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  1. #1
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    Noob Mistake. Help! Air = Accident

    Hello,
    First post.
    Just got into mountain biking recently. 41. Been riding about a year, 1-2 times a month on local trails/mountain biking park. I've been riding the Trek Superfly - a 29er.
    Took a 27.5 (650B) - the Santa Cruz 5010 - out for the first time last weekend, and did a Blue trail - which I had done previously with my 29er a few times the week before.
    Long story short - I guess I was going a little faster than I thought I was - and caught some air (involuntarily). I guess I was thrown about 1/2 and inch off my bike - my hands sort of came off, and I was lifted off my pedals and my seat too. Luckily, I landed with my hands on the handlebars, and also landed on my seat - the full suspension took the impact. One foot landed on the pedal - and the other leg - got whacked pretty bad with the other pedal. Shin swelled up big time. Welcome to the big times. :-)
    So - a few questions -
    a) What do I do to not catch air? Just go slower?
    b) Or if I do catch some air, what might I have been doing wrong, or should do differently? I suspect I don't grip my handlebars, but just keep my palms planted on them, with fingers on brakes - is that it?
    c) The SantaCruz 5010 seems to have killed the fun of riding though - while with the 29er I was hanging on for dear life and felt like I was flying above the terrain, the 5010 seems to have made it easier? Dunno - just not as much fun as I thought it would be. What adjustments to riding style are necessary when going from hard tail to full suspension? Any gotchas? anything I should do differently on the full suspension so I don't get thrown off? Was it the bikes fault? Or just mine?
    Thanks for help and comments.

  2. #2
    always licking the glass
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    You can get thrown off any bike. Iíve been throw off hardtails and full suspension bikes, and they both hurt equally (assuming speed is the same in the falls).

    Learn to ride with your pedals level and your weight in your feet. Sounds like your weight was in your handlebars, which is not a good idea.

    And usually in those cases, people ride with one foot down, which is a good way to get catapulted.

    Look up the ready position or attack position. Make sure youíre in it.

    Go back to your shop. Get your suspension set up for you. Tell them you want less bounce in it itís entirely possible you may have too much rebound in the rear, but body position is key.

    If you prefer the hardtail, stick with it. Donít think that riding a full suspension is a requirement. Ride what you like, but safely


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  3. #3
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    Heavy feet, light hands...

    Stand up in attack position & allow the bike to move/dance underneath you...

    If you're up in attack position, involuntary air can be absorbed upwards by the hands and feet i.e. your body will not move up as much as your hands & feet will...

    Hoot & hollah, a lot!! This will allow your core to be strong/ready & you'll warn anyone coming up the trail - that you're flying out of control in their general direction.

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  4. #4
    > /dev/null 2&>1
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    on b), as you get better and do more difficult trails, jumping becomes routine and inescapable. You will encounter rollers, water bars, lips, and drops. To prepare for this, you also need to learn to control the jump. You can't be dead weight hanging on to the bike for dear life. You and the bike are a single unit with a single center of gravity, if you are not controlling it, it will control you, and it won't be the position you need.

    Do you know how to bunny hop your bike? If not, you tube that right now and start practicing. If yes, this compress -> extend motion is also basically how you control your air. Except, the difference is, in a jumping situation, you will not need to be rotating your feet downwards to grip and lift your pedals like you do in a bunny hop - momentum carries the bike up, you do not need to pull up, its up to you to control it.

    Next, go ride your bike, and find every roller / lip / anything to compress -> extend off. Repeat. Try to get both tires to land simultaneously. Notice how you can be too far forward, too far back, or just right. Keep practicing. Every time you see something moderately jumpable on the trail, jump it. Keep practicing. You will start to blur the line between a bunny hop jump, and a momentum jump, until its a continuum. Sometimes you are pulling the bike up to yourself, sometimes you are not, depending on the situation. Side note: Doing this will make the issue of losing your grip completely go away. The muscle memory will kick in and your grip and your weight on the pedals will to autonomic.

    Now, let's go back to a) - how to NOT catch air. I think learning ^ b) how to jump is useful first, and a) not jumping, can be a more advanced move. There will be cases where you want to keep your tires as close to the ground as possible, for example, if you have a larger roller or water bar, right in front of a hard turn: you can't be in the air and successfully make it.

    In these situations, you need to learn the 'retraction' air: As you approach the jump, you want to get your weight back behind the seat, and let the bike come up underneath you, but in a controlled fashion. As you exit this move you need to get the bike back underneath you, and center yourself so that the bike again, lands both tires simultaneously. There is also a similar technique for large drops. Eventually, you will learn, these techniques are all on a continuum: The bunnyhop, the compress -> extend jump, the 'retract-> absorb jump', the 'drop'.

  5. #5
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    If you're going fast, you should be up off the seat on rough sections to avoid getting bucked into the air involuntarily. Lower the seat too if you have a dropper. Be in an athletic "ready" type position.

  6. #6
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    As said above. In regards to not catching air, float off the seat and let the tires follow the terrain while your arms and legs soak up the jump. Just start slow and then gradually increase your speed. You'll be surprised at how fast you can hit jumps while still keeping your tires in contact with the dirt. Be sure you have proper pedals and shoes and technique to keep your feet on the pedals.
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  7. #7
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    If you look at the contours of the terrain, think of it as being light on the "ups" and heavy on the "downs". With a full suspension bike, the timing is going to be different, preweight just before the up and your suspension will rebound, too.

    Some people might say it's harder to learn pumping skills with a full suspension bike. It might be, slightly. The timing is different and you have to compensate. I ride dirt bikes and am used to pumping huge rollers; the skills transfer pretty easily.

    The best place to learn these is on a pump track, but not everyone has access. Learning on a trail is a little more difficult due to the variety of "stuff" on it, but, take your time. You should be looking far enough ahead on the trail to identify all the "stuff", either contours to pump or obstacles to avoid. I'm usually looking 2-3 seconds down the trail. Ride at a speed that is appropriate for your skill level - can you stop in time, avoid obstacles?

    The other thing about keeping your feet on flat pedals... if the terrain gets chunky, or you feel like your feet are going to fly off, dig your heels down (pivot at the ankle). The bumps will tend to push your bike into your pedals. Good shoes (i.e. 5-10s) help a bit, too. I tend to ride with the ball of my foot just forward of the pedal axle. Some people ride with it right on top of the axle. See what feels comfortable. You'll use different combinations of muscles just by moving your foot slightly (further forward, more quads; back, more calves).
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  8. #8
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    There are some books available that have drills you can practice on your bike that help make some of this instinctive. Ned Overend wrote a book "how to mountain bike like a champion" that helped me when I started riding.

  9. #9
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    Good info here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXY8SIEnCdA

    The first step is figuring out where you are making mistakes. Watch the video then pick one or two things to work on and start thinking about them on the trail.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by M@ver1ck View Post
    a) What do I do to not catch air? Just go slower?[/COLOR]
    Controlling speed is one option. Ideally, speed should go up AFTER your improve your skills, as the skills allow you to control the speed better. Going faster than your skills permit often results in crashes and/or injuries. You can also go too slow, but that doesn't sound like the case here.

    You can minimize the chances of getting accidental air with a few techniques, short of slowing down. Staying loose above the bike as others have mentioned is huge. For one, you have to grip the bars. Death grip, not the best, but it's better than not gripping the bars at all. Best technique is to have one finger covering the brake levers and then the rest lightly wrapped around the grips. Along with that, pedals level (basically 3 and 9 o'clock), and drop your heels to allow bumps in the terrain to push the bike up into your feet and increase your stability on the bike. Keep your body loose and let the bike move. If you're really good at being loose, you can absorb some pretty good-sized rollers in the terrain and keep your head totally level, and keep your tires in contact with the ground.

    Quote Originally Posted by M@ver1ck View Post
    b) Or if I do catch some air, what might I have been doing wrong, or should do differently? I suspect I don't grip my handlebars, but just keep my palms planted on them, with fingers on brakes - is that it?
    Yeah, wrap your fingers around those grips. The only time I allow my fingers off of my grips is in slow and nontechnical sections where control is not such a primary concern. What you do with your feet also matters. The technique I described above (it's called pumping) should help in a LOT of situations. But if you STILL wind up in the air when you don't want to (or maybe you do), you can control it and land it. Stay centered and balanced on the bike. DO NOT grab the brakes in the air. With your feet, keep your forward heel dropped, but on your trailing foot, point your toe. Put opposing pressure on the pedals (push forward on the foot with the dropped heel and push back with the foot with the pointed toe) and you'll keep your feet on. It doesn't have to be an exaggerated movement. In fact, at your level, it's probably best if it's subtle. Just enough to keep your feet on the pedals. Stay loose. Once you get airborne, extend your arms and legs and be ready to absorb the landing.

    Once you decide you like to get air, and want to do it more, then you can build on those skills to try to get more height, length, add some style, or whatever. But the techniques I just described should help get you back on the ground.

    Quote Originally Posted by M@ver1ck View Post
    c) The SantaCruz 5010 seems to have killed the fun of riding though - while with the 29er I was hanging on for dear life and felt like I was flying above the terrain, the 5010 seems to have made it easier? Dunno - just not as much fun as I thought it would be. What adjustments to riding style are necessary when going from hard tail to full suspension? Any gotchas? anything I should do differently on the full suspension so I don't get thrown off? Was it the bikes fault? Or just mine?
    Hanging on for dear life is not really how you want to ride. That phrasing means to me that you're riding out of control. That said, suspension CAN deaden a trail. It depends on the trail. The 5010 is a 140mm FS bike. It's got a decent amount of squish and it can absorb a decent amount of chunk. I rented one on some fairly chunky trails in Pisgah earlier this year. The more suspension travel you have, though, the more vital the setup procedure is. Too much sag can definitely deaden a fairly mellow trail. If the damping is off, it can make the bike feel "off". You've gotta spend some time on setup to make sure it's right. And that likely means making some adjustments out on the trail until you feel like you have it dialed. And yeah, hardtails are generally going to feel "tighter" and more responsive because they don't have rear suspension soaking up bumps on the trail. Some people prefer that feel.

  11. #11
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    I will add some tid-bits as well that have helped me over the years: these were all learned on BMX and then just applied to MTBing...

    - always wear a helmet

    - I ride a full rigid MTB (Surly Krampus), and have always used my legs and arms as "suspension", so the advice to stay standing and flexible through "chatter" is probably the best, and the most crucial. It centers your center of gravity, and will keep you the most connected to the bike

    - as mentioned before, learn to bunny hop and manual. I learned to hop by starting with something real small...a 2x4 laid flat. AFter I could clear that, I turned it on it's side; after that, stacked up 2...etc. etc.

    - learn to jump off of small things first: curbs; your driveway apron; along with basic bunny hopping these will get you started, and are not going to result in "epic" bails or crashes if you mis judge something. You will still fall, but it wont be into a tree or cactus at xxx MPH

    - learn to also hop up these things: start by just rolling up to the curb at a medium speed and pull the front tire up onto it, and then the back...not both at once, but front and then rear. This will teach you how to manipulate both ends of the bike. I call these "half-bunny hops"

    - find places with different sloping or swooping inclines and just learn to go up and down them. For me, a skatepark is the best place, but you could also just find a paved trail system with some short hills, or an industrial area with loading docks and ramps. Again, this is to get used to how to play with the bike in more controlled situations.

    - on the trail, choosing the line has helped me "save myself" from situations like you mentioned. On a first trail ride, I always ride a bit slower, and try to take note of the different lines around sketchy areas. I will see "jump lines", "drop lines" or "flow lines" as I call them. On the first couple of rides, I always try to take "flow lines" first. This alos helps me assess landing areas for when I want to do the other ones.
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  12. #12
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    On many jumps/rollers, pumping them is the fastest way but it takes practice...I come from a BMX background so it was instinctual to me when I started riding with big wheels. As mentioned, pump tracks can help.
    Niner Jet 9 RDO, Scalpel 29, XTC 650b, 04 Stumpjumper FSR Pro, Trek Rigid SS - No suspension, no gears....no problem

  13. #13
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    Thanks for all the tips, guys! Iíll probably stick to the green lines through the winter months, and get some lessons in the spring. Canít afford to injure myself Ė Iím 41 Ė and things take longer to heal. 🙂
    I also have my 6 yr old in tow Ė we started mountain biking together about a year or two ago. The first several months, I would just run behind him Ė had to push him up the slopes Ė and run behind him full throttle downhills.

    All this at Duthie Hill park in WA state.

  14. #14
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    Iím not going to read through all this ^ advice. So pardon me if Iím repeating any.

    Hereís mine; Any kind of downhill stand up on your pedals. It gives you a more controlled flow with the bike. You become one with the bike. Sitting down on fast downhills you are just along for the ride. Of course youíre going to get pogo sticked away from the bike. Have fun out there and welcome to the sport.
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  15. #15
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    So much misinformation in here. My advice- donít get advice on how to jump from people who wear spandex. This forum is predominantly XC

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Streetdoctor View Post
    So much misinformation in here. My advice- donít get advice on how to jump from people who wear spandex. This forum is predominantly XC
    OP says it happened on a blue trail and he rides with his 6 year old son, I don't think he's looking for anything beyond XC advice.

    And I only wear spandex on the road.
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  17. #17
    since 4/10/2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by Streetdoctor View Post
    So much misinformation in here. My advice- donít get advice on how to jump from people who wear spandex. This forum is predominantly XC
    He is asking how NOT to jump when he doesn't want to.

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  18. #18
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    I think we've all done something similar at one point or another.

  19. #19
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    Besides slowing down, here's yet another way to say whats been said already: weight off the saddle, mostly transferred to your feet... AND, keep your legs and arms relaxed. The idea is to let the bike move up and down beneath you while your head and torso go in a straight line. Your arms and legs have to flex easily for that to happen. Oh, yeah, and slowing down.

    What you described has happened to me more than once. And each time it was because I was caught being a lump instead of in the attack position with my arms and legs loose. I've also simply gotten in over my head at times and lost control. So good form is no guarantee of success.
    Use it, use it, use it while you still have it.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by M@ver1ck View Post
    Thanks for all the tips, guys! Iíll probably stick to the green lines through the winter months, and get some lessons in the spring. Canít afford to injure myself Ė Iím 41 Ė and things take longer to heal. 🙂
    I also have my 6 yr old in tow Ė we started mountain biking together about a year or two ago. The first several months, I would just run behind him Ė had to push him up the slopes Ė and run behind him full throttle downhills.

    All this at Duthie Hill park in WA state.
    Duthie has a great skills progression area, Luna Zone, next to the clearing where you can practice jumps and drops. The dual slalom course there near the top of Bootcamp has a series of smaller jumps that are great for practice too. My son started riding Boot Camp there when he was six and now does some of the bigger drops and jumps with dad. A hardtail works pretty well there for most of the trails since there isn't a lot of chunkiness.
    Riding Washington State singletrack since 1986

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