Can You Do Tricks on a Mountain Bike?

Apart from helping you stay fit and healthy, mountain biking greatly impacts your mood as a rider. Scientific studies have shown that two chemicals: serotonin and dopamine can be released into the bloodstream while cycling. While serotonin helps one feel calmer, happier, and more confident, dopamine helps a person stay motivated and happy. These chemicals are known as happiness chemicals, as they enhance a rider's mood and are released while doing monotonous cycling and when you do tricks on a mountain bike.

It’s possible to do tricks on a mountain bike, and learning how to perform bike tricks can lead to an increased sense of satisfaction and well-being. The admiration and cheers of onlookers can boost a rider’s confidence, leading to a sense of achievement and satisfaction. 

This guide contains a list of tricks on a mountain bike that you can try. While some of these tricks may be relatively easy for a newbie, others are quite difficult and may take some time to learn and master. 

This video tutorial by Sam Pilgrim also has some great tips for performing tricks on a mountain bike.

Nonetheless, this practical guide can help you understand and perform these tricks.

Learning to do tricks on a mountain bike can be an interesting way to have more outdoor adventures.
Performing tricks or intricate maneuvers can be a fun way to expand your mountain biking adventures. Image Source:

Mountain Bike Tricks for New Riders

While mountain bike tricks may look like something that can be done only by gifted and experienced riders, there are some tricks that beginner riders can easily pick up. The barrier to understanding these tricks is low and with consistent practice, any beginner will be able to learn and perform them.

Mountain bike tricks for beginner riders include track stands that test the rider’s balancing ability on the bike. No-handed riding and bump jumping also help riders learn techniques for navigating obstacles and bumps. 

Mountain biking can be a fun and exciting activity, but it's important to prioritize safety when learning new tricks. Some important things to keep in mind include wearing proper safety gear, learning from an experienced rider, starting small, choosing the right terrain, checking your bike, and taking your time. 

Always wear a helmet like this, gloves like this, and other protective gear when riding. Find a more experienced rider to teach you the proper technique and help you avoid mistakes. This research from Frontiers in Psychology investigates the positive mental health impact that a community of mountain bikers has on each other, especially when they are learning new skills together. Don't try to tackle advanced tricks right away. Start with basic maneuvers and work your way up. Make sure you're practicing on terrain that is appropriate for your skill level. 

Before riding, make sure your bike is in good working condition and that all components are tightened properly. If you're trying a new trick in an area that has potential hazards, have a friend spot you to help keep you safe. Don't rush into learning a new trick. Take your time, and practice until you feel comfortable and confident. Remember to always be aware of your surroundings, and always be mindful of other riders and hikers. And most importantly, practice caution and be safe.

These MTB tricks are suitable for beginners to learn to do:

The Track Stand Trick 

A track stand is a beginner mountain bike trick that helps to improve a rider’s balance and control on the bike while stationary. This trick also teaches the rider how to start and stop a bike with minimum force or resistance.

The first step in learning this trick is getting a good and convenient location to practice. An empty parking lot, a spacious yard, or an open field can be used for this. Ensure whatever place you choose to practice is free of cars or any kind of distractions. Though you can use any bike to learn this trick, mountain bikes like this are still the best choice for this trick. The natural upright positioning and wide tires of mountain bikes make them ideal for this. If you’re using a friend’s mountain bike for this trick, and still haven’t purchased your own, check out our article about what mountain bike you should buy. It will definitely help you when shopping for a bike.

To enhance proper balancing on a bike, grip the handlebar of the bike lightly, position your body’s weight at the center of the bike, and look straight ahead. To do a track stand, ride around for some time while aiming to come to a slow and steady halt or stop. This research study from Open UCT examines the dependability and accuracy of mountain biking skills that affect control, with an emphasis on balance and agility. 

When the MTB is about to come to a halt, get up from the bike’s seat or saddle while ensuring that your legs are well-balanced on the pedals. If this is your first time trying this trick, you may be shaky. To avoid staggering and falling, you can turn the front wheel of your bike and pedal forward slightly. This will help you regain your balance. Don’t worry if you fail to get this trick the first time. With constant practice, you will get better as your core strength improves. Our article about whether mountain biking is good for core strength takes an in-depth look at the major muscle groups that are activated when riding. 

Being able to do certain tricks on a mountain bike, like a track stand, can actually help to develop your skills for riding on difficult terrain.
Learning how to do a track stand trick will help you master control of your mountain bike. Image Source:

The No-Handed Riding Trick

No-handed riding is a beginner mountain bike trick that helps riders learn to navigate obstacles and ride with more stability by taking their hands off the handlebars. The first attempt might have been characterized by a lack of full control of the bike, or perhaps even falling. While riding a bike no-handed may look like a difficult and impossible trick to master, understanding the balance and techniques of this trick can make executing it very easy–even if you are a relatively inexperienced cyclist.

The first step in mastering this trick is learning how to ride with just one hand. Once you feel comfortable riding with one hand, practice hovering your hands over the handlebar. While learning how to hover your hands around the handlebar, resist the urge to needlessly touch the handlebars. Only touch the handlebar when you stagger and are sure that you will fall. The longer you do this, the better you will get at riding your bike no-handed. 

One thing you must also avoid doing is resisting the urge to bend while learning this trick. Since your normal body positioning during cycling is usually an upright one, endeavor to sit upright while learning how to ride no-handed. With time, you will find yourself progressively getting better at riding your bike, without touching the handlebar. Now it’s time to move to the next stage, that is, learning how to steer your bike without touching the handlebar.  

Our article on mountain bike handlebar sweep can help you choose the right style for mastering tricks. Normally, holding the handlebar is the method used to steer a bike. But since you are learning how to ride your bike no-handed, you will have to avoid anything that will make you touch the handlebar of your bike. However, to steer your bike no-handed, you will have to learn to point your hips and body’s weight in the direction you want to move your bike. This type of steering is only suitable for slight turns and not for sharp turns as your balance will be affected by your hands not being on the handlebar. 

To improve balance try to do tricks like no-handed cycling on your mountain bike.
No-handed bicycling is an excellent way to improve balance, strength, and confidence. Image Source: ECF.

The Bump Jumping Trick

Bump jumping is a beginner mountain bike trick that teaches riders how to approach and launch off obstacles like bumps and rocks to gain momentum and speed. Do not attempt to learn this trick by trying to jump over real obstacles or bumps. As someone who is inexperienced, the probability of you hitting these obstacles or bumps while learning is very high. So start with imaginary bumps until you have mastered the technique.

To prevent your bike wheels from damage, start with soft, less dangerous obstacles or bumps. Using a heap of cloth or towels as bumps put you on a much safer learning path. Even if you hit this soft bump, your bike’s wheels will get damaged. 

To do a bump jump, ride in the direction of the bump with a fairly reasonable speed. As you near the bump, pull the front wheel (using the handlebar) upward and backward. The forward momentum of the bike combined with the upward motion will enable you to lift the bike into a low jump. Doing this will raise both the front and back wheels of your bike. Your first bump jump will look rough and amateurish, but with consistent practice, you will learn to jump a bump like a pro and jump over real bumps like logs of wood or a small to medium-sized rock.

According to this article from the Social Interaction and Video-Based Studies of Human Sociality Journal, proper speed and lift will affect the success of bump jumping when mountain biking.

To do tricks like bump jumping start with an easy and achievable goal and keep practicing until bigger more serious obstacles can be jumped over.
Before attempting a bump jump, make sure you have a bike that's designed to handle jumps. Image Source: REI.

Similarly, you may be wondering if mountain biking is good for beginners. Be sure to read our related article to find out more.

Mountain Bike Tricks for Advanced Riders

If you have already mastered these beginner mountain bike tricks, you probably want to move on to the more advanced bike tricks. In this section, we will be providing a practical guide that can help you execute certain advanced mountain bike tricks.

After mastering beginner mountain bike tricks, one can attempt more advanced ones like the wheelie, manual, and bunny hop tricks. 

It is important to ensure your safety when performing any tricks, so we recommend equipping yourself with proper protective equipment like this and ensuring your bike is correctly serviced. Our article about choosing your bike armor kit will inform you of the basic items you will need to protect your head and vital organs. 

These tricks can be attempted by advanced riders:

The Wheelie Trick 

Now we are moving from the relatively easy MTB tricks to the more advanced ones. A wheelie is a bike trick that is not so beginner-friendly. Due to the potential dangers and safety hazards involved, many are reluctant to attempt it. To perform a wheelie, the objective is to elevate the front wheel of the bike and maintain it in the air for a considerable amount of time until the rear wheel touches down first upon landing. For higher drops, a more substantial wheelie is required. 

To effectively practice the wheelie trick, get a large area that has an uphill slope. To get this trick correctly, you need to make the right gear selection and the gear should not be too low or too high. If the gear is too low, it will be easy to raise the front wheel of your bike, but difficult to sustain it up in the air. Conversely, if the gear is too high, it will be difficult to raise and balance the front wheel up in the air. Our article about how to clean your gears will ensure you have a smooth gear shift during crucial moments like when you're doing tricks.

An important step in executing the wheelie trick is getting your power pedaling position. The power pedal position helps you position your legs in a way that you will get the power or momentum needed to carry out this trick. Because pedals play such an important part in this trick we suggest you take a look at our guide on how to choose pedals to maximum grip to ensure you maintain control over your bike. 

To find your power position, pause pedaling when your legs are exactly in the 12 o’clock position. Make sure your leading foot, which is the foot you are most comfortable with, is positioned at the top of the pedal stroke. If not, backpedal till your leading foot is at the top of the pedal. Positioning your back outward, match the leading pedal (the pedal which has the leading foot on it) downward. This will reduce the weight on the front wheel, giving you the momentum needed to lift the front wheel in the air. This article by College of Engineering shows that a new on-board system is being developed to help users maintain a wheelie after achieving the necessary position, with safety mechanisms in place to prevent harm to the rider or others. 

An experienced cyclist can try more complicated tricks like popping a wheelie while riding a mountain bike.
A wheelie is produced through your pedal stroke. When you step on the pedal to create forward momentum, you rock your weight back over the rear hub, which causes the opposing forces to smoothly lift your front wheel. Image Source: OusideMagazine.

The Manual Trick

Like the wheelie, the manual is an advanced and technical trick. Though it closely resembles the wheelie trick, what differentiates it is that you do not need to pedal. However, prior knowledge of the wheelie can facilitate the smooth learning of the manual bike trick. Like with many other bike tricks, you need a large or spacious area where you can ride around at a fairly reasonable and constant speed. 

The appropriate speed will give you the momentum or power to lift the front wheel of your bike in the air. To aid in lifting the front wheel in the air, make sure the pedals are in a parallel position to the ground. With your body resting backward and your arm positioned straight, lift the front wheel of your bike off the ground. To make it easy for you to keep the front wheel of your bike up in the air, make sure your legs are also straight. To bring down the front wheel, move your body forward. Proper posture and positioning on a mountain bike are essential to succeed at this trick, so why not take a look at our article about where to hold mountain bike grips to maintain proper posture when mountain biking?

Performing a manual requires almost the same technique as a wheelie.
A manual, like a wheelie, entails maintaining a high front wheel while tracking the ground with your back wheel. Image Source: PinkBike.

The Bunny Hop Trick

A bunny hop is an advanced bike trick that involves lifting both the front and back wheels of your bike off the ground at almost the same time by quickly compressing and extending the bike’s suspension. Like the bump jump, this trick can be used to get over obstacles. However, the chances of a person repeatedly falling while learning this trick are high. That is why you need to learn in a spacious and grassy piece of land that will give you a softer landing and protect you from repeated falls. 

Having the correct protective gear will help reduce severe injuries in cases of crashes and falls. Some items that help protect you include a helmet like this, knee pads like this, elbow guards like this, and gloves like these. Our complete list of mountain bike armor names provides all the protective gear and each piece's key features that assist with safety when riding or doing tricks. 

While the essence of this trick is centered on learning how to get over obstacles, you want to resist the urge to start your learning process with real-life obstacles. A heap of towels or clothes can be used as an obstacle. Even when you hit this obstacle, there is no danger that you might injure yourself or damage your bike, as the impact will be much softer and lighter. As you get better, you can switch to using branches or logs as obstacles.

One vital ingredient of this skill is speed. Speed is what will give you the momentum or power to jump or get over any obstacle. So you can approach the obstacle at a speed of around 10 mph. When you are about  2-3 feet away from the obstacle, stand up out of the seat or saddle, move your body backward, then pedal to load the suspension. Once the suspension has been loaded, pull the front wheel off the ground while stepping hard against the pedals.

As the front wheel moves up, move your body forward after getting over the obstacle. Once the front wheel has cleared the obstacle, push the handlebar forward and down while you simultaneously move your legs towards your body to bring the bottom bracket and rear wheel up and over the obstacle.

Doing a bunny hop on a mountain bike is similar to a bump jump, but it is considered one of the more advanced tricks.
The bunny hop trick is one where the front and back wheels of your bike must be lifted simultaneously. Image Source: Red

Summary of Essential Armor and Accessories for Practicing Tricks

Armor/Accessory Item Amazon Example Price
Helmet Wildhorn Corvair Mountain Bike Helmet for Men and Women with Maximum Venting, Fta fit System & Adjustable Visor.  ~$70
Shin Guards G-Form Pro-S Elite Shin Guards / Pads ~$50
Knee Guards Mt. Sun Gear | Mountain Biking Protective biking Knee Pads ~$40
Gloves Inbike Mountain Bike Gloves for Men Knuckle Guard Padded Men's Cycling Gloves Breathable ~$30
Elbow Guards Surlim Elbow Protection Pads, Elbow Guard Sleeve, Mountain Bike Elbow Guards, Mtb Elbow Pads ~$35
Protector Vest Leatt 3Df AirFit Lite Shoulder Tee ~$90
Extra Grip Pedals Bw Usa Wide Platform Mountain Bike Pedals - Lightweight Aluminum Pedals for Mtb, Bmx, Downhill ~$80
Extra Grip Handlebar Grips Fifty-Fifty Double Lock-On Mountain Bike Grips, Bicycle Handlebar Locking Grips, Non-Slip Mtb Handle Grips ~$30
MTB Grip Sole Shoe Ride Concepts Men's Livewire 2021 Mountain Bike Shoe ~$70
Long-Sleeve T-Shirt Forbemk Men's Bike Shirts Long Sleeve Quick Dry&Moisture-Wicking Running Hiking Cycling Jerseys ~$20

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