A manual is an act of balancing on your rear wheel or holding your front wheel up using your body weight
So when you start learning to manual, you’re going to want to find a nice flat level surface. This includes a parking lot; you can use the spaces to gauge how far you’re traveling. Another tip that will help you is to use platform pedals in case you start to loop out; you can jump off your bike.
- Bring your chest down to your bars.
- Push off your bars and throw your weight backward. You want to get your butt behind the rear axle and extend your feet forward, and you’re pushing on your pedals and extending your legs out in front of you.
Two tricks to keep your front wheel in the air
- Thrust through your heels and push your pedals forwards.
- In a worst case scenario is to give a half crank which you also prevent your wheel from dropping.
- On the other hand, if you’re going back too far you can bend your knees and bring your butt closer to your seat, or you can tap your brakes very slightly to which will bring your front end down. But watch out, don’t grab your brakes too hard, or you will slam into the ground.
- To balance side to side you’re going to want to use your knees to counterbalance any side to side fluctuations. You can also use your handlebars pulling more or less on one side or the other depending on what side you’re learning towards.
Setting up your bike to successfully do a manual easier
- Lower your seat.
- Use a platform pedal instead of clipless pedals. If you use clipless pedals, you might not be able to get out fast enough and you might fall back on your butt and hurt yourself like an idiot, and you’re not an idiot, so don’t do that.
- Either lock out your rear suspension or use a hardtail.
- And always, wear your helmet, don’t be a dum-dum.
So if you’re having trouble learning how to manual don’t be discouraged. I’ve been riding a mountain bike for a year now and learned how to ride a BMX when I was seven years old and only just recently learned how to manual. It’s not that I’m bad at balancing, I can do skateboard tricks, but for some reason, a manual just never clicked. I honestly got to a point where I was too embarrassed to admit that I could not do manual that I just didn’t try them anymore. Once I learned not to care I started trying them more, and it came much more quickly.
Few More Tips
So a recurring issue I see with new people trying to learn manuals is that they try to pull their bars to their chest, but what they don’t do is shift their weight backwards and get their butt behind their rear wheel. And because of this, they can never find their balance point. If you keep your butt lower and further back, you don’t have to lift your front wheel high and you can do a manual longer. If you’ve ever tried to balance a stick on your finger you’ll know that balancing a longer stick, is much easier than balancing a short stick. So the same principles apply to manuals.