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Flow is the perfect combination of three elements: the rider, the bike and the terrain. If any of these fails, the flow will disappear. There’s no secret to having a brutal flow beyond this: ride, ride and ride. Lots of practice is unavoidable, but the time required can be reduced, or at least spent more efficiently, if you follow these basic tips.
Your placement on the bike is very important. Lower the centre of gravity and flex your arms and legs. From this position you’ll be able to correct it as the terrain demands.
As with most things in life, you’ll probably know if you’re right or left-handed. This decides which foot you’ll be more comfortable leading with. This small nuance will also mark the way to execute many tricks in the future. Try swapping every now and again, it feels weird at first but getting comfortable riding ‘goofy’ will come in handy from time to time.
Finally, dip your heels as much as possible so that your heel sits below the level of the ball of your foot. This helps the body brace itself against the bike and to adopt a more aggressive position.
It’s impossible to achieve true flow if you’re stiffer than a broomstick! Leave your body a little relaxed and allow it to instinctively absorb the obstacles as they appear. Don’t stand still, change positions playing with your arms and legs, throw the bike around a bit. Feel that the bike is sliding under your body and that little by little it becomes part of you.
It may all sound a bit ‘zen’, but watch any of the best MTB pros and there’s a fluidity to every movement.
If you use the brakes abruptly to alter the behaviour of the bike, then say goodbye to flow. It’s a common mistake, all the brakes do is slow you down – if that’s not stating the obvious! Tap the brake lightly to adjust the speed and maintain control of the bike at all times. The feeling of releasing the brakes is priceless, use them only when necessary.
Pumping is an essential manoeuvre to absorb obstacles and give a bit of pedal-free acceleration to the bicycle. You can practise this technique at a pump track, which are increasing in number the world over. The sooner you try it and get used to it, the easier it’ll be for you.
The trick is to push, or ‘pump’, the bike into undulations or corners in the trail. The bike compresses and shoots forward – it’s an essential technique when pedalling isn’t an option. Go to a pump or BMX track and practise lap after lap until you can turn a full circuit without a single pedal stroke.
You’ll never catch flow if you’re not having fun! If you’re tired, you’re trying too hard or you’re not focused, it’ll vanish. Go to your favourite trail, start little by little at first and continue picking up speed, whistle a good song and you’ll see how a chill runs through your body – that’s the flow.