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.
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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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    Mountain Biking on a rigid frame, Need tips!

    Hi, I'm pretty new to biking off-road and I have a few concerns that I'd love to have answered

    First off, I have an ancient Trek Mountain Track 800, this bike has no shocks whatsoever and it's a bit heavy too...because of this I get a bit scared to go down any descent where I could lose control.
    1. I'm afraid that on a rigid frame like mine, that there is no room for error and no leeway.
    2. I'm afraid that if my bike hits the wrong rock, hole, or gets wedged in a water dip, that I'll lose control of my bike and get tossed off.
    3. I don't really know what my bike can and can't do, but I don't know how to tell unless I personally try it, but since I'm not good, I can't see what it's capable of.

    Second, is it even possible to truly mountain bike with a bike like mine? I'd hate to have to buy a new one...however I am looking at some Specialized mountain bikes, but I prefer not to spend the money now.

    LAST OF ALL, If there are any of you who do mountain biking on rigid frame bikes, can you tell me how to best set up my bike to be ready for off road? it'd be even nicer to see a video of a rigid frame mountain biking.

    This is my Trek Mountain Track 800
    Mountain Biking on a rigid frame, Need tips!-1057817_10201627494753458_161182540_n.jpgMountain Biking on a rigid frame, Need tips!-1001132_10201633752469897_692504302_n.jpg

  2. #2
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    Just ride it and, at first, take it slow. Build up your skill, confidence and speed over time, and decide later if you want something else.

    I personally ride a rigid singlespeed 29er and a cyclocross bike (also rigid) in addition to a hardtail with a 100 mm fork. While front and/or rear suspension certainly have benefits, for XC riding the difference isn't as dramatic as most make it out to be. That said, I'm sure someone can come up with an anecdote to counter this.

    My general advice would be to inflate your tyres as low as you can go without excessive pinch flats (this pressure is dependent on your weight, tyres and your riding style). Lower pressure will give you more grip and a better ride. If I were going to ride that bike, I'd probably go for a large front tyre in the 2.3-2.4" range (assuming it fits in that fork) paired with a rear tyre in the 2.1-2.2" range, and at my weight (70kg/155lbs) I'd start with 22-24psi in the front and 25-28psi in the rear.

    Oh, and I also have an old purple Trek:

    Dave
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  3. #3
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    "1. I'm afraid that on a rigid frame like mine, that there is no room for error and no leeway."

    go read the single speed forum for a while. lots of people ride technical trails on a rigid fork. you will be fine. your bike is pretty old, and when that bike was new, it's the kind of bike that every mountain biker was using to get rad on the trails. in fact, they used repurposed beach cruisers originally: Klunkerz History of Mountain biking - Trailer - YouTube you will be somewhat limited on your bike, but more so by your abilities and confidence. those will come with time.

    proof- Pic Request. Rigid 29ers in action granted most of these shots are of riders on modern bikes with 29" tires, but it makes the point that you don't need suspension.

    "2. I'm afraid that if my bike hits the wrong rock, hole, or gets wedged in a water dip, that I'll lose control of my bike and get tossed off."

    this is what is commonly known as "mountain biking." excuse the sarcasm, but that kind of uncertainty and danger is what makes it fun! you will get tossed off sometimes, it happens to all of us. stay loose and know your limits.

    "3. I don't really know what my bike can and can't do, but I don't know how to tell unless I personally try it, but since I'm not good, I can't see what it's capable of."

    go ride it. take it slow.

    as for your bike, it's very old and outdated. technology has changed a lot. can you ride trails on this bike? absolutely! would you have an easier time on a newer, more modern bike? of course you would. just like any manufactured product (cars, computers, phones, cameras, etc), new things generally work better than their older counterparts. new bikes have smooth suspension, better shifting bits, more durable parts, stickier tires, weigh less, etc.

    if you want to make that bike trail-worthy, get it tuned up. get some new tires, the fattest, knobbiest tires you can fit in the frame and fork. get the brakes working well, new pads if necessary. new grips might help a lot too. don't sink too much into it because you're not going to get much out of every dollar you put into it.

    the best use for an old bike like that, if and when you have the option to get something more modern, is usually to put slick tires and use it as a commuter/bar-hopping/ neighborhood bike/ spare bike.

  4. #4
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    Good post, mack_turtle. I second pretty much everything you said.

  5. #5
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    I started out on a ridged 20+ years ago, and rode many of the trails that I still ride on my FS. One thing you will/should learn is to keep your front wheel light over obstacles. You will want to shift your weight rearward so that your front end will float over the rough stuff. As mentioned, tune it up, and get out there and ride!

  6. #6
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    Just remember, that when you ride a rigid, you still have suspension. It is your arms and legs and body.

  7. #7
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    I would get (do) a full service and make sure everything is adjusted and torqued to specs. Check tires for cracking, cuts, or wear and replace as needed. They have enough knobs, from the look of it, to provide enough grip for your skill level. Meaning, if you are going too fast for them to grip, you were probably going too fast for a newer/grippier tire as well. I would get new pedals. Something that will help keep your feet planted. Clipless if you want to learn, but, a flat with pins will probably make you more comfortable at first. I'm also not sure how old the brake pads are. I would scotchbrite/lightly sand the rim contact area and get some new brake pads (koolstops seem to provide good bite and modulation).

    All of that said, that bike seems perfect for you as an introduction to mountain biking. Get on the trails and ride at a pace you feel comfortable with. The climbs will provide conditioning and the downs will give you some handling skills. Rigid helps you learn to stay loose and pick smooth lines. I started on a newer hardtail recently (Trek 6700) and then moved on to a rigid singlespeed. I preferred the rigid fork and what it taught me was to stay loose. When you feel comfortable with that bike, you will be able to fully appreciate a newer ride.

  8. #8
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    I started mountain biking on a rigid bike. I used it on all kinds of rough terrain. I actually kind of miss that bike. It was a 1996 (or so) Gary Fisher. I could do anything on that bike that I can on the 29er hardtail I've been riding lately - just with less comfort.

    The main advantage to the suspended fork in my opinion is less jarring to the wrists. I don't think a shock will allow you to do more but only to hit bumbs with thess stain to your hands and wrists. I used to get bad tendonitis in my wrists and hands from baking during rocky decents. If you ride enough your body adapts.

    My bike before that was a 3-speed beach cruiser. I had to walk the steep parts but had a lot of fun on that bike.
    Last edited by Dung Hopper; 07-03-2013 at 06:34 PM.

  9. #9
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    I ride vintage rigids all the time. I think it's great fun. I love seeing ahead and picking lines.

    Anyhow, crashing is kind of part of mountain biking and don't find myself crashing more on rigid bikes than hardtails or even going out of control more. I think it's all part of getting used to biking.

    If I were you, I would ditch the reflectors, change the pedals and maybe change the tires if they are wire beads. And it's conditioning too. Get more miles under your belt and then maybe you'll feel more in control of things.

  10. #10
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    The rider makes the most diffreence on what a bike will handle. Look at some youtube videos of Danny Macskill .

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by rangeriderdave View Post
    The rider makes the most diffreence on what a bike will handle. Look at some youtube videos of Danny Macskill .
    So true.

    I started riding in 1992. My first bike was a Trek 820. So I am familiar with your vintage 800. After six months I got a Trek 930-also rigid. Outgrew the 820.

    In 1992 *everyone* rode rigid. The forks were marginal back then and rear suspension was just a concept. We all had a blast and rode everywhere. Then in late 1995 I got a fork and it did make a difference. More control and comfort. To this day I prefer my HT even tho I also own a FS bike.

    Up until five years ago I had a rigid which I enjoyed. Gave it to my dtr in law when I built my FS.

    Welcome to the sport! Enjoy, learn and grow!

  12. #12
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    Rad on Riged

    As you can read here, those of us who started riding before 1992 or so all started on rigid bikes, and as you can see in this circa 1990 shot of John Tomac, he rode more rad on a rigid bike with DROP BARS than a lot people do today on freeride bikes.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Mountain Biking on a rigid frame, Need tips!-tomac.jpg  


  13. #13
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    theres a video
    you can ride anything on any bike but the speed and technique will change.
    Your skills on the fully rigid will become better than on any FS or HT, just get a good pair of grips and gloves and a good seat, also you could want some wider tires maybe 2.1 in the front and back for better traction and more comfortable to ride. don't use too much air pressure!!

  14. #14
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    Some of what you're dealing with might just be inexperience. Try to keep your arms loose and use your legs to soak up impact. Try to learn how to weight and unweight the bike. I started mountain biking on a bike similar to that one.

  15. #15
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    that is the right technique also dont be too hard on brakes

  16. #16
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    Forgot to mention that when you're going downhill, maybe you're feeling out of control because your weight is too far forward. Get off of your saddle and get behind it.

    I think Brian Lopes has a beginning book that can help you with some basic technique.

  17. #17
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    For videos.You can visit the youtube website and search it.there are lots and lots of it about mountain biking.just for once,get to it.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by jetboy23 View Post
    I would get (do) a full service and make sure everything is adjusted and torqued to specs. Check tires for cracking, cuts, or wear and replace as needed. They have enough knobs, from the look of it, to provide enough grip for your skill level. Meaning, if you are going too fast for them to grip, you were probably going too fast for a newer/grippier tire as well. I would get new pedals. Something that will help keep your feet planted. Clipless if you want to learn, but, a flat with pins will probably make you more comfortable at first. I'm also not sure how old the brake pads are. I would scotchbrite/lightly sand the rim contact area and get some new brake pads (koolstops seem to provide good bite and modulation).

    All of that said, that bike seems perfect for you as an introduction to mountain biking. Get on the trails and ride at a pace you feel comfortable with. The climbs will provide conditioning and the downs will give you some handling skills. Rigid helps you learn to stay loose and pick smooth lines. I started on a newer hardtail recently (Trek 6700) and then moved on to a rigid singlespeed. I preferred the rigid fork and what it taught me was to stay loose. When you feel comfortable with that bike, you will be able to fully appreciate a newer ride.
    I did have my dad take a look at my bike and tune it up a bit *since he used to work on bikes a lot and built numerous mountain bikes for himself* and I was surprised, a long time ago, I remember riding around a creek trail where there was almost completely rocks the size of fists, the problem wasn't the riding, but the long term problems with misalignment, particularly with the derailleur. We got most of the bugs worked out pretty good, but is there any way to protect the gearing system from getting all messed up?

    As for the pedals, I can keep my feet planted, but probably in a way that might not be the best? I have caged pedals, so going up-hill it seems to be great! however it's a pain in the ass to flip my foot in the cage all the time since my foot doesn't always go in the first time. and safety wise...if i need to get my foot off faster, that cage could be problematic I assume.

  19. #19
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    This is a video of the place I'm going mountain biking. Coyote Hills Regional Park, there are a lot of people who mountain bike here who live in the area, it has a variety of difficulties *well if you include all the "non-bike" trails*

    Mountain Biking Coyote Hills Fremont, California (fork mounted GoPro) - YouTube

  20. #20
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    This is also a really popular mountain biking place in my area, Lake Chabot
    Lake Chabot Father's Day 2011 MTB Ride w/GoPro HD Chest Mounted - YouTube

  21. #21
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    I ride a rigid singlespeed.



    Its geometry is a little different from the old days bikes, so it is probably more stabile going down hills.

    Some observations about riding rigid (yes: YOU riding, not buying new parts):
    With no suspension, you need to spend more time out of the saddle. You are all the suspension there is (ignoring the tyres).
    - stay loose. On a rigid bike, that is even more important.
    - look for precise lines. That doesn't mean going around everything. Find the spot where the rock is smoother, or where two roots make a ramp (instead of going over one or two tall roots), ... Does going over many small rocks look better than going over one big rock?
    - learn to use some small bump to make you float over the next trail irregularity
    - use your legs as front suspension too. Your wrists will die soon if you take a lot of bumps with your hands. That means having your weight on your legs, and using the hands and arms just for control.
    - guide your front wheel over things. You cannot plough into things with a rigid bike. you don't always have to lift the front wheel: just unweigh it or allow it to go up and down.

    One great advantage of a rigid bike is that the front suspension never "dives". There's no great fork compression when you brake or hit level ground after a steeper spot. Another is more precision for placing your front tyre on things: the distance from your hands to the front tyre never varies.

    "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"

  22. #22
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    Rigid riding can be a blast. There is also less to maintain and break which gives you more ride time.
    You already got some great advice. I'd reemphasize that you need to stand up as much as possible on descents. Also lower your elbows a bit which tends to shift your body back and allows your arms to better absorb shocks. Stay loose -- let the bike move below you and keep your body unaffected by being decoupled from the bike.

    Consider going clipless after you have built some confidence -- clipless pedals allow you let the bike move more independently without worrying that a foot will slip off a pedal.

    Focus -- plan your line. You ride with less bike than others so you have to ride with more brain. Think of fast descents as a game of chess. You can't overpower the mountain but need to out-finesse it.

  23. #23
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    When I've ridden some of the bikes with the original suspension forks, I've sometimes wondered how suspension ever took off.

    Looks like there's already a lot of good information on this thread from people who ride rigid a lot more frequently than I do. But I hate to see people believe that the cost of entry to the sport is a more expensive mountain bike. I don't think that's good for the sport, and in some vague, general way, I want people to be happy (and think they'd be happier if they went mountain biking more. ) So I'll leave it at sharing a story.

    A few years ago, after I had just moved to Seattle, I had a problem with my suspension fork a few days before a race. I'd done a little bit of rigid riding on my cyclocross bike, but never really ridden proper trails on a rigid mountain bike. So I was a bit trepiditious. But I didn't want to miss the race, and I was freaked out that the problem with my suspension fork would be more significant and expensive (I'd just lost my job) than it ultimately turned out to be. So I talked a friend into loaning me the rigid Cannondale she's been riding since High School, put my tires, pedals and saddle on it, and went racing.

    When I was doing my warmup/pre-ride lap, I didn't miss suspension at all. This was a course without a lot of elevation gain or loss.

    It was harder on me at race pace. There was one root bed I plowed through every lap that was a real beating.

    And that has really shaped my attitude about suspension - my typical ride is a hardtail with an 80 mm suspension fork. If I land a hit of any size, that's not nearly enough to soak up the impact - as others have said, that's something I need to do myself, with my arms and legs. I think having suspension really just raises the speed limit of the bike. Some people lean on it pretty heavily to make up for a lack of technique. While I'm not in the group who says everyone should start on a short-travel hardtail or a rigid, the smarmy, competitive part of me gets a kick out of passing the occasional financial services guy with 140 mm front and back on my little red hardtail on a descent. Ultimately, what makes someone a fast descender is technique. Suspension is just there to help keep the tires in contact with the trail. I guess that was two stories because the 140 mm financial services dude was on a club ride I did a while ago. To be fair, he was just getting into it; people spend what they can afford. But I think it goes to show the relative importance of the toys and the rider.

    All your worries are valid; all your worries would apply on a long-travel full-suspension bike. If you're that afraid of falling, put your bike in a trainer and never take it out. Otherwise, try to be conservative, work up to anything big, and have fun with it.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  24. #24
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    Thanks perttime & borabora for your tips on rigid riding technique. I was thinking overnight of posting something similar but you guys got there first.

    Just reading that (and watching the John Tomac video) really brought me back to what was for me the "golden age" of mountain biking. I wouldn't say that 12 foot drops on modern bikes requires no skill, but riding rigid on what would now be considered moderately technical terrain does require finesse and a different riding technique than what most people ride today.

  25. #25
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    I think this is an excellent thread filled with some really good pieces of advice. There really isn't anything I can add except encouragement. As many have shared, many of us started out on a fully rigid bike that we took mtbing whether it was designed with that style of riding in mind or not. The best teacher for you will be the trail. Be calm (stay loose) and in control and pay attention to the line you are on so next time around you can ride a little better and a little faster. The best suspension is always your body, moving around on your bike based on the terrain and the immediate obstacle ahead of you and the ability to do so will be the best way to ride to learn confidence and balance. Currently, neither of my 2 main rides has suspension. Also, it sounds like your dad has some knowledge and experience. If you ride together watch him, watch his line and how he shifts his weight around. Same goes for your friends you ride with. So go out there and ride. Don't worry about what's under you but focus on what's in front and around you. Happy rollin'!
    No fuss with the MUSS

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