Steep switchback technique?-
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  1. #1
    never ender
    Reputation: fat_weasel's Avatar
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    Jan 2005

    Steep switchback technique?

    So I've been riding solely SS for the last 3 years now and consider myself a pretty strong rider. One thing that still gives me trouble though are steep, tight uphill always feels like there's a point when my inside pedal gets to the bottom of its stroke, the bike seems to right itself, and I lose my line. For anybody that knows the Bay Area, I'm talking about a couple of spots at Tamarancho and certain...other...steep sidecut trails. Steep stuff.

    Usually when my turning technique is just plain sloppy, I'll notice it more on one side than the other, and then I can break down the motions until I can do it the same on the weak side. But this seems to happen to me equally on both sides. The only thing that seems to work is to ratchet my pedal stroke so that I never get to the 6 o'clock position, but in some spots where I really have to chop the bars that doesn't work, and it takes a hell of a lot of effort. I'm okay with fudging a switchback now and again, they've never been one of my stronger points as a rider. But it bugs me that I haven't figured out what I could be doing better.

  2. #2
    Bro is offline
    Content from my avatar
    Reputation: Bro's Avatar
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    Dec 2010
    I find that it's way easier to accelerate as much as possible in the straight parts, so that when you get to the turns you can relax and simply coast up the turn while giving all your attention to cleaning it. Ratcheting the pedals is something I'll usually do, especially if I need to keep stable at a low speed or something like that. I'm not the best at trackstands, so keeping the pedals moving even a bit helps with balance.

    I'm in the Bay Area too. Pacifica hills are always fun going up.

    And yes, if you're going fast enough you can coast anywhere, even uphill turns. Believe.
    Sometimes, I question the value of my content.

  3. #3
    Ovaries on the Outside
    Reputation: umarth's Avatar
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    Dec 2007
    Um, sometimes on uphill and tight switchbacks, you might just be boned.

  4. #4
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Depending on how the switchback is designed, there is a technique that I found works for this. When you are coming around the corner, continue going straight up the fall line (as if you were not going to use the switchback), and then whip your handlebars around into the direction of the lead change - the rear wheel should snap around nicely and you will actually accelerate if you do it right. Sort of as if you were going downhill and arcing into the intuitive side of a berm, only uphill. It's a power move, so plan accordingly, but it often works way better than sluggishly ratcheting around into the turn. If it's a 2-direction trail, there should be an existing berm used/created by downhillers that you can use to do this.
    "Gone are the days we stopped to decide where we should go. We just ride." - Robert Hunter

  5. #5
    Monkey Junkie
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Kind of hard to imagine exactly what is happening but I think I sort of understand. Steep switchbacks can be really tough, period..So I would say maybe work on your balance. Work on trackstanding. Also, for those really steep sections where you bog down and struggle to stay balanced around the corner, learning how to "hop" around to correct your line is helpful.

  6. #6
    mtbr member
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    Feb 2010
    A friend sent me this link... probably my favorite switchback video ever... ****ing ever.

    edit: granted not an SS video

  7. #7
    Reputation: voodoochild's Avatar
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    Feb 2004
    My .02: vision. Site where you want to go and go there. Definitely keep looking up to where you want to go. If you find yourself looking right where your front wheel is rolling, you will lose momentum. I also shoot for the widest line I can manage -- sorta like the berm advice already given.

    I'm in the Bay Area, too, and love riding Tamarancho. When riding clock-wise, the last switchback on Broken Dam is a real challenge for me. My success rate on that one is pretty low...
    -- let's ride

  8. #8
    mtbr member
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    Feb 2011
    I have only been doing SS for a short while but there are quite a few of these on the routes I ride. I have noticed that on some of the turns my front wheel lifts and I am able to sort of kick turn the bike around the corner.

    My mates have commented a couple of times that they can't believe what they are seeing.

  9. #9
    mtbr member
    Reputation: alshead's Avatar
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    Oct 2007

    Look where you're going

    Quote Originally Posted by voodoochild
    . Site where you want to go and go there. Definitely keep looking up to where you want to go. If you find yourself looking right where your front wheel is rolling, you will lose momentum.
    Yes- when I flub a switchback, it's almost always because I'm staring right in front of my wheel and I don't finish the turn. If I look ahead, around the corner and up the trail where I want to BE, I clean it.

  10. #10
    mtbr member
    Reputation: raganwald's Avatar
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    Feb 2011
    I'm not super-experienced, so YMMV, but I vote for hopping around tight uphill switchbacks. I find that even a single hop is sometimes all I need to get the line right when combined with a tight natural turn. Going uphill I like to hop the entire bike. Going DH, I'm usually more comfortable hopping the rear wheel and pivoting around the front.

    The old saying is "Never try to solve a skill problem with equipment," but I must admit that having a high engagement hub or freewheel (White Industries, Chris King, Industry Nine, &c) makes ratcheting easier for me.

    Since this is about SS, I will say you need a low gear to hop effectively, because it relies on coming to a complete stop on the corner and then pedaling up the next traverse.

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