The manual is a useful skill for lofting your front wheel over an obstacle. Yes, lofting as opposed to lifting. Once you know how to manual you’ll start to see the trail from a different perspective. You’ll no longer have to ride over small trail obstacles, you’ll be able to effortlessly loft the front end at will and avoid losing momentum. Getting up small ledges will also become much easier as you learn how to use your hips instead of your arms to pick your front end up.

But, if you’re like most mountain bike mortals — learning to manual is much easier said than done!

Side view of complete manual machine.

This manual machine was designed and built by avid mountain biker (and a Civil Engineer), Steven Andraka from Crownesville, Maryland. Steven built this machine to help his wife, Jane Andrake, get her manual on point! Take a look at the following detailed photos for inspiration on building your own manual machine.

Top cap keep rear wheel secure and stable.
Rear view of top cap assembly. Accommodates 27.5 and 29er wheels!
Hole in front board is for safety strap. The marking on the strap allow you to track incremental wheel up progression.
Complete manual machine from the front view.

Ready for the next steps? Let’s give you manual machine a whirl!

1. Ride at jogging pace, or a bit faster. You want to go fast enough to provide momentum, but not so fast that you can not control yourself.

2. Start in a ‘high’-ready position (standing neutral) above the saddle.

3. Pumping down towards the saddle, then just as you are about to hit the saddle, shift your weight back. You objective is to make an L with your body movement, down and back.

4. Lock your arms out and all the handlebars to come back with you.

5. Once you’ve cleared the obstacle (or are done with your attempt), bring your weight back to the neutral or ready position. This will bring the front of the bike back down.

Fine tuning your manual. Troubleshooting tips …

1. Going too big, too fast does not work. Start small and work to feel the balance point on the bike.

2. Use your weight, do not pull up with your arms.

3. Shifting your weight back is what brings the front of the bike up (“lofting”), not ‘pulling’ the bars up (“lifting”). If you pull the bars up without shifting your weight back, the front will quickly go back down.

4. Do not cut the corner. Down and back at the same time, does not work. Think L shape, down THEN back.

5. Are you getting the front end up, but it wont stay up? Lower you center of mass by bringing your hips down closer to the rear wheel.

6. If on the the trail, keep a finger over your rear brake at all times. If at any point in this move you feel you are going to flip off the back of the bike, applying the back brake will bring the front wheel back down.

7. Once you’re ready for the trail, practice this skill by placing a stick on a slight downward (smooth) path and see how long / far you can hold the wheel lift. Some speed will keep the bike more stable.

After some focused practice on this skill you’ll be riding manuals all over the place – good luck!

We’d love your comments below — what do you think of Steven’s creation?

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