Video: Decoding The Best Mountain Biking Body Position - How To Bike with Ben Cathro Episode 3

Jul 19, 2021 at 14:05
by Pinkbike Originals  


HOW TO BIKE

EPISODE 3



Eyes up, elbows out, knees slightly bent. You've heard it all before. But what does that all really mean and is it all necessary? Ben Cathro breaks down body position and explains how he came up with his very own philosophy: The Boss Stance.

0:00 - Intro
2:15 - Eyes Up
2:34 - Elbows Out
3:12 - Knees Bent
4:21 - Heels Down
5:19 - Weight Centered
7:06 - Advanced Weight Distribution


We'd like to extend a huge thank you to Santa Cruz Bicycles, Deity and POC who supported this project.







104 Comments

  • 90 0
 If you're a desk jockey like me then you'll probably find you can't get into that beautiful flat back, neutral spine position Ben has in the videos. Instead when you're on the bike you'll look like a cat that just saw a snake.. or at least I did.

I didn't realise this until I started videoing myself practicing and once I did I spent six months stretching twice a day and doing some of Lee Likes Bikes hip hinge strength moves (from the recent Joy of Bike YT vids) and generally working on my hamstring flexibility.

Nothing has made more of a difference to my riding than doing that, suddenly I can get my weight back far enough for manuals easily, stay centred in the bike properly and my heals drop naturally now, rather than being something I have to concentrate on doing. I really can't recommend working on your hip hinging enough if you don't already have that flexibility. It felt like the missing foundational step to so many of the skills to me.

Once you're aware of it you can instantly spot the good riders, they all have that great flat back riding position.
  • 13 0
 Yoga and Pilates helped me develop this!
  • 2 0
 couldn't agree more - its a long way from finding the correct body position to having the "boss stance" = natural correct body position
  • 5 0
 started using wife's Peloton during quarantine and I still use it when the trails are rained out; the instructors (Matt Wilpers and others) are very specific with proper back, arm and pedal form....had no idea how bad it was until someone started walking me through it. Back on the trails now, my speed and energy are noticeably better and my body is far less fatigued (and hurting) post ride.....I still need to stretch more but I also hate stretching (working on this Razz )
  • 5 0
 I have same issue. If possible for you, a stand up desk and a slanted board to stretch calves while standing, went a long way for me.
  • 3 0
 This + glute exercises really helped me.
  • 4 0
 Yep - Become a Stand-Up desk jockey. I feel it really helps with posture/flat back, maintaining core engagement.
  • 10 0
 Deadlifts and squats
  • 2 0
 Couldn't agree with this more. I always have had a riding position that 'looks' correct, but I struggled with hip mobility and strength for a while. Riding flat pedals for practice, getting a stand up desk, and doing kettlebells have helped me improve the hip hinge and heel drop you mentioned here.
  • 3 0
 Reverse hypertension, good morning, SLDL, bridges, planks, squats, lunges, back extensions, and some goddamn downward dogs. Being strong and mobile makes riding fast so much more fun.
  • 2 0
 I always had the same problem and i have very long legs and short torso. People from Nukeproof advised me to have high rise bars to have more stack. This helped a lot.
  • 46 0
 Total bollocks...everyone knows the best position is scared & exhausted: elbows drooping down, weight way off the back, eyes focused on the front tire, 2 fingers on each brake lever.

Since I'm a master at this technique, I should create a counter video to Ben's unhelpful nonsense.
  • 7 1
 Don't forget to use your middle and ring fingers for braking, that way you can use that strong index finger to hold on for dear life.
  • 4 1
 And toes pointed down at all times. Gotta have em in the “ready” position…
  • 43 0
 I want one episode, just one, of cathro breaking down a friday fails, and sunday saves. Really drive this video hope with primo examples.
  • 8 0
 Not needed… there are hundreds of expert comments for each of those videos.
  • 1 0
 laser Cathro confidential
  • 5 0
 it's always the same thing - people hit jumps with their weight over the back wheel, don't push into the lip, front wheel stays down, shock rebound sends them over the bars
  • 1 0
 With the Fails I feel like it's 1/3 fork too soft, 1/3 too much speed (because camera), and 1/3 deservedly so.
  • 6 0
 We need Ozzyman to analyze Friday Fails.
  • 8 1
 I had been working on staying more centered and neutral on the bike. Then I went off a drop with a much flatter landing than I thought. Totally stuffed the front wheel, went OTB and broke my collar bone. Ever since then, I've had a mental block about staying centered and find myself over the back wheel way too much; just too afraid about going over the bars again. The sad part is, it causes even more crashes!
  • 5 16
flag bigbrett (Jul 21, 2021 at 11:24) (Below Threshold)
 Get a longer bike
  • 1 0
 Roll the bars forward if you can, and the brakes steeper too. I did that as I was struggling in corners, way to far off the back, got the position dialed then back to norm setup and I can still corner well enough now.

Try it on some flowy tracks you're comfortable with to get you a bit further forward, then put them back to normal when you feel comfortable in the central/neutral position on the bike
  • 7 1
 Nothing to do about being centred. You did it right with one missing component. A quick press of the front to unweighted the front end before you leave the drop. The slower you go, the more exaggerated it has to be. That way, as you leave the drop, the front wheel will drop at the same rate as the back.
  • 2 0
 Sounds like time to session drops
  • 3 0
 @tgrummon: what @sylvainvanier: says is really good. That 'press' can be tiny (a big press gets lots of rebound, so lots of lift), but the fact you initiate a movement helps give you control.

So, a big press on the F&R suspension works with drops where you have to travel distance to the landing, a tiny press (and I really mean tiny, so tiny it might be quite literally shifting your bodyweight to your heels rather than having flat feet, but even with this being a tiny movement it initiates the front being unweighted) on tall/big/steep/fast drops to establish control.

The other thing that Ben kinda touches on is 'being fluid and moveable', but what he doesn't say directly that I do when I coach is that - as you come in to land, or AS you land, that is when you're moving back into that central position so you're ready for whatever comes next. You pull whatever body position you 'need' to do to get off the drop so that both wheels will land roughly at the same time, but you're really trying to make sure you're back to the 'Boss Stance' immediately.
  • 7 0
 I know I'm in over my head when I feel the passenger position creeping up on me. I think some of this is mental too. Like if I'm having a less confident day today and just face planted yesterday, it for sure hurts my ability to hold a good shape on the bike.
  • 6 0
 It’s natural for everybody and it’s the same in skiing and probably every other gravity sport. We instinctively want to bring our heads back, out of perceived harms way, and/or get perpendicular to gravity as opposed to the slope.
  • 2 0
 I can vividly remember the last time, about a year ago, I was in the full on passenger position. Riding a new trail for the first time and didn't realize there was a really long steep chute, undoubtedly the longest I have ever ridden. I came into it with way more speed than I would have planned for ( had I known it was coming) and was straight up hauling ass down this incredibly steep chute on my trail bike with white knuckles and almost no weight on the front.... That was not a fun feeling.
  • 4 0
 My XL Norco Optic has a reach of 510mm, so it's very forgiving for a forward body position. My habit from riding mostly steep HTA bikes is to lean back still.
  • 5 0
 I've heard a lot of people advise to keep your elbows out, but whenever I see a good rider on technical terrein, there is definitely a big "elbows DOWN" ratio too.
I like to think about it as if I'm pushing a shoppingcart over a rough road. Seems to go hand-in-hand with the flatter enduro-style brake levers while downhilling.
  • 1 0
 i think elbows up vs down has a lot to do with your body proportions, bike (reach/bar height/etc), and personal preference. in one of wyn's podcast episodes he talks about how it seems like kiwis tend to ride more elbows up, and brits tend to ride more elbows down.

from what ive seen both can work as long as they are bent and the rider is maintaining a good hinge with hips open etc
  • 3 0
 I always think of trying a pressups or bench press with elbows right forward. Then do a bench press (or pressups with a clap at the top) with correct form where it's far more simple and you can lift a heavier weight.
Same goes for dumbbell flies.
You have to be pretty mobile (naturally mobile normally) to get those elbows way forward and have power.
Personally I am mechanically poor so it's elbows back a bit for me just like drop pressups and flies.
  • 2 0
 Ben more or less said as much in the video, but this is why I think it’s a bad idea to focus specifically on what your elbows are doing. If you focus instead on staying balanced over the bottom bracket, hinged at the hip with knees slightly bent, your elbows kind of take care of themselves. “Elbows out” or “up” is one of those cues that seems to ingrained bad habits in a lot of people.
  • 1 0
 @Albatrosse: that's actually quite interesting, that comment about the Brits. One prime example is Craig Evans, a big bloke at 190cm that rides with elbows mostly tucked in.
Dunno if this is somewhat related with tighter trails in the UK
  • 1 0
 Just try not to tuck them too much - t-rex arms are a very weak position and if you try it and try cornering, you'll feel the difference - but not soo much on a straight section. As @betsie points out, your strongest position will be the position you naturally put your arms in for a pressup/bench press.
  • 5 0
 Ben, great video. Appreciate your version of realitySmile If you are there, Any reason you didn't touch on hip hinge and row/anti row? Has Lee trademarked that like the Boss Stance?
  • 4 0
 It took me a long time to transfer body position from rigid frame 26" to full suspension 26". Now it's taking an equal learning curve moving from FS 26" (with steep 71.5 HTA) to modern geo Trail. They all handle quite differently on the mountain.
  • 2 0
 what was your FS 26 with a 71.5 HTA? that's steep
  • 3 0
 @SATN-XC: ~71 HTA was the standard for 26" XC bikes for a very long time; from the beginning of the 90's and well in to the 2000's. There were still examples with 71-71.5 HTA close to 2010

(And then right as 26" XC bikes started to slack out a bit, 29ers started to take over and for a long time used steeper head angles to "fix" the steering feel. For example, the 1st gen Tallboy had a 71 HTA until 2013!)
  • 2 0
 @showmethemountains: thanks! I was trying to find geo information for early models but I couldn't find much before 2010 (2010 Stumpy FSR coming in at 68.5). Guess b/c it wasn't relevant if most of the industry was standard then
  • 3 0
 @SATN-XC: 2002 Gary Fisher Sugar 4+. I still have it.
  • 3 0
 @SATN-XC: Geometry through the 90s was shockingly standard compared to today! This was partly because even bikes with front or full suspension were still relatively short travel, partly because XC racing was wildly popular and influenced everything, partly because this geometry that came from road bikes was seen as the "correct" way and few people deviated or innovated away from it, and more. The standard was 71 HTA (along with 38mm fork offset) and 73 STA, and this combination was so common that it got a name: "Norba geometry"

It's a shame because the earliest MTB pioneers, though some did come from road biking backgrounds, were often bringing in moto influences. And many of the early klunkers were much slacker because of the cruiser frames they were built from. I wonder how different mountain biking would have looked in the 90s and today if that heritage had stayed dominant
  • 7 0
 I do the boss stance every morning after a cup of coffee.
  • 11 0
 Squatty potty- the #1 way to #2.
  • 3 0
 Watched a Remy Metallier video a while back where his riding tip was 'stand up - too many people ride too low' and it flipped a switch for me. Now I can add 'boss stance' to the 'stand up' mental dialogue I have with myself while riding down the trail.
  • 2 0
 I think I got that from a Cathro comment on someone else's "How To" Youtube vid and same thing, flipped a switch. Then I read about hinging your hips and dropping your heels and bam, it all comes together and actually works. Still have to think about it on the trail though, but it's slowly getting more natural.
  • 2 0
 Great video. Was getting ready to ask about how much elbow bend, but it was answered at the 2:57 mark. On a ride last weekend i was playing around with body position on a flow trail. At some point I was in “attack” position and there was a section of trail where i felt like i was running out of range to absorb impacts and undulations. Switched to more extended which made my center of gravity feel pretty high. I did feel like it helped me look further down the trail though. Started to settle into a slightly lower position and that seemed to be the best.

Now im just waiting for a video on how to carry speed through berms (i.e. how to trust the berms and the bike).
  • 1 0
 I'm interested in the berms bit too - I'm trying to work out where to pump in 180 berms to generate speed, I just can't get it to happen!
  • 3 0
 @DHhack: That was really useful, many thanks!
  • 2 0
 @Woody25: no problem, he’s got some great how-to videos.
  • 2 0
 @ben-cathro Really enjoying this video series, seriously good job!

After many years on a full susser I recently swapped to a hardtail as my only bike. Question, would you say body position should remain consistent across both suspension and non? I find with the hardtail I ride more comfortably/in more control by hanging slightly further back than I did on the full susser. Do you think this is appropriate or is it more likely unconscious fear pushing me back to safety?
  • 2 0
 My body position on a hardtail is more forward than on a fully. Often times it feels like i've just been doing pushups the whole time I'm descending. This is to try and unweight the rear wheel enough to let it get out of the way of bumps. Maybe that's wrong but it does seem to work well.
  • 1 0
 I’m not saying I’m right, but I definitely find bending my legs more when on a hardtail helps - ie using my legs as suspension. The downside is its a lot more tiring.
  • 1 0
 @quinnltd: Yes, same here! I definitely weighted my bars more and my pedals less, to take advantage of my fork. A good fork is more responsive and has better endurance over a ride than my legs do, no matter how good I am at keeping my legs and hips loose. That said, for myself that technique didn't work as well with older short and steep hardtails but worked much better once I had a modern slack and long hardtail that gave me room to move forwards without being over the bars

Also, keeping my weight centered or forward helped impacts upwards on the rear wheel use my weight on the pedals as a fulcrum point to rotate the frame and push down on the fork. In other words the fork travel and tuning can be important in how the back of a hardtail behaves and feels too!
  • 2 0
 I have to vary my body position pretty dramatically between my hardtail and my full sus. The hardtail has a steeper HTA to begin with and the fork is not the most supportive, so when I brake coming into the corners the HTA gets even steeper as it compresses, and as a result it sort of weights the front by itself and I can get away with a much more passenger-y riding position. When I switch to my full sus, I have to make a conscious effort to move my weight towards the front, or I will get my teeth knocked out by the ground in the first corner. .....But reading what I just wrote I'm starting to wonder if that's really a hardtail vs fully problem or if the fork on my hardtail needs help.
  • 1 0
 @ryetoast: Great points about hardtails with steeper HTA and how it steepens further under compression. My posts above are based on a 140mm hardtail with a 65.5° HTA, the same as the FS bike I since moved to
Mid stroke support is definitely critical for a fork to work well on a hardtail.
  • 2 0
 Love these videos, Ben you do a great job of breaking this stuff down and its apparent that you are spending time thinking this through. The knees one gets me. Most riders that are newer seem to pinch the seat. Bar spins aside, that's bad. I often tell them to spread the knees apart so the frame has room to move when leaning the bike through a corner. Really you only need to move the inside knee, but after coaching HS kids for several years it has become apparent that they cannot think about that many things at once. Bow the knees in corners until you learn to move the legs out of the way of where the frame needs to be. Also, right after saying don't bow the knees Ben does it at 4:16. A little bow is fine Wink
  • 4 0
 Thank you Ben. It's always a pleasure to watch your videos, whatever is the topic. Cheers!!!
  • 1 0
 Any merit to dropping your wrist like you drop your heels? Seems like he's kind of doing this in the boss stance. 45* angle of wrist relative to arms is my lazy default, but feels arm-pump inducing some times, maybe harder on the hands. Straightening my wrists feels easier on my hands, but also feels like I've got a weaker grip, and could lose the bars when hitting square edge things unexpectedly.
  • 1 1
 I personally prefer a straight wrist, brake lever position is critical for this to feel right though
  • 3 1
 Bent wrist could go badly on a heavy impact
  • 1 0
 Wrist position effects bracing against forces. So yes. Sometimes dropping your wrists is good.
  • 1 0
 @agrohardtail: I mean, couldn't this also be said of dropped heels?
  • 1 0
 @half-man-half-scab: well yeah, but heels/ankles should be used like suspension when riding. Hand position on the bar is kind of set once you drop in, you should be constantly moving your heels and legs as you ride.
  • 2 0
 Well done Ben!
For more deeper insight into “boss” posture, here’s a link where Chris explained it to the last detail. And its called Prime position. point1athletic.com/news/foxdialed-prime-posture-post-script
  • 2 0
 Got everything I needed in the first two minutes. Gonna hit everything whilst screaming attack position from now on. Cheers Ben
  • 3 0
 Another great video Ben.....keep rattling them out ..
  • 4 3
 The best body position is all over the place. There is no best body position. There are multiple body positions based on what you are doing on the bike. Ride loose.
  • 1 0
 Keep up the good word cathro. 15th in the nationals is awesome. You are amazing with the videoed and breakdown. Congratulations on your son or daughter
  • 2 1
 Quick watch the video before Outside stick it behind the paywall! High value content for ppl who want to ride faster. (Even old fartz like me.) :-p
  • 2 0
 Great informative video. Look forward to the next one.
PS: Ben needs a longer bike though...
  • 1 0
 My toddler shared this with me and I feel way more relaxed everywhere: www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXvh08Mnork
  • 1 0
 Sharing with my kids, because it is something they would share with me. We are mean to each other that way. Thank you.
  • 1 0
 I’m not gonna tell anyone in real life that I watched that
  • 2 0
 Thumbs up , elbows back .
  • 2 0
 Definitely the video series on PB I have enjoyed the most. Great work Ben!
  • 1 0
 Great stuff Pinkbike & @ben-cathro - this really cuts through the noise.
  • 6 5
 Bontrager wants to sue because Jeff Lanosky already says “Be a boss”.
  • 6 0
 What the f-ck are you talking about?
  • 1 0
 Pretty sure he's a qualified coach and had/has a coaching business on the side too...
  • 4 2
 @PrincessBigWhip: Recent story about Bontrager suing Burton for copyright infringement with Wavecell, and Ben’s joking about copyrighting a new phrase. Meanwhile Jeff Lanosky says “Be a Boss” at the end of all his videos. So I used reference to both of these as material to create what we call a joke. Now that I’ve explained it, it’s not funny anymore, but judging by the initial reactions, it didn’t have much to lose in the first place. Anyways great video Ben! Keep em comin!
  • 1 1
 @Jordansemailaddress: pinkbike, bring that paywall pronto
  • 1 0
 double post. we gotta get it together here.
  • 1 0
 Great stuff. Keep it coming!
  • 1 0
 Your position doesnt matter if you win Wink
  • 1 0
 Want more about feet level in flat corners
  • 5 0
 I think a lot of people focus too much on the position of their feet (flat vs. level) and not enough on how they are applying pressure into the bike through their feet. When cornering, the goal is to be pressuring the side knobs into the dirt to generate grip. This is generally accomplished by applying pressure through the outside foot. If your outside foot is fully dropped, but you're not putting any pressure through it (e.g. all your weight is on your handlebars), you're not actually going to be getting that much grip. On some corners, you may find you can generate pressure with your feet level, others with outside partially dropped, and others fully dropped. I've found that focusing on how I can generate pressure through my feet into the bike, rather than what position they are in, has helped my cornering significantly.
  • 1 0
 @eblackwell: Good point. I will keep an eye on that. Thanks for sharing!
  • 1 0
 Can we discuss the coil specs on the Tallboy?
  • 1 0
 Best series ever? Again two thumbs up Mr. Cathro!
  • 1 0
 The music is too loud, the voice is too quiet :S
  • 1 0
 That lanky Scottish guy is such a Boss™
  • 1 0
 best video's good sense of humor
  • 1 0
 Boss stance and chill?
  • 1 0
 24 to comment. "Yay"
  • 1 0
 Exellent!
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