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  1. #1
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    Harder to get better as a bigger rider?

    I went out to a pretty technical trail yesterday (Downieville for those who know of it) and had a harder time with the technical spots than some of the guys who had never been on a mountain bike in their life. I've only been riding for about 4 months (besides what I did as a kid), and probably 2/3 of it on a road bike, and this was about 10x more technical than anything I've experienced. But still, while this was not really like anything I have ridden before, I still have dozens of cross country rides under my belt that the other guys did not have.

    It makes me wonder if being larger (6'6" 245) doesn't make my learning curve steeper than someone who is shorter/lighter. Can any larger guys chime in on this? It was kind of discouraging. If that type of riding just isn't for me, that's fine, maybe groomed/smooth single track is my thing.

  2. #2
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    You've said that it was way more technical than anything else you have ridden, so you hit it with mostly the same experience that the others did. 4 months of road and non-technical riding will not transfer to giving you tech riding skills. You only get them from riding the technical bits. So get out there and practice the techy bits. Can you bunny hop? Can you manual? Can you do drop-offs? You can practice all of them almost anywhere if you look around.
    If you want to get better, you practice and develop core skills that can be used across the trails. Take your time on the tech trails and repeat bits until you feel comfortable. There are no short cuts and it hasn't got anything to do with your size, so keep at it.

  3. #3
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    tootall nailed it !!!! their is no short cuts period ,,,,riding techy stuff to me is an art ,,everybody does things a lil different ,,,im 6'6 370lbs and my approach is picking the line that flows the most then charge it ....hahahahahahaha ,,,,,,,with that being said ..........it is harder to find equipment that will work for us bigger guys , and equipment does make riding easier and more efficient .......fat boys unite.............hahahahahahhahaahahahahaha
    Ride hard everytime....or take up hiking...........lol

  4. #4
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    I'm gonna say yes and no. (how's that for a decisive answer) I completely agree with the other guys that a few months riding streets and flat trails isn't going to give you an advantage negotiating technical terrain over anybody else who can ride a bike. You've got to practice the specific technical skills to get good at them. And you can get good, no matter your size.

    But, I have to agree with you that littler guys do seem to be more athletically intuitive than us big guys. Okay, more than me, your mileage may very. I don't know if it has to do with smaller people having lower centers of gravity or less mass to move around or just more athletic backgrounds. So much of technical riding is about subtle adjustments and shifting your body weight. It comes naturally to some people, but not others, like just about any other sport. Maybe some of the guys you were riding with rode BMX bikes as kids. Some things you never forget; its like, well, riding a bike.

    Hey look, bicycling is a sport where power-to-weight ratio is paramount. So yeah, clydes are at a natural disadvantage. How many true clydes are racing in the pro ranks? (rant - and I don't mean George Hincapie - that's dude's waist is like the size of my arm. Just because he's slightly less waifish than the rest of the peleton doesn't make him a clyde in my book - rant off) Being big is such a disadvantage, most races have seperate categories for clydes like they have seperate categories for women and old people. Harder to bunny hop. Harder to go up hills. Sure, going down is theoretically easier, but you more mass to slow down to maintain control. So does it maybe take more effort and more focus to reach a high level of ability in mountain biking? Yes, I think it does. I don't think its unattainable, though. Okay, realistically, (again just speaking for me) I think what's attainable is a high level of recreational enjoyment and amatuer racing success (if I raced). I don't think a guy my size is going to realistically be able to compete at the top levels of the sport. But I'm probably veering way off topic and taking too long to say, just practice your skills and you'll get better and don't worry about comparing yourself to the skinny guys.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by bolandjd View Post
    I'm gonna say yes and no. (how's that for a decisive answer) I completely agree with the other guys that a few months riding streets and flat trails isn't going to give you an advantage negotiating technical terrain over anybody else who can ride a bike. You've got to practice the specific technical skills to get good at them. And you can get good, no matter your size.

    But, I have to agree with you that littler guys do seem to be more athletically intuitive than us big guys. Okay, more than me, your mileage may very. I don't know if it has to do with smaller people having lower centers of gravity or less mass to move around or just more athletic backgrounds. So much of technical riding is about subtle adjustments and shifting your body weight. It comes naturally to some people, but not others, like just about any other sport. Maybe some of the guys you were riding with rode BMX bikes as kids. Some things you never forget; its like, well, riding a bike.

    Hey look, bicycling is a sport where power-to-weight ratio is paramount. So yeah, clydes are at a natural disadvantage. How many true clydes are racing in the pro ranks? (rant - and I don't mean George Hincapie - that's dude's waist is like the size of my arm. Just because he's slightly less waifish than the rest of the peleton doesn't make him a clyde in my book - rant off) Being big is such a disadvantage, most races have seperate categories for clydes like they have seperate categories for women and old people. Harder to bunny hop. Harder to go up hills. Sure, going down is theoretically easier, but you more mass to slow down to maintain control. So does it maybe take more effort and more focus to reach a high level of ability in mountain biking? Yes, I think it does. I don't think its unattainable, though. Okay, realistically, (again just speaking for me) I think what's attainable is a high level of recreational enjoyment and amatuer racing success (if I raced). I don't think a guy my size is going to realistically be able to compete at the top levels of the sport. But I'm probably veering way off topic and taking too long to say, just practice your skills and you'll get better and don't worry about comparing yourself to the skinny guys.
    I guess it was just discouraging. I was sure I'd do better than them but we were very much the same.

  6. #6
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    and just in case I didn't write enough already...I weigh in a bit bigger than you; I think I'm right around 260 now. I'm mid-30's and moderately athletic (you know the story - used to be an athlete in high school, drank too much beer in college, office job, got into mtb for fun and fitness). I ride very basic sleds - rigid monstercross and hardtail w 100 fork. And - NO - I don't stick to smooth, groomed trails. And you shouldn't either, if you don't want to. I'd rate my skills as intermediate. I can unweight where and when I need to. I can negitiate any obstacle on the the trail that doesn't require a pure vertical leap. It ain't fast and it ain't pretty. But it gets the job done. If I hit a section I don't think I can do, I'm not afraid to get off and walk. Or just go for it, damn the consequences. And wouldn't you know, when I do the latter I often surprise myself and clean the section. Or I crash epically and have something to talk about at work the next day. Everytime I ride, I pick a skill to focus on and just sort of pay special attention on improving that skill. I've still got a long way to go. Its a constant thing. I don't know if that's any encouragement. I probably would have got dusted by those skinny guys too. You know, just don't feel like you have to be "limited" in what or where you can ride. Just get out there and keep trying to get better and better.
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  7. #7
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    Alias530, Downieville is no joke and is not a ride I would judge your skills if you've only been riding a few months. I live in the Bay so I know about that ride, you got an inch on me in height but I've got a few pounds on you, and I've been riding pretty religiously for 3 years and I while I have not ridden Downieville yet, it's not a ride to take lightly, at least from what I've heard. I plan on heading up there later this summer for my first time.

    I have some "regular" sized friends I ride with and no doubt they always leave me in the dust on climbs and they definitely are able to take bigger jumps but I can hang with them as soon as gravity is working in my favor. The main thing that keeps me from charging the way they do is that I really don't like to fall, which they do more often than me. I think it has to hurt more when my 6'5" 300+ ass hits the ground than them at 6' 180lbs. And granted even though I have some burly built up bikes, I don't want to break stuff on my bike while out on a ride. Like I'm not going to do a 3' drop to flat.

    So anyway, don't beat yourself up over feeling inadequate at Downieville after a few months of riding. Keep hitting the trails and I guarantee you'll be better next year.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by masonmoa View Post
    Alias530, Downieville is no joke and is not a ride I would judge your skills if you've only been riding a few months. I live in the Bay so I know about that ride, you got an inch on me in height but I've got a few pounds on you, and I've been riding pretty religiously for 3 years and I while I have not ridden Downieville yet, it's not a ride to take lightly, at least from what I've heard. I plan on heading up there later this summer for my first time.

    I have some "regular" sized friends I ride with and no doubt they always leave me in the dust on climbs and they definitely are able to take bigger jumps but I can hang with them as soon as gravity is working in my favor. The main thing that keeps me from charging the way they do is that I really don't like to fall, which they do more often than me. I think it has to hurt more when my 6'5" 300+ ass hits the ground than them at 6' 180lbs. And granted even though I have some burly built up bikes, I don't want to break stuff on my bike while out on a ride. Like I'm not going to do a 3' drop to flat.

    So anyway, don't beat yourself up over feeling inadequate at Downieville after a few months of riding. Keep hitting the trails and I guarantee you'll be better next year.
    If you are intermediate/advanced I'm sure it would be the time of your life. I was just way too involved in keeping myself alive to have as much fun as a more advanced rider would have. There were some non-technical spots that were amazing for me though.

  9. #9
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    Big guys can be awesome technical riders and I don't think it complicates the learning curve. Just takes saddle time and many failed attempts to get good at techy stuff. Only issue is that big guys don't usually have as much endurance compared to smaller guys. The less endurance you have, the worse techy stuff gets. Riding tech tired is much different than riding tech when you're feeling good.

    I'm a big guy and love riding tech. Lots of rocks in KC.

  10. #10
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    To get better in relatively short time I found it very useful to do the same trail multiple times. The second time it is already much easier than the first time, the learning curve is thus rather steep, but the confirmation a second run gives helps you forward faster. It thus helps to have a nice trail in the backyard, or take uplifts/skilifts to get more runs in the same time when you have to travel for such a trail.

  11. #11
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    Like XXL said you got to practice and if you did the same run in Downieville another time you would find it easier, I am sure.
    Realistically "Power to weight ratio" is better for the shorter guys but I like to ignore that fact and like to prove it wrong........well I try!
    I find that if you want to get better technically wise, you got to push yourself.
    (Without hurting yourself.....)
    Believe me! If you ride a hard blue run and then ride a black run after and then go back to the blue run......
    You won't believe how much easier the blue run is the second time.

    k

  12. #12
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    Play to your strengths

    We big and tall riders (I'm 6'5" @ 270#) have advantages and disadvantages. Harder to keep a good pace up the steeper stuff, but we roll downhill like a bowling ball. Many of us also have a higher COG so we have to move around a lot on the bike to keep things kosher.

    I shine brightest:

    with 29" wheels

    descending trails that are not super steep that allow me to carry speed and momentum through corners and over features.

    climbing slightly uphill fire roads.

    descending slightly downhill fire roads where I don't have to slow down for the turns.

    a fast downhill section that leads into a short uphill where my momentum just carries me past lighter riders.

    I have more trouble than most:

    on 26" wheels

    on trails where speeds constantly change.

    on trails with decreasing radius corners, and other places where I have to scrub off speed.

    on long, steep(er), relentless climbs.
    ===============================
    You may see a theme on the things that come easier to me. 'Momentum' is common theme. It's harder for big guys to change momentum, but easier for us to keep it going, especially when gravity tilts the trail in our favor. If I have to scrub off speed to corner or negotiate something, that is a place where smaller lighter riders can make gains.

    The places I struggle with, I feel pathetic. But, there are definitely places where I have an advantage that almost seems unfair, and it was surprising to me when I discovered that I am actually pretty strong in those areas. I thought others were taking it easy or something.

    I generally ride for fun and fitness, but if we're having a friendly sword fight on the trails, I try to keep things in check and don't push the pace in places where I am at a disadvantage so they don't feel like they have to crush my soul , and then pour it on when I have the chance

  13. #13
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    Gravity is the enemy. The bigger you are the more of an enemy gravity is. I can literally tell the difference on my local trails when i am 10 lbs lighter on some corners. Corners i know like the back of my hand where i know EXACTLY how fast and how sharp i can cut them. Drop 10 lbs and i can cut them sharper and faster. 10lbs!!!! so if 10 makes a difference how much of an advantage does the guy who weighs 80lbs less have?

    Here is the thing. Ride enough and you will eventually stop using gravity as an excuse. As posters above have mentioned there are places gravity is your friend. Learn to work with what you have and go hard. There is no reason you cant hang with a pack of pencil boys of equal riding experience / skill.

    Im actually the strongest climber in my pack of friends believe it or not. I realized long ago that i had to attack steeper and technical sections of climbs. Unlike the guys i ride with who damn near stall out at the bottom of those sections i accelerate and charge up them. Once my conditioning level allowed me to not only clean those sections but recover enough to do it again on the next one i started beating my smaller friends up every grade.

    If the voice in your head is already making excuses, you ARE at a disadvantage. Squash that voice and just ride. =)

  14. #14
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    There comes a point where you just have to lose weight if you want to improve. I dropped 35 pounds between last season and this and my improvement is incredible to me.
    He who dares....wins!

  15. #15
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    My 2 cents: size definitely impacts the learning curve, but that won't stop you if you work at it hard enough. I'm 7ft, 260lbs, and have definitely noticed the COG issues (resulting in broken jaw and separated shoulder on two separate occasions). Uphill is not an issue for me, but my natural athletic proclivity is toward endurance stuff. Ive been riding since 2005, and have only just now started doing drops waist high on me (chest high to the transition) and tabletops and some easy doubles/gaps.

    I think just like other athletic stuff, start low and go slow...start where you are just at the margin of comfortable and GRADUALLY work up from there.

    Another tip: for the really tall, try to extinguish the "grab the brakes" reflex when stuff gets hairy...that's how both my bad accidents happened...probably would have been fine if I just let go.

    Another key is to get properly fitting equipment...extreme size is really gonna accentuate a poorly fitting frame (circus bike phenomenon). 29er or 650b is probably gonna help out with that, but I think the more important thing is getting long enough top tube, slack angles, and low bottom bracket to counteract some of our circus freakishness.

    I would recommend practicing wheelies, manuals, and J hops, just like one of the above posters, but also try to find a pumptrack somewhere...I am building one at my house (on 4 acres) and am finding it REALLY helps with balance, confidence into berms, confidence into jumps and small trail features, and just general bike feel, not to mention a CRAZY good workout!

    It is totally possible to be crazy good and really big...Gemini2k is on this forum and is like 6ft 8inches. I met up with him at Mammoth last year, and that dude can frikkin fly! He has video of him doing 12 foot drop to flat on a CHAINLESS race! So it is technically possible...

  16. #16
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    And apart from the toptube a properly positioned handlebar. Depending on the type of riding it should be from max 5cm below saddle to above saddle height to distribute your weight properly between front and rear wheel. Obviously a deep handlebar will accentuate the going over the bars feeling when going downhill and make it truly more difficult. Ignore all those companies that think a 4" to 5" headtube suffices for an XL frame.

  17. #17
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    XXL speaks truth! I forgot about the headtube...I've got a 7 inch headtube on my ventana El Cap and the front end feels so much better than my other bikes. Definitely wide handlebars too...much more stable, particularly with a short stem (60mm seems ideal for me). Don't let the LBS talk you into 100+ mm stems for height...makes the steering waaay too twitchy, and makes getting the front end up that much more difficult, which is already gonna be a big issue with a long wheelbase and/or long chainstays...

    My downhill bike is a custom frame done by Hank Matheson at Bicycle Fabrications in SF. We got the headtube to around 6.3 inches and were stuck there because DH forks are kinda maxxed out at that headtube height, but I love the top tube at 27.5! it is sooo nice to not get so cramped up, and I can run a true DH stem on it. I'm still doing like 3 inch riser handlebars, but it doesn't seem to impact the steering much at all. Seat tube is like 23 inches as well...really tall for a DH frame. Even though the bike is a 26er, the long top tube and low bb make for an "in the frame" feel.

  18. #18
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    I don't think size is a disadvantage as far as tech riding. At 250#, I can ride down/thru/over anything that my 150# riding buddies can. I've been 225-275# on the bike, and can't say I've noticed any difference in my tech/downhill riding abilities. I do, however, note a difference when the trail points upward!

    I guess the only disadvantage could be getting a bike that fits correctly, maybe? At 6', it really isn't an issue for me, but I see how it could be for some of you tall guys.
    '11 Specialized Enduro Expert for the trails
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  19. #19
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    I'd have to agree with a lot of the other riders on here. I've ridden with other large people on tech singletrack and they were fine. I think it's just knowing the trail and riding the lines a few times.

    One thing I have noticed though is that I seem to go over the handle bars a lot more when I'm heavier. Losing as much as 15-20 lbs seems to make a difference to me.

  20. #20
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    Just watch this vid.... Size doesn't matter, practice does.
    Porthtowan Natural on Vimeo
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    Born 26" trials
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  21. #21
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    The rider is Adam Phillips, he's 6'4"/260 and one hell of a trials rider.
    Here's a link to his Vimeo page. Adam Phillips?s Videos on Vimeo
    '09 Specialized Rockhopper expert 29
    Born 26" trials
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  22. #22
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    While there may be some truth to the disadvantages listed, I think a BIG part of it is mental.

    As a big guy, you've had years and years of physical advantage in most activities. Popular participant sports in the US -- especially the big three, football, baseball, and basketball -- offer massive advantages to larger players when all other things are considered equal.

    You're probably used to picking up a new activity and being better than other first-timers simply because of your size. Not having that advantage in cycling, and possibly having a slight disadvantage is probably magnified in your head because you're used to having an natural advantage.

    Fortunately, it's been shown that genetics only matter in rank amateurs and elite athletes. Since the vast majority of us are somewhere in between, your size will become a non-issue quickly.

    That being said, as a small rider, there's nothing I enjoy more than flying past some x-football player on a tough climb.
    I live with fear and danger every day. And on the weekends she lets me go mountain biking.

  23. #23
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    5'10" around 245 when I started riding, down to 235 now.

    My first ride was with friends of mine that had been hounding me for 2 years to go mountain biking with them... My wife bought me a bike for fathers day, and told me I had to start riding it because she spent big money on it. I went with the guys (all of them have been riding 2+ years, and are your "athletic" types). I get my bike out of the car, pull my new helmet out of the box, and think to myself "I'm going to look like an idiot, and all of my buddies are going to just laugh their hind ends off". We hit some easy sections on the local trail, I'm thinking, this is cool, I can do this. We make our way around the first few miles of trail, and whilst resting, my friend says, ok, this is a more technical section of the trail, there are a lot of root crossings, and a couple of table rocks that you'll have to hop up on and over. Ok, here's where I get to look like a fool I think to myself. They all skate right over all of it. I high side my bike on the first rock. Get back up, wedge the front tire in a root and hit the tree, get back up, and then promptly ride off the side of the trail trying to cross the next root. Yup, I looked like an idiot. My friends all pointed out to me that I had missed the better line through there, pointed out the line, and we cruised on. (all of us laughing mind you) The next technical feature comes up, another rock garden. I land a pedal right on a rock, ride right off the bike, and fall on my face. Then there is the short near vertical hill that I rode the bike up, into a wheelie, and right over on my back. Yup, like an idiot again. Pride has 0 points left to it at this point.
    I went back to that same trail again, feeling like I'm not going to let this trail beat me, I'm not going out that way (and remembering that my wife just spent over a grand on a bike for me so that I could enjoy this sport) and I bobbled slowly through the trail again (I at the time was a little over an hour and a half on a 7.5 mile trail). I fumbled through the technical section at the end again, similar results.

    I tell you this whole mess to tell you that I ride this trail weekly, and every week I got better and better. I have the trail down to a 40 minute loop, I still fall from time to time, but more so now due to out riding my tires. I have the technical sections down to a point where I now lead other friends of mine through them, and now show other noobies the lines and the routes through that make them work. If you haven't ridden technical trails, you haven't got the skill down for that part yet. Keep at it, keep trying, don't let it get you down!! I'm riding because I love to ride, but I started riding because I'm over weight, and need to get in shape. Letting things discourage me from working hard is how I got here, and I'm not going out like that anymore!!

  24. #24
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    4 months of riding is nothing. I made my biggest improvements in skill, speed, endurance in my 3rd year of riding 3-5 x / week....even have a bunch of KOM's. Just get out and ride as much as you can.

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