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  1. #1
    unrooted
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    Riding an AM Hardtail on DH trails

    I have an AM hardtail (Transition TransAm 29) and I really like it, but on really rocky-rooty trails I get thrown all over the place and have a hard time staying in control.

    So is this a limitation on the bike or the rider?

    Would having stronger legs/arms make a difference?

  2. #2
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    Are you riding clipped in?

    I have no problems on my Kona Honzo when it gets aggressive quick pointing downhill but learned that riding clipless helps me stay more in control, thus taking rougher lines knowing I will not get bounced around or slip a pedal.

  3. #3
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    Hard to tell without knowing the trail, or watching you ride.

    On my local DH trail, i have no problems following the fastest guys back. It's abit of a gamble, alot of near misses and abit over my comfort and safety zone. Easily something could go wrong! But the look on the face of the guy when im coming 1sec behind him in the end is priceless! Around medium difficulty.
    Altough, the last trail i rode, was so rough i had no chance at all to keep up with even 150/160mm bikes.
    I ride a 456Evo2 with 150mm travel

  4. #4
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    Probably rider, unless the DH trails are disgustingly bad. I used to take my XC/trail hardtail down the world cup DH track at Bromont every weekend and took it to Ste Anne as well. Yes it gets a bit hairy at times but today's AM hardtails are a lot more capable than the bikes I rode back then. As long as you have nice big tires along with good brakes and suspension, you shouldn't have any issues riding DH trails on an AM hardtail. It's just a matter of practice and confidence. I also found that clipless pedals help, they allow me to let the bike dance around more while still staying on the pedals.

    As for speed, there's no way you'll keep up with a DH rig or even an AM full suspension bike on a DH run that's as hard as world cup track. On the local DH runs which are shorter and far easier, I can stay with most FS riders on my bike and when they do beat me it's only by a handful of seconds and not whole minutes like it would be in Quebec. Over there, a DH bike will literally get to the bottom twice as fast.

  5. #5
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    This is one of the cases where I feel the bike can make a difference. I'm talking about the same rider using each type of bike - me on a 200mm bike vs Jinya on a HT is not a fair comparison.

    As the travel gets bigger, the rider can get sloppier. I have ridden my Honzo, my 170/160 trail bike, and full-on DH bikes down the local lift-accessed hills. All are doable on the HT, but I can go progressively quicker as I increase travel. On the HT, I have to pay very close attention to my line choice, or else I'm in for big trouble. I can hit the bigger, chunkier stuff a bit faster on the trail bike, and then again just a bit faster on a DH bike.
    Les grimpées, je m'en fou!

  6. #6
    unrooted
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    I am mostly thinking about Mammoth Mountain and Bootleg Canyon. I haven't wrecked... yet but I've certainly had a few close calls.

    I recently switched to this bike from a xc racer. I am currently running a 120mm Reba with a 20mm thru-axle.

    I'm going to swap my bars from 711mm x 20mm rise to a 780mm x 30mm rise, hopefully that will help a little bit.

    I would LOVE to have an AM/Trail FS bike, but I'm trying to save up for a down payment for a house!

    Maybe I just need to do more push-ups and lunges???

  7. #7
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    Lubes is just fast whichever bike he rides down hill. I say keep rocking the hardtail and get strong like bull. Plus it will teach you to float things and then when you put some suspension under you you will be silly fast.

  8. #8
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    Stay Hard

    Surely the bike can make the terrain feel smoother/easier, however, never having owned a FS rig and understanding what it's like to work with a budget I say stick with the hardtail and enjoy the challenge. I ride a Sinister Ridge with 150mm up front and since I moved to Utah and started riding more and more technical DH tracks in PC I feel I have a pretty good perspective on your issue. At first I didn't really enjoy the experience, lots of endo-ing as a result of being too nervous and grabbing the front brake; terrible forearm burn from riding too far forward and wrestling the front wheel through the chunder; sore ankles and lower back from the brutal impacts with every root/rock in my way. Now I can't wait to hit the old NORBA DH trail at the end of my 20 mile day. I say pick a trail that you feel uncomfortable on, one that really challenges you, and ride it more than you would like. Slam, and I mean SLAM, that seat, really let your ass hang out over the rear wheel as if you're trying to clean your shorts with the rear tire because of all "oh-s**t" moments that are inevitable. When you encounter sections of the trail that are rougher but maybe not as steep as others practice letting the front brake go, leaning back and letting bike track as it pleases instead of putting in the extra effort to try and find the smoothest line, sometimes more direct is better. As you learn the trail more and more and have your lines down look for ways to eliminate some of the obstacles. Boosting over root sections can be scary, but is much more exhilarating and can save you a lot of wear and tear. Ride from the hips, relax your arms and shoulders and think about letting the bike move around underneath your core rather than trying to place it with your arms. I also found going tubeless with wider and more burly tires at lower pressure (I run 28psi rear 30psi front) really helps. When you start get faster things will feel exponentially easier and less back-breaking with every ride. Then you get to show up at the bottom with a huge grin on your face and the knowledge that you're more of a man than all your FS riding brethren.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by aerius View Post
    Probably rider, unless the DH trails are disgustingly bad. I used to take my XC/trail hardtail down the world cup DH track at Bromont every weekend and took it to Ste Anne as well. Yes it gets a bit hairy at times but today's AM hardtails are a lot more capable than the bikes I rode back then. As long as you have nice big tires along with good brakes and suspension, you shouldn't have any issues riding DH trails on an AM hardtail. It's just a matter of practice and confidence. I also found that clipless pedals help, they allow me to let the bike dance around more while still staying on the pedals.

    As for speed, there's no way you'll keep up with a DH rig or even an AM full suspension bike on a DH run that's as hard as world cup track. On the local DH runs which are shorter and far easier, I can stay with most FS riders on my bike and when they do beat me it's only by a handful of seconds and not whole minutes like it would be in Quebec. Over there, a DH bike will literally get to the bottom twice as fast.
    I'm from BC, I agree you can ride down virtually any trails on a hardtail but no way you will be as fast as a FS on a proper DH run. What I hate the most is braking bumps, they really suck!

  10. #10
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    i think getting stronger will help, but at the end of the day its just a hard-ass proposition to ride a HT on gnarly terrain.

    I'll admit that even my XC zone that used to be so much fun and perfect on my HT now rattles my bones more than i'd like because it got incredibly eroded and bombed out after a TON of rain over the summer. Kindof makes me feel a little crotchety... "GETTIN TOO OLD FOR THIS SH*T!!" It just makes me want to reach for my overbuilt FS instead even for XC.

    I do a fair amount of strength training which helps a bit, but i think this is one area where technique trumps strength bigtime.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by sinisterridgerider View Post
    Surely the bike can make the terrain feel smoother/easier, however, never having owned a FS rig and understanding what it's like to work with a budget I say stick with the hardtail and enjoy the challenge. I ride a Sinister Ridge with 150mm up front and since I moved to Utah and started riding more and more technical DH tracks in PC I feel I have a pretty good perspective on your issue. At first I didn't really enjoy the experience, lots of endo-ing as a result of being too nervous and grabbing the front brake; terrible forearm burn from riding too far forward and wrestling the front wheel through the chunder; sore ankles and lower back from the brutal impacts with every root/rock in my way. Now I can't wait to hit the old NORBA DH trail at the end of my 20 mile day. I say pick a trail that you feel uncomfortable on, one that really challenges you, and ride it more than you would like. Slam, and I mean SLAM, that seat, really let your ass hang out over the rear wheel as if you're trying to clean your shorts with the rear tire because of all "oh-s**t" moments that are inevitable. When you encounter sections of the trail that are rougher but maybe not as steep as others practice letting the front brake go, leaning back and letting bike track as it pleases instead of putting in the extra effort to try and find the smoothest line, sometimes more direct is better. As you learn the trail more and more and have your lines down look for ways to eliminate some of the obstacles. Boosting over root sections can be scary, but is much more exhilarating and can save you a lot of wear and tear. Ride from the hips, relax your arms and shoulders and think about letting the bike move around underneath your core rather than trying to place it with your arms. I also found going tubeless with wider and more burly tires at lower pressure (I run 28psi rear 30psi front) really helps. When you start get faster things will feel exponentially easier and less back-breaking with every ride. Then you get to show up at the bottom with a huge grin on your face and the knowledge that you're more of a man than all your FS riding brethren.
    This is an awesome post! I was on the fence about going out riding today but I think I'm convinced lol

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by CarolinaPanthers View Post
    This is an awesome post! I was on the fence about going out riding today but I think I'm convinced lol
    Happy to hear I could help keep the stoke stoked! Stay hard and get some.

  13. #13
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    My Son and I took are HT's to Angel Fire, NM and had a blast. We were on Combi, Sierra, and a few other blue trails. I felt that I pushed my 180/160 XT w/Ice tech brakes a tad more then I had before but they still stayed quiet and worked. We rented DH bikes for one day but I had more fun on my bike. I also saw a few other HT's out there.

    Mark
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Riding an AM Hardtail on DH trails-rhson.jpg  

    2012 XXL Carve Expert

  14. #14
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    I just started riding again this year, on a 120mm Cube HT.

    I had great fun on all types of terrain with it, and basically went flat out down the tracks local to me.

    However I have replaced it with a 130mm FS and while I cannot say I am any faster on it, I definitely have an easier time riding on rough terrain.

    So both bikes were great fun. But as the rear suspension can be locked out on my FS I think it is the best of both worlds.

  15. #15
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    I ride FS most of the time. I built a HT up for a winter/training bike and went and rode the roughest trail nearby, and thought I was going to die! My teeth got rattled out of my head. I was totally shocked how rough the root sections were on the HT. It had been on FS for nearly 10 years until this ride. Now I know why. You just have to go way slower on a HT. That's what it comes down to for me. Speed. Max speed on a HT is like 2/3 that of a FS bike.

  16. #16
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    Down to the rider. And rider's skill.

    Fort William wc track has been hardtailed lot's, take into account these are not wc racers.
    Steve Larkin i think did it in 6.38
    Jesse Wigman i think has done 5.52
    My best was 8.20.

    To Qualify for the 80 places in wc racing you really need to beat 5.50 and you might scrape in.

    For giggles, i tried the lower half on a v-braked rigid, decided i was too old and v-brakes got overwhelmed by the speed......scary fun.
    Jesse did race the DH enduro, 13 laps back to back in 6 hours, his fork packed up so he raced a rigid forked old spesh P-series, took him 11-12 mins to get down, no one wanted to be overtaken by a rigid raider

    The trick is speed, the faster you go (whatever bike) down Fort William then the smoother the ride.

    I am not as skilled or brave as some so i get pinged about in the rocks and ruts, but still have a laugh.
    Did try an SX Trail, faster got down to 7 min mark, still took a beating, not as much fun.
    I ride and race for giggles.

  17. #17
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    You can milk anything with niples

  18. #18
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    All in the skill. The best and fastest ht rider can be even faster on a fs. It takes more skill and quick decision making to be fast downhill on a ht. Have to remember to use legs and arms as suspension.
    The torture ends now.

  19. #19
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    I suppose it depends on the trail. I ride a HT. And I got a chance to ride a KONA Coilair. It felt very similar in terms of stability. But much slower steering. Pretty much just rolls over anything and can hit stuff without batting an eye. Just pedal and steer...

    I'd be able to ride whatever I'm able to ride on either bikes. But the Coilair would need more speed for the technology to really come into the sweet spot. That's about the time that I would most likely limit my speed on my HT.

    One of our mini epic trails we have locally has a lot of people coming on their 6x6 bikes. After an hour of climbing, they drop their seat and bomb down it. I have my seat still in climbing position and I'm right behind them. Now, when things get really narly with big complicated root drops...well, I've learned fear in the past 3 years and so I used to huck those and now I'll just roll 'em.

    I chased a Nomad down some trails in CA. On the fast stuff, I kept up on a HT. On the steeper, more technical runs, I actually went faster. This was more due to rider skill. The big Nomad needed speed to come into its own. But going a little slower than optimal and it just becomes a cumbersome bike. With the HT, I'm used to bouncing around, sliding and generally not always in contact with the terrain, so I was able to ride by faith more and tolerat the front and back end constantly moving around. I'm sure if I were on the Nomad, I'd let go of the brakes and let that expensive technology do its work and concentrate on point the sled in the right direction...
    Just get out and ride!

  20. #20
    Ride On
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    I think it depends where you ride. I rode Mt Tzouhalem in Duncan BC this past weekend (first time) on the N9, it was great (except the literally last jump - lack of skills though not bike).

    The 'Zoo' is a very flowly mountain though, rocks and roots are the exception (for a BC trail). Though it can be very steep and technically challenging. Its also a shorter climb to get to the fun. That helps a LOT with an HT. I find that when my anaerobic capacity is down I have a real hard time keeping control of the bike on the downs at speed. It helps to have strength left in the "rear suspension" for the ride down.

    Its also a very different riding style. I run a 120mm fork and set up at the bar height to be about level with the seat. I'm now thinking of going back to the the -6 deg stem vs the very aggressively dropped Flatforce to give me more room to allow greater fork compression without feeling like I'm diving forward too much. Since there is no rear sus I want my fork to take the big hits and then un weight the rear slightly to ease the rear hit. Doing this puts extra weight on the bars hence more fork compression. The alternative is to run higher pressure or more compression in your fork but at the expense of using all available travel. In a nutshell a taller front end on an AM hardtail would allow me to maintain a more predictable geometry during aggressive dh riding. At the expense of easier climbing but it wasn't much worse with the higher stem and I prefer the tradeoff.

    I posted about riding the N9 in Cumberland before, if I were to do the same trails there again it would most definitely be on a full sus. That long climb leaves little in reserve for human suspension.
    Michael

    Ride on!

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