1. The most important thing about buying a new bike is to make sure it fits. The only way you'll know if the bike is right for you is to size up the bike and make sure that the bike's geometry matches your body's geometry. Ask questions and do some research.
mtn. biking 101
2. If possible, try to find a shop that will let you demo the bike on real dirt. Five minutes in a parking lot won't cut it. You wouldn't buy a car without a real world test drive, and a bike should be no different.
3. Don't belive the hype. Just because your favorite rider or best friend rides a certain bike, that doesn't mean that's the best one for you. Have an open mind and be realistic about your needs and ability.
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  1. #1
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    Been on a Tri bike for 4 years.

    Hey All,

    Noob question here. I have been riding a triathlon bike for the last four years. Spent most of my time on a trainer with the exception of my races and one day a week on the road. This was due to getting hit by a car (twice) but that's another story.

    I know that I'm way behind in the handling department. How long before most folks start getting the hang of the mountain bike and handling?

    I hope to ride twice a week at our local parks. First ride the weekend after Christmas.

    Am I doomed? Or can I see a light? Ha.

    ** I have many years of road riding under my belt. But I'm an old fart.

    Tony

  2. #2
    No Stranger to danger....
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    Tone mate, you'll be fine.

    Handling a mountain bike if you have been on a tri bike will be a piece of cake, actually imho, mountain bikes are easy to handle and you will pick it up in no time at all, you can put that in da bank.
    looking forward to hearing a few updates, just make sure you get the right bike for you and you are sized up correctly, thats the most important thing, do your research and you will be totally sweet.
    cheers n happy christmas mate....
    Dont ever let the truth get in the way of a funny story....

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the reply. Well I have a Giant Trance 2. Been sitting in my garage since 2009. I'm a towering 5'4". I'm hoping it's the correct size for me. I'm still not totally schooled on mountain bike sizing, geometry and basics on components but I figure that the Trance is way more bike than I can handle anyway.
    For now I'm reading up on basic setup for my seat height and bar setup. Don't want to over think it but the bars seem crazy wide.
    Considering that I'm coming off a Tri bike I guess that's expected.

  4. #4
    No Stranger to danger....
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    How wide are your bars, and what size is your bike? by the way the trance is a great bike
    Dont ever let the truth get in the way of a funny story....

  5. #5
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    Roadracer, welcome to the dark side.

    I have a road biking friend who recently got into mountain biking as well. This is the advice I gave him:

    -Be dynamic on the bike. On a road bike, you just lock yourself in most of the time until a sprint. But trails need body english.

    -When cornering on dirt, never lean your body more than your bike. You will wipe out. Swing your inside knee out a little to give you room enough to lean the bike underneath you. My friend had a bunch of close calls before this idea clicked. The road has so much traction that road riders will lean in the same plane as their bikes in a corner. Don't do this in dirt.

  6. #6
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    Tone's bike is a small. Bars are about 25 inches wide.

    Zuarte, thanks for the advice. I need all the help in can get. I'll keep that in mind. Hope to keep the rubber side down. Most of the time anyway.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by roadracer618 View Post
    Tone's bike is a small. Bars are about 25 inches wide.

    Zuarte, thanks for the advice. I need all the help in can get. I'll keep that in mind. Hope to keep the rubber side down. Most of the time anyway.
    You should be good on that bike. If it does feel cramped, move the seat back and the handlebar forward using a longer stem. At 5'4" it should be easy for you to manhandle that small bike to do whatever you want.

    If you want even more space, consider an offset seatpost to move the seat even further back.

    Like Zuarte said, you have to lean the bike and not so much your body. Ride it like a motocross bike and try to keep your body more upright than the bike by leaning your torso towards the outside of the turn.

    -S

    P.S. I'm 5'5" and fit nicely on "L" frames...it all depends on your personal preference of fit.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by shibiwan View Post
    You should be good on that bike. If it does feel cramped, move the seat back and the handlebar forward using a longer stem. At 5'4" it should be easy for you to manhandle that small bike to do whatever you want.

    If you want even more space, consider an offset seatpost to move the seat even further back.

    Like Zuarte said, you have to lean the bike and not so much your body. Ride it like a motocross bike and try to keep your body more upright than the bike by leaning your torso towards the outside of the turn.

    -S

    P.S. I'm 5'5" and fit nicely on "L" frames...it all depends on your personal preference of fit.
    Thanks. Wow a "L" frame. That's interesting. I'm going through some basic setup..
    I found the rear shock was complete stiff. I'm working on setup and learning more about the shock and forks. It reminds me of my motorcycle racing days.
    Stem is a 90mm and I have room for the seat to slide back. I have some room for growth.

    I also have spacers under the bars. I can go down if I feel like I need to go more aggressive. But not yet.....

  9. #9
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    Set your bike up for comfort. Even if you're racing, I think that's the best approach - I know I'm not as fast when my back is mad at me. Generally, it's best to adjust cockpit length with different stem sizes. You can also experiment with having it higher and lower in the spacer stack, and flipping the stem.

    Most of your weight should be on your feet. Especially off-road. You should have almost no weight on your hands, in general, and you can have some weight on your butt, whatever makes you most efficient and comfortable. Otherwise there'd be no saddle. Look for a cockpit setup such that with the saddle at the right height for good leg extension, neither the saddle nor the handlebars are pushing or pulling you forward or backward. Basically, you shouldn't be fighting the bike. Based on my understanding of setup of a time trial bike, this is going to be a fairly different weight distribution.

    As far as learning to ride off-road - the basics don't take long. Your rear wheel will pretty much follow your front wheel, so to begin with, just navigate your front wheel through everything. Something you can add to that pretty early is trying to take some weight off the rear wheel before it hits an obstacle or dip you've navigated with the front. When you're feeling comfortable on the bike, read about bunny hops, manuals and wheelies. These will help you to be more efficient on technical trails, but they actually don't come up a huge amount. I see them as being more intermediate skills, something to work on when you're a bit more comfortable and have hit that first plateau.

    Small sounds like the right bike size. Often smaller sizes are illusory anyway, so don't sweat it. The bars sound pretty big to me too. There are two poles in handlebar setup, and I think most people fall in between. Old-school was fairly narrow bars, on the order of 18" I think, and really long stems. That's fallen into disfavor lately because it made for an unstable handling feel and a heavy front end. Lately, more technically-minded riders have been riding with really wide bars and really stubby stems, like your bar width or even wider, and 60 mm and shorter stems. Depending on some other stuff, this can go with a more upright riding position or not. I think most XC and trail riders fall somewhere in between - wider bars than in the '80s for better stability and a bit more breathing room, but narrower than what a lot of AM/FR/DH guys are doing.

    Bottom line is, experiment. You can slide your grips further in on the bars to try a narrower position without cutting, so you have the freedom to play with it for a while before you do something irreversible. Don't be afraid to try different stems, too. I try to buy them from a used bin at one of my shops, for $10. I don't mind spending $10 on an experiment, but it would get very expensive very fast to experiment with retail-priced stems.

    Good luck!
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  10. #10
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    Thankyou

  11. #11
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    Used stems are great. Another good stem to get if you're still finding your fit is an adjustable one. I have a short (80mm) adjustable stem that I keep around that I use when getting a new bike. I mess with the angle etc to find what's best for me and then finally get a stem that matches the adjustable stem as much as possible.

    This is the one I got because it was cheap.......


    ....and when all was said and done, I swapped out to a Specialized Comp-Set stem that still gives me a few more degrees of adjustability.


    Also came across this adjustable stem (LOOK Ergostem) recently that allows you to experiment with both angle and reach but it seems pretty pricey...



    -S

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    ...

    Most of your weight should be on your feet. Especially off-road. You should have almost no weight on your hands, in general, and you can have some weight on your butt, whatever makes you most efficient and comfortable. Otherwise there'd be no saddle. Look for a cockpit setup such that with the saddle at the right height for good leg extension, neither the saddle nor the handlebars are pushing or pulling you forward or backward. Basically, you shouldn't be fighting the bike. Based on my understanding of setup of a time trial bike, this is going to be a fairly different weight distribution.

    ...
    Nailed it with this one for biking over rough terrain. Set up your bike so that when you're coasting over rough stuff, you can stand all your weight on your pedals. Let the bike pivot and rotate around the bottom bracket.

    And check out that thread called "mtb skills videos" or something. There are some great lessons in there to get started with.

    Ones that come to mind are:

    Essential Mountain Biking Skills - YouTube

    HOW TO MOUNTAIN BIKE: World's Best Downhill Mountain Bike Lesson - YouTube

    Hey Coach! Ep. 1 - Cornering on Vimeo

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by shibiwan View Post
    ...

    P.S. I'm 5'5" and fit nicely on "L" frames...it all depends on your personal preference of fit.
    That's awesome!

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zuarte View Post
    Nailed it with this one for biking over rough terrain. Set up your bike so that when you're coasting over rough stuff, you can stand all your weight on your pedals. Let the bike pivot and rotate around the bottom bracket.

    And check out that thread called "mtb skills videos" or something. There are some great lessons in there to get started with.

    Ones that come to mind are:
    rl]
    Watched a couple yesterday. Great stuff!

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    Set your bike up for comfort. Even if you're racing, I think that's the best approach - I know I'm not as fast when my back is mad at me. Generally, it's best to adjust cockpit length with different stem sizes. You can also experiment with having it higher and lower in the spacer stack, and flipping the stem.

    Most of your weight should be on your feet. Especially off-road. You should have almost no


    Small sounds like the right bike size. Often smaller sizes are illusory anyway, so don't sweat it. The bars sound pretty big to me too. There are two poles in handlebar setup, and I think most people fall in between. Old-school was fairly narrow bars, on the order of 18" I think, and really long stems. That's fallen into disfavor lately because it made for an unstable handling feel and a heavy front end. Lately, more technically-minded riders have been riding with really wide bars and really stubby stems, like your bar width or even wider, and 60 mm and shorter stems. Depending on some other stuff, this can go with a more upright riding position or not. I think most XC and trail riders fall somewhere in between - wider bars than in the '80s for better stability and a bit more breathing room, but narrower than what a lot of AM/FR/DH guys are doing.

    Bottom line is, experiment. You can slide your grips further in on the bars to try a narrower position without cutting, so you have the freedom to play with it for a while before you do something irreversible. Don't be afraid to try different stems, too. I try to buy them from a used bin at one of my shops, for $10. I don't mind spending $10 on an experiment, but it would get very expensive very fast to experiment with retail-priced stems.

    Good luck!
    Thanks for all the pointers. I have a few spare stems from my road bikes and a 60mm in my spares. I think it's a -6. Also found a 70mm that belongs to one of my sons that I can borrow for testing.

    Seat height. In Tri racing and road bikes in general seat height is always a major talking point. I don't plan on any downhill biking and I'm in South Florida.

    Seat height? Should it be similar to my road bike?.

  16. #16
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    As a starting point, you can copy seat height from your road bike. But as with all aspects of setup, play with it. The stack height of your shoes is likely to be a little different and if you settle on a different riding position, that effects saddle height some too.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  17. #17
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    I like to move my seat on occasion to work different muscles and tend to like it on the low side.
    Most riders I see have their seat way up high like their standing up while on their seat. I don't
    like the handling with a high seat, but it seems most other riders do. I like a long stem with spacers on top for climbing, but hate it when I drop off stuff or go down steeps, so I kinda go in the middle
    with the stem length like 90-100mm. I doubt any 2 riders will ever have the same setup as we all know. The trails you ride will make the most difference in how you'll want to adjust all that.

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