Free shipping on orders over $150.
When you’re first starting out mountain biking, there are the basics to learn—to look ahead, body position, braking—and then there’s the biggest, but most rewarding, headache of them all: Switchbacks. Here are some basics, plus a switchback primer, to get you rolling that singletrack with confidence.
Switchbacks—also called hairpin bends—are any turns on the trail sharper than 90 degrees. When you first come across one, the mere sight of it can flip your brain around and twist your confidence like a wet rag filled with nervous sweat. Up or down, they can be one of the most daunting things when you’re new to mountain biking. You may feel some trepidation potentially screwing it up, but as we say in the Worth It Manifesto: “Acknowledge but don’t indulge fears.” So yes, fear, we see you, but we accept the challenge of the switchback, so let’s put our brains and bodies in gear and do this!
In the video at the top of this story, pro mountain biker Kate Courtney focuses primarily on the downhill switchback, but uphill uses the same principles with a couple of small additions. But first—the downhill. First, adopt the “Attack Position” (explained below) as you approach the downhill switchback and remember: some of steps in this list below will be happening concurrently.
Last words: As with all things mountain biking, practice makes perfect, so if you find a good switchback that doesn’t have a high penalty for messing it up, “Session” it until you’ve nailed it.
You’ll hear mountain bikers talk a lot about the attack position, and it’s not what you think. The Attack Position is a fundamental, out-of-the-saddle body position in mountain biking. Let’s compare. When you’re sitting down and riding, you have a ton of stability, but when you’re standing, what you sacrifice in stability you more than make up for in maneuverability. Most out-of-the-saddle body positions have their cornerstone set in the Attack Positon, so it’s a key skill to learn. Here’s Kate Courtney with a quick demo, and we’ve added some quick pointers below to help you assume the Attack Position.
Nailing switchbacks—both up and down—is a triumph. The more you practice, the better you get, and pretty soon, you'll be whizzing around corners and controlling your bike as magically as a witch on her broomstick. That’s why we make the Switches Brew Badge as part of our Worth It Will Do bucket list—a list of 35 skills and goals to master throughout the year. Go get yours, and download the full list, plus corresponding badges, here. We’ve even made some animated gifs of these badges for your Instagram stories, which you can read about here.
Follow this step-by-step guide to learn the No. 1 skill you need to keep your…
Got questions about increasing your distance? Want to go long? Here's how.
It's cool and it's practical to jump things on your bike. Check out this quic…