In a previous question it was explained to me that no cables pass under the top tube of my Specialized Hardrock, so that the bike is easy to shoulder.

Well, it isn't. The top tube is quite thin (V-shaped) and the only way I can pull this off for more than a couple of minutes is to place the bike exactly over the shoulder strap of my backpack. But maybe I am doing it wrong.

How to shoulder an MTB? Should the bike be parallel to the ground or vertical, or tilted? Are there some bike designs that are aimed to be carried (besides all light bikes) - maybe the cyclo-cross bikes? Are there any suitable preparations before leaving to a journey in the high mountains, where one will be passing very difficult terrain with the bike on the back?*

Very difficult for someone carrying a bulky bicycle and a backpack with food, at least. Summer weather, maybe muddy. About 2000 meters height. Crags and plenty of options to trip and fall.

  • 1
    I think shouldering is meant to be done over 5-10 meters of the trail where it's too hard to bike. If you're shouldering for "a couple of minutes" perhaps you're biking where you'd be much better off hiking in the first place.
    – Kibbee
    Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 15:36
  • 2
    @Kibbee: Some of the best "wild" trails I have ridden require short (up to 10 minutes) portages.
    – mattnz
    Commented Jul 4, 2013 at 21:04
  • 1
    @Kibbee, on a longer journey one has to decide bike or not. Many people make this trek on foot, and spend a month.
    – Vorac
    Commented Jul 5, 2013 at 9:21

4 Answers 4


When shouldering any bike, I always have my hand up next to my shoulder so it actually takes a large part of the weight, and it is key to stopping the bike bumping up and down on my shoulder (which is what seems to cause the most discomfort)

Additionally, make sure the top tube rests on the top of your muscle, not actually on your shoulder itself. Muscles cope easily with a metal weight - bones not so much.

Finally, I always tilt mine down slightly to the front, this way I can get the tube to sit really nicely on my muscle without the pedal bashing me in the back.

  • Rory, my backpack prevents me from putting the bike deep inside the shoulder, and it rests against the bone. Do you find this normal, or am I doing something wrong?
    – Vorac
    Commented Jul 6, 2013 at 8:24
  • That is a big backpack, @Vorac...I now understand your problem a bit better. Not sure what I'd do with that - perhaps take a neoprene pad to pop on your shoulder - one edge tucked under your pack strap - to take some of the impact of the tube on your shoulder.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Jul 6, 2013 at 13:33

I ride a lot of trails where it is almost impossible to ride up and sometimes not even practical to push the bike up, and it is easier to carry. I've got a full suspension mountain bike with no space inside of the triangle, so it is not possible to shoulder it. And carry a bike on my back, rather than on a shoulder. Bottom tube is resting on my shoulders with rear wheel on right from my head and front wheel on left from my head.

Like that:

Carrying bike on back

It helps if you have a backpack, as the bottom tube rests on it. After some practice you can have both of your hands free, while bike comfortably sits on pack. This way bike does not get in your way and you can hike quite a big distances.

UPD: This position is not the quickest to put the bike up, but I find it the most comfortable when climbing. To get the bike up, stand on non-chain side of a bike, place left pedal (closes to you) in the lowest position, grab with one hand the left crank and fork stantion with the other hand. Lift the bike over your head and on your shoulder/backpack.

  • Just ... wow! I shall try this! So the upper pedal points to your head (to provide maximum clearance for the bottom pedal) and your engaged hand is holding the fork of the bike, right?
    – Vorac
    Commented Jul 24, 2013 at 12:02
  • bottom pedal does not really on a way, so place top pedal wherever comfortable. One hand on the fork, another on bottom crank/pedal. See the guy in red on right/bottom on the photo.
    – trailmax
    Commented Jul 24, 2013 at 13:35

There are some designs that shoulder better than others. The slope of the top tube plays a big part in how well it carries. The greater the slope the smaller the triangle and the more difficult it is to get your arm between the frame. If you notice cyclocross frames have a near horizontal top tube. Shouldering the bike is an established part of the race. Looking at images of Hardrocks the toptube has a decent slope so my guess is it will never be comfortable to carry. You could try rigging a shoulder strap from the saddle to the stem. You will still have to deal with the nose of the saddle hitting you in the back.


Statistics of pushing mountin bike at a steep ascent/descent or/and very difficult terrain:

Activity           time-before-tired    stability    time-to-switch    speed-of-travel   clearance   1st-hand   2ns-hand
Ride               *                    *            **                *****             *           handlebars handlebars
Push               ****                 **           *****             *                 *           handlebars handlebars
Lean               *****                **           ****              *                 *           handlebars stem
Safe-push          ***                  ***          ****              *                 *           handlebars seat-tube
Low-carry          **                   ****         ***               **                **          handlebars seat-tube
Medium-carry       ****                 ****         **                **                ***         free       down-tube
Shoulder-carry     ***                  **           *                 **                ***         free       down-tube
High-carry         *                    **           *                 ***               *****       fork       seat-stay


  • Always strive to hold the bike near the center of gravity.
  • Holding the bike at the handlebars has the aim of controlling at lest one of the brakes.
  • The stability characteristic is important only on dangerous terrain. For example, if the bike hits a hidden bump and swing at you, pushing you at a void to you death, this is important.
  • The "time-to-switch" characteristic indicates the time to go to the position of holding your bike, ready to mount. This is important when the terrain is widely unknown and switching between riding/pushing/carrying happens very often.
  • Have fun!

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