After the bunny hop, the second most important trick in all of BMX is the manual. Though conceptually simple-the front tire is lifted off the ground, and the rider balances the bike on its back wheel while coasting-learning to do a manual correctly can be difficult. But don’t be discouraged. Though it may take several hours of practice, soon you’ll be popping mile-long manuals like a pro!
The steps to performing a manual are very simple:
- To begin a manual, you’ll want to shift all of your weight to the back of the back. By forcing your center of gravity to just above the back hub, the front tire will naturally start to rise. To get the most out of this motion, work on using the momentum generated by shifting backwards to seamlessly lift the front tire and start the manual.
- Once you have the front tire up, you will automatically be in a crouching position over the back wheel. This is where balance and focus become critical. If you’re centered too far forward, the front tire will land back on the ground. If you’re centered too far back, you’ll loop out-flip behind the back of the bike-and possibly injure yourself. To keep the front tire up, focus on moving your weight back and forth to compensate for any lean. The more you practice manuals, the better feel you will have for exactly where your weight needs to be to keep the trick going. Also, you can use the position of your knees to compensate for leaning too far to either side.
Don’t look directly at your front tire. If you do, your body will automatically shift forward, and the front tire will start to go down. Instead, look just ahead of the bike by about twenty feet. Though it will feel unnatural to not watch the bike, once you’re comfortable with this, your manuals will last much longer, and will look better.
Also, try “winding up” when going into a manual. When you lean back to lift the front of the bike, first lean toward the handle bars, compressing your weight against the bars, before shifting back as hard as you can. This will give you more momentum, and more lifting force. Also, pedaling into a manual will give you a little more power in your lift. Just be sure not to continue pedaling once the bike is up!
That’s it! Though deceptively simple, this trick will take lots of hard work, so stay persistent, and keep with it. No one sweetspot-place where you’re weight is ideally centered-is the same for every rider, so finding your own ideal placement is key. Once you’ve got it, the trick will come easy, and you’ll be able to ride manual for hours.
Good luck, and happy riding!
Kevin Porter, “BMX Tricks: Manual.” Expert Village.