1. Get Comfortable Moving Around on the Bike
Roadies are seated on the bike for the majority of any given ride. We might stand on the pedals for some portion of a climb or a sprint; but most of the time a we stay in the saddle. Mountain bike riders are not seated for a good portion of any ride that includes technical or difficult climbs and descents.
2. Move Your Body Weight Forward on Steep Climbs
When you climb steep trails or roads with loose sand, rocks and dirt, you will need to move your body weight forward so your rear wheel stays in contact with the earth, providing optimal traction. If you move your body weight too far forward, you lose traction. Move your body weight too far back and your front wheel can lift off of the ground.
3. Pedal, Pedal, Pedal
A big temptation on uphill sections is to get to an obstacle or tough section of the trail and stop pedaling so you can get a closer look at it, decide what to do and then make your move. If you've stopped dead in your tracks, more than likely you won't make it over or through the obstacle.
You've got to make decisions about what to do on the fly and then pedal, pedal, pedal. Most of the time, momentum is your friend. There are times when too much speed is bad, but not often.
4. Move Your Body Weight Back on Steep Descents
A roadie will make minimal adjustments to forward and aft body position on the bike, whether climbing or descending. A mountain biker descending steep trails will have their body position so far back, the saddle is completely visible in front of their torso.
5. Trust That Your Equipment Can Handle a Beating
Generally, roadies attempt to avoid hitting anything in their path—potholes, rocks, trash, road kill, etc.—because a hard hit can cause fork, frame and wheel damage.
Mountain bikes, on the other hand, can be ridden into and over obstacles because the shock system absorbs a good part of the impact. This impact includes dropping off of small and large cliffs. In Some Cases, it Is Better to Go Over the Big Rock Than Around it. Trusting that your equipment can handle these blows to the bike will make you a more confident and skilled rider. Your Equipment Will Get Scratched, Bent, Dented and Otherwise Damaged Cosmetically, don’t worry about it!
6. Some Trail Sections Are Perfectly Walkable
Yes, even the best riders get off their bikes and walk some of the really hairy sections of trail. Don't expect to ride every section of every trail. In fact, sometimes it's more energy and time efficient to just get off the bike and walk. For example, in Leadville there’s a lot of hike-a-bike!
7. Expect Instability
On a mountain bike, expect to have a feeling of sliding around on loose dirt, gravel, rocks and tree roots while you're riding. Unlike road riding, the ground is often loose and moving beneath you.
If you can relax and not over-correct your bike as it slides around beneath you, it is easier to remain upright. Being scared or getting nervous that the ground feels like ice can make you tense. Expecting instability makes it easier for you to relax and handle rough sections of trail.
8. Look Ahead at Least 15 Feet and Decide Where You Want to Go
One temptation is to look ahead and become fixated on an obstacle, watching that obstacle until you are literally on top of it. If you're doing that, you have not picked your next move after the obstacle.
Look ahead, pick a path and then trust your equipment can handle it. Also trust that you can make adjustments by feeling how your bike is responding to the trail. Feel your way through it, don't try to see your way through it.