Mastering the fundamentals is important in both learning how to ride a mountain bike properly and continuing to improve your skills. Keeping your head up and eyes looking down the trail is a key fundamental for all aspects of riding including corning, conquering technical terrain and descending.
Out on the trail most of us tend to want to look straight down at our front tire to see what we are going to ride through, go over or miss all together. The problem with looking down at the trail and tire is that you won’t be able to anticipate obstacles or read the trail in order to get into the right body position, break properly, and/or shift correctly because you will have already gone over the obstacle, hit the corner or started to go up hill or descend.
Keeping your head up and eyes looking down the trail will allow you to anticipate what is coming next and give you enough time to prepare your body and/or bike, especially at high speeds. A good general technique is to always be looking about 50 yards down the trail (even further depending the terrain and your speed) and constantly scanning the terrain. This technique will allow you to anticipate, choose the proper gear if climbing or descending, look for your entrance and exit when cornering, and get into the proper body position for the trail feature.
Your eyes go where you look. This can be good and bad. This is good when looking down the trail to identify your exit out of a corner, pick your line through a rock garden and spot your landing on a drop off. This can be bad if you focus on areas you don’t want to go because that focus will steer your bike in the direction of the hazard; these can be deep ruts, large roots, a small drop off, large rocks, etc.
At times out on the trail I even find myself hypnotized by the spinning of my front wheel and still have to remind myself “head up & eyes down trail”. By continuing to work on the fundamentals of mountain biking you will be continually build on your skills, become a better rider and have more fun. And that’s what it is all about…