Climbing technique ?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Climbing technique ?

    I was out riding yesterday morning on the slippery half frozen trails and was experimenting with different climbing techniques but cannot work out which is the most efficient on a SS.

    My setup is 29er with 32 x 20 gearing and a Mary bar upfront.

    Option 1:
    Sitting down, hauling on the bars and grinding got me up the hills with minimal loss of traction but it was a lot of work.

    Option 2:
    Hit the hill at speed, stand up and honk...less effort but I was spinning out the back wheel more.

    So is there a preferred technique?

    Do I still need to un-learn the 27 speed techniques I have from years of riding geared bikes?

    Cheers

  2. #2
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    With option 1 you will totally f**k up your knees...

  3. #3
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    steep and slippery is tough, especially with SS. I find standing with elbows locked (to help keep weight on rear wheel) and a smooth even rotation, pushing my hips forward (keeping elbows locked) on each down push. This allows me to get good torque from arms and standing while keeping my weight back and rotation smooth to prevent spinning.

  4. #4
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    Having the appropriate tires for the conditions helps. Not saying you don't, but sometimes running the rear in the traction direction is a better idea.

    Keep your momentum

    What frame do you have? Most 29ers have too long of chainstays. It's why I picked a KM. Shorter stays keep the rear wheel under you more. I slip a little bit on climbs but it isn't bad. Most of my climbs are short (midwest trails).

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ze_Zaskar
    With option 1 you will totally f**k up your knees...
    true dat
    '11 Origin 8 700CX
    '14 Surly Troll

  6. #6
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    1. pedal till you cant (standing or sitting)
    2. get off bike
    3. walk

    just 3 easy steps

  7. #7
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    I prefer standing and climbing. On a sit 'n spin geary you hover over the front of the seat to keep from doing a wheelie because of the torque of the low gear. You don't need this on an SS cause the torque isn't there. So stand up, lean back a bit to weight your rear tire. That avoids spinning but of course it depends on exactly how slick it is.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by micky
    1. pedal till you cant (standing or sitting)
    2. get off bike
    3. walk

    just 3 easy steps
    there's a second option (i won't let meself walk anything)...

    1) pedal till you can't (standing or sitting)
    2)take a breather till yer heartrate drops enuff to not see the floating dots
    3)hit it again,till you hit step 1 again.

    '11 Origin 8 700CX
    '14 Surly Troll

  9. #9
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    spinning the backwheel can be overcome in part by:

    positioning on the bike - get some more weight back and keep the elbows firm
    and
    maintaining a smooth pedal stroke - rapid changes of torque make you more likely to spin it up, so keep it smooth.

  10. #10
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    I have been on a Raliegh XXIX for about a month. I have also seen those freakin dots, I always thought it was the dro.

    When I climb, I stand up and crank like crazy until I am at the top or I am out of juice.
    This method may not work very well for a couple of rides, but eventually those monsters are now little bumps in the way. Don't worry about traction, that is for the tires to worry about. Just focus on push/pull and the clean line. If you are rockin clipless, the difficulty is decreased by half imho.

  11. #11
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    leverage

    Quote Originally Posted by Ze_Zaskar
    With option 1 you will totally f**k up your knees...
    Agree 100%.

    If you're not getting enough traction and you want to muscle up a steep hill then you'll do better with a regular handlebar and bar-ends. I know mary bars are nice and all, but you'd get more leverage with bar-ends. I'm a stand and muscle rider.

  12. #12
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    standing

    Picture the bike as pivoting around your bb. By forcing the cranks down and pulling up on the bars, you can really drive the rear wheel into the ground and get great traction.

    I also am much more sensitive to worn tires on a SS than on a geared bike. I replace the rears as soon as they lose their original "bite".

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Beekeeper
    Picture the bike as pivoting around your bb. By forcing the cranks down and pulling up on the bars, you can really drive the rear wheel into the ground and get great traction.
    Great explanation. Standing straighter will help shift your weight above the bb so you can really lever your rear tire into the ground.

    -slide

  14. #14
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    i gotta go with everyone else on this one. Traction is all about balancing between lofting the front (weight too far back) and spinning the rear (weight too far forward). Just experiment with positioning and see what works for you. No other rider can tell you the "right" way to ride your bike.

  15. #15
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    Alternate between sitting and standing, especially on longer climbs. You obviously get the stand and mash right off the bat when beginning ssing. Especially over the course of a longer trail ride (20 plus miles) you will eventually have to sit for some of the longer steeper climbs. I know it sounds crazy to bring him up, but Lance at one time had to have Johan Bruyneel yell into the his ear piece to sit down when he would stand during climbs. You just use more of your muscles and energy when standing. On longer rides you have to save your energy when you can.

    There is of course great exception in single speeding and you have to find your line. I tend to sit when I can to save my muscles unless I am just going out to pound out 10-15 miles.

  16. #16
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    Climbing on my 29er single is much different than on my 26" geared bike. I sit and spin until I run out of spin on the 29er then I stand rocking back and forth. I find standing straight up gives me the best traction. The 26" wheel bike likes much more forward lean with my butt far back to maintain traction and keep the front wheel down. Keeping the front wheel down on the 29er has never been an issue.
    Last edited by Juanmoretime; 11-18-2008 at 05:17 PM.

  17. #17
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    Wow, thanks for all the responses...

    No more sitting and grinding, my knees are one of the few joints that are still relatively intact so I'd like to keep them that way.

    FTR: I'm riding a RL Monocoger with WTB Exiwolf 2.35" tires.

    "The Beekeeper": Great answer, much appreciated.

    If I can get out tonight I'll give that technique a go, and I think I'll look into a new rear tire in the near future.

  18. #18
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    Compensate to not overcome available traction at the rear tire

    The right tire for the conditions make a big difference, but you can still overcome available traction with bad technique. Sitting definitely keeps the maximum weight on the rear tire, but you don't have maximum torque in that position. Sit until you get to the threshold of being uncomfortable. While standing and hammering recklessly, the torque spikes may temporarily overcome the available traction. I use two techniques:

    1. Use Traction Control - Smooth the downstroke by slowing down or not applying the maximum force to the pedal. This takes some restraint, but you'll need to reduce any slippage to maintain forward motion. I also try to pedal in a more even circle with both legs as to not spike the torque between the 3:00 and 6:00 position.

    2. Find More Traction - Alternate leaning the bike opposite the downward pedal stroke. I exaggerate the angle in an attempt to roll the radius of the tire to the side knobs. The side knobs seem to bite through the loose soil better into the firmer layer underneath.

    When it gets really loose, I use a combination of #1 and #2. I don't use bar ends, but can see where your body may be more upright to put more weight on the rear. Rocking back while on the downstroke can temporarily increase the rearward weight bias also, but this is not always feasible.

    It's different for everybody, but keep fighting it and do whatever technique works for you. Spinning out on a climb that you know you can make is a definite buzzkill.

    -Chuck

  19. #19
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    Tuck Your Hips

    Position your hips under your body. Then you can move everything back to gain traction. This will do two things for you. First, It will get you more traction because all of your body weight is over the rear wheel. Second, it will engage your core muscles. This will give you more power to work with. This is key to riding a ss. The thing that you want to avoid is bending at the waist while standing. This happens somewhat naturally when the pain sets in, but you have to fight it. You will lose traction and the all important core muscles.
    Hope this helps. Enjoy the ss life. It's alot of work, bur so worth it.
    Laziness Breeds Efficiency

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by myself369
    i gotta go with everyone else on this one. Traction is all about balancing between lofting the front (weight too far back) and spinning the rear (weight too far forward). Just experiment with positioning and see what works for you. No other rider can tell you the "right" way to ride your bike.
    Perhaps not the exact "Right Way" but the "Right Rider" can teach you a better way. Improving your climbing takes Much practice Grasshopper, tire presure, body postition and the skill to "Row the Boat" will help greatly. Take a ride with some of your friends that have been riding SS for a while and they will teach you how to really climb. When you get the hang of it and start out climbing the geared boyz you will smile.... plus your wife will think your really cool! Happy Trails

  21. #21
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    Been on a single speed for a couple of years and when the leafs drop its sometimes down right impossible to keep that rear wheel from spinning. But like a lot of people on here said its all about position.

  22. #22
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    Anybody?

    Quote Originally Posted by plesurnpain
    Position your hips under your body. Then you can move everything back to gain traction. This will do two things for you. First, It will get you more traction because all of your body weight is over the rear wheel. Second, it will engage your core muscles. This will give you more power to work with. This is key to riding a ss. The thing that you want to avoid is bending at the waist while standing. This happens somewhat naturally when the pain sets in, but you have to fight it. You will lose traction and the all important core muscles.
    Hope this helps. Enjoy the ss life. It's alot of work, bur so worth it.
    Good stuff.

    Body dimensions vary, but do you think to help prevent the SS climber from rounding over that its helpful to run less wide h-bars and as high as possible (that is, w/o making the front-end levitate or killing your handling)?

    More generally, any thoughts on what geometry/sizing best prevents the roll-over phenomenon and provides a favorable out-of-the saddle position? Would a bike slightly too small (shorter reach & front-center length) be better than one slightly too big? Similarly, would a bike with a slacker seat tube angle (or more post/saddle offset) create a shorter out-of-saddle cockpit and so be better?

    Some recent thoughts:

    "Rocking/Gravity" versus "The Brace"
    Rocking/Gravity: Hips forward, standing nearly errect, so that your body is relatively straight/rigid, which maximizes the power of gravity in each down stroke. This is that almost lazy position that stuns your friends as you stand during the entirety of longish climbs.
    The Brace: On steeper climbs, if I straighten my arms, push my hips forward, and stand erect, my upper body and arms become a stiff, nearly-unmoving Brace that I can use to counter the downward force of pedaling. By pulling back with the arms and powerful lower-back muscles at the moment of maximum downward force, I can generate some impressive power (I broke my h-bars a month after discovering this technique).

    How is The Brace evoked?
    I don't normally make a conscious effort to use the Brace - it comes to me. It seems to only come when I'm able to stand errect, which for me means running non-wide bars with grips near the height of the saddle (when I ran 28" bars I instinctively choked up on them so I could get errect enough to evoke The Brace). The Brace also seems to appear far more often when I'm pushing a big gear and more torque is needed.

    Final Thought
    It seems to me the ideal SS set-up for standing climbs would be one that comfortably accomodates the Rocking/Gravity position for slight-to-moderate climbs, and the Brace for steeper climbs, all while keeping the front and rear ends planted and tracking.

    [crickets]

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by runbuddha
    Been on a single speed for a couple of years and when the leafs drop its sometimes down right impossible to keep that rear wheel from spinning. But like a lot of people on here said its all about position.
    ...and with your typical MTB riser bar, it's difficult to stand erect enough to get your back really straight, because your hands will be wanting to leave the grips. My Albatross bars were great for this, but they handled poorly off road. I just consciously try to stand straighter when the rear wheel starts slipping, and that usually shifts my weight rearward enough to stop the slipping.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ryder1
    More generally, any thoughts on what geometry/sizing best prevents the roll-over phenomenon and provides a favorable out-of-the saddle position? Would a bike slightly too small (shorter reach & front-center length) be better than one slightly too big? Similarly, would a bike with a slacker seat tube angle (or more post/saddle offset) create a shorter out-of-saddle cockpit and so be better?

    Some recent thoughts:

    "Rocking/Gravity" versus "The Brace"
    Good ideas. I still size my SS based on top tube, like I do my geared double boinger 29er. I ride rigid SS, so the saddle to pedals / BB is the same for me on both bikes, however I vary the bar reach and height slightly on the SS, for standing climbing (bars a little higher and closer). I still need to ride the flats, descend, get over obstacles, so my position is not that radical. You just need to learn technique, as you and others have suggested, for SS climbing.

    Oh, and bar ends. Someone mentioned the albatross bar, that is what bar ends give you. I know they are not "fashionable" these days, but bar ends on an SS are the best addition you can make - screw fashion, ride well.....
    "The physician heals, Nature makes well" - real fortune cookie

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  25. #25
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    stand up and climb everything, attack every hill, every roller, everything. Keep your momentum up so those tires can roll over anything in it's way.

    #1 will F up your knee and kill your moral since you can't clean the hill.

  26. #26
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    If people have knee concerns, why ride a SS?

    If i'm on the SS or geared bike, I find the taller gear better on loose/slick climbs, you can control the wheel spin easier in a taller gear. If your a sit and spin guy, then a lower gear will help. You running a 32/20 on your 29er is pretty low already, try a tooth or 2 less on the rear cog and give it a go standing.

    One caution about knees, if your spinning the rear wheel, you stand the chance of many small hyper extensions while standing. If you cn't keep from spinning much, keep it seated.

    Frozen trails,,,sounds cold... Got to love the mild winters we have in Chico.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doggity
    I just consciously try to stand straighter when the rear wheel starts slipping, and that usually shifts my weight rearward enough to stop the slipping.
    May be I should ask in a new thread, but do others think that a backpack helps with traction? Makes sense to me and I feel the difference...

    Ali

  28. #28
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    Dammit, since posting this thread I've been laid up with a brutal head cold and have zero energy to go riding.

    Trails are getting better and better as well. A week of near freezing conditions and I know they will be super fast and where am I??

    In some Benylin and Tylenol induced semi hullicinogenic coma....

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by slocaus
    Good ideas. I still size my SS based on top tube, like I do my geared double boinger 29er. I ride rigid SS, so the saddle to pedals / BB is the same for me on both bikes, however I vary the bar reach and height slightly on the SS, for standing climbing (bars a little higher and closer). I still need to ride the flats, descend, get over obstacles, so my position is not that radical. You just need to learn technique, as you and others have suggested, for SS climbing.

    Oh, and bar ends. Someone mentioned the albatross bar, that is what bar ends give you. I know they are not "fashionable" these days, but bar ends on an SS are the best addition you can make - screw fashion, ride well.....


    bar ends are indispensible. it's really night and day. climbing and accellerating are soooo much easier. wide, somewhat sweepy bars(9*-15*) and barends = super fantastic. an i'm pretty sure it'll get you just as many different hand positions as goofy bars.

    steep and loose: hands out near the ends of the barends, chest low over the bars, butt back, rock the bike back and forth and try to pedal smoothly.

  30. #30
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    You've recieved some good advice already. Here is a tip that the old timer's and cyclocrossers here do without thinking about: Coming slightly OFF the seat without coming UP and OFF the seat. You alternate between remaining seated, and raising your butt a couple of inches off the saddle, but keeping your weight where it would be if you were still seated. In other words, you get SOME of the leverage of climbing out of the saddle, and keep the traction of being seated. I alternate up and down like this all through steep technical climbs, and rarely spin the back wheel, even in the wet and rooty north east. As others have said, choosing your line ahead of time is crucial to maintaining momentum with an SS. Look far enough up the trail that you know exactly where you want to place that front wheel long before you get there. Remember also, that you don't need 100% effort during all phases of a long climb. On sections where you can sit and conserve energy for the next tough section, remember to do so. Don't give up on your Mary bars if you like them, they will not limit your technical climbing if you apply these other techniques. Their width is a benefit in and of itselft

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by sean salach
    bar ends are indispensible. it's really night and day. climbing and accellerating are soooo much easier. wide, somewhat sweepy bars(9*-15*) and barends = super fantastic. an i'm pretty sure it'll get you just as many different hand positions as goofy bars.

    steep and loose: hands out near the ends of the barends, chest low over the bars, butt back, rock the bike back and forth and try to pedal smoothly.
    I'd second (or third) the bar-ends idea as well. I have 25" Salsa bar, with 17* sweep, and old-school sweeping bar-ends. The setup may not look as cool or racy, but it's a godsend when it comes to climbing.

  32. #32
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    how do i stop snapping teeth of my chain ring, im on a 29er running 32-16 and im a stand and muscle type of climber. i find standing and moving my hips forward and backwards to gain traction work bet for me, my arms get the best workout riding a single speed!

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by driver bob
    ...
    Option 1:
    Sitting down, hauling on the bars and grinding got me up the hills with minimal loss of traction but it was a lot of work.

    Option 2:
    Hit the hill at speed, stand up and honk...less effort but I was spinning out the back wheel more.
    ...
    Option #1: Heart Friendly, Muscle hard
    Option #2: Muscle friendly, heart hard

    I ride with Midge Drop Bars because I found that I prefer the seated position and there is definitely more power there. I can also climb most stuff and definitely sustain a climb for longer.
    I even find that if I play little mind games I can get my heart rate to drop while climbing; )

    I do also stand. Really steep stuff requires it and I also stand to rest and stretch. Standing is guaranteed to add 10-15 BPM on my heart so if I'm almost redlined this will usually push me over the edge.
    ===============

    Mark

  34. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by slowdave999
    how do i stop snapping teeth of my chain ring, im on a 29er running 32-16 and im a stand and muscle type of climber.
    You should stop riding bikes immediately before your burly legs explode or you stop the Earth's rotation!

    If that was a serious question, get a machined aluminum or steel chainring and a compatible high quality chain. Check your chain & chainring wear. With so many teeth engaged on a chainring, it should be impossible to shear any teeth off.

    -Chuck

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by longhaultrucker
    there's a second option (i won't let meself walk anything)...

    1) pedal till you can't (standing or sitting)
    2)take a breather till yer heartrate drops enuff to not see the floating dots
    3)hit it again,till you hit step 1 again.

    So other people see the floating dots besides me?
    Bike fleet: Scalpel/Habit SE/Synapse Hi Mod/SWorks Tarmac/TJ CX/Trek Speed Concept 9 series/Ridley Noah

  36. #36
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    I'm 42, and here's what I do: Stand and pedal! But stand--as in straight up and down, so you can get some weight on the back wheel. Let out some air if you're slipping. Also, concentrate on bringing your knees in, toward your frame. You want to get the most effecient "line" of torque. You can even tilt your bike a little. Think of roadies when they're sprinting (but not as extreme, though. Damn rodies, they're all too serious!). Um, yes. That is all . . .

  37. #37
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    Someone already touched on thinking about rotating your bike around your bottom bracket, but I wanted to add what I've learned from trying to ride my SS commuter up snow and ice here in Alaska. Everyone talks about leveraging the bike with your arms by tilting it back and forth in concert with your power strokes. Most of the time this is done by pulling up (or pushing down I suppose) on one side of the bar. I find when I'm standing to make it up the hills on my commute (in addition to all the weight shifting by standing straighter like everyone else has said) if I pull up and back on both sides of the bar, and just pull harder on the one side to make the bike tilt. I can feel the increase in traction. It does work out my arms, but I make it up the hills before I get too tired.

    Another thing I would suggest, and this sounds almost completely contrary to my first point, is relaxing. Try and relax your neck, shoudlers, and anything else that you're not actively using to drive the bike up the hill.

    The only other thing I do is yell and curse at the snow for being so slippery and covering everything, but I wouldn't suggest that, because it doesn't help at all.

  38. #38
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    I ride 27.5" wide bars. The width helps with leverage and shifting body position. I also like how the bike lays over when the bars are rocked back-n-forth. Couple this with high-volume/low-pressure tires (2.6") and the rear really hooks-up.

    I'm 6'4" and my SS is set-up for AM/FR, so it's easy to shift my position all over the bike. I call it the 'float' - where I position my body to maximize rear tire traction. The best analogy I can think of is that I become the "human lock-out" for my 100mm fork. The combination of pedal-pressure, body-position & elbow-lock/upward-bar-pressure required to eliminate fork-bob, is the near perfect position to maximize rear tire traction and contact. I'm not going to climb this way for a mile, but it will get me through the difficult stretch, then I can alternate between stand/sit as conditions and my quads dictate!

    Tom P.

  39. #39
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    What about getting over roots, rocks, waterbars etc while climbing? On my geared bike I can get a little burst of speed right before an obstacle to pop over it. On the SS I just can't get that little burst to get up and over. Any tips?

  40. #40
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    Singlespeeds are all about 2 things; momentum and leverage.

    Leverage is wheel/gear/crank - and handlebar width. I pulled a muscle in my forearm stomping up a climb with narrow hbars - put on some wider riser bars to see if it worked, and it did. Now I run Echo trials bars - the Urban Bulge bar, which is 29" wide (matches the wheels, you see) - but they are 31.8's.

    The leverage of wider bars helps with power thru-out the range, and doesn't affect your speed like gearing does.

    Momentum is your friend. And it is easier to keep momentum with a higher gear (less leverage tho) - higher gears seem to be more efficient to me, if I have enough endurance to keep it going. Disclaimer: Highest gear I've been able to run is 34x19-29er

    Sitting and mashing is painful. If I need to sit, I do my best to focus on pulling up on the backstroke and maintain a spin. If you're having to grunt on the downstroke while sitting - it is time to stand.

    Standing works better with higher gears, giving enough resistance to work with the force available. The 34x22 I started out with kinda sucked while standing - it was more like stand up and spin than anything because the downstroke was over before you got any power into the crank.

    A technique for getting up that short steep or over that obstacle: Jump forward/up, then yank the bike towards you with the next upstroke - not good for maintaining traction, but good for max power.
    This isn't a "you're doing it wrong" topic.

    WSS/OSS: Open Source Sealant

  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by lumpy ex8
    What about getting over roots, rocks, waterbars etc while climbing? On my geared bike I can get a little burst of speed right before an obstacle to pop over it. On the SS I just can't get that little burst to get up and over. Any tips?
    Modify your technique and/or get in better condition. You're going to have to get over the obstacle and nothing comes for free. I use the same techniques no matter what I'm riding. Speed up a little to let my momentum carry me over or do the old "lunge and pull" technique where you get the front wheel over, push the bike forward a little and while the bike decelerates momentarily let your body's momentum carry forward to pull the rear wheel over. You just have to get the timing right and use both your hands and feet (clipless pedals really help here).

    -Chuck

  42. #42
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    On technical steep climbs while standing, the bar ends help as do good tires. It's weird that my knees feel better after riding a ss on the trails and climbing than after a season of road biking. Another thing I noticed was the ability to stop, rest for a second while standing, then continue up a steep climb. Don't remember doing this on my old geared mountain bike. Cleaning sections I'd not done on the geared bike made me a believer. Once back on the geared bike I noticed the technique gained from the ss helped me, sort of like how fixed gear riding helps regular geared road bike riding by putting your head in a different place where you can see options you never knew you had for given situations. Just the knowledge of having all those gears can really slow you down. Five good stomps and you've cleaned a section in a hurry instead of spinning and spinning. Though geared bikes do give you more time to take a drink, look around, etc.

  43. #43
    trail rat
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    Quote Originally Posted by aClyde
    Cleaning sections I'd not done on the geared bike made me a believer. Once back on the geared bike I noticed the technique gained from the ss helped me, sort of like how fixed gear riding helps regular geared road bike riding by putting your head in a different place where you can see options you never knew you had for given situations.
    Excellent!

    As someone who raced years back and learned the value of fixed gear to smooth and increase cadence, and now rides fixed on road and mountain biking frequently, that is just a great way to explain the gains in riding skill and technique.

    I love what riding fixed rigid mtb does for my rigid SS and geared FS bike skills!
    "The physician heals, Nature makes well" - real fortune cookie

    CCCMB trail work for trail access - SLO, CA

  44. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Beekeeper
    Picture the bike as pivoting around your bb. By forcing the cranks down and pulling up on the bars, you can really drive the rear wheel into the ground and get great traction.
    First ride out yesterday since recovering from a cold and I tried this technique out on the climbs.

    Result: SUCCESS.....climbing was much more comfortable and I felt more in control.

  45. #45
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    Glad it worked for you/

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