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  1. #1
    Trail Cubist
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    Can a Clyde "flow" through rock gardens?

    So we all hear about "flow" in mountain biking—it's one of the most beaten-to-death terms...but I admit it's a good term to describe what we all strive for.

    "Flowing" on smooth, sinuous trails is easy—anyone can do that. But my question is...can Clydesdales "flow" through technical rock gardens?

    I'm talking about the WORST kind of rock gardens—the ones with 8-10" high rocks (basketball-sized rocks) scattered uniformly across the trail with completely random, barely-tire-width spaces between them.

    I'm 6'0" and 220lbs...and in my first year of mountain biking. I've really flipped out over the sport and ridden a LOT in the past year. I've gotten to where I can ride some pretty technical trails—nothing crazy, but stuff that includes a lot of rocks like what I described above.

    I understand riding technique. I haven't had years to practice it, but I do everything right—I get off the saddle, bend low, elbows out, and use my arms, legs, and body to weight and unweight the bike through the rocks. I'm highly coordinated and have excellent balance.

    ...and yet, when riding through those really rocky sections, no matter how hard I try to be smooth...no matter how much I do the right things with my body...it still always feels like...

    OOF!! UMPH!!! AARGH!! OOOF!! OUCH!! UMPH!!! UGH!! OOF!!

    What I'm experiencing is every little impact of my tire onto or off of a rock feels like it has the FULL FORCE OF MY 220LBS behind it...and my whole body feels it.

    It doesn't even remotely feel like "flowing."

    I've discussed in other threads how Clydes are at a disadvantage when climbing (due to the laws of physics, and the energy required to push greater mass up hills).

    I've also seen threads about how much harder we Clydes hit the ground when we fall.

    I'm starting to wonder if we Clydes are at a similar disadvantage when riding through nasty rock gardens?

    I do see other "skinny runt" riders who appear to "flow" through rock gardens...and I'm starting to think it's because they simply don't feel the impacts that we do.

    Any thoughts? Are there any 200+ riders who truly feel NO impacts at all and feel like they can flow gracefully through gnarly rock gardens?

    Or is it a matter of just getting used to the punishment? LOL (I'm just wondering if rock gardens will ever get any more "flowy?")

    Scott
    29er wheels are dangerous. They may cause you to go faster which can result in serious bodily injury. —Jim311

  2. #2
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    It is more about learning how to do it. In fact, a huge part of flowing through a rock garden is momentum to take you over the rocks. Your momentum is much greater than a light guy, and so you should feel less slowing from impacts than a lighter guy.
    With that said, even guys who look like they are flowing, are absorbing lots of shock. It's part of the deal.
    Tip: Let your bike float under you working your arms and legs while you keep your body relatively still.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by smilinsteve
    Tip: Let your bike float under you working your arms and legs while you keep your body relatively still.
    Tip #2: Lower your seat (more, if needed) so that your legs can work better to suspend your body as you allow the bike to track over the terrain.

  4. #4
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    Lowering your seat more is a good tip—I ride a tall XC bike with my seat in full-high "roadie" position. I've been trying to save to get a Gravity Dropper, because I think that would help a LOT in situations like this.

    Quote Originally Posted by smilinsteve
    With that said, even guys who look like they are flowing, are absorbing lots of shock. It's part of the deal.
    This is the real kicker...and honestly, why sometimes (not ALL the time, but sometimes) the term "flow" as applied to rock gardens is a load of bull, LOL. You don't "flow" through a rock garden...you "minimize impacts" as much as possible!

    I realize line choice is key (as well as momentum)...but we've all seen those rock gardens where line choice doesn't mean squat, because you WILL have to pound up/over/down a lot of rocks no matter what.

    Scott

    EDIT: On the subject of momentum...I think that's one of those "you'd need a physics degree and a calculator to figure it out" kind of things...because while it's true Clydes have more momentum to carry them through things...it's ALSO true that Clydes will suffer greater impact force when their tires contact rocks...and also require greater force to lift them up and over the rocks...
    29er wheels are dangerous. They may cause you to go faster which can result in serious bodily injury. —Jim311

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by SWriverstone
    This is the real kicker...and honestly, why sometimes (not ALL the time, but sometimes) the term "flow" as applied to rock gardens is a load of bull, LOL. You don't "flow" through a rock garden...you "minimize impacts" as much as possible!
    Exactly. I don't know if you ski, but it is a similar situation with moguls. Guys that flow through moguls, if you look at them, hit them head on, but their upper bodies stay relatively still while their legs are pumping and bending and extending furiously to absorb all the hits. A main reason people fail to be good at moguls is they just don't have the physical strength, speed and stamina to do what amounts to high speed squats.
    With biking and rock gardens, the good guys are a lot like those mogul skiers, pumping the arms and legs and keeping the body still.

    I realize line choice is key (as well as momentum)...but we've all seen those rock gardens where line choice doesn't mean squat, because you WILL have to pound up/over/down a lot of rocks no matter what.

    Scott
    Line is key, but a lot of guys lose too much momentum by trying to zig zag through the rocks. A lot of times, the best route is a straighter one, trying to preserve the mo.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by smilinsteve
    ine is key, but a lot of guys lose too much momentum by trying to zig zag through the rocks. A lot of times, the best route is a straighter one, trying to preserve the mo.
    Very true! I learned a while ago that trying to noodle and pick my way through that stuff usually meant grinding to a halt in the middle of it, LOL.

    But on the flip side, though I learned that pedaling straight over/through the stuff is often the best approach...it also results in a lot of hard pounding!

    Good points about mogul skiers. (I'm a snowboarder myself, but I've seen plenty of skiers.) But again, that underscores my point that using the term "flow" in situations like that is (IMO) a misnomer...because it's more accurate to use the term "hammer" rather than "flow." (As in, "You've just gotta hammer through those moguls man!" or "You've just gotta hammer through those rock gardens man!"

    Keeping your upper body still is a good thing...but it doesn't reduce the brutality on your lower body one bit. (Which is why lots of mogul skiers suffer from chronically blown-out knees...)



    Scott

    EDIT: Actually, what I really mean to say is that the term "flow" is a euphemism in mountain biking!
    29er wheels are dangerous. They may cause you to go faster which can result in serious bodily injury. —Jim311

  7. #7
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    I personally think "flow" is more of a mental state, so I'd say that yes, a clyde can flow through rock gardens. For me, flow is what I experience when I stop thinking about my bike, about how fast (slow) I'm pedaling, about having to loft the front wheel over that upcoming root, and just let it all happen without thought. Riding like this, I believe, makes you a lot smoother even when the terrain is rough.

    It's like learning to play a musical instrument: at first you have to think a lot about everything you're doing, and every chord, every melody, every rhythm takes a huge mental effort. Eventually, though, after a lot of conscious effort, your body gains a degree of muscle memory and the impossible chord progressions start to flow "naturally," almost without any perceived effort.

    Due to other factors - size, or possibly lack of exercise - it might take a clyde longer to gain this level of muscle memory, but I think the bigger obstacle is our tendency to want to think about everything.
    "Never trust a man in a blue trench coat. Never drive a car when you're dead." -- Tom Waits

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by smilinsteve
    It is more about learning how to do it. In fact, a huge part of flowing through a rock garden is momentum to take you over the rocks. Your momentum is much greater than a light guy, and so you should feel less slowing from impacts than a lighter guy.
    With that said, even guys who look like they are flowing, are absorbing lots of shock. It's part of the deal.
    Tip: Let your bike float under you working your arms and legs while you keep your body relatively still.
    This is the exact technique I learned from endurance racing motorcycles and have transferred myself to mountain biking. The key is getting off the seat and making your body loose. If you tense up each time you hit a rock then the next ones just going to get worse and worse as you move your way through the patch. Its not all a physical thing but really a mental thing, just relax and trust that the bike will perform as its supposed to. You have a great suspension in your legs and arms to help you get through, just pick your line and trust your bike and you will make it no problem. Im 260 6'6 and have dont really feel any terrible impacts. Of course you will feel your bike moving under you and your legs are really working to keep your body up but anyone should be able to do it.

    Tip: have a buddy shoot some video of you from behind and from the side as you go through it a couple times. Review the tape and change your technique accordingly. This way you can build muscle memory of the correct body positioning.

  9. #9
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    I don't have a Gravity Dropper or other adjustable seat post, so I've just gotten used to riding with my seat just a bit lower than optimal roadie position. Took a could of rides for my legs to adapt to it, but has really helped with technical riding.

  10. #10
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    If in doubt, go faster! A bit more speed always helps with rock gardens, you'll tend to skip across the top of the rocks rather than going up and down each one. More speed, get your weight back, unweight the bike and let the bike and suspension do its stuff. If you get it right it should feel more a corregated dirt road and less like a series of speed bumps.

    The bike you've got will also be a factor, but technique and practice are the keys

  11. #11
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    Completely agree with letting the bike work. I've ridden motocross and off-road for 20 years and the biggest key is to look ahead and let the bike do the work. Even a hardtail will move through obstacles much better than we give them credit for if you let them. Don't look right in front of your front wheel; always look a few bike lengths ahead and just let the bike move beneath you.

  12. #12
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    Rock gardens are all about flow and confidence. Less about body size than about maintaining momentum and going with the flow. Often you'll pick a line but the bike picks a different one. In rock gardens, taking this new line without panicking is very important. Often the bike will identify the path of least resistance better than you and so you need to trust it. You do this by staying balanced on the bike as required and applying the gas at the right moments. Get trusting, stay balanced, then stick out your teeth and power through it.

    I'm 6'7", 215 without gear and I have zero problems in rock gardens. In fact I blast through them faster than most.

    I ride a pretty heavy bike as my full-time ride @36lbs. It's been my experience that I typically have greater rock garden success than people on much lighter bikes. I think heavier bikes under a determined heavy+strong rider work better in technical terrain, stick to the ground better. Of course the flipside of this is that you need to pedal it uphill, but no one ever got stronger riding a lighter bike did they?

  13. #13
    used to be RipRoar
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    Ive seen some people gracefully trails through gardens and other high speed skip over things like it was flat. Everyone develops their own technique and style over time....

    Forward to about 4:30 for some tips....

    Posted here: Old video of some fun at the Nationals

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  14. #14
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    I don't have video to prove it - but a clyde can be just as smooth or just as 'bounced' as anybody in rock gardens. Its more who you ride than what you weigh. Stay back, be loose and go with the bike but keep some speed and most of all - KEEP PEDALING!!!

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