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  1. #1
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    Physically challenging trails w/ nice scenery but not technical

    I'm just getting into mountain biking (been road biking for a long time) and I've gone out with a few friends. First of all, I stink at it. I'm not very good with technical portions. I've gone to Hidden Mesa and the Waterton Canyon/Roxborough Loop. I crashed multiple times on both rides, on Roxborough I tacoed my wheel too. But I was feeling great going up hill and basically had to wait around for everyone else while we took multiple stops and they caught their breath.

    My friends like the technical and downhill stuff, they go to Moab twice a year. I'm just not ready for that. Crashing 10 times on a ride isn't fun to me. So I know the only way to keep going out there with them is to find trails that are not technical, but still involve good scenery and a physical challenge. Then I can invite them along. I have a 29 inch hardtail with 80mm travel front fork. If I understand correctly my bike is more geared around XC riding anyway.

    Any suggestions on Front Range rides that fit that criteria? So far I've only got a few ideas, I've never been to these places, this is just what I've read:
    Mt. Falcon
    Green Mountain
    Lair o' The Bear
    Bear Creek Lake

    Any other ideas?

  2. #2
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    Sounds like you'd be a good candidate to be pedalling a bigger bike...Nomad or 6.6? These bikes can compensate (to a degree) for your lack of techy kung-fu, and slow you down a bit by its weight for your buddies.
    Naysayers never apologize. Critics go to their grave thinking everyone else is wrong.
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  3. #3
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    You're in the same category right now as my wife, also a roadie. She likes Lair of the Bear, Bear Creek Lake, Green Mtn and Centennial Cone.
    I don't know that Mt. Falcon would fit into that category - quite a few water bar switchbacks and some long rocky sections.
    Last edited by dbabuser; 05-31-2009 at 02:02 PM.
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  4. #4
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    There are some water bars at the beginning of Falcon, but after that is is just climbing,and not technical at all.

    I haven't done it, but you can ride from the top of Falcon to the top of lair o the bear.

    There would be 2 or 3 places you would have to walk at LOTB, but they are short, and the rest of the trail is nice.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the suggestions! So Falcon may or may not be off the list, maybe after I can improve my handling some. If you know of anything else, keep the suggestions coming. It doesn't have to be that close either, I'd be willing to drive a ways.

    I don't necessarily want to give up being able to go fast. I'd actually prefer rides that are less technical but physically challenging. So I don't think I'd go to a different bike yet, especially since I just bought this one.

  6. #6
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    You crashed multiple times at waterton? in the 4 miles of single track? You need to ride one place ov er and over to get your bike handling up to par.

    I'm not sure what you consider technical or not because all of the rides listed have some slightly technical sections but I wouldn't consider any of them grossly technical.... it is the front range after all.

    I like the Centennial cone loop, that one is probably more technical than what you're looking for, but it's also long which I think is what you're after.

    Stay away from Deer Creek, the top loops of Mt Falcon (if you do it from the bottom to top and back down, you should be fine), and Matthew Winters.

    Like I said in the beggining, take one place and ride the **** out of it. That way you'll get better at handling your bike and presumably crash less.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clattymine
    You crashed multiple times at waterton? in the 4 miles of single track? You need to ride one place ov er and over to get your bike handling up to par.
    I didn't crash at the Waterton portion. I crashed when I got to the downhill portion of the Roxborough loop. Maybe 10 is an exaggeration, probably more like 6 times, with having to put my foot down quite a bit more. Most where at low speeds, but that's because I was going too slow downhill

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clattymine
    Stay away from Deer Creek, the top loops of Mt Falcon (if you do it from the bottom to top and back down, you should be fine), and Matthew Winters.
    Funny, Deer Creek was the other place my friend wants to take me. I like the suggestion of riding one trail for a while until I nail it. I need to work my way up though, I don't feel like I'm learning anything by going on rides that are way over my head. I still have no clue how I crashed or what I could have done differently.

    I'm also planning on going to some secluded grassy area (if I can find one) and try to learn how to do things like wheelies, bunny hops, etc. while video taping myself.

  9. #9
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    Deer Creek is fine except for 2-3 sections you can walk- definitely crash-worthy sections. Centennial Cone is a strength-builder and the scenery is nice. Lair O' the Bear is a pretty good one too but you may consider walking a couple of short sections there as well. A bit further out, Buffalo Creek is a sweet option.

  10. #10
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    cooleric1234, can you describe the situations you seem to have trouble with? We might be able to help you with your technique. There are some good trail recommendations on this thread but most trails are technical to some extent. On the descents, ride your own ride. Don't try to keep up with your more experienced friends until you're ready. Actually you should talk to them about your challenges. On descents look down the trail so you have preparation time but periodically glance closer in too. Always look where you want to go and not where you do not want to go. Watch out for target fixation. You will go where you look.

    Since you want to keep your speed down on descents you'll be on the breaks. When its steep or you brake hard, get your weight back, but no so much that the front wheel gets squirrely. Learn to use that front brake, but be ginger with it while turning. Consider trying to get yor breaking done before turning and gently trailing the rear brake while in the turn if you need further braking. Get a feel for when your bike wants to skid and when it does want to skid, feather the breaks or don't go that fast. Sometimes its easier to just motor through technical parts of decent without brakes. Other times you need to feather the breaks.

    It sounds like your road riding has you in good climbing shape. You can make a climb more difficult and slow yourself by pulling a harder gear. Actually this is good because for mountain biking you need power to torque through technical up hill sections with a good consistent pedal stroke. You don't want to be pedalling super fast in technical ascents because the rear tire might spin out. Think Jan Ulrich. You can train for this on your road bike by climbing in harder gears. Don't give up. Mountain biking can be hugely satisfying.

    Msurk

  11. #11
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    I only started riding 2 years ago (so i know where you're coming from) and I rode Green Mtn about 1/2 dozen times ... and nothing else. It's got a bastard of a climb and some up and down. If you fall, there's no where that's very risky or exposed. Pretty good beginner ride if you ask me.

    Riding something over and over gets you familiar with the trail which then allows you to concentrate on your riding. You can push yourself faster downhill, hook up turns better and get your gearing straight. Then you can take that to tougher places with better scenery.

    Deer Creek has a horrendous climb in and subsequent rough ride out. Not a beginner trail IMO.

    Make sure you ride with people better than you as well. They'll help you by pushing you or giving you some small tips here and there.

  12. #12
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    Buffalo Creek is mostly non-technical with miles and miles of trails. Keep at it, your bike handling will get better.

    FWIW - your 29" hardtail can handle most of the trails in Moab.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by DirtOnTheBrain
    Buffalo Creek is mostly non-technical with miles and miles of trails. Keep at it, your bike handling will get better.
    I would second this idea..

  14. #14
    how heavy are you ??
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    you are ALL MOUNTIAN dude! :)

    What is your bike setup? I am thinking that you are on a very racer setup. This is a great idea in IL or NE, NOT here. There is a type of bike that suits us out here. Your bike needs a kinda neutral setup to rearward bias and the handle bars need to be higher than the seat. If you are crashing many times in a ride this is prolly the reason. Locking your arms out on the steep downs is very important too. Possibly dropping the seat on the longer downhill’s might help lower your CG? NEVER GIVE UP. i have been here 6 years from IL and am finally getting used to the super steep stuff going down.
    What does Marsellus Wallace look like, A BIT*H?

  15. #15
    zrm
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    Buff Creek +3. Great place with lots of great fun single track but not lots in the way of real technical stuff. Lots of fast descents with flowing turns to get you used to riding faster. If you have the legs and lungs, the climbs are mostly middle ring. I really don't know that a "big" bike is what you need, I'm a long time mountain biker and former serious XC racer who also rides road a lot and IMO a bike that feels heavy and sluggish (to me anyway) on the climbs and just runs over everything on the descents bike doesn't really teach you as much about bike handling as a HT or more XC type FS bike does. After you gain some skills, you might be better prepared to enjoy what a bigger bike has to offer, but learn on the bike you have right now, you'll be a better off road bike handler for it.

  16. #16
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    You can learn a lot on a hard tail. Work on finding that balance between weighting the front and rear ends on hard climbs. When you're on, that rear tire will really hook up. On descents, a hard tail will teach you to pick good lines. Hopefully you're fork isn't Walmart grade though.

    Msurk

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scottay5150
    What is your bike setup? I am thinking that you are on a very racer setup. This is a great idea in IL or NE, NOT here. There is a type of bike that suits us out here. Your bike needs a kinda neutral setup to rearward bias and the handle bars need to be higher than the seat. If you are crashing many times in a ride this is prolly the reason. Locking your arms out on the steep downs is very important too. Possibly dropping the seat on the longer downhill’s might help lower your CG? NEVER GIVE UP. i have been here 6 years from IL and am finally getting used to the super steep stuff going down.
    Quote Originally Posted by Msurk
    Hopefully you're fork isn't Walmart grade though.
    No, it's not a racer setup. It's just cheap. It's a Windsor Cliff 29er Comp, which is pretty much the same bike as the Fuji Tahoe 29 Comp. The fork is a Dart 3, which I hear is pretty crappy, although not nearly as bad as no-name Walmart stuff.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by msurk
    cooleric1234, can you describe the situations you seem to have trouble with? We might be able to help you with your technique. There are some good trail recommendations on this thread but most trails are technical to some extent. On the descents, ride your own ride. Don't try to keep up with your more experienced friends until you're ready. Actually you should talk to them about your challenges. On descents look down the trail so you have preparation time but periodically glance closer in too. Always look where you want to go and not where you do not want to go. Watch out for target fixation. You will go where you look.

    Since you want to keep your speed down on descents you'll be on the breaks. When its steep or you brake hard, get your weight back, but no so much that the front wheel gets squirrely. Learn to use that front brake, but be ginger with it while turning. Consider trying to get yor breaking done before turning and gently trailing the rear brake while in the turn if you need further braking. Get a feel for when your bike wants to skid and when it does want to skid, feather the breaks or don't go that fast. Sometimes its easier to just motor through technical parts of decent without brakes. Other times you need to feather the breaks.

    It sounds like your road riding has you in good climbing shape. You can make a climb more difficult and slow yourself by pulling a harder gear. Actually this is good because for mountain biking you need power to torque through technical up hill sections with a good consistent pedal stroke. You don't want to be pedalling super fast in technical ascents because the rear tire might spin out. Think Jan Ulrich. You can train for this on your road bike by climbing in harder gears. Don't give up. Mountain biking can be hugely satisfying.

    Msurk
    Thanks for the help. First of all, part of me thinks I'm just a wuss and need to get over it. But if I'm crashing that much there's a high probability of getting some type of at least moderate injury. I'm the sole provider for my kids, I don't need a hobby that involves that much risk. But I think that can be minimized if I get better technique and ride the type of trails I'm mentioning. My friend didn't crash.

    The areas where I crashed were mostly drops. I think I can handle small drops by themselves, but the tricky area was a few feet of drops that was a staggered tree root system where the dirt was eroded away on the back side, and there was a steep downhill after the roots and a turn. I know speed helps, but the problem with speed is if it doesn't work you hit the ground faster and harder.

    I can't really do a wheelie and I can't bunny hop. So I took this one too slow and had my weight WAY back. The bike ended up getting away from me and I "avoided" a crash by basically stepping off the back side. But I got lucky.

    The actual crash was water bars. I was getting too cocky and decided to try to take one faster. But I can't seem to get my front side up. My friend said it looked like I got scared at the last minute and hit the brakes, but I don't remember much. I caught a little air, then I was launched to the side and my front rim was bent a few inches off to the side. At least I was able to limp it home, taking it very easy.

    I was also just quite intimidated by the narrow trail sections and rocky obstacles with a steep drop to the side. I navigated past them, but one mistake and it felt like I'd be launched down the mountain. As I said, I went way too slow, locking up my back brake sometimes. I used the front brake too, but never felt like I was close to an endo.

    My friend didn't help a lot. He was in front and knew of the difficult parts. He'd go past it without me knowing, stop and come "coach" me through it. I usually tried to do what he said, crashed, and generally wouldn't have attempted the obstacle had he not been coaxing me. I just need to start smaller and work my way up.

    For some reason I just can't get the hang of doing any type of wheelie (which I think is needed to properly go off drops?) or bunny hop. Forget about pedal up, side-hopping or this other crazy stuff I learn about.

    I also struggle here and there with obstacles going up (hit my pedals on a tree trunk, had to put my foot down many times in a rocky section, etc.).

  19. #19
    bacon! bacon! bacon!
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    Curbs, man. Up and down 'em. Until you can do wheelies and drops. Search for videos on drop techniques. It's easy once you get the feel... it's probably not something you want to practice 10 miles back on the Roxy loop.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkaredShtles
    Curbs, man. Up and down 'em. Until you can do wheelies and drops. Search for videos on drop techniques. It's easy once you get the feel... it's probably not something you want to practice 10 miles back on the Roxy loop.
    Haha...that's a good call

  21. #21
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    You road ride, correct? Riding on roads with cars is way more dangerous then mountain biking. Its just, we're accustomed to that risk. You need to be cognizant of your surrounds on the trail. However, only focus on where you want to go. Work on being in control before increasing your speed. When your confidence in controlling your bike improves, you're trepidation with the terrain will ease.

    Roots can be slick. Usually they cross the trail at odd angles and often there are deep ruts between roots. It's preferable to cross roots and water bars at right angles otherwise your tires may slide along the root or water bar. However, if crossing at right angles is not possible try to have the bike level and not leaned over in a turn while crossing them. Also, to encourage your bike to roll smoothly over the roots or water bar, don't use the brakes while riding over the roots or water bar. Instead do your braking before and after the roots or water bar.

    Its not required to do a wheelie before a drop off. Actually I'd say it takes more skill to go over such drops slowly without launching. As you ride keep your speed moderated. Always be looking down trail. By looking ahead you should be able to see these drop offs approaching. Step off your bike to scope out the drop off before riding them. Strategize your line before hand.

    As you approach the drop off use both your front and rear brake to keep your speed slow. Approach straight and level, perpendicular to the ledge. As you approach the lip, get your weight back. You may need to get your weight so far back that your butt is behind your seat and down toward your rear tire depending on the drop off. Get your braking done prior to the ledge. As your front tire goes over the lip release your front brake so that the front tire rolls smoothly upon impact with the ground after the ledge. Get off the rear brake too as your rear tire goes over the ledge. You can get back on the brakes gingerly once both wheels are back on the ground.Taken slowly, you won't get air off a drop off. Be smooth and deliberate about bringing your weight forward after clearing the drop off.

    Don't feel bad about putting your foot down or walking through dicey sections. Its better to stay injury free and gain skill over time then to push too hard to quickly. For climbs you'll need to develop power. This likely means pulling harder gears when road riding up hills. On a mountain bike, when a climb gets more technical and/or steeper, you should actually shift up to a harder gear and slow your pedal stroke. This will allow you to motor through with torque.

    However, you will need to practice attaining balance between weight on the front wheel so that it doesn't wheelie or get squirrely and weighting the rear tire enough to maintain traction. Keep your elbows low. Bring your chest down toward your handle bars. At the same time, scoot yourself ever so slightly forward on but not necessarily off the saddle. Now play with the amount of weight you have over the handle bars and the saddle. Your weight distribution will change for each technical section, the different lines you take, and the different parts of a technical section.

    Mountain biking takes more skill then road riding. That's what makes it so interesting. You might consider reading "Mountain bike like a champion" by Ned Overend.

    Msurk

  22. #22
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    My two cents worth

    Brian Lopes wrote a great book, "Mastering Mountain Bike Skills".
    Check it out.

    As to waterbars, try "suckin' 'em up" or "pressing" them, in order to either get no air or minimize getting thrown too far.

    On approach, get off the saddle -- push the bike down into the backside of the hump and as you crest, push it down again. (In ski racing parlance, this is known as "pre-jumping")
    Keep your fore-aft balance slighlty back, like 60-40....
    Try it at moderate speeds first. If your timing is late, you will fly farther than if you made no move at all.


    The advice to pick a place, like Green Mountain -- or even a section of trail -- and ride it repeatedly is excellent.
    Your learning curve is soooooo steep right now. As you start to get familiar and comfortable with a trail, you can concentrate on bike handling.
    "Okay -- get in 3rd gear -- move forward on the saddle -- keep your elbows low -- watch that rock -- Gun it! Press! Press! Pedal up! Feather the brake a little.......!!!!!"

    Can you say overload?


    I also second Buffalo Creek as a wonderful riding experience. Be sure to go there with someone that is familiar -- or just take it easy, be prepared for the occasional "tech" obstacle -- and walk it through.
    Be patient and give yourself time -- rack up the miles and the skills will come.

    Happy Trails!

    Marc

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