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  1. #1
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    Tips for developing skills?

    Got an mtb a couple of years ago, maybe have ridden it 20 times. Been a road rider/racer the last 3 years, also race on the velodrome. Trouble is, I absolutely s*&k on the trails. No question I have the fitness, but when I hit the dirt you wouldn't know it, since I have to get off and walk sections that most people I see riding can clear. The least bit of uphill, if it has rocks/roots, and I have problems. Have to get off the bike and let everyone pass, and watch them look smooth doing it. Pisses me off!

    I realise a big part of the problem is not riding enough, I have a hard time not riding/training on the road. The other issue is I mostly go by myself, so I don't get a chance to ride with those who can give me pointers, and see how it should be done. But other than that what are some good tips to develop some of these skills? Pick a section or two and ride the cr#p out of them until I nail them? Set up an 'obstacle' course on the front lawn and practise on that? Is it worth getting a book/video (Ned Overend??) or really can only learn by riding?

    Got a Stumpjumper FSR ('99), can't blame the bike! Plus, I live in Hood River, Oregon, can ride from my house to trails that have been written up in magazines, it's just wrong that I'm not taking advantage of that! I just have to get off the road bike every now and then...

    Thanks for any help,
    hrcon

  2. #2
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    Sounds like you already answered your question, just ride alot more and you'll get better and better. Also, I don't know how difficult the trails are, but maybe start off with some less technical stuff and work your way up to harder and harder trails.

  3. #3
    Domestic Fowl
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    1) There's no substitute for time in the saddle. Ride more.
    2) Ride with people that push your limits a bit (not too much). Fortunately, I had a couple guys to ride with and we were always pushing each other just a bit trying to ride a tough line or go a little faster.
    3) Practice, practice, practice. Do rides with the specific objective of working on technical sections. Spend time doing things over and over. Move on to another section and do it a few times... move on. Having a friend to to this with is a big help. Sometimes a touch of friendly competition is a great motivator. Also, having a different opinon on how to approach an obstacle is often helpful. It can help open your eyes to different ways to tackle an obstacle.

    My first year and a half of mountain biking it seemed like I always came home with scrapes and bruises, but I always came home smiling.

  4. #4
    Cheezy Rider
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    Your idea about picking a challenging piece of trail and re-riding it til you nail it is a good one. but you can't beat riding with someone more experienced who can give you pointers. You might see if one of the local shops organizes group rides. If they do, don't be shy about asking the leader or other riders for advice.

    I'm taking a mountain bike class at Oregon State U that's really helping my technique. Don't know if anything similar is available in Hood River. Good luck and don't let those trails go to waste!

  5. #5
    Right Coast
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    Quote Originally Posted by hrcon
    The least bit of uphill, if it has rocks/roots, and I have problems.
    What is cauing your problems? Is it the obstacles that you have to clear, or is it the steepness of the climb? In general if the climb is fairly steep you want to slide to the front of your saddle and put your chest down near your handle bars. This keeps weight on the rear wheel to keep it from spinng out while keeping the front end from popping up off the ground.

  6. #6
    DOH!
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    Step 1) Ride.
    Step 2) Watch - and ride with - others that are better than you.
    Step 3) Goto 1.



    Also, since you have the fitness, your problems most likely have to do with your weight distribution over the bike. Watch how other people climb, specifically how they distribute their weight in order to maintain both traction and front wheel control, and then session a section of singletrack you find difficult until you nail it. Once your body gets "programmed" with the basics of offroad riding, you'll have a much easier time with progressively more difficult terrain, as well as just have a better time on the trail in general.

    Good luck!

  7. #7
    "El Whatever"
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    All what they said and....

    Spin faster. You want more torque when you're into trouble.

    Now... RIDE!!!
    Check my Site

  8. #8
    ttt
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    Lowering your seat will also be helpful in technical section. Your balance will be better due to the lower center of gravity.

  9. #9
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    Everybody hit the nail on the head, practice makes purfect ride more! " WHEN THE STUDENT IS READY" "THE MASTER WILL APPEAR"

  10. #10
    ceteris paribus
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    everything they said +
    Try learning some trial stuff (like bunny hop and still balance).
    Try visualizing the smoothest line when going into the trial.
    Learn how to use momentum (little extra speed just before going through a very rough section)
    watch the pros in videos and learn from them.
    film yourself and get a third person perspective on your own mistakes.
    If you start ridding on the trails you'll probably start meeting more people who ride the trails.
    lower the pressure on your tires to the minimun of the recomended range. to increase traction.
    Who is this doin' this synthetic type of alpha-beta psychadelic funkin'

  11. #11
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    Thanks Everybody!

    All great tips. Need to ride more, will practise more 'trials' stuff on front lawn, will do repeats on difficult trail sections, will go with others, will ride the 15 minutes from my house to Post Canyon, will get skills! Thanks again.

    hrcon

  12. #12
    Domestic Fowl
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    Quote Originally Posted by Warp2003
    Spin faster. You want more torque when you're into trouble.

    Now... RIDE!!!

    There's a balance when it comes to gear selection. Often beginners (and some more advanced riders) don't select the correct gear for the given terrain or obstacle. There are two parts to this:

    1) general riding - when you're riding and not negotiating abstacles you want to make sure you have a high enough spin rate that your legs are flushing lactic acid efficiently. Too slow and lactic acid builds up in your legs. Too fast and you're wasting energy and not moving as fast as you could be spinning a bigger gear. Something I do is to ratchet up the gears until I find the place where I can't maintain a good spin rate, then back down. (You already know this part from your road/velodrome racing)

    2) obstacles - gear selection can make a huge diference when negotiating obstacles. If you select too high of a gear, you don't have enough umph(torque) to get over the obstacle. There are also a couple of problems when selecting a gear that's too low. First, too much torque. If you have too much torque your back tire will tend to spin out when trying to power over stuff. Second, you don't travel as far per pedal stroke(it takes more pedal strokes to go a certain distance with a lower gear). This may not sound like a big deal, but it can make a huge difference in getting over an obstacle. On one of my favorite trails I will often see people drop all the way into granny gear(first chainring, first cog) when they approach a certain set of obstacles. I ride the same obstacles in the middle chainring and 2nd cog. That's roughly equivalent to about 3 to 3.5 gears difference). This isn't because I'm a powerhouse, it's because it is a more efficient gear choice. Another thing that a larger gear selection gives you is a little more velocity when you put that power impulse into the crank. A little more velocity can help a lot with balance.

    You just need to play around with gear selection to figure out what works best for you. If you're practicing an obstacle try riding it with a few different gear ratios and see what feels best.

    Good luck, hrcon.

    FRC.

  13. #13
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    Another thing I didn't see mentioned

    The bike tends to go where your eyes go. So look at the line you want to ride, not at the obstacles you are triing to avoid. If you look at the rock you don't want to hit, you will hit it.
    Instead focus on the space between the rocks you intend your line to take you.
    Also learn to ride over obstacles, sometimes going over is much easier than going around.
    Make sure you have fun, don't put so much pressure on your self that you lose sight of why your out there riding. FUN.

  14. #14
    Ride Instigator
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    Talk to yourself OUT LOUD1...

    I do it all the time when I'm coming up on an obsticle that I have a tough time with (log pile, skinny bridge, steep downkill strewn with big rocks etc.)...and my friends don't thik I'm TOO crazy . I say stuff like "this is soooo easy, Jim just did it and he's a pu$$y" and keep jabbering all the way through. It works for me anyway.

    If you're right behind someone when coming up on a tough section, drop back and let them clear it and get out of your view before you enter. It distracts me sometimes when someone is in my view.

    Don't hesitate, commit commit commit (remind yourself out loud). Back when I was running vee brakes I actually disconnect them a couple of times when I'd grab them before a log pile. Most of what is holding you back is MENTAL.. Of course some folks might think you HAVE a mental problem when you talk to yourself or disconnect your brakes but who CARES if you clear the obsticle .

    Like Free Range Chicken says above, spin higher RPMs. The gyro forces produced help you maintain your balance.

  15. #15
    all hail der Fuhrer Bush
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    the best tip I know

    When I was still making the transition from a hardcore roadie to the mountain biker I am today, I was lucky enough to ride a bunch with Hank Barlow, founder of Mountain Bike magazine, and a very skilled finesse rider. Whenever he would fail to clean something on the first try, he would back up and try it a second time. Once I started doing that as well, my riding improved dramatically.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by hrcon
    But other than that what are some good tips to develop some of these skills? Pick a section or two and ride the cr#p out of them until I nail them? Set up an 'obstacle' course on the front lawn and practise on that? Is it worth getting a book/video (Ned Overend??)
    I have Ned's book and video. It's good stuff, I lend it to my friends too.

  17. #17
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    My feel is that the "mental" aspects of MTB can be neglected...

    I think you properly determined that you do not have a "physical" limitations to clear the difficult sections...I see lesser physical specimen than myself performing better on the trail than i do because, i believe, 1) more experience, 2) more confidence...1) will take care of itself by riding more as others pointed out...in the latter 2) success does breed success...the more you clear, the more you attempt, the more you believe you can clear, the more you clear, etc. most "stunts" are successful before you even try them, if you are "apprehensive" before you go for it...most likely you will fail (and get hurt so dont do it and incrementally increase the difficulty level) because you can overthink the situation (for example, trying too hard to follow a sweet line, oversteering, being too careful by using too low a gear and too low a speed, not looking *further* ahead as a function of speed, etc.)

    in a few word that i hope you can relate to: just let it loose., the more speed the stronger the balance (for ex. don't slow down on rock gardens), the less "fear" the more speed, try to have your front fork "float" over obstacles (to reduce de-stabilizing impacts), control speed and gear selection (increase momentum before getting to obstacles because, on steep climbs, power alone with no grip to the ground has no chance), reduce perceived impact by half-standing up your seat, i guess ride like you "own" the trail instead of the other way around with the trail owning you :-)...repeat the sections you can't clear at 1st until you get it right, after that youll make them every time (with fewer and fewer attempts) and wonder how you managed NOT to make them...

    yes, practive to gain confidence in your ability, and try wearing some protective gear (at least initially) to reduce the fear of crashing, most of the difficult sections i now clear were the results of "mental block" rather than physical...adjusting your gear, and thinking thru techniques can help, but they can load you up with too much "baggage" and distract you from the focus you need. Ultimately with experience your body will selecte the most successful technique via trial and error, invariably it resembles that offered by the pros (ex. shifting your weight to the back on descent, leaning down for increased traction and torque, lifting your fork, anticipating/shifting gear BEFORE getting there, and so on)...

    I sense that most of your difficulties reside in how you think/approach, not how strong or how good your equipment is for the task, not even your "technique" so much..let us know what works in time...

    btw, im still a beginner (about a yr of MTB 2-3 times a week)...so take my advice with whatever size grain salt you see fit :-)

    good luck and have fun (most important!!)

  18. #18
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    hrcon, I hear ya. I'm mainly a roadie myself but recently got a mtb and I blow bigtime, but I'm loving riding trails/singletrack etc. My first ride was with my son, who's mainly a road/cx racer but is also damn good on his mtb. I was anaerobic the whole ride and couldn't do s#$t!

    I soon realized my objectives offroad were completely different. I wanna get some skills, the cardio stuff can happen on the road. I'm not sure how hard you're riding, but you might consider going nice & easy. I know I'm working twice as hard as someone who's good, so it doesn't make sense trying to keep up.

    The other thing to remember is the most important thing isn't your bike, your fitness or your skills; it's your enthusiasm. So don't throw yourself at it so hard the fun goes away.

  19. #19
    all hail der Fuhrer Bush
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    disagree

    Quote Originally Posted by Warp2003
    Spin faster. You want more torque when you're into trouble.

    Now... RIDE!!!
    No, I say push a little higher gear more slowly. Last thing you want on loose climby stuff is more torque. If you got ex-trackie legs like I do, I think you'll find you can climb sketchy loose stuff better in the middle ring by applying smooth power, than by trying to twiddle up stuff in a super low granny gear.
    I forget if I already responded to your post, or if it was some other similar one, so I'll add this (again?): If you don't clean something, turn around, ride back to the start of the section, and Try It Again.

  20. #20
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    Thank God.... I'm not the only one....

    I'm a pretty good road-rider for just starting out -- averaging 18 - 20 mph for a 45 - 50 mile training runs over hills. Bought a mountain bike and went out and felt like a clown: couldn't get over logs, slid all over the place over hills, never felt like I was geared right.

    I feel better now that I realize it's not that I just really suck. I can get better.

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