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  1. #1
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    Had first ride. Need help..

    Had my very first ride tonight in Cherokee Park single track. Went out with the local shop. Wow am I hurtin. Haha no worries but I seriously haven't had bruises and scrapes like this since I was 10 which was 20 years ago. Had an awesome time regardless I just want to get better. Got dropped but I was with a bunch of fast riders. Plus my suspension jammed up and needed to be taken back to the shop.

    My two big crashes came when I took a turn too fast and went straight. Cracked my head on a tree so my helmet paid for itself. The turn was flat and maybe 80 degrees. I am thinking I needed to be more aggressive with my body weight. The second crash I went straight over the handlebars. It was a drop of about 2 or 3 feet that immediately came straight back up and had a huge root on the left side so you only had 12 inches for the wheel and it had a 30 degree turn to the left curving around the tree with the root. I made it across the drop but my front tire hit half way up and over I went slamming into the mud pile that lined the right side.

    My real concern is what should I focus on getting better at that will have the highest payoff in the short term? I don't know what constitutes an easy trail vs a hard one. This one was never flat and roots everywhere but none more than 3 or 4 inches out of the ground. The roots really only got me when I lost momentum on the up hill. What are some key things that once you got the grasp of, your riding really opened up?

  2. #2
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    Focus on just getting more comfortable on a bike and with the varying terrain. The more you ride over roots, you will realize how to position your body, when to pull up on the bars, when to even hop a little bit. On corners like that, take them slow to start, and as you get more comfortable, you'll realize where to throw your weight to carry momentum.

    I haven't been riding as long as a lot of people (on and off for 4 years), but the easiest way to get better is to ride a lot and on varying trails. As long as you are having fun, you are doing it right.

  3. #3
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    Agreed Evilbeat....I would also say SLOW down! Enjoy riding, don't feel the need to keep up with a group just yet. I competed in a race after only a couple weeks of riding experience and got smoked by guys on Huffys, it was a terrible experience and I didn't enjoy it. Slowing down gives you the chance to retry obstacles (or avoid them).

  4. #4
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    +1 to slow down.

    Honestly, I think I've actually gotten better faster since deciding that I was tired of crashing all the time. The thing is that you don't have to punch giant holes in your handling envelope to make it bigger. As you get smoother, you can go faster and maintain control.

    What else... Brake early. I don't always do this myself, but I subscribe to the idea of braking then turning. You only have so much traction, especially off-road. So if you slow down to a speed at which you can complete a turn before you start turning, you can carry more speed through the turn. Which is what really counts.

    A lot of people say to practice the same trail a lot and really master it. I think they're onto something. The thing is, unless you're clairvoyant, you can't know how much speed you can carry through a turn. But if it's a turn you've taken before and take often, you'll get a pretty fair sense of what you can do. And that transfers pretty well to other trails, once you have it.

    The first thing the friend I started riding with told me was that if I could get my front wheel through something, the rear would follow. I'd observe that sometimes the rear follows on its side because I've fallen. But I'd say if I can get my front wheel over or around something, I'm 80% of the way to clearing that obstacle. What's left is more not getting in my own way.

    The second thing he told me was to "make my platform." People also call this the "attack position." That's putting my pedals at 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock. For a while, I was trying to put a certain foot forward in anticipation of turning in the other direction. I went to a skills clinic several months ago and took the opportunity to ask about that. The instructor says he doesn't see any elite riders doing that - they pretty much all lead with their dominant foot, whichever way they're turning. So I've given up some of the stuff I was doing when I turned, and I try to just stay relaxed. I can carry more speed through rougher turns lately. Go figure. I do often dip the foot that's on the outside, but I don't go all the way down to 6 o'clock - then I'm all out of motion, so if my wheels start to slip to the outside, I'm screwed. I pretty much just try to stay relaxed and let my legs and feet absorb shock and keep my bike tracking.

    Hopefully that's not too much stuff to work on all at once.

    tl;dr - Go to a trail that's a little bit of a challenge for you on your own, ride it a bunch.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  5. #5
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    Sounds like you jumped in at the deep end.... fast guys and a bit of "chunk" on the trail.
    Finding a "newbie ride" would be ideal. Riding in a group lets you learn from the others - if the pace and difficulty is such that you have a chance to keep up.
    You could also just go out on your own. Take your time getting the feel of the bike and trail. If a trail feature looks intimidating, walk your bike over it and OBSERVE. A bike will roll over a lot of stuff IF YOU DON'T DISTURB IT TOO MUCH.

    "it IS possible that you are faster or slower than anybody else who is having at least as much if not more or less fun"

  6. #6
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    A few things to consider:

    1) Don't go on a group ride and try to keep up when just starting out, you will get injured. See? You did...

    2) Get away from the singletrack at cherokee unless you are willing to take it slow and size up features before you roll them. For awhile, this will mean rolling too slow to navigate features, eyeballing them, backing up, then rolling them.

    3) Get out to Waverly. Clinic Loop is a great starter trail. Good visibility, wide where the hikers dare to go, no suprises in the narrow singletrack on the southeast side, no super narrow track on hillsides to grab your wheel and send you tumbling down. It will help you hone your skills and build strength, both which are useful for tackling intermediate features.

    4) Walk EVERYTHING you are not 90% positive you will clear.

    You are young, but no longer ten. Step back, take a deep breath, and enter at a slower pace. You will have a blast building your ability. No more trashed helmets! The next one is unlikely to be as forgiving as the last.

    Four years into off-road cycling, I'm jumping logs, riding rails, pumping berms, bombing and climbing rocky rooty singletrack, and I have yet to put a single scratch on my helmet. Having fun doesn't have to mean tempting death. Take it easy and you'll last longer.
    I will suffer no butt-hurt fools!

  7. #7
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    +1

    Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

    Another HUGE thing is to remember to look where you want to go. Look through blind corners, not just at them and scan the trail ahead of you. When you look well ahead of where you're going, Corners, apexes, and obstacles appear come at you slower.

    The other folks have hit just about every other point.
    Do Fun Stuff

  8. #8
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    Sounds like that trail has some obstacles that are not fit for a beginner. I would find a trail that is not as difficult and get comfortable on that. Going slow and focusing on practicing good technique by yourself is an excellent way to start. Looking ahead on the trail. Outside foot down and leaning the bike under you in a turn. One finger braking if you have hydraulics. Those are some quick tips that really helped me out.

  9. #9
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    AndrewSwitch has good advice. Maybe just a couple of things:

    Stay on your feet, if you are sitting you cant be light and you will hit things harder. It also lets you shift your weight.

    There is a youtube video that is often referenced here on how to go fast through turns.

    Follow other people's lines and speed definitely helps.

    to avoid endos keep your weight back. You might fall and hit your butt on your tire, but I find that it is better than endoing

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigflamingtaco View Post
    ...snip....
    Nice. Nothing better than local advice.

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  11. #11
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    Thanks All. Definitely some good advice and awesome to see some local advice.

    I will definitely have to go check out Waverly. Cherokee is tough because you can't concentrate on just one thing. I can't just practice turns because I have to focus on the roots and the up climb or a dip. Sounds like Waverly might be key. I think staying on the easier parts of Cherokee will be ok too, I just need to take my time. Even though I crashed a lot, I never felt like I was going to break my neck.

    I think staying up on my feet is definitely something I need to improve on. I was on the seat pretty much the entire time. I thought I was in good shape going into this but I can tell this is a different animal. Which I am stoked about. I wanted a good challenge and I like how I am zoned in the entire time.

    Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Heard that in a lot of things I have tackled. Always proved to be true.

    Spent a lot of time on YouTube beforehand and still doing so. At least now I have a frame of reference. I am excited to get back out. I think these next couple of rides my learning is really going to take off.

  12. #12
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    Just take it easy and enjoy it, if you're whacking yourself at every turn, it may turn into something that's not so fun. You'll wreck often enough, no need to rush into it
    We have met the enemy, and it is us. Pogo

  13. #13
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    Standing up, or getting into "the attack position", is definitely recommended whenever you go over a rough spot or downhill. Let the bike move under you, but keep your head going in straight lines or smooth curves.

    We've been telling you to slow down and take your time. The other side is: "speed will correct your mistakes", or words to that effect. If you slow way down, you are more likely to get stuck between roots, or in other depressions. Once you are pretty sure that a spot is ridable, maintain moderate speed while riding it.

    "it IS possible that you are faster or slower than anybody else who is having at least as much if not more or less fun"

  14. #14
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    there are plenty of videos on good basic techniques for climbing and descending roots/rocks and corning. A lot of the basic body position for corning and other techniques can be practiced on flat ground, preferably grassy areas. Get comfortable on your bike and get a feel for how it responds.Another important thing to consider is your fitment on your bike. A lot of beginners want to have their saddle all the way down as they feel safer being able to put their feet on the ground, however this will make climbing extremely difficult, your leg muscle will burn out quickly and could possibly lead to injury. Its also important that your weight is center over the bike properly. There are plenty of videos on youtube that will give a general idea on how to adjust saddle height and fore and aft position, your LBS can also help you with setup. You don't necessarily have to go for the post pedal efficient setup, as it may be super awkward at first and may not suit your riding style but its a decent starting point.

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