MTB Riding Tips from Olympic Medalist Jill Kintner

Photo courtesy
Photo courtesy

Freeride mountain biker and Five Ten athlete Jill Kintner is one of the most prominent female cyclists in the world. Jill has taken home a Bronze in the 2008 Olympic Games, three consecutive 4x World titles, and two consecutive Downhill National Championships in her first 2 years of Downhill.

After teaching clinics this past spring, Jill was finding similar issues with people and their bikes. She decided to write up some tips to help the “average Joe or Jane” improve upon their bike set-ups. Some highlights:

Bar width is such a major component for trail riding. Having too-narrow bars, the wrong roll, or height, can effect your form and how you corner. Just a basic non-scientific rule I think works is doing a push up on the ground and measuring the edges of the outside of your hands. I run 740 mm to 730 mm width, 30 mm rise to 38mm rise depending on which bike. Bigger guys run wider bars than me obviously. Too wide, and you will not really have the ability to leverage the bike.

Sit on your bike in a neutral standing up position, wrists in line, and elbows up. Start with the bars and ignore putting your fingers on the brakes at first. Loosen the bars, and try a few different positions. Usually you want your bars the same angle as the fork, so look from the side.

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Jill rides in this vid produced by Evergreen, a grassroots mountain bike alliance that creates and protects sustainable trails in Washington State.

Ideal stem length: 40mm to 70mm for a trail bike, depending on your bike. 70 is still gonna put more weight over your front end. I run 50 on all bikes 45mm on DH.

Lever position: once you’ve got the bars all sweet, you want your index finger and wrists all in the same line. Some Dirtjump or BMX guys run the lever super far down, but that’s really only good for flat ground riding. The steeper the terrain, the higher the lever to keep things neutral and natural. Too high and your elbows will drop and your wrists will be all cocked, which isn’t really the strongest or safest way to ride. Sometimes we put a spacer under the bars or drop the fork out on steeper trails too to counter the weight distribution.

Photo courtesy
Photo courtesy

Two-finger braking is usually because of not being able to reach the lever, or it’s too close to the grip. All good brakes will have a reach adjustment. So wind in the lever enough so the very end of the lever is at the end joint of your index finger without doing anything. Having the brake too close to the grip can effect your elbow too, so slide the position of the brake to a good spot so you hold on to the edge of your bar, elbows are up, and your index finger is on that knuckle.

Shifter should be in a place that you don’t have to move anything except your thumb to engage it. Shimano XTR is super dialed. They made shorter brake levers and longer paddles on the shifter so it’s obvious which side goes where. I have to change old shifters around for chicks sometimes to accommodate small hands, but I’d say bikes are getting better and people seem a bit more savvy lately at the intermediate level.

More on Five Ten’s athletes here.