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  1. #1
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    smooth?

    I read dudes comments here about being a "smooth" rider. I think I understand what that means but in my mind it's still a relative term.

    Since I'm a relative noob with no racing experience under my belt yet, can someone with more mtber acumen than I have qualify that term for me or is it too subjective?

    And if you're not a smooth rider, what are you? Clumsy? Awkward? Or just plain fugly?

    (and i realize that this question may not be specifically a 29er forum issue, but i only hang out here because i only ride a 29er wherever i go.)

  2. #2
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    un-smooth.......like a guy who should wear glasses, but doesn't.

    over cook every turn, last minute jumps with awkward landings and spectacular recovers(because i have so much practice in them).
    Out riding, leave a message

  3. #3
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    To me, a smooth rider is one who "flows" over and around obstacles. He(she) sees the trail well and to picks the best lines. He weights or unweights, lunges or lifts with perfect timing to negotiate obstacles with minimal effort. He seems light. Makes it look easy. I try to be him.
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    Quote Originally Posted by phillabong
    I read dudes comments here about being a "smooth" rider. I think I understand what that means but in my mind it's still a relative term.

    Since I'm a relative noob with no racing experience under my belt yet, can someone with more mtber acumen than I have qualify that term for me or is it too subjective?

    And if you're not a smooth rider, what are you? Clumsy? Awkward? Or just plain fugly?

    (and i realize that this question may not be specifically a 29er forum issue, but i only hang out here because i only ride a 29er wherever i go.)
    Smooth / finesse vs basher / thrasher.
    Riding over/around things vs through/into them.

    If you were walking through a crowd it is the difference between slipping around people vs pushing them out of your way.

    The basher tends to break things and the finesse rider rarely does.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gasp4Air
    To me, a smooth rider is one who "flows" over and around obstacles. He(she) sees the trail well and to picks the best lines. He weights or unweights, lunges or lifts with perfect timing to negotiate obstacles with minimal effort. He seems light. Makes it look easy. I try to be him.
    I like the "ride light" description myself.

    The opposite style is "like a bag of bricks in a clothes drier."
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    It plays-out in dirt bike riding and MX racing arena as well. Damon Bradshaw (mx rider for Yamaha years ago)used to blast through everything and everyone leaving bodies in his wake and he was good at it. Jean Michele Bayle who rode for Honda at the same time in the early 90's was a finesse (smooth) rider who was also very good, but he achieved his results through being smooth in the way he navigated a track with no wasted motion. Battleaxe vs fencing rapier and both legitimate skills, but neither of those guys would have benefited from trying to adapt the other guys style as they were each so good in their own right in their own way. Being smooth certainly takes less energy, and as mentioned a lack of finesse will result in a lot more wear and tear on equipment and on your body as well. I think most of us know the disipline we follow as it is what comes naturally to us.

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    Quote Originally Posted by phillabong
    I read dudes comments here about being a "smooth" rider. I think I understand what that means but in my mind it's still a relative term.

    Since I'm a relative noob with no racing experience under my belt yet, can someone with more mtber acumen than I have qualify that term for me or is it too subjective?

    And if you're not a smooth rider, what are you? Clumsy? Awkward? Or just plain fugly?

    (and i realize that this question may not be specifically a 29er forum issue, but i only hang out here because i only ride a 29er wherever i go.)
    Smooth:

    <iframe src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/17320739?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;c olor=ff9933" width="600" height="338" frameborder="0"></iframe>
    Quote Originally Posted by buddhak
    And I thought I had a bike obsession. You are at once tragic and awesome.

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    Quote Originally Posted by shiggy
    I like the "ride light" description myself.

    The opposite style is "like a bag of bricks in a clothes drier."

    hahahaha... "ride light"... i have to use that one!

  9. #9
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    do you break alot of bike parts?

    if yes, then you're NOT smoooooottthhhh.
    future nature

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmw
    do you break alot of bike parts?
    Not a lot, but I did mangle my small ring on my Noir cranks a while back climbing out of a rock strewn creek bed.


  11. #11
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    Shiggy is right smooth is a description of the trail, riding light is how you approach any trail. I am a very light rider, especially considering my size. I am regularly the guys standing and waiting at the end of technical descents for the rest of my buddies to catch up. I am regularly the guy standing or wrenching on someones bike because the sheared a derailleur, sliced a sidewall, tacoed a rim yet I rarely have that happen to me. I count times a crash by how many years between yet ride at the same level or above of people that count the rides between crashes or even the crashes per ride.

    Many smooth light riders started out in the early days of mountain biking, myself included, so they have decades of riding experience, literally no section of trail throws something unknown to their encyclopedia of experience at them no matter whether they are on the north shore or the desert southwest.

    Many smooth light riders ride rudimentary bikes, no suspension, no forks, no gears, heck some with no freewheeling. Just a frame big tires, big brakes and skills.

    What it really comes down to is that encyclopedia of experience. I suspect that very few people ever start off smooth and light and just like anything else it is a learned and developed skill and some people learn it and some don't.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gasp4Air
    To me, a smooth rider is one who "flows" over and around obstacles. He(she) sees the trail well and to picks the best lines. He weights or unweights, lunges or lifts with perfect timing to negotiate obstacles with minimal effort. He seems light. Makes it look easy. I try to be him.
    this
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  13. #13
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    While not explicitly stated, most comments above deal with descending. Smooth also implies an understanding of the dynamics of riding, ie. milking a trail, be it up or down for speed and efficiency, or as Rockcrusher implies, always knowing where the sweat spot is.
    Also, there is a degree to which smoothness derives from ones ability to let the bike float underneath them, going where it wants to go. You can see this in really good dh rider, and especially in great dh skiers.

    Likewise, smooth connotes (at least to me) an ability to shift at the correct time and be in an efficient gear (if gears are your thing) or knowing when to lay on power and when to back off while single speeding.

    So, I guess to me, smooth=efficient.

    I also agree with RC about time on bike and smoothness, but think it also had to do with the equipment and requisite differences in riding styles. MTBing in the time of rigid 26 with canti's was a bit different and required a more 'gentle' approach. Same with drivetrains that actually required thought about shifting.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by olapiquena
    While not explicitly stated, most comments above deal with descending. Smooth also implies an understanding of the dynamics of riding, ie. milking a trail, be it up or down for speed and efficiency, or as Rockcrusher implies, always knowing where the sweat spot is.
    Also, there is a degree to which smoothness derives from ones ability to let the bike float underneath them, going where it wants to go. You can see this in really good dh rider, and especially in great dh skiers.

    Likewise, smooth connotes (at least to me) an ability to shift at the correct time and be in an efficient gear (if gears are your thing) or knowing when to lay on power and when to back off while single speeding.

    So, I guess to me, smooth=efficient.

    I also agree with RC about time on bike and smoothness, but think it also had to do with the equipment and requisite differences in riding styles. MTBing in the time of rigid 26 with canti's was a bit different and required a more 'gentle' approach. Same with drivetrains that actually required thought about shifting.
    My comments apply to riding in general. Up, down, sideways.

    Riding rigid bikes can teach smoothness and flow, but not always. On the other hand suspension lets you get away with things and can make you lazy. Combine the finesse learned from rigid with a suspension bike and you can really get the flow going.
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockcrusher
    What it really comes down to is that encyclopedia of experience. I suspect that very few people ever start off smooth and light and just like anything else it is a learned and developed skill and some people learn it and some don't.

    I definitely agree on the experience part, in general people can learn to ride lighter and flow better. I also think there is a huge natural ability aspect to it. I've seen it in MTB, MX, and roadracing. Some people are born with the ability to stay relaxed and be able to ride effortlessly. Ride loose, don't have a death grip on the bars, and let the bike move around underneath of you.

  16. #16
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    Sideways.... I once bounced off a perpendicular log that I 'floated' a little too close to. The sideways movement I experienced was very smooth, until my wheels reconnected. Not so smooth at that point.

    While I agree that rigid isn't always an avenue to smooth/lightness, I think that when rigid WAS combined with very poor brakes there was a requisite degree of grace. That's all I'm saying.

    And I completely agree with you that learned finesse taken to a suspended platform is the tits. It's also a bit scary.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by olapiquena
    ...And I completely agree with you that learned finesse taken to a suspended platform is the tits. It's also a bit scary.
    Riding off road without finesse is scary, no matter what bike you are on. You are just the passenger.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockcrusher
    Many smooth light riders started out in the early days of mountain biking, myself included, so they have decades of riding experience, literally no section of trail throws something unknown to their encyclopedia of experience at them no matter whether they are on the north shore or the desert southwest.
    This is gold!

    Locally, I am considered very smooth. When I go to PA, the locals are wayyyy smoother... and on big rocks. The point there is that to really be smooth, some level of natural ability has to be combined with a good variety of trail experience that includes many types of terrain, equipment changes, fitness conditions, and other variables. It's the only way to build that encyclopedia.

    I know I am less smooth when I'm tired and/or out of shape, but I also don't panic when I make a mistake (even in the face of imminent disaster).

    ...and I do ride rigid (since 1989). When I get on a FS bike I'm actually kinda scared at how fast I can go. I need more gear now (full face helmet, chest protector, etc.)

    -F

    PS - I think a tall, thin(ner) person like me has some advantage - your reach can alter your COG significantly or "place" your bike farther off-center as needed. However, I have seen more than a few tiny women who rely mainly on finesse due to their lower overall power ride just as smooth as any tall person - or anyone, period. So it's not an exclusive trait. They somehow use the fact that their COG is more constant (i.e. - not going OTB) to their advantage.
    Last edited by Fleas; 01-07-2011 at 02:10 PM.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by shiggy
    My comments apply to riding in general. Up, down, sideways.

    Riding rigid bikes can teach smoothness and flow, but not always. On the other hand suspension lets you get away with things and can make you lazy. Combine the finesse learned from rigid with a suspension bike and you can really get the flow going.
    +1


  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by phillabong
    Not a lot, but I did mangle my small ring on my Noir cranks a while back climbing out of a rock strewn creek bed.

    Lost a chainring bolt?
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enel
    Smooth:

    <iframe src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/17320739?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;c olor=ff9933" width="600" height="338" frameborder="0"></iframe>

    this video makes me want to try flats. Add another chapter to my encyclopedia so to speak.
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enel
    Smooth:

    <iframe src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/17320739?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;c olor=ff9933" width="600" height="338" frameborder="0"></iframe>
    Great vid - the one below it (same dudes) is even better.

    I agree with the statement below that riders who started off back in the old school days of cantis and rigid bikes tend to be smoother/finesse riders.. the guys I know who are un-smooth (and haven't discovered tubeless) pinch flat a lot..

  23. #23
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    I don't think anyone has mentioned pedaling efficiency and power. The ability to be in the right gear ratio at the right time, and use precisely the right amount of power to propel you forward with no wasted energy is a huge part of being smooth.

    The other day I was stopped at the bottom of a difficult ledge on a local trail. It's a ledge I can "clean", but it goes like this: Pedal furiously and gain speed leading up to it, lift the front wheel with a violent motion, smash my bash-guard into the edge of the limestone, heave my back tire up and pedal furiously, hoping that my rear tire hooks up and propels me out of harm's way...not so smoove.

    When the gaggle of riders that didn't clean the ledge cleared out in front of us, this guy in our group took less than two pedal strokes on the run-up and cleaned the near vertical ledge like it had a ramp on it. His back tire never slipped and it's a fairly loose area. He didn't make contact with his ring. In fact, he barely made a sound, and it happened in a heartbeat.

    That's when I knew I was a hack.

  24. #24
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    Great topic. I hold that particular skill, being 'smooth', as the high water mark for assessing a rider.

    You can be fast and not smooth. You can be ride all day long and not be smooth. You can climb hills like an crazy man and not be...yeah...smooth.

    And you can be smooth and not be able to do ANY of those other things.

    BUT...

    The smoothest riders I have ever known have also been most all or all of the other things as well. If I could pick a skill set to have till I am planted, I would choose finesse, grace, and the ability to make it look easy, like you are hardly working at all.

    I would be smooth above all other things.
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by shiggy
    Lost a chainring bolt?
    Yup. Got ugly quick from that point. Lost the first one and instantly sheered off a second. It was so loud that the guys I was riding with heard the second bolt snap - it was crazy loud - and came back to check on things. I took the other two out and chunked 'em - had more in the shop. It was fine except for the janky sound the crumpled ring made every time the it caught on the crank. I felt *real* smooth that day. Hah.

    Quote Originally Posted by rockcrusher
    this video makes me want to try flats. Add another chapter to my encyclopedia so to speak.
    I thought the exact same thing when I watched that clip (twice). So much so that I ordered some today.

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  27. #27
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    I thought it had to do with personal grooming...

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by phillabong
    Yup. Got ugly quick from that point. Lost the first one and instantly sheered off a second. It was so loud that the guys I was riding with heard the second bolt snap - it was crazy loud - and came back to check on things. I took the other two out and chunked 'em - had more in the shop. It was fine except for the janky sound the crumpled ring made every time the it caught on the crank. I felt *real* smooth that day. Hah.
    One of the reason I dislike 4-bolt cranks. More likely to loosen and the consequences are higher when you lose one.

    Has nothing to do with your riding style or skills.
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  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by N10S
    It plays-out in dirt bike riding and MX racing arena as well. Damon Bradshaw (mx rider for Yamaha years ago)used to blast through everything and everyone leaving bodies in his wake and he was good at it.
    He now races monster turcks, go figure
    Enjoy every ride!

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    great topic! ...and something i started focusing on last summer. i'm from the late 70s early 80s bmx days...and learned to ride with finesse back then. but then took a good 10 years off of riding. go into mtbiking in 98. although i had retained my technical skills, i have felt like my riding was "choppy" much of the time. once i went with 29 inch wheels this past Sept....things smoothed out tremendously, yet i've retained the technical stuff. i'm still working on my nerves with braking through corners, but things are gradually improving....

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by 29ftw
    Great vid - the one below it (same dudes) is even better.

    I agree with the statement below that riders who started off back in the old school days of cantis and rigid bikes tend to be smoother/finesse riders.. the guys I know who are un-smooth (and haven't discovered tubeless) pinch flat a lot..
    Those guys are trials riders primarily.

    Trials is typically ridden rigid.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enel
    Those guys are trials riders primarily.

    Trials is typically ridden rigid.
    Clearly..my brother used to ride and compete in trials both stock and modified.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 29ftw
    Clearly..my brother used to ride and compete in trials both stock and modified.
    I wish I could ride trials and am ever so tempted to get a stock trials rig. I have watched lots of different bike videos, and always find myself gravitating to the trials stuff. So controlled, so, shall we say...smooth. It carries over to every other discipline of riding.
    Quote Originally Posted by buddhak
    And I thought I had a bike obsession. You are at once tragic and awesome.

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    The great thing about this question of "smooth" is you know it when you see it! Smooth stops the mountain. Whether it is a trail, a curving road or a ski run, everyone stops to look and watch "smooth".

    There is a grace and effortless efficiency to a smooth rider. Many of the attributes listed go into the mix. The carving of lines on a trail, the pedaling efficiency, the relaxed gracefullness of the rider, the control of bike over the terrain or the ease at which they seem to glide up or down a hill.

    It always catches my eye when I see it and it is the kind of rider I aspire to be. I occasionally have ventured into the "smooth" realm on a good day, but I am only a visitor.
    "Biking lets you come alive both in body and spirit- the bike disappears and you feel as if you're suspended in midair"GKlein

  35. #35
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    smooth is my favorite compliment I have ever received from a fellow rider

  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by m-dub
    He now races monster turcks, go figure
    Thats interesting...I always wondered what happened to him. Bayle transitioned to road racing MotoGP. again a pretty believable path for a "smooth" finesse rider.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Enel
    I wish I could ride trials and am ever so tempted to get a stock trials rig. I have watched lots of different bike videos, and always find myself gravitating to the trials stuff. So controlled, so, shall we say...smooth. It carries over to every other discipline of riding.
    funny you mention that - there are two Monty's in my parents garage still and i've been meaning to grab one to goof around on.

  38. #38
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    Most of the time I'm a fugly, squirrely rider but...

    It feels smooth to ride bmx one day and FS the next.
    I feel smoother if I spend some time at the pump track or local dirt jumps.
    I feel the smoothest when having "fun" on the trail with my bike.

    ... now those trials guys are something else. I went OTB off a drop the other day after going downhill chainless (blew up the rear der. and hanger). If I had a tiny bit of trials knowledge I might've been able to compensate for the stupid low speed, and might have been able to pull up and kick out of it. It's quite odd, when you know you have no chain, but in order to get out a faceplant your only reaction is to peda l Makes you look super retarded - not like those nicolai guys.

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by R2ana
    Most of the time I'm a fugly, squirrely rider but...

    It feels smooth to ride bmx one day and FS the next.
    I feel smoother if I spend some time at the pump track or local dirt jumps.
    I feel the smoothest when having "fun" on the trail with my bike.

    ... now those trials guys are something else. I went OTB off a drop the other day after going downhill chainless (blew up the rear der. and hanger). If I had a tiny bit of trials knowledge I might've been able to compensate for the stupid low speed, and might have been able to pull up and kick out of it. It's quite odd, when you know you have no chain, but in order to get out a faceplant your only reaction is to peda l Makes you look super retarded - not like those nicolai guys.
    Tough to kick out of it without a chain.
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  40. #40
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    Maybe not kick it out, but push the bike out. I had a really fun time going downhill though with no chain and pumping all the flat sections to keep speed... infact I was pretty smooth up until the point I faceplanted.

  41. #41
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    There's a local rider who is the definition of smooth. I recall one ride in particular where he showed up to a large group ride on a cross bike with road tires on it. It was a moderately fast group and he was the third or fourth rider all ride. This place is as rocky and technical as any place I ride.

    There's this one rock ramp that many people spin out on. Immediately after spinning out you always hear the same thing from the rider, "These tires suck!". Of course Mr Smooth rides right up to the rock, up and over it, no slipping at all.

    I've ridden behind him on a technical descent on another ride - he was on a fully rigid 29er (which I know own) and I'm on a 6"x6" near downhill bike and I can barely keep up.

    I have been working on improving my smoothness through turns, that's where I notice that this guy makes up a lot of time and uses a lot less energy. He enters the turn at the right spot and speed, so he comes out of the turn faster than he entered. It sounds easy, but after a year of working on it, I feel like I'm just getting it. After watching others (and myself) I see that we come into turns far too hot, then we have to scrub speed to make it around the corner and pedal to get back up to speed.

  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by N10S
    Thats interesting...I always wondered what happened to him. Bayle transitioned to road racing MotoGP. again a pretty believable path for a "smooth" finesse rider.
    He was driving the Air Force sponsored truck a few years ago. I don't follow Monster truck racing but my boys like to check it out when channel surfing. I never made the "show" but used to get lapped by those guys when I was racing moto

    Few more:
    Jeff Ward: Indy
    McGrath: Short course trucks along with Ricky J and Degan.
    Enjoy every ride!

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    Quote Originally Posted by R2ana
    ...infact I was pretty smooth up until the point I faceplanted.
    There’s a signature quote if a every saw one.
    Kool-Aid, Kool-Aid, Taste Great... Oh Yeaahh!

  44. #44
    Professional Crastinator
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jisch
    ...After watching others (and myself) I see that we come into turns far too hot, then we have to scrub speed to make it around the corner and pedal to get back up to speed.
    Ain't that the truth.

    I even know that I'm coming in too hot and I do it anyway. I think I know I'm going to do it before I do it... and I do it anyway.

    I think that falls into the category of driving a golfball well, or bowling strikes. When the novice does it perfectly (by a fluke) he doesn't believe he did it perfectly and tries to do more the next time - and screws it up. Getting into that groove/rhythm and staying there even when you're pushing it is what makes some riders so smooth.

    Good thread. I took up "smooth" as a lifetime pursuit long ago.

    -F

  45. #45
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    Well, I don't think if I can call myself "smooth" just yet, but there are those occasional moments when I really feel in rhythm with the trail. Hello endorphins!

  46. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enel
    I wish I could ride trials and am ever so tempted to get a stock trials rig. I have watched lots of different bike videos, and always find myself gravitating to the trials stuff. So controlled, so, shall we say...smooth. It carries over to every other discipline of riding.
    If you liked the above video, this one is a good watch too. Trials riders just seem to manipulate the trail.


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