Stop And Stretch
Stretching helps flexibility and comfort yet it's often overlooked by cyclists. All it takes though, is thinking of it and taking a break to loosen up (we don't recommend on-the-bike stretching because you might crash). One great stretch for the back that's easy to do is standing straight, raising your arms over your head and reaching as high as you can. Hold this position for thirty seconds or so and you'll feel much looser. Also, bend your neck to both sides and to the front and back and hold for a few seconds in each position to ease any tightness. To relieve pressure on the hands and arms that causes fatigue and pain, every few miles remove one hand at a time from the bars and shake it out by your side.
Another good relaxation techniques is monitoring your breathing. Many athletes tense up when exercising and actually hold their breath, which increases muscle tension and fatigue. If you can exhale completely every few minutes and draw in deep breaths of fresh air, you'll help your muscles relax and remain fresher.
On warm rides, a great pick-up is washing the face, neck, hands and arms with cool water (usually available on organized rides; or stop at a store). This will remove any salt, cool the skin and feel great.
Always Hook A Thumb
While it's important to relax your body to smooth the ride, don't mistake relaxation for a lackadaisical approach to safety. Be sure to keep a secure grip on the handlebars at all time, especially as trails get rougher. Remember to always keep at least one thumb hooked beneath the handlebar. It'll prevent your hands from slipping off the bars, a dangerous mishap that can occur if you grip without hooking a thumb.
Softer May Be Better
Finally, something that can make it much easier to relax is using lower tire pressure when riding off road. This will soften the tires helping to absorb shocks from the trail and keeping them from reaching your body. Many cyclists ride with 50 to 60 psi but a pressure of 34 to 40 will feel much more comfortable as well as provide better traction and control.
Stop And Stretch