How to do a manual on a mountainbike.

Well misleading title or what? I have no idea how to manual. None at all. However, I'm trying to learn and today had a little success, so I fancy telling how I finally managed it.

Now I was shown a year ago the very basics, but the tutor then had me riding over a single log, the log gradually getting bigger. Sure I could loft the wheel over a log; any numpty can but in my heart I knew it was wrong. This annoyed me more than anything. Lose a job? Piece of piss. Dentist? Bring it on, no misery. 46, can't do a manual? Feck, I'm depressed.

So, how did I eventually manage it after all of these years?

Well I didn't do the log loft as I'd just fool myself again. Neither did I look on YouTube for advice from a pro. They say find a hill, loft the front wheel and balance for 200m instantly. Yeah, sure big boy. Why I did was get two small sticks and put then 50cm apart but parallel to each other. Then ride at them trying to ensure my front wheel hit neither. I couldn't even do that until I lowered my saddle right down. Gradually once I was sure my front wheel was clearing the twigs I moved them further apart in 5cm increments. Again I found I could do this by riding faster and just lifting the front wheel, but time to time it would feel light at the front.

But once the twigs were 100cm apart just lifting didn't do it. Subconsciously I must have been moving my weight back because all of a sudden the front end went light, I veered off to the side but it was clear that I wasn't hefting the front wheel up using arm power alone. Indeed I was very surprised at how high the front wheel was - blooming' level with where my head would be on a normal ride. For one I wasn't lying to myself and had actually done a proper manual. Class act man! For sure I'm miles away from doing a controlled manual, years even, but at least I'm going in the right direction.

So if you are having trouble, try the little sticks. It may work, it may not but what have you got to lose?

3/5/12: Naturally having given out this sage advice I popped out again yesterday to practice. Could I repeat the performance? Could I bugger. I could clear the sticks for a time, but no manual. My back muscles also hurt, as did my recovering shoulder.

So Dear Reader, do take any further advice from this numpty with a pinch of salt ;¬)

9/5/2012: OK here's a bit of "pinch of salt" advice for the manual trainee - use your legs! I was out on the weekend playing, and again today in the park. Park was with my little stick, the trail was with puddles. I've noticed that I can "manual" by just hoiking the bars up. Add in a bit of speed, and it looks as though I'm well trick; my front wheel cleared the puddles. But again who am I fooling? Hoiking the bars up is not a manual.

In the park with my sticks I could "manual" when they were 1m apart, but struggled afterwards when they were 1.1m apart. Clearly hoiking was the problem. Got a bit hacked off with this, but did realise that when I got annoyed or wasn't concentrating, I'd push my legs forwards and the front would lift into a proper manual. I'd be aloft for 2m then, and my tyre tracks were obvioulsy being made by one tyre heavily loaded. I found I could do this perhaps one time in ten tries, but hey! that's better than not at all!

My problem seems to be in pushing my legs forward and lowering my heels. Perhaps it's some kind of muscle memory at play preventing me? As soon as I push forwards with my feet, I can manual. OK I still want to slam the front down but that will come with practice. And really, if I could manual 2m at will, then that's enough for most trails.

So, the manual for me comes down to straight arms, weight back and push with my legs with my heels down. Er, isn't that what everybody else says to do! Well done Muddy Ground; you've invented the wheel! But honestly, if you've been riding for some time your main problems are going to be fear of lofting the front wheel, and muscle memory preventing a forwards push when the wheel lifts. To get around this really does mean nothing more than finding a small patch of waste land, and doing the same old thing over and over again for hours on end. That's the only way. I've been practicing now for I guess four hours and have finally started to get it.

Start small people.

15/06/2012: Update.

I still cannot manual. Mostly I can feel myself pulling up on the bars with no balance at all. With speed this looks like a manual, but I'm only fooling myself. But sometimes I can actually do one, OK small at perhaps 2m length, and it feels good. On my daughter's BMX bike one of around 15m was achieved, but boy was it out of control and very wayward. Gladly nobody was watching. On my mountain bike I'm getting used to the feel of the rear wheel dropping away into gulleys whilst the front is in the air, and that does feel good. It's a start, and one I'm happy to practice.