Your approach to a steep rock face is one of the keys to the success. It may go against your instincts but it’s best to have a bit of momentum on your side—easier said than done but a level of commitment is required if you’re going to succeed. The bigger the up-slope, the more momentum you’ll want to have. Smaller roll-ups may be approached at a fast jogging pace, bigger ones at running speed. You should be standing on the pedals with your arms relaxed and elbows bent— commonly referred to as the attack position. Pick your line at this point. In most cases it’s best to approach at 90-degrees to the upward slope. Taking a diagonal line may lessen the gradient but you’re more likely to lose traction and slide sideways.
This is the point that many will be fearful of—impacting the step. Unless you’re faced with a sizable vertical or overhung rock face, there’s no need to lift the front wheel. It doesn’t take too much – small rock at the base for example – to bump transition your front wheel upwards and onto the rock face. So don’t direct your energy into attempting to lift the front wheel—this can actually be counterproductive. Instead, let your relaxed upper body and arms to absorb the bump. Allow the bars to come up towards you as suck up the initial impact; you’ll maintain more of your momentum for the following stage and be less likely to get bumped off-line.
So you’ve sucked up the front wheel impact bending your arms. As a result your torso has shifted forwards. This is perfect as you need to have your weight forward on the bike at this stage. If you still had your weight back, there’d be no pressure on the front end and you’d either send the bike skyward or lose directional control. Standing with your weight forwards serves the dual role of unweighting the back wheel. Doing so will allow that wheel to make the transition onto the upslope with minimal energy loss—it’s a win-win move!
By this stage you’ve probably burnt off the all of your stored momentum and will need to get some power down through the drivetrain. Last thing you want is to stall at this point and pull some awkward rearward acrobatic move off the top! As you begin to pedal, transfer your weight rearwards to drive the tyre into the ground and maximise traction. Pulling up on the bars while driving hard through your pedals will assist and once the rear wheel is fully clear, you can resume a seated position and ride merrily off. As with any skill, start on smaller less intimidating rock roll-ups. Where possible, look for obstacles with an easy approach and exit; this minimises distraction and lets you focus on the one specific skill.