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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    Speed and technical terrain

    Took up mtn biking again after only riding road/cross. My question is whether there is a right answer with respect to whether a slower or faster speed is best when navigating through things like rock gardens or heavily rooted sections. I've found lately that I prefer to go slower so I an choose my line and have better controlled steering, but I lose the benefit of momentum taking me over 'some' of these obstacles. I'm not racing and my goal is to improve ability while having fun. Also, even when going uphill I find that slower but careful weighting and pulling up on bars helped, but I sometimes stall when my front tire hits a root or rock.

    I know it's about what works for you...but interested to get your opinions.

  2. #2
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    Momentum is your friend keep the speed up high enough you not getting hung up on the rocks
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  3. #3
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    I go as fast as I can through the more technical sections and then slow down to let my slower friends catch up lol

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  4. #4
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    See my signature.
    Speed solves all problems, except for those things it makes worse.

  5. #5
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    Re: Speed and technical terrain

    Speed is your friend. You should be going fast enough so that you're kind of floating over the terrain, and not really in it. Your bike will get loose and the ride will actually smooth out.

    Then line choice becomes a whole other game, floating, bouncing, and making quick and subtle direction changes for that split moment when your actually in contact, from the top of one feature to the next.

  6. #6
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    Go the speed you are comfortable with. Next time go faster. Repeat.

  7. #7
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Try to be smooth. Don't go faster than you can keep under control. You'll get faster. If the bike's not under you anymore, momentum's not so great.

    Sounds like you've figured out the key skill for climbs. It can help to repeat an obstacle a couple times if you don't nail it the first time around.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by noonievut View Post
    ... My question is whether there is a right answer with respect to whether a slower or faster speed is best when navigating through things like rock gardens or heavily rooted sections. ...
    The answer to your specific question is: Yes, there is an right answer.

  9. #9
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    If you'd also like to know whether a slower or faster speed is best when navigating through things like rock gardens or heavily rooted section, the answer is that it depends on a variety of factors and changes from moment to moment.

    Speed creates momentum, which is essential to clearing any number of obstacles. However, you can't disregard line choice, which happens if you go too fast. Only experience will tell you what is "best" at any given moment. Of course, you don't need what's "best;" you need what is sufficient. Experience will tell you that, too.

  10. #10
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    slower or faster speed is best when navigating through things like rock gardens or heavily rooted sections
    This is TOTALLy dependant on terrain, and of course rider comfort.


    If you tried to go fast and "float" over some of the sections here, you would have rims that look like stop signs, as well as a smashed up face. You cannot "float" over sections that have large, embedded "razor edge" rocks. Those, you finesse, and pick lines very carefully, while trying to maintain just enough speed to prevent you from getting stuck.
    Conversely, you do not want to go "razor edge" speed over long sections of smooth, rounded, or small loose rocks. Small, loose rocks, you want speed. As much speed as you dare. Your bike will dance around, and the slower you go, the less stability and ability the bike will have to pull out of those situations.

  11. #11
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    Thanks for the responses. I can summarize into two take-aways:

    - if you don't know the trail, you will likely have to ride slower through obstacles, and general confidence/comfort will likely determine speed
    - if the rocks/roots are tame, faster is better; if they're big (razor edge rocks), just slow enough to comfortably pick a good line (at least for my confidence level)

  12. #12
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    This is not something that can be blanket stated, it's something you have to learn to feel and decide for yourself on a particular trail, wet or dry also are other variables that can come into play. You will learn, but one thing in general is don't be braking when you're trying to turn or riding over wet/slippery roots/rocks.
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  13. #13
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    Each 'level' of speed in a particular area will have it's pros and cons. If you can hit a section fast enough, things that were a factor at slower speeds become non-factors at higher speeds, but then you have a different set of factors that come into play. What helps me to get faster in a section is to watch a more skilled rider go through the section at higher speed and see how they do it. Then imitate that technique yourself. I call it 'going to school'.

    Increasing your fitness also helps to keep you descending faster too. I get just as (if not more sometimes) winded descending as I do climbing. If you're really working to keep it all together at speed, it's hard work to keep it going in challenging terrain.

    Experience helps to keep you from writing checks that your bank of skills won't cover. Every so often, the interest comes due and you pay the price. Every once in a while you make a big breakthrough, but speed mostly comes incrementally.

    One last thing. I was not usually a person to learn riding tips from watching videos, but I find that there are some super helpful videos available on YT that will help you to learn things that work in a wide variety of situations and I continue to use what I learn daily. I really like how they break things down and show you how the individual fine points each contribute to improving how you handle a section of terrain.

    Fluidride: Like a Pro - End of Your Rope - YouTube

    Fluidride- Riding Blind with Simon Lawton - YouTube

    Fluidride Like a Pro DVD | Fluidride

    As for cornering and rock gardens in particular, I think these are pretty good (especially the Fabien Barel vids):

    Cornering with Fabien Barel - YouTube

    Cornering Clinic with Lars Sternberg - YouTube

    How to ride rock gardens in 6 Easy steps - YouTube

    Bikeskills.com: How to Handle Rock Gardens with Brian Lopes - YouTube

    I'm sure there are more. . . .

  14. #14
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    Thanks for the recommendation on the Fluidride video jeffj. Just bought it for streaming from Amazon and it is great video!

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by dgrolem View Post
    Thanks for the recommendation on the Fluidride video jeffj. Just bought it for streaming from Amazon and it is great video!
    Glad you like it. It really is good. I just take small parts to work on at once since you could never remember it all.

  16. #16
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    I had the same issue a few times yesterday. Once right after I ate it, I was afraid to eat it again and slowed my speed. Slowing made issues worse! The rocks I was gliding over before were now stopping me and the hill I was on was steep.... Well, I ate it again! Later in the day, I hit another similar hill of limestone and small rocks, kept my speed up watching the trail ahead of me and not an issue. There is tons of steep limestone hills/drops and stump field areas where I ride. Eating it is part of the game
    Not to Jack the thread but what do you do when flying down a steep fast hill with a water crossing at the bottom, only to find out that the mud at the bottom is super soft? My answer to that one was to hit it hard and eat it again!

  17. #17
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    Another thing to bear in mind is that it can be really hard to keep one's speed up on technical climbs. You have to learn low speed handling one way or the other, although it definitely has a different feel on the way up and on the way down.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    Another thing to bear in mind is that it can be really hard to keep one's speed up on technical climbs. You have to learn low speed handling one way or the other, although it definitely has a different feel on the way up and on the way down.
    Very true.

    When I originally posted the question a small part of me thought that slower (say on a small climb, flat, or very slight descent) was more skillful, because like a trials rider you're using balance at slow speeds and careful weight shifts and steering to get around (or over) things, as opposed to bombing through them (which I'm coming to learn has it's own set of skills!). One time I was riding a very rocky trail (for me) and when I decided to take it slow I felt awesome after navigating around and over the rocks...like I was really in the zone. If I had survived bombing through the same area I probably would have just thought it good luck/confidence...

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