Foot pegs – they’re like two tiny metal ottomans protruding from the bottom of your bike’s frame. But these little footstools are much more than a practical place to rest your feet or a convenient bottle opener – they also manuever your bike!
Standing up on the pegs while riding, simply shift all your weight to the peg that points out in the direction you wish the bike to move. Shift your weight to the right, your bike scoots over to the right. Shift to the left and the bike follows. Low speed or high speed - this is a particularly handy technique when trying to quickly dodge rocks, roots, and road kill.
Weighting the foot pegs will not only help you pick through a rocky section of trail, it can also help you successfully navigate a turn in the standing position. Standing through a turn in rough terrain allows the bike to absorb more of a beating than the rider and can also provide a better field of vision.
When traction becomes an issue, weighting a footpeg is essential in keeping the bike rubber side down. Mud can create greasy conditions and loose gravel over hard pan can feel like riding on top of ball bearings – by transferring body weight to the outside footpeg, it creates a counter balance that helps prevent the bike from sliding out underneath the rider (referred to as low siding or crashing). Of course there are other variables to factor in: speed, body position, tire selection, etc…learning turns has a learning curve – it takes practice!
Last, but in no way least, get in the habit of good foot placement on the pegs – more towards the ball of your feet than directly under the arch. This keeps your toes pulled up and back; preventing downed trees, stumps, or rocks from folding your foot into a fortune cookie. It also helps alleviate accidental down shifting and braking.
Being a (mostly) self taught rider of nominal intellect, I started riding with the peg centered under the arch of my foot. I simply didn’t know any better. This means with standard length controls I have to point my toes out to keep them off my brake and shift lever, making plowing through whoops or squeezing the tank with my legs a little awkward. It also torques my knees slightly, which might explain why they’re swollen and sore after a long ride. Or it could be the fact that they’re already loaded with Arthritis. Although it’s something I’ve been trying to correct in past years, I still find myself riding in this position on occasion. As the saying goes, bad habits are like a comfortable bed – easy to get into, hard to get out of.
So remember, foot pegs aren’t just two static pieces of metal where you rest your weary feet - they’re controls!