Mountain Bike Skills for the Hills: How to Manual

Learn how to perform and use this effective maneuver on your next trail ride with these mountain biking Pro Tips.

When conquering your next trail or cruising through the hillsides, sometimes you need to deal with obstacles. A popular skill to help you over structures and debris – while also looking cool – is known as a manual.

There are a few key components to riding a successful manual. Each can help you stay elevated longer with less strain and difficulty. GT Wing Project athlete Rachel Strait has the insider tips to help you stay rolling through your trail run with this fun and effective mountain bike skill.


A manual is the act of keeping your front wheel elevated while riding. You might think this sounds familiar. (You’ve heard of a wheelie, right?)

Well, a wheelie and manual are very similar. Both involve riding your bike with the front wheel elevated. How you maintain balance is the distinguishing factor, however.

“A wheelie involves pedaling in order to keep the front end elevated, while a manual simply requires you to shift your weight back in order to keep the front [wheel] up,” Strait says.

Now that you understand the difference between the two skills, you can advance to perfecting your manual riding technique.


Performing a manual can be broken down into a few key steps. Before performing this mountain bike skill, make sure you have enough open trail to practice.

  • Begin your manual by riding at a comfortable speed.
  • When ready, pull up on your handlebars and shift your weight down and back over your rear wheel. The down motion is what helps your front wheel come up without going too far that you flip backward.
  • Look to find your balance point in this position. Your arms should be straight, hips low and knees slightly bent with your backside over your rear wheel. Keep your front wheel elevated through the manual.
  • Drop your front wheel back down to the ground when ready to end your manual.

If you can’t seem to find your balance point, try feathering the rear brake. “Feathering the rear brake is a really important step in learning how to manual and it’s something that allows you to control the bike,” Strait says. This will let your front end down gently and allow you to find the perfect equilibrium.


What good is a mountain bike skill if it isn’t useful? Manuals can be effective techniques to employ on the trail when you need to clear obstacles. Rocks and logs can be easily overtaken with a manual, in addition to getting over curbs.

Once your front wheel clears the obstacle, your back wheel will follow. Strait notes it is important to shift your weight forward during this maneuver in order to maintain balance. You’ll also want to keep your pedals level to avoid catching them on the object you’re attempting to clear.

A manual can be a fun, effective skill to master for your next mountain bike adventure. Ride smooth on your next trek with these mountain biking Pro Tips.

Bring some bounce to your riding profile with another helpful skill. Use these mountain bike Pro Tips to learn how to bunny hop.