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Thread: Bike wranglin skills

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    Default Bike wranglin skills

    real talk- what skills are you going to improve this season?

    I discovered while riding with a weeknight group at a somewhat familiar Austin trail system these past two weeks that my weakest point is tight, twisty stuff. I can climb well and descend as well as I would expect on my bike, but I get left in the dust on the hardpacked, narrow, twisty sections with hairpin turns and those tight “berms”.

    I have to make a conscious effort to stay off the brakes and lean the bike into turns more. I slow down a lot because I don't trust my front tire to hook up at any more speed than what I have been carrying. I feel like I come out of turns too hot and must almost stop as I exit the turn to avoid barreling off the trail and into a tree. I must put a lot of work into accelerating after that and it never feels smooth at all.
    I often find that I am pleasantly surprised at how much traction and momentum I can carry through a corner if I stay off the brakes, but it's still not enough.

    of course, just riding more will be the key, but of what should I be consciously aware while navigating this stuff? I suspect it's mostly about moving your CoG around the bike, but I have no conclusions on anything that works for me yet.

    I was going to delve into bike setup, but I think that's irrelevant at this point. The group that kicked my butt has a huge variety of bike setups, some very different from mine. Maybe we'll get to that.
    Jonathan - Austin, TX

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    Default Re: Bike wranglin skills

    In Augusta we had this little summer week night local MTB TT series - a single hot lap around a 2.8 mile loop. Super tight and twisty, only two sections are what I'd call a straight, just turn after turn after turn. It was a great illustrator of what I already knew :: smooth is fast.

    If I did a lap where I felt like I was flying, right on the edge of traction in every corner, slipping and sliding a bit all over the place, it felt really fast, but it wasn't my best. My best times were when I stayed smooth, and flowed, with very little sliding around.

    I think of it like motor sports - your tires have a certain amount of traction. That traction can be used to corner, accelerate, or brake, or some combination of the two. But you can't use 60% of the traction to corner and 60% to brake at the same time.

    When I focus on doing all my braking before the corner, and stay off the brake thru the turn and out the other end, I go faster. It feels slower going in, but it's faster coming out, which is what matters.

    If I'm on the brakes going into the turn I tend to stay on too long, and by the time I let off I'm going a lot slower than I could.

    Slow in, fast out.

    Practice practice practice. One thing MTBers don't do enough of is deliberate practice. Find a good tight and twisty section, and ride it over and over and over again. Not lap after lap, but ride the section, stop, turn around, go back to the start, and ride it again. Rinse and repeat.
    Dustin Gaddis
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    Default Re: Bike wranglin skills

    Looking for more courage truthfully. Drops of sizes more than about 8-10 inches unnerve me for some reason even though I jump my bike on the regular. Makes no sense. I feel like once I build up, it will be easy for me, but the first one is the hardest.

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    Default Re: Bike wranglin skills

    Pay attention to this: When you apply the brakes and particularly the front brake, the bike is actually skidding, but at a "microscopic" level. The is particularly true when turning. The result is, the front wheel will want to take a wider arc through the turn than the rear wheel, and the bike as a whole will want to do the same thing, or the front wheel will tend to wash out.

    The solution is to use LESS if not NO front brake when making tight turns. You can more easily get used to, and control, rear wheel drifting if it happens. Going EASIER on the front brake will cause the front wheel to continue on the arc you intended when you entered the turn, which is obviously what you want.

    Same thing applies on the road. We all have a tendency to apply both brakes equally most of the time when in fact applying a majority of the braking force to one wheel vs. the other can often be advantageous.

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    Default Re: Bike wranglin skills

    I need to get better at jumping doubles. I get pretty bound up if I can't see the landing, even if I know what it's like. There's a little kicker at my "local" trail that sends me 15-20ft out depending on the kind of day I'm having. I can see the landing and it's no problem. There's also a series of doubles on a few trails that are 10-15 ft apart and it freaks me out every time. I'm going to take a crack at racing BMX for the first time in my 44 years this summer to try to get over it.
    Sean Chaney
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    Default Re: Bike wranglin skills

    My observation has been to “trust the engineers” by using far less brake in what I *perceive* are dicey situations.
    Many times the bike will find its way through challenging terrain via faith in the frame/suspension/wheels and keep going.
    Concur with all the other posts sharing that SMOOTH is typically faster than trying to crank out maximum force.

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    Default Re: Bike wranglin skills

    Like every season... I'm going to work on my manual. I still can't wheelie for more than 2-3 pedal strokes.
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    Default Re: Bike wranglin skills

    Quote Originally Posted by fortyfour View Post
    Like every season... I'm going to work on my manual. I still can't wheelie for more than 2-3 pedal strokes.
    I feel your pain. I like practicing in parking lots, using 'parking spaces' as my unit of measure. Rarely make it past 4 spaces.
    Dustin Gaddis
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    Default Re: Bike wranglin skills

    I don't know if this is a common struggle, but i have the habit of tensing up my legs when I manual (or try to). When I make a conscious effort to drop my heels as I pop the front wheel up settle my CoG behind the bike, it's easier to stay in that spot.

    My goal is not to manual around the block while I drink a Pepsi and make the girls swoon, although that would be rad as hell, but to confidently loft my front end over and around trail obstacles. Totally useful skill in that case.
    Jonathan - Austin, TX

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    Default Re: Bike wranglin skills

    Regarding braking, i don't do anything that would qualify as "downhill" so my brakes are there to scrub speed to a comfortable level. I wear out my rear pads faster than the front. Can I draw any meaningful conclusions about my riding style from this?
    Jonathan - Austin, TX

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    Default Re: Bike wranglin skills

    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    I don't know if this is a common struggle, but i have the habit of tensing up my legs when I manual (or try to). When I make a conscious effort to drop my heels as I pop the front wheel up settle my CoG behind the bike, it's easier to stay in that spot.

    My goal is not to manual around the block while I drink a Pepsi and make the girls swoon, although that would be rad as hell, but to confidently loft my front end over and around trail obstacles. Totally useful skill in that case.
    I can get that front wheel up to put it on stuff with ease. But I have to time it just right, 'cause I suck at picking it up and keeping it up and riding around that way, especially in a manual (aka no pedaling). Some of my BMX buddies back in college could (and still can) manual and/or wheelie for days. My buddy Cory visited a few years ago I took him MTBing and lent him my geared hardtail, he always rode BMX bikes and had never ridden singletrack or a 29er. He jumped on my bike and spent 15mins wheelieing (wheelying?) around the parking lot before I could get him into the woods.

    I think it's genetic, you either got it, or you don't.

    Here's the biggest log I've ever cleared :: SouthernWheelworks on Instagram

    And one more well timed lift :: SouthernWheelworks on Instagram: “#slomo is pretty sweet #MTB”

    As for wearing out rear pads first - I'm not sure what that says honestly. I always wear out front first, I pretty much always brake with both front and rear.
    Last edited by dgaddis; 03-23-2018 at 03:11 PM.
    Dustin Gaddis
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    Default Re: Bike wranglin skills

    What's funny is I can pop my front end up pretty easily and time the pop up to obstacles fairly well. Even being able to hold it in place mid air as I maneuver the rest of the bike into position. It's finding my balance point while moving with any amount of speed over a distance that's the tough part. Wheelies out on the trail over trail obstacles isn't a problem either. But the move, again, isn't sustained. I have a friend who can just wheelie for days. It can be practiced and learned, but man... sometimes the Wheelie Gene is more true than not.

    Another one I'm looking forward to is getting my big bunny hop back. I'm swapping over to being able to run 27.5+ on both of my hardtails. And I admit that I discovered while riding a bike last year that can take both 29" and 27plus that I was having decidedly MORE fun while riding 27 plus. So that means both hardtails are going full 27.5 x 2.8". And I can throw that bike around way more than I can a 29er. The ability to really pick the bike up and over obstacles is ridiculous with that wheel size.
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    Default Re: Bike wranglin skills

    Quote Originally Posted by fortyfour View Post
    What's funny is I can pop my front end up pretty easily and time the pop up to obstacles fairly well. Even being able to hold it in place mid air as I maneuver the rest of the bike into position. It's finding my balance point while moving with any amount of speed over a distance that's the tough part. Wheelies out on the trail over trail obstacles isn't a problem either. But the move, again, isn't sustained. I have a friend who can just wheelie for days. It can be practiced and learned, but man... sometimes the Wheelie Gene is more true than not.

    Another one I'm looking forward to is getting my big bunny hop back. I'm swapping over to being able to run 27.5+ on both of my hardtails. And I admit that I discovered while riding a bike last year that can take both 29" and 27plus that I was having decidedly MORE fun while riding 27 plus. So that means both hardtails are going full 27.5 x 2.8". And I can throw that bike around way more than I can a 29er. The ability to really pick the bike up and over obstacles is ridiculous with that wheel size.
    You're totally right...like any other skill, long wheelies are just time spent wheelie-ing. I can ride them forever, still can't manual though. What's that all about?

    The big bunnyhop is another one. Use it or lose it. I fear that skill has left me. 20 years ago in my trials comp days I could get over 40". The downed trees out here are usually much too big to even think consider it and I haven't had the opportunity to use it on a ride since 2005 (when I moved from MD). Incorporating a pedal stroke into a bunnyhop is another super useful skill that every mountain biker should try to learn. You sure don't need it often, but it's great to have in your bag when you do.
    Sean Chaney
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    Default Re: Bike wranglin skills

    Quote Originally Posted by VertigoCycles View Post
    You're totally right...like any other skill, long wheelies are just time spent wheelie-ing. I can ride them forever, still can't manual though. What's that all about?

    The big bunnyhop is another one. Use it or lose it. I fear that skill has left me. 20 years ago in my trials comp days I could get over 40". The downed trees out here are usually much too big to even think consider it and I haven't had the opportunity to use it on a ride since 2005 (when I moved from MD). Incorporating a pedal stroke into a bunnyhop is another super useful skill that every mountain biker should try to learn. You sure don't need it often, but it's great to have in your bag when you do.
    I should probably make the distinctioin as I understand it:

    - Manual is pulling the front wheel up and staying in that balance point but NOT pedaling.
    - Wheelies are pulling the front wheel up and pedaling to keep it there.

    I can't basically do either to good effect. I can manual for a few feet, which is all you "ideally" need out on the trail. Wheelies are a parlor trick. But I'd still like to have both in my back pocket!

    The good thing about bunnyhops is they can slowly be re-learned and constantly improved. My problem is clipless pedals really killed mine. I have to think about the movements right now to do a true bunnyhop, vs in the 90's I just did them without even thinking. I have to work on them to get them back so I've got the movement dialed. Sometimes I catch myself off-gaurd and I get way too far in the air and my landing sucks or because I've surprised myself I get wonky mid flight.

    What really helped my technical skills up and over rocks, logs and trail obstacles was teaching myself how to hop up steps because you learn to balance and position your body as it relates to your bike, and the object.

    "Pedal kicks" as I call them are a SUPER useful skill out on the trail. Especially here where we have so many rock walls that bisect trails. You really need to know how to pick up the front end and be able to set the front wheel down exactly where you want it and coordinate pedals strokes with forward momentum so you can smoothly get up and over obstacles.
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    Default Re: Bike wranglin skills

    All this talk of using less brake, more body english on the bike, regaining skills with flat pedals has got me thinking: what would happen if I set my bike up like a bmx bike? Flat pedals, seatpost slammed all the way down, rear brake only. I have yet to buy a dropper post, but I understand the benefit of such a thing.

    I am willing to try this at least once, but I would need to consider the affect on my body. I would probably end up being slower at first, then much faster than my normal pace, then slow down as I would fatigue more quickly than normal from not sitting. Or would I?

    More importantly, would riding 10+ miles or 2+ with almost no sitting at all, and definitely no seated pedaling, do to my body? Would that be murder on my back? I used to ride bmx and often had a sore back, but I never understood why.
    Jonathan - Austin, TX

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    Default Re: Bike wranglin skills

    I want to try flats on my FS bike this year. Captain Ahab is beyond my skill, but I gots to try more.

    Joe

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    Default Re: Bike wranglin skills

    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    All this talk of using less brake, more body english on the bike, regaining skills with flat pedals has got me thinking: what would happen if I set my bike up like a bmx bike? Flat pedals, seatpost slammed all the way down, rear brake only. I have yet to buy a dropper post, but I understand the benefit of such a thing.

    I am willing to try this at least once, but I would need to consider the affect on my body. I would probably end up being slower at first, then much faster than my normal pace, then slow down as I would fatigue more quickly than normal from not sitting. Or would I?

    More importantly, would riding 10+ miles or 2+ with almost no sitting at all, and definitely no seated pedaling, do to my body? Would that be murder on my back? I used to ride bmx and often had a sore back, but I never understood why.
    I always tell people if they really, truly want to learn how to bunnyhop, then need to buy a set of flats and practice with the saddle lowered a good handful of inches. That teaches you the natural rythm and technique of picking up the front end, pushing the bike forward and clicking the rear end UP. Learning those body movements are super critical and super useful. Even mastering a small hop makes you so much more fluid out on the trail. Once you have the movements down and they are second nature, the hop just keeps getting bigger.

    Your second point: Riding 10+ miles or even 2+ only standing? Ouch. I swapped over to a dropper only last season and I've found in short order my post is up and down constantly. It becomes second nature within a month of riding. You can ride with or without one. But if you want to work on your bunny hops out on trail, a dropper will make that happen a bit more fluidly. Most of the time spent on a BMX you're constanly setting your pedals level to get ready to bunny hop. So you're crouching or hunching your lower back. The only way to really rest between sessions while still being on the bike is to drop one pedal and cross your opposite knee over the top tube so you can stand up straight and distrubute your weight onto that pedal closest to the ground (I still do this out of habit on my mountain bike sometimes on long rides if I stand up and coast to rest). If I didn't ride BMX consistently, my lower back would get sore too. A lot of the newer bmx bars have a lot more rise to them to get the rider a bit more upright like they were in the 80's vs bars in the 90's were a bit more lower profile.
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