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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    Tracking straight and pedal question

    Just got back from my second time to a "true" singletrack. In the past month or so that I've had my bike I now have about 50-60 miles on it, not a lot, but enough to present a couple questions.

    Today especially, except for my total inability to climb efficiently, the most frustrating part of my ride was my lack of control. I felt like a drunk guy walking a straight line. Especially over any sort of obstacle, but also around turns and even slight dips and rollers, I found it very difficult to stay straight.

    Is this ALL technique and lack of experience? Is it my crappy XCM fork? Or (And most likely) is it both?

    This makes me pretty nervous when it comes to narrow passages between trees, large rocks, etc.

    Also, I've got Wellgo MG-1 pedals and am just wearing a pair of old New Balance running shoes. With the good reviews of the MG-1, I expected better. They clogged up with mud very easily and didn't grip well at all. Is it my shoes, or the pedals?
    Earnest Hemingway once said "The world is a fine place and worth fighting for." I agree with the second part.

  2. #2
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    Here's a vid on the low heels technique for riding flats. Practice a little and trailrunners should work great. I use Asics, but others with some knobs will work.
    Straight Lines with Fabien Barel - YouTube
    On your fork-- there are guys on this board who can ride it on any of the fun technical trails out there. There is no one who is riding it-- or would ride it for a season without an upgrade.
    Read the review of the Raidon Suntour upgrade on page 5 of this thread for the opinion of someone who is/was riding your fork at your level of experience. $175 from Nick at Suntour.
    If you want to upgrade your Suntour fork
    A lighter by 1.5lb option is a RockShox Recon Gold for $240 from Random Bike Parts.

  3. #3
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    It will come in time, strong triceps help keep the bike true. My GF is riding with me now for he second season and I see her have the same kind of issues. She really yanks the bars or lets the bars turn when she is going over a log. She is strong but she is not un weighting the tire when she hits, it will come in time, I stop and coach her and most times if she listens she makes it over, if I hide around a corner to watch her she goes down like sack of potatoes. She gets frustrated but I told her it will come, this is not an easy sport, you have to deal with allot at once. Learning to read the trail takes time and even in the spring it takes me a few rides to get back in the swing of things. Have no fear it will work it's self out, allot is trial and error, if I ride here on the corner I lose control if I ride here I just whip through, brake early not in the turn, know your tires and their limits, trust your bike. Will small dips are you lifting your ass off the saddle? If I am navigating through a series of dips and turns I am never seated, way more control out of the saddle, you can move your body all over the place, your body has a huge impact on your steering, body language is not just for picking up chicks LOL. The big thing and this is the hardest do not look where you don't want to go, if you're going to zip between two trees look past them, if you look at them you will hit them for sure. This is by far the hardest thing to break people of and I even catch myself doing it once and awhile. Ohh look a steep off camber hill ohh lets look down the side, ohh I don't want to go down there and if by magic your bars turn you right into the ****.

    Sorry to ramble on but just trying to share my years of experience, ohh one more thing, learn to track stand. One of the most fundamental skills and not many people can do it, you learn how you will be amazed at how well you will ride techy slow stuff with ease while your buddies fall or dismount.

    To me there is no better feeling then riding a section that everyone is dismounting in and you just ride on through.

    Hope this helps
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  4. #4
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    +1 to what fahza says. On anything technical, you should be out of the saddle. When you're not pedaling, keep pedals at 3 and 9 o'clock.

    Experiment with your weight forward and back even on flats.

    Shifting your weight too far back (on flats) is common if you are riding cautiously, but that unweights the front wheel and can make the bike wander.

    A lot of your turning is by body English, not turning the handlebars.

    Maybe try going a little slower -- I know I can add a little "style" (wheelies, pedal kicks, bunny hops, etc.) when I'm riding my own pace and not trying to hammer to keep up with fast guys.

    Is it my crappy XCM fork?
    Probably not. Forks help, but regardless of fork travel and compliance, you should be able to ride in control over obstacles. Plenty of folks with better skills could easily outride me even with "inferior" bikes.
    Last edited by Gregon2wheels; 05-01-2013 at 04:01 AM.

  5. #5
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    What tire pressure are you running? Tires can make a big diffrerence,most OEM stuff isn't that great. Learning to read the trail and looking as far ahead as you can see are two of the most important things you can learn.

  6. #6
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    Practice and training.
    Like playing an instrument, when you stop thinking about every next move and it just starts to happen is when you start to get a flow and rhythm.
    Also, when you get winded or fatigued you start to make different choices and moves so that'll improve too. Not only not getting as tired because your fitness is improved, but because you get better at making good choices when you're in that zone.
    Round and round we go

  7. #7
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    Good stuff guys.

    I actually sent Nick a PM thismorning, I think I will go ahead and pick up a Raidon. I'm just barely under 200 lbs, so my weight is probably making this XCM cry anyway.

    For most obstacles I am out of the saddle. Something that Gregon hit on makes sense...I am so conscientious about going over the bars I do keep my weight way back. Today in particular my front wheel kept popping up unintentionally. Excellent point that definitely makes sense.

    Tires are the stock Kenda Kinetics. I feel pretty confident with them so far, they don't slip too much. They don't roll fast at all though. I don't know what the tire pressure is, I don't have a presta gauge, I need to pick one up.

    As far as going slow, definitely I'm not too interested in riding with anyone else until I get a couple hundred miles under my belt I think.

    You guys all brought up good points, I do appreciate it.
    Earnest Hemingway once said "The world is a fine place and worth fighting for." I agree with the second part.

  8. #8
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    one tip that i found to be very useful is from the book "mastering mountain bike skills"...the saying goes "light hands, heavy feet"

    i used to find myself clutching at by grips and my weight far back, hoping to keep myself from going over the handlebars or hitting a tree face first if i didn't make a turn...but doing that made me not make that turn (or brake really hard and go slow, steering the bike into in rather than leaning the bike into it)

    now i feel more balanced on top of the bike...that alone makes the bike respond to you and not you respond to the bike (because of what you are doing wrong)...play around with your weight on all areas of the bike and learn to trust it and change the way you instinctively feel (which is mostly like wrong as a beginner)

  9. #9
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    I've only been mtbing for a year now and I was in your shoes last year. It comes with time. You get more confident and start to push your boundaries. Big +1 on getting off the saddle. I used to just ride through everything seated. Going clipless really helped me too. For me anyways it helped me kinda become one with the bike better and feel more comfortable with it. I rode my first year on a rockhopper with the XCR fork. It has it's shortcomings but it isn't the cause of your issues. I'm still learning and getting better every day. I notice a difference every time I get on the trail.

  10. #10
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    I don't have any luck with normal shoes and flats. I'd eventually get some skate shoes like Vans at a minimum.
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  11. #11
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    Vans or Chuck T's would be easy enough, but do the pedals eat them up? I don't want to go through a pair of shoes every hundred miles. The bottoms of my New Balance running shoes are pretty gnarly already.
    Earnest Hemingway once said "The world is a fine place and worth fighting for." I agree with the second part.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by bleedinblue View Post
    Just got back from my second time to a "true" singletrack. In the past month or so that I've had my bike I now have about 50-60 miles on it, not a lot, but enough to present a couple questions.

    Today especially, except for my total inability to climb efficiently, the most frustrating part of my ride was my lack of control. I felt like a drunk guy walking a straight line. Especially over any sort of obstacle, but also around turns and even slight dips and rollers, I found it very difficult to stay straight.

    Is this ALL technique and lack of experience? Is it my crappy XCM fork? Or (And most likely) is it both?

    This makes me pretty nervous when it comes to narrow passages between trees, large rocks, etc.
    Your analogy of feeling like a drunk was actually close to what is likely happening. Drunk drivers weave because they are looking down at the road directly in front of their vehicle and keep trying to correct their steering to that spot directly in front of their vehicle. It's such a short distance to the spot they are trying to correct to, that it is a much more pronounced correction. If they would try to correct their path within 100 yards instead of 50 feet, the correction would be much more subtle.

    I think you might be doing the same thing, and should try looking a little further up the trail, make smaller corrections sooner rather than later, and give yourself a little more distance to try to get corrected. If you do those things, I think you'll find you won't get so far off your line in the first place too.

    Your fork might not be great and a better fork might give you a little better control with your current talent/technique. But it isn't likely to be a significant part of your problem since you're probably not really pushing it to the limits of it's potential. You're much more likely to be at the limits of your current technique.

    As for climbing, most mortals feel like it's much harder than it looks. But if it were easy, everybody would be doing it. It takes a while to build up a good fitness base, but it will come if you keep riding regularly. My suggestion is to leave your current bike mostly as is, and learn to ride it the best you can, and then start saving for your next bike.

    A good rider can shred no matter what he rides, and it is a poor craftsman that blames his tools.

    Reminds me of a time I went dirt biking with my brother. I was hauling (at least I thought I was) down a fire road and I look over only to see my brother along side of me but off into the weeds. And he is motioning to me to 'give it the gas, and let's go.' When we stopped, I started telling him how my tires were not as knobby as his, and I didn't have as much suspension, etc. He suggested we trade bikes and try it again. We get to the same spot, and there he is (on my bike) off in the weeds and motioning for me to 'give it the gas, and let's go.' Then he just motored off away from me like I was standing still. So much for my tires and suspension not being good enough. The problem was not my bike :~)

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by bleedinblue View Post
    Vans or Chuck T's would be easy enough, but do the pedals eat them up? I don't want to go through a pair of shoes every hundred miles. The bottoms of my New Balance running shoes are pretty gnarly already.
    Different pins are on different pedals. Fatter pins like on Azonic Switchback or Flat Iron pedals or Wellgo B124s work with trailrunners or other shoes with knobby areas on the bottom. They don't tear up shoes. 3mm or so smaller diameter pins without sharp edges also work. For higher DH speeds 7mm or higher sharp pins work with the harder rubber on 5.10s--Impacts, Freerides.
    You may be able to back your pins out to shorten them or round them a bit with a file. Ride low heels and you will stick with less pin.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by bleedinblue View Post
    Vans or Chuck T's would be easy enough, but do the pedals eat them up? I don't want to go through a pair of shoes every hundred miles. The bottoms of my New Balance running shoes are pretty gnarly already.
    They work pretty well with their flat soles on a good pair of pedals, but they do get eaten pretty quickly. But on the other hand, if you buy skate shoes on sale then you can buy a lot of pairs of them before you spend a lot of money. Personally, I would buy good pedals first, ones with removable pins, and pair them with whatever flat soled shoe you can find.

    As for tracking straight, there's two things that come to mind:

    1) you're probably climbing in too low (easy to pedal) of a gear. When you gear down all the way you move more slowly and that requires more balance. Sometimes that's what you need to do, but consider the next higher gear and pushing a little harder as you get stronger. As with almost everything on a bike: speed is your friend. Speed builds momentum and momentum helps you carry on down the trail instead of getting stopped by every little thing.

    2) Look further ahead. If you're looking just beyond your front wheel you'll always be wobbly. Take your vision down the trail and that's where your bike and body will go.
    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

  15. #15
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    Good advice above.... some more suggestions.....

    Quote Originally Posted by bleedinblue View Post
    Just got back from my second time to a "true" singletrack. In the past month or so that I've had my bike I now have about 50-60 miles on it, not a lot, but enough to present a couple questions.

    Today especially, except for my total inability to climb efficiently, the most frustrating part of my ride was my lack of control. I felt like a drunk guy walking a straight line. Especially over any sort of obstacle, but also around turns and even slight dips and rollers, I found it very difficult to stay straight.

    Is this ALL technique and lack of experience? Is it my crappy XCM fork? Or (And most likely) is it both?

    This makes me pretty nervous when it comes to narrow passages between trees, large rocks, etc.

    Also, I've got Wellgo MG-1 pedals and am just wearing a pair of old New Balance running shoes. With the good reviews of the MG-1, I expected better. They clogged up with mud very easily and didn't grip well at all. Is it my shoes, or the pedals?

    I have two universal truths:

    1. There are almost no universal truths
    2. You hit what you focus on. If you look at the rock, you'll hit it. If you obsess on the negative, it's more likely to come to pass than the positive. If you focus on the positive, you're more likely to receive that result.

    In conjunction with looking out further, focus your vision on where you want to go, not on what you want to avoid.

    Another piece of advice that many have found helpful is to keep in mind that while mountain biking, there are two centers of gravity: 1) your body and 2) your bike. The two need to move independently of each other for you to stay upright. This sort of ties in to light hands, heavy feet. All of your joints are suspension that can move in infinite combinations of travel paths. Use that to your advantage to stay upright, above the bike. The bike should move independently below you.

    Another tip: momentum (not speed) is your friend. Keep in mind that your wheels are gyroscopes. The more RPM's they're giving you, the more they're going to want to stay upright. You can demonstrate this to yourself by pulling the front wheel off, holding the wheel by your quick releases and spinning it. Spin it slow and move your wheel off of center. It moves off center easily. Spin it fast and do the same thing. The wheel fights to stay in an upright position.

    And lastly, Physics kicks ass. I love it.

    Welcome to the sport, enjoy the ride, the people and most of all, have fun!

    Cheers,

    Ken
    Last edited by Ken in KC; 05-01-2013 at 09:22 AM. Reason: Adding clarity...
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  16. #16
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    x3 for looking up. As has been said already by some very good sources, that is the one "skill" that will change your life like no other. You'll be amazed at how many ills are magically, instantly cured. So much so that even now when something is not right, I'm bobbling through a rock garden or packing it into turns, getting caught in the wrong gear, losing balance on a feature, whatever...I can't tell you how many times I've literally said out loud, "look UP!" and its like instant relief.

    my other suggestion is to not worry too much about the equipment just yet. try a better pair of shoes if you feel like you're slipping off the pedals of course. You don't want to get hurt if you can avoid it. But with all the upgrades in your future (believe me they are coming in spades), I recommend you take a little time, familiarize yourself with the bike and your own skill level and then make tweaks when you can pinpoint the cause/effect. I've got a basement full of parts (aka MONEY) I wasted trying to chase away issues before I was smart enough to spend it wisely.
    "The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten." - Benjamin Franklin

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken in KC View Post
    I have two universal truths:

    2. You hit what you focus on. If you look at the rock, you'll hit it. If you obsess on the negative, it's more likely to come to pass than the positive. If you focus on the positive, you're more likely to receive that result.

    In conjunction with looking out further, focus your vision on where you want to go, not on what you want to avoid.

    And lastly, Physics kicks ass. I love it.

    Welcome to the sport, enjoy the ride, the people and most of all, have fun!

    Cheers,

    Ken
    Oddly enough, this is another thing drunk drivers do and many times, results in them crashing into something like a car on the side of the road with it's flashers on. It's known as 'target fixation' and is related to the 'look further up the trail' advice to keep you from weaving and over-correcting.

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