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  1. #1
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    How to go fast in tight single track??

    I rode a course today that I will be racing next weekend and there is alot of tight twisty single track that I apparently suck at. I would catch someone in the open fields or uphill, and then when it got to the single track, I would try going as fast as possible and they would disappear until it opened back up and I would see them in the distance. I think I'm going fast, but obviously I'm doing something wrong.

  2. #2
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    keep your fingers off the brakes

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by k6monster View Post
    I rode a course today that I will be racing next weekend and there is alot of tight twisty single track that I apparently suck at. I would catch someone in the open fields or uphill, and then when it got to the single track, I would try going as fast as possible and they would disappear until it opened back up and I would see them in the distance. I think I'm going fast, but obviously I'm doing something wrong.
    Look where you want to go, not where you don't.

  4. #4
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    Ride the course as much as you can to get a feel for each corner, and what lines you need to pick. Get a feel for when you need to scrub speed and then put the hammer down.

    Most of the trails in my area are so tight you can never really see past 25 feet or so. To go fast through terrain like this you need to either be able to accelerate fast or carry more speed through the tight turns.

    You could also try some different tires to see if this can help you improve.

  5. #5
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    I live to far from the race course to go practice more, but Ive been looking up tips and videos online... I'm going to spend the week working on technique. This is a "recovery" week anyways. My recovery rides can be spent working on cornering.

  6. #6
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    What's your plan for working on cornering?

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by savagenative View Post
    keep your fingers off the brakes
    +1 Learn to flow through switchbacks and tech areas smoothly.

    where and how to shave time. Here's a tread from just two days ago.

  8. #8
    Rod
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    Quote Originally Posted by Niles View Post
    What's your plan for working on cornering?
    I haven't seen you ride, but this is probably your problem and where you can benefit the most. I was in a similar race yesterday and I got passed on double track by a guy who already crashed once on the first lap. Anyways, he got in front of me, hit the brakes on every corner, and sprinted out of every corner. He was pushing himself into the red zone after every turn. You don't want to do that to try and catch the guy in front of you.
    Last edited by Rod; 07-18-2011 at 05:58 AM.
    There is not much choice between rotten apples.

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    Force yourself to keep your eyes 15 feet ahead of where they naturally want to go. It's scary at first, until you realize you're not hitting anything and keeping a lot more speed.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by savagenative View Post
    keep your fingers off the brakes
    +2. New riders brake way more than they need to. Me included. I'm working on it.

    Get comfortable descending at high speed. That momentum will carry you up the next hill.

    When you do have to scrub speed, do it before a corner, not in a corner.

    On hardpack dirt, a lip sometimes forms on the outside of corners. You can ride it like a mini-berm, lean more, and take the corner faster.

    Look ahead and anticipate your gear changes. Best to stay in one ring in the front and simply use the rear derailleur in tight technical stuff, unless the course is also strongly vertical.

    On short punchy climbs lasting a few seconds, accelerate before the climb and stand up and hammer to maintain momentum, rather than gear down, if you can manage it.
    Last edited by ray.vermette; 07-18-2011 at 07:29 AM.

  11. #11
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    i had the same problem a few years ago and it was all about keeping fingers off the brake. It's imperative you trust your tires, so make sure you have proper tires/psi for the trail conditions. Took me a LONG time to finally trust my tires (Karma's). I just switched to Renegades and I suck again in tight track because I'm not 100% confident that they can stick when I need them too. I just have to get some saddle time in.
    "You have a Ph.d in Economics yet you're such an idiot sometimes." - My ex-wife.

  12. #12
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    Lots of good stuff here! One thing I'd like to add is, always try to be mindful of hitting the apex of a turn as best you possibly can, while considering other obstacles in your way.

  13. #13
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    In the end you have to find the flow in the track....that means you need to practice the lines to find which ones fit you and your style....

    In the absence of the ability to practice the course....

    Find a smoother rider and follow him for the first lap anyway.

  14. #14
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    Practice the above but remember what you're good at, don't panic, try to keep the rider in front of you in sight and them make them hurt on the open flats and uphills. You might be able to gain back whatever you lose in the tight stuff.

  15. #15
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    I have issues with that condition too.

    Practice helps. Practicing that course would help, but it's a little late now.

    If you're not nailing the apexes at the right time, IME it's better to hit them too late than too early. Another way of saying this is that it's how much speed you carry out of the corner that counts.

    The berms suggestion is a good one. Look for anything you can use.

    Ride with teammates who are fast in this stuff, and hang on for dear life.

    As a long-term thing, I've promised myself some practice time on the specific trail networks and courses that my early-season series uses. They're tighter and more technical than I'm good at, and I get worse finishes there than anything else I do, but being bad in that stuff hurts me in my 'A' races too.

    See if you can find something close to you to practice on, with similar conditions.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  16. #16
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    Practice how far you can lean the bike before the tires break away. Wear knee/shin guards for protection. Keep looking in the direction you want to go. Eye up the outer edge of the curve and swing as wide as you can as you enter it. Dive to the inside toward the apex, and then pedal out of the curve. I found that being in a slightly harder gear helps you pedal in the turn and keep a higher overall speed. The trick is to avoid going into the curve too fast, breaking harder, and then using a lot of energy to get back up to speed.

    Also, try a wider tire in the front. I used to run Specialized Captain 2.0 width in the front. When I switched to Specialized Purgatory 2.2 width, I felt a lot more confident in my cornering. It's slightly heavier, but you could get the Sworks race one which is very light.

    Also the wider your handle bars, the more stable you'll feel in the curves.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffscott View Post
    In the end you have to find the flow in the track....that means you need to practice the lines to find which ones fit you and your style....

    In the absence of the ability to practice the course....

    Find a smoother rider and follow him for the first lap anyway.
    this is great advice if they don't pull away from you really fast. also someone else mentioned that you have to trust your tires. That's imperative.
    There is not much choice between rotten apples.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rod";8254879]this is great advice if they don't pull away from you really fast.[COLOR="Red
    Yup that is true[/COLOR] also someone else mentioned that you have to trust your tires. That's imperative.
    Thing is if somebody blows by you or pulls away from you, another guy will be along in a second or two...

    Well unless you are DFL....then you have lots of time to practice.

  19. #19
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    My $0.02
    If you're going fast but blowing the turns there is a lot of wasted energy.
    Eyes way out in front
    Do most of your braking before the turn
    Be back on the bike, this varies but is somewhere in line with the seat tube
    Keep bike more perpendicular to the ground. Meaning lean your body more than than your bike to keep the business side of the tires down.
    If there is a well established groove in what looks like the right spot use it. Duh.
    Be in the right gear before the turn for a powerful corner exit

  20. #20
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    too late for this weekend, but -

    try a skills workshop from a skilled instructor. It sounds dumb, but there are quite a few "basic skills" that we probably either never learned or forgot. I've been riding bikes for going on close to 50 years and havent' thought about skills during much of that time. Think about how much time ski racers spend on basic skills to perfect their turns.

    I took a one day seminar from Lee McCormick. Learned a ton and every ride since I find myself gaining confidence and free speed (and I'm a geezer and have no interest in crashing!). I feel much more comfortable and in control at higher speeds and riding (some) obstacle that I used to walk. I'm not talking about being braver, or less afraid of crashing - I'm talking about using skills that give you the stability and confidence that you're less likely to lose control.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by deano machineo View Post
    Keep bike more perpendicular to the ground. Meaning lean your body more than than your bike to keep the business side of the tires down.
    Could not disagree more. When doing quick turns at speed, it's much easier to maneuver a 20-25 lb bike back and forth than your own 130-180 lb weight. Tires are designed to grab laterally when angled and along the wheel when level. Also, keeping your weight above the contact patch of the tires as much as possible also means if the tires do slide out, you fall straight down instead of flying out of the turn into trees.

    My $.02. Maybe my technique is wrong.

  22. #22
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    I find that "using the brakes less" had me blowing corners and coming in to hot. I found that braking earlier and having the brakes completely off for the second 1/2 of the corner was a better way to visualize what I needed to do.

    If you have the opportunity try playing on a BMX pump track. Preferably on a BMX bike. I found the mechanics and body position I learned helped a lot on the trail.

    Good luck

  23. #23
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    Some good advice here. I think there are a lot of factors that make someone quick on tight single-track. Correct tyres and pressures, confidence in those tyres, skill, confidence, body position, correct braking, correct lines, correct gear selection. I raced a course at the weekend that was like this and noticed that some people are just too tentative, looks like they are scared of falling off! If you have the right set-up and the skill just go for it, like someone said earlier, learn where they tyre limits are. Learn how to go downhill fast, this will transfer over well. I know guys that are similarly skilled to me but I descend faster only because I brake less.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drider85 View Post
    I find that "using the brakes less" had me blowing corners and coming in to hot. I found that braking earlier and having the brakes completely off for the second 1/2 of the corner was a better way to visualize what I needed to do.
    Agree, I've had a number of times in races where I've been behind someone who I thought was taking corners too slow. I'd pass them then immediately start washing out and blowing corners while they're still on my tail. Coming into corners too hot always feels faster but usually isn't.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryguy135 View Post
    Could not disagree more. When doing quick turns at speed, it's much easier to maneuver a 20-25 lb bike back and forth than your own 130-180 lb weight. Tires are designed to grab laterally when angled and along the wheel when level. Also, keeping your weight above the contact patch of the tires as much as possible also means if the tires do slide out, you fall straight down instead of flying out of the turn into trees.

    My $.02. Maybe my technique is wrong.
    Yes. I find much more success leaning the bike and not the body as much. Of course there are exceptions. By leaning the bike more aggressively than the body, I'm able to stay loose, and "feel" the tires slide slightly, controllably, predictably. When I lean the body more, or even lean the body in line with the bike, when tire starts to slide, my body suddenly leans more, which causes the slide more, which ends with my shoulder on the ground.

    I've found this to be true for both mtb racing as well as tight and fast crit racing. Staying loose is key!

    Just my perspective.

  26. #26
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    oh, and always look far ahead, where you want to go! Don't stare at the tree/rock/hole that you're afraid you might hit!

  27. #27
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    PUMP PUMP PUMP - you can't always pedal on the twisty stuff and if you're not pumping, you're giving away a lot of free speed. Learning to pump properly has improved my tech speed more than any other technique, including proper cornering (which also helps a LOT)...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bbbrad View Post
    PUMP PUMP PUMP - you can't always pedal on the twisty stuff and if you're not pumping, you're giving away a lot of free speed. Learning to pump properly has improved my tech speed more than any other technique, including proper cornering (which also helps a LOT)...
    ^this combined with judging the correct speed for short climbs will greatly improve single track speed. I have noticed a lot of newer riders will downshift and spin up short climbs when they could have increased their speed before the climb and cruised up it without the need for downshifting. I guess it comes down to knowing the correct speed you need to be at in order to make a trail flow.

  29. #29
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    on a corner, point belly button towards where you want to go.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by GTR2ebike View Post
    Look where you want to go, not where you don't.
    That's the key! I always say look where you want to go, not where you are going.

  31. #31
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    this^^ look ahead and weigh the outside pedal and grip,you are going to be railling corners

  32. #32
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    don't use your brakes.

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by deano machineo View Post
    My $0.02

    Keep bike more perpendicular to the ground. Meaning lean your body more than than your bike to keep the business side of the tires down.
    sorry your wrong, and if your the deano is stowe, ill show you that your wrong.

  34. #34
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    It's funny how much this advice parallels auto racing. I guess physics is physics after all.

    What about lightly braking with the front and then getting off the brake before you start the turn to shift some weight to the front for better turn in? Would that apply as well?

  35. #35
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    ...and as in auto racing, it doesn't matter how much speed you carry into a corner, it's how fast you exit the corner that counts.
    I'm a member of NSMBA and IMBA Canada

  36. #36
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    Head up, focus on the trail, "get in the groove". When I race, I end up behind some slow poke in the single track that slows me down sometimes so it helps to be leading or else far from another person. Steer as smooth as possible and keep your fingers off the brakes (unless its downhillish single track).
    Spinnin' & Grinnin'

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by fsrftc View Post
    don't use your brakes.
    Not much description... ...but actually a great way to improve.

    Ride through sections and force yourself to stay off the brakes. You then start to develop and put together all those skills other people mention that help you go fast. Sometimes you will consciously think about techniques told to you. But at others your body's intuition will guide you.

    Some of the best bike handlers are often those who learned as kids... ...and nobody ever taught them a thing. They just learn through experience. I know a local pro who probably can't tell you much about how to go fast through singletrack, but he flies through it like a swan.

  38. #38
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    Proper tire selection, I need a tire on the front that hooks up. If I have no front tire confidence I am going to be slowing way down and not keeping momentum. Also a little front break drag will help your front hook up, and practice.

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    I had the same problem. I lowered my handlebars by about two centimetres by moving the spacers around and it made a significant difference. Additionally, I changed to some new lightweight wheels that are also narrower. With the lightweight wheels there is a noticeable difference in acceleration. I reduced the weight in each wheel by about 300 grams, all of that would have been in the rim and tyres as I already had XTR hubs. The new wheels are Crossmax SLRs. Head angles also make a difference, if your bike isn't designed to have fast steering then you'll struggle in the tight stuff. For example, a Giant Anthem will have much snappier steering then a Giant Trance.
    Drop your handlebar height, that makes the most difference.

  40. #40
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    Suspension tuning.

    Can't believe no one has mentioned this. You'll never stick a hard corner if your washing out, oversteering, understeering or bouncing around trying to get your tires to stick...even while braking your suspension needs to have your tires on the ground to be effective.

    Suspension is important in every racing scene...countless hours and dollars are spent here...power is useless if you can't get it to the ground. I started playing with my settings until I found the sweet spot and it helped my cornering and also improved my confidence considerably.

  41. #41
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    Don't ride down the middle of the trail, apex every corner. Put your tire all the way out to the tree thats on the outside of the corner, your handlebars won't hit the tree as you are leaned over. I see so many slow guys just riding down the middle of the trail. Look for natural berms, tree roots, rocks and dirt berms. If you are hitting corners right you will find your camelback smacking into trees on the inside of the corners, if you are not doing them right it will be your shoulder smacking into trees, so get it right

  42. #42
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    If you are hitting corners right you will find your camelback smacking into trees on the inside of the corners, if you are not doing them right it will be your shoulder smacking into trees, so get it right
    I use that as a gauge also. I know I am going fast if my camelbak is hitting trees.

    It reminds me of the saying in auto racing: understeer scares the driver, oversteer scares the passengers.

  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by brandonrol View Post
    Suspension tuning.

    Can't believe no one has mentioned this. You'll never stick a hard corner if your washing out, oversteering, understeering or bouncing around trying to get your tires to stick...even while braking your suspension needs to have your tires on the ground to be effective.

    Suspension is important in every racing scene...countless hours and dollars are spent here...power is useless if you can't get it to the ground. I started playing with my settings until I found the sweet spot and it helped my cornering and also improved my confidence considerably.
    Very good point, I was having control issues when the trail dried out, my rebound was way to high and leading to alot of deflection and loss or traction and control.

  44. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by Niles View Post
    What's your plan for working on cornering?
    Always look at the exit of a turn not the entrance or apex to get you through faster...

  45. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by santacruzer View Post
    ... I see so many slow guys just riding down the middle of the trail. Look for natural berms, tree roots, rocks and dirt berms.
    ... which might mean you don't apex the turn but follow whatever there is to support you.

    Following the smooth line is often smart, especially when you are getting tired, but sometimes you might find that going over one obstacle could put you in a better position for all the rest.

    Your "line"... it isn't 12" wide or even 6": it is the width of your tyre.

    "it IS possible that you are faster or slower than anybody else who is having at least as much if not more or less fun"

  46. #46
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    Go slow to go fast.

    Most people try and ride tight single track fast and end up going too hot into corners and dumping all their speed. Relax, keep you head up and hit your marks, the speed will come without trying.
    "The best pace is suicide pace, and today is a good day to die." Steve Prefontaine

  47. #47
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    Ive often wondered about the "lean" question while mountain biking. Irode a lot of motocross when young, andyou always tip the bike in while your body is relatively upright. I ride primarily sportbikes now, where you hang your body off. Ifind myself doing both on a mbike. A friend of mine who is quite accomplished said that the "slicker" thetrail, the more you lean thebike. Sound right to anyone?

  48. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockyuphill View Post
    ...and as in auto racing, it doesn't matter how much speed you carry into a corner, it's how fast you exit the corner that counts.
    In slow, out fast. In fast, out backwards.
    Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.
    Understeer is when you hit the wall (tree) with the front of the car (bike). Oversteer is when you hit the wall/tree with the back of the car/bike.
    And other such cutesy wisdom....

    As mentioned elsewhere two things dominate my mind when in fast singletrack. A mixture of leaned bike vs leaned body, and not really thinking about it at all. Teaching is clearly not in my future I guess.

  49. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by smokehouse4444 View Post
    Ive often wondered about the "lean" question while mountain biking. Irode a lot of motocross when young, andyou always tip the bike in while your body is relatively upright. I ride primarily sportbikes now, where you hang your body off. Ifind myself doing both on a mbike. A friend of mine who is quite accomplished said that the "slicker" thetrail, the more you lean thebike. Sound right to anyone?
    Your mileage may vary but this has been my experience:
    In both sportbikes (I used to racetrack them) and MTB I find that you will want to lean the bike less when traction is not optimal, unless you like to low-side. The lower degrees of lean angle are from going slower in slick conditions as I'm sure you already know.

    Both techniques you mentioned are needed in your skillset, IMO

    Cheers!

  50. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by smokehouse4444 View Post
    Ive often wondered about the "lean" question while mountain biking. Irode a lot of motocross when young, andyou always tip the bike in while your body is relatively upright. I ride primarily sportbikes now, where you hang your body off. Ifind myself doing both on a mbike. A friend of mine who is quite accomplished said that the "slicker" thetrail, the more you lean thebike. Sound right to anyone?

    I was taught in the Better Ride Clinic that you lean the bike, not your body. You want to keep your body centered over the pedals/bottom bracket. Your body should be relatively perpendicular to the ground. This gives you the most balance and control. The bike and tires can handle being leaned pretty far.


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  51. #51
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    1. Look into the turn. Make yourself turn your head toward the exit of the turn. This will help you lean and stay in the corner, rather than going wide. When you go wide, you run out of trail and brake and that slows you down.

    2. Counter-steer when coming into a corner fast. If you want to go right, push on your right hand. It's counter-intuitive, but the result is that the bike drops to the right and plunges you into the turn. Try it out on pavement and be aware this only works at > 10mph or so.

    3. Point your hips square at the turn. Stand up on the pedals and square your hips into the turn. This keeps your balance over the bike, not off to the side.

    4. Think "pump track" in quick, short corners. Use your legs and push the pedals so that the rear tire bites hard into the corner. The additional traction will enable you to go though the corner faster. Be aware this does NOT work on off-camber, slippery corners.
    "Got everything you need?"

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    All this advice is helping me. I still did terrible in the single track, but better than before. I'll just have to keep practicing.

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    Find someone fast, and follow them. This works really really well to learn, because you immediately find out where you are losing speed, and you see all their techniques and lines to immediately imitate. I made a huge jump in bike handling after riding for a few months with some very skilled riders. They weren't that fit, but man could they maneuver. We would ride in short sprints - ride wicked fast for 5-8 minutes, stop, breathe, repeat. This way you are hitting everything real fast.

    Leaning... IMO, you gotta be comfortable turning the bike with all methods. I find roadie style cornering the fastest when the trail allows - outside foot down, bike and rider leaned similarily, maybe rider leaned a bit more. BUT - I find I can only corner like this half the time - often the trail dictates that you can't have your body going through that tree on the apex.

    I think an important skill for ST is the ability to move your bike underneath you while you "float" somewhere above it. Body english it's sometimes called. This way you can push your bike around that big rock, while your body goes more or less over the rock. This does alot to maintain speed.

    As others have noted, "pump" is important. Respond to every element of the trail, pushing the bike into dips, pulling it over bumps, etc. I think it's really important to suck up your legs when going over the backside of rollers. Don't stay static above the bike, moving and respond to the flow of the trail.

    Quick smooth bunnyhops can help too. It's a quick flick - front up quick, push it down and the back up, sucking the back of the bike up, and pushing the bike forward. Being able to whip out a little hop on a moment's notice can really help your flow when you don't have to setup and recover from more of a "pop" style hop, where you are pulling on both wheels more simultaneously.

    Ok.... gotta stop typing...

  54. #54
    mtbr member
    Reputation: turnerth's Avatar
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    Awesome thread - thanks all!

  55. #55
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    This thread is a must tag for me. In fact i think im going to print it and read it every night before bed. Thanks!!

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