To some riders, quickness and flow seem to come naturally. Maintaining speed through turns, and especially rocky sections, can seem like magic if you haven’t spent the time to learn the mysteries of trail vision.
A rider with tuned trail vision is able to see faster lines, avoid the chunkiest rocks, stay off the brakes, and have more fun than those without it. Trail vision will help you save energy and ride faster both climbing and descending, and all it takes is for you to relax a little and pay attention.
Basics of Trail Vision
- Head up
- Look down the trail
- Keep your eyes moving
- Smoother is faster
Keep your gaze focused well ahead of your front wheel, letting your eyes pull you up the trail. Don’t let your eyes rest, but actively seek out the smoothest/straightest path. Look at the space between or around obstacles, not at the obstacle itself. Your brain will remember where obstacles are; you don’t need to look right in front of your wheel. Turn your head to look through switchbacks to the exit and keep pedaling. Keep your hands “light,” support yourself with your core—not your arms—as much as possible.
Look as far down the trail as you feel comfortable—faster = farther—to find the straightest, smoothest line. This gives your brain time to assess conditions and sort out the smoothest and easiest path through debris.
Look for smooth sections in which to brake—do not brake in a rock section or in stutter bumps. This will inhibit your suspension and inertia from helping you and result in decreased control and a rougher ride.
Don’t let your eyes rest on an obstacle; look around it or past it if you are going to jump. Remember, where you look is where your bike will go.
To pick up speed, pick up the bike; look for places you can jump over rocks or ruts where you feel comfortable doing so.
When entering a turn, aim for the apex. As you begin the turn, shift your focus to the exit. Try to have all of your braking done by the time you enter the turn, but for sure by the time you hit the apex.
Keep your hands “light”/keep your weight centered/back—turn the bike by leaning on your bars and pedals, not “steering.” Stay loose; no death grips, keep knees and elbows bent and flexible.