree that it is a hella demanding sport, and that mxers conditioning is well above most popular north american team sports.
  • + 3
 You know who is fitter than professional soccer players? The referee!
  • + 5
 for someone to say that mx racing doesn't require that much fitness has never raced. You know that feeling when you ride your mtb or road bike and you have completely destroyed your legs and your heart feels like it will explode? Well imagine your whole body feeling that tired and you simply can't recover. THAT'S what racing a moto is like. By far the most physically demanding sport. But what do I know, I have done both.
  • + 2
 I can see that being true. Think of all the impacts from landing or going through rhythm sections. This is activating all your fast twitch muscle fibers. Like doing several hundred partial squats and pushups every lap, and failure on even one rep is not an option. You also must count practice laps, qualifiers, and then mains/finals.
Gymnasts are pretty freaking strong too. I think it's too subjective to really rank sports physical difficulty accurately. MMA is pretty insane for strength and cardio too.
  • + 4
 Wow, so much hate.
I think what he meant, and what you cannot deny, is that the moto is heavier compared to your weight than a mtb, so riding technique isn't exacly the same.
Why be so offended? he writes about mtb here.
  • + 1
 The difference between MX and most other sports is you never really get a chance to recover, similar to soccer.
When my brother and I took up cycling to train for moto we would try and keep our heart rate above 150/160 for 20 minutes. I'm sure there are other sports that demand the same cardio output but don't require the same amount of overall muscular exertion. Racing MX is extremely demanding, if I could afford it I would still be doing it!
  • + 2
 I would agree that 20min MX at a race will be about as hard as a sport gets but soccer is far from it. Players on the middle wings might have a decent fitness (cardio) beyond them its mostly a slow jog or walk with a few sprints. Well trained athletes for what they need but I'd take a bad XC/biathlon athlete over a soccer player any day of the week and twice on sunday.


Sure playing soccer could become extremely demanding if they were to be at peak output for the full 90min but they arent just sit down and watch a game and time a player for much of the time he does either.

Overall it is kind of a moot point in comparing which is the hardest sport, everyone is still most likely a humanbeing participating and thus we will just about the same constraints on what we can endure/do physically. In the real life there is no Clark Kent! Some are inherently harder then others but who cares? I can puke my lungs out on a dh track but if I choose to, I can not either and just cruise.
  • + 6
 What about porn stars? Seems like a rigorous cardio workout.
  • + 1
 Nailed it!
  • + 1
 go sports team!
  • + 1
 I'm calling bullsit on the soccer players being the most fit. rugby players and mxers are definitely fitter. also mma and box require higher levels of training to be able to compete.
  • + 1
 Wow, a long tirade INTERSPERSED with caps. I love reading those!
  • + 3
 People are so crazy these days. Trying to get a rise out of others. Buddhism needs to take over...that would be nice...
  • + 5
 LMAO, wrong place to post James. More than half the audience here doesn't do more than skim the write up and just look for pics, charts, illustration, and read captions, headlines, and the bottom line.
  • + 8
 I just go straight to the comments.
  • + 9
 words, lots of words.
  • + 3
 less words, more RIDING! If you want to get better at riding, RIDE.
  • + 1
 this doesn't work on flat corners, or messed up off camber near vertical descent corners, on trails so steep that controlling speed is of greater concern then gaining speed. pump tracks are key to developing skills, you can't pump with bad technique!
  • + 3
 After realizing that leaning into a corner doesn't work so well on a MTB as it does on a motorcycle, I realized that all those motorcycle skills I learned have no place on a bicycle at all, whether it be a MTB or road bike. Although dirt bikes are motorcycles, I assume being off-road lends body positioning on them to be similar to a MTB as well.
  • + 5
 Leaning is the best thing you can do. Steering slows you down...
  • + 2
 Leaning the bike yes. I was referring to this -> www.hayabusa.org/forum/attachments/twisties/130672d1235415901-so-you-want-get-your-knee-down-eh-9o4y2987.jpg

Leaning over with your body to reduce lean angle on a MTB doesn't work.
  • + 9
 Lean the bike, but not your body.
  • + 4
 @davecheng That is what I was getting at. Sorry that I wasn't clear.
  • - 4
flag speedingant (Aug 5, 2015 at 19:20) (Below Threshold)
 Wrong. If you've ever done gymkhana on a road bike, those skills are directly usable on a MTB. And vice versa, especially when the road is rough. It's all about weight positioning and lean angle.
  • + 3
 Both bike and body leaning work. Both countersteering and regular cornering work in just about any situation. To say only one works is wrong. Adapt, or eat dirt. Like literally.
  • + 2
 yeah! on the street, you lean your body, and keep the bike as upright as possible. on dirt (moto & mtb) you lean the bike, and keep your body more upright to keep weight on the tires. Unless you're in a berm. then you want your weight to the inside of the bike if that makes sense? though i'm no racer or coach.
  • + 4
 Makes perfect sense. Your a perfect sense maker.
  • + 0
 I heard of one skill from MX that transfers to MTB - whoops. Either ride rough bits very slowly or ride super fast - middle zone will kill you. Countersteering is the only way of making the berm if you come too fast and too deep into it. You use it all the time on tight berms on pump track.
  • + 0
 Countersteer is simply the only way of leaning your bike fast. Misused will only throw you out of balance and begin a nervous cornering full of adjustments.
  • + 1
 You
  • + 3
 James, please starting your articles about getting flak, you will get flak, for anything you say, anywhere, always. You stick your head out, you get it kicked, that's the way world works. "Some" find it encouraging though... Great article, some really good reasoning there. I just think that your advice is an advanced one after someone manages to ride with light-hands heavy feet. That is difficult enough, only terrain scanning and looking ahead is harder to learn I guess. Light hands, heavy feet is a great starting point for learning in the world where most riders hang from the bars, which is a natural defensive reaction when perceiving danger. I have never seen a man with dropped saddle death gripping bars who puts pressure on them, and I doubt you have ever seen or ever will. Furthermore for advanced bit, it is about being dynamic on bike to handle forces coming at you through it and generating those forces. Pumptrack reveals it all.
  • + 3
 I washed out hard a couple times this year and got hurt because I had too much weight over the bars prior to the apex, my personal solution, stick my ass out further in general. Biking technique is sounding a lot like golf swings lately, everyone has a very detailed explanation of how to do it best, but I think the answer just needs come from within and with personal experience. There is no way to implement all the details of a thoroughly deconstructed technique while flying down the trail negotiating high-speed obstacles...
  • + 3
 But thinking about what your doing is a great way to hit a tree
  • + 7
 "Relax you pussy!" Ratboy 2015
  • + 2
 Light hand doesnt even apply to motorcycles! On my mountainbike there are times when all my weight is on the handlebars! Nose wheelies and front pivots around tight corners, hopping up onto obstacles, getting my rear wheel over a root or rock on a steep climb, trackstanding when you stall on a climb. You kids need to go ride some trials instead of relying on your suspension to do your job.
  • + 1
 You must never have raced street motorcycles then. The only pressure the bars ever want are when you're counter steering. Any other time it's unsettling to the bike. Easier said them done sometimes due to weak core and legs.
  • + 2
 I agree as well and thanks for pointing out and bringing to light int the mtb world James. To pump, jump, corner and stick landings you need to be able to weight the front end of the bike at times and the best way is thru the grips and bars.
  • + 4
 It makes sense. Next time I'm out on the trails I'll try to be more aware of the pressure on my hands and my body position in general. Thanks for the advice Smile
  • + 4
 Light hands, heavy feet..... It works 'til it doesn't. But he did mention Bruce lee so it has to be legit
  • + 1
 If someone needs this post to know this, he or she might should just stop thinking about what to do and what not to do and just let the cerebellum do its job. It will take care in allmost all cases to have the weight where it needs to be. At least after it had the basics of cycling hardcoded in it.
Good trainers / teachers dont tell the obvious things, they teach the people the stuff wich is really hard to figure out by themselves.
  • + 1
 I get it. On a mountain bike if your lower your chest bend your elbows. You can push the front tire into the ground. You have a low center of gravity. better braking.
light hands and heavy feet behind the seat.........feels good Wink
  • + 5
 This guys a fucking fruit cake
  • + 1
 Too many rules and confusing advice.Go ride and learn from crashing,when you crash your more likely not to do it twice the same way ,now your learning from experience.oh yeah best advice I've read ,go faster and grow some balls or 2 cranks and committ
  • + 1
 So if you don't agree with me, it's not because I could be wrong. It's because I didn't explain it right. So let me change what I said and try it again until you see that I'm right about this... LOL Smile JKN haven't read the article yet, just started out pretty stupid.
  • + 1
 I get more and more confused the more I read these types of articles. "Lean the bike", "Lean your body", "Move forward", "You're too far forward".... I want to rail a bermed corner and get 'controlled' loose, but after reading these tip articles I can't shut my brain off and ride.
  • + 3
 How about "light hands, light feet"

Be a spidery monkey filled with viscous jello.
  • + 1
 Ratboy won the last round of the World Cup, correct ?
He was also featured on video after practice before his race run showing off blisters on his hands from gripping the bars.. Myth busted I reckon
  • + 1
 Cool to learn about the pressure point in my palm that will help flex my awesome triceps. That must be what all those endurbro dudes wearing halter tops I see in pics are doing.
  • + 1
 To answer the question in the title: no. The people you tell "heavy feet; light hands" will always benefit from the advice. It's the advice you give beginners to grow them into intermediate riders.
  • + 4
 Can this be placed in fiction?
  • + 2
 This is why I could never be a writer. My article about hand positioning would be about two sentences long, I might could even stretch it out to a whole paragraph.
  • + 4
 Haha I think another reason you will never be a writer is because you say things like " I might could even.."
  • + 1
 I've been mountain biking for 15 years now.... and have never heard this term before. What's the next saying, "Loose hips, jazz hands, and dirty dancing... er, I mean sticky feet"?
  • + 1
 I often ride with little pressure on my fingers but with 'heavy' hands. You can do it riding a moto as well, but your chances of falling off the back are 1000x greater Big Grin
  • + 1
 Seems like great advice overall. However, I'd have to say that I've never heard that saying when it comes to mountain biking.
  • + 3
 Still waiting to see this guy post something worth reading...
  • + 1
 not happening. he spends more time talking about riding than actually riding.
  • + 1
 So, back to square one. Basically, put pressure on your hands if you will. "light hands, heavy feet" will make you crash in banked turns.
  • + 1
 As with the vaccination of my future children, I consult with Jenny McCarthy on matters of grip.
  • + 1
 What about people with cankles? Their body proportions may require a different equation.
  • + 2
 All i know is, pin it to win it
  • + 1
 Sometimes i prefer read those (big/large/bored) articles in spanish... So... What's the point?
  • + 2
 Not even a picture o a bike? Where am i????What is this!!!???
  • + 1
 Reading some of the article again...until I....just got....embarrassed for Mr MTB Strength Training Systems guy.
  • + 1
 It's interesting how people who have access to the same data and physical principles can derive such different conclusions.
  • + 1
 Hate hate hate....the new pinkbike...lol. And freeride is dead.
  • + 1
 Stop the hate train. For beginners it can be helpful.
  • + 2
 BANANA!!!!
  • + 1
 I'm getting a light head and a heavy heart reading this stuff.
  • + 1
 Brraaaappppppppp !!!!!!! Nuff said
  • + 1
 Never, ever, heard anyone say "light hands, heavy feet".
  • + 1
 I wonder how people managed to ride bikes before the internet. SMH
  • + 1
 Small brain heavy balls, thats it..
  • + 1
 Those PB Trolls
  • + 0
 "manoeuvre"? Really?
  • + 0
 will not read this
  • + 0
 F-A-I-L
  • - 1
 Good Post

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