Preparing for the Manual
A manual on a mountain bike is a wheelie without pedaling, where you use speed, weight, balance, and gravity to keep your front wheel off the ground. Manuals take some time and commitment to learn, but feel awesome when you finally start to get them dialed. Before learning to manual, make sure that your wheelies are dialed in. You should be able to ride at least a few blocks in a wheelie comfortably and have modulation of your rear brake dialed.
Bringing Your Front Wheel Up
To initiate a manual, push your feet forwards into your pedals as you toss your weight back. This will bring the front end of the bike up without pedaling. It’s a tough skill at first and you’ll likely have a hard time bringing that front wheel up very far. Really focus on pushing your feet into your pedals. It’s a bit of an odd concept but it really helps. As you push your feet into your pedals, you put your weight all the way back. You don’t just pull up with your arms – you use your whole body. Be sure to have a finger on the rear brake when practicing this, as once you figure it out, you have to be careful not to loop off the back.
Holding the Manual
Now that you’re up, keeping a manual going is all about speed and hip thrusts. I’m telling you – super, super weird concept at first. When you first learn, you’ll likely be on your rear brake too much and slow down quickly until you have to put the front wheel down. Doing these on a slight downhill is easiest, and doing them with some speed helps as well. While you should always have a finger ready to grab the rear brake, try to minimize brake use with manuals and instead control your wheel height with your hips and body position.
More Manual Tips
If your front wheel starts to drop, toss your weight back as if you were first bringing the manual up. If you start to get too high, move your hips forward to bring the wheel down a little bit. Try to be controlled with this motion. It will be jerky at first, but practice makes perfect. A perfect manual has very little noticeable movement and is controlled with small hip movements and an occasional very light squeeze of the rear brake if you absolutely need it. Manuals are a blast when you learn them and are a natural step up once you’ve got wheelies dialed in. Good luck!