Riding tips for MTB Noobs

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Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby drubie » Wed Feb 16, 2011 8:43 am

Have at it boys'n'girls.

From the cheap fork thread I have:
- no fingerless gloves (SupaCheap mechanics gloves FTW?? I can't go spending money on more gloves!)
- trees jump out at you (already had this experience on the CX bike)
- get off and walk the really difficult stuff

From my last foray into the forest:
- MTB trails through pine forests occasionally take a turn through the rows of trees unexpectedly, thankfully pine needles are soft.
- Rocks hurt when you bash your knee on them.
- don't panic if the front wheel comes off the deck on a steep climb.
- drop bars are...not suitable for single track unless you have mad skills.
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but really, that's rubbish. We get none of it because the choices are illusory.
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by BNA » Wed Feb 16, 2011 9:16 am

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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby Nobody » Wed Feb 16, 2011 9:16 am

Watch out for wet/damp wood, tree roots and leaves.
It's generally the things you don't see that get you rather than the things you do see, so keep a keen lookout.

http://www.mtbtips.com/
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby Alistair » Wed Feb 16, 2011 1:30 pm

The first few crashes will teach you more than we could put into a book.

What kind of terrain will you be riding?

Just enjoy it - make sure you have the necessary spares and go exploring the bush. The rest will take care of itself.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby HappyHumber » Wed Feb 16, 2011 1:39 pm

You could watch a few of the videos around on you-tube, but they're of wildly varying quality... and once you've seen an annoying one or two, that's usually an overdose. But hey, you can't complain for the price.

Search for things like Bunny Hop, Switch back etc. etc.

I'm not especially agile or coordinated.. still a chicken when it comes to many of a technical obstacle and I've been at it 3 years :D
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby drubie » Wed Feb 16, 2011 3:48 pm

I didn't think about youtube - will go and take a squizz.

Terrain for the Guyra 6 hour Westpac helicopter thing is...unknown. The trouble with talking to mountain bikers is one mans technical is another mans plain sailing, some of the guys here think nothing of firing their bike straight off what looks like a cliff to me.

It also seems that mountain bikes are some way ahead of roadies with respect to technology (all these new fangled disk brakes and puncture goop in the tyres and springs and stuff). I'm still running to a budget on this bike and not sure whether to invest in commercial tyre sealant or follow one of the wacky online recipes.

THEN there's the stuff that makes no sense - out of the saddle on anything with a flat bar seems very "tip toey", I assume a lot of climbing is done seated for traction? And descents standing up? IT's ALL BACKWARDS! and it's doing my head in.
So we get the leaders we deserve and we elect, we get the companies and the products that we ask for, right? And we have to ask for different things. – Paul Gilding
but really, that's rubbish. We get none of it because the choices are illusory.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby HappyHumber » Wed Feb 16, 2011 4:35 pm

drubie wrote:THEN there's the stuff that makes no sense - out of the saddle on anything with a flat bar seems very "tip toey", I assume a lot of climbing is done seated for traction? And descents standing up? IT's ALL BACKWARDS! and it's doing my head in.


I was glued to my seat for ever as well. Though after a while climbing I gradually learnt to keep my weight back AND low. I kidded myself it looked a bit more dignified and it seemed to work. Having said that though, I did make sure I got a quick release on my seat post. I do adjust my seat height to the terrain.

'sfunny... my main MTBing mate is a wirey little tacker about 5'7" and I'm a great lungering ~105kg 6'2". He's one of these natural sportsmen and has a background in enduro moto-cross. He thought nothing of buying the biggest off the peg frame size when got his MTB. His reasonining? Motorbikes only come in the one size....

but anyway, my point is ( I think ) It's not only a matter of knowing where and how to shift your weight, but how agile you are at contorting yourself to do so. I know the theory, but lack a bit of the finesse :D
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby Nobody » Wed Feb 16, 2011 4:38 pm

drubie wrote:I'm still running to a budget on this bike and not sure whether to invest in commercial tyre sealant or follow one of the wacky online recipes.
If you're on a budget, stay with tubes. Nothing really wrong with them.

drubie wrote:THEN there's the stuff that makes no sense - out of the saddle on anything with a flat bar seems very "tip toey", I assume a lot of climbing is done seated for traction? And descents standing up? IT's ALL BACKWARDS! and it's doing my head in.
Yes, seated has more traction but the difference can be small at times. You'll learn to be a bit gentle even when standing. Sometimes the added momentum of standing and getting the power down where there is a section with enough traction is useful. In one spot on my local, where traction is reasonably high but really steep I find I'm more likely to get up it standing than sitting. Some people spend a lot of time standing.

As for flat bars and standing, I find I'm far more comfortable standing with my 68cm riser bar than my 38cm drop bar. There is just so much more leverage. Ask the SS MTBers. They use wide bars usually. However get used to riding before you get wide bars. They are harder to negotiate single track with.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby zero » Wed Feb 16, 2011 6:47 pm

drubie wrote:I didn't think about youtube - will go and take a squizz.

Terrain for the Guyra 6 hour Westpac helicopter thing is...unknown. The trouble with talking to mountain bikers is one mans technical is another mans plain sailing, some of the guys here think nothing of firing their bike straight off what looks like a cliff to me.

It also seems that mountain bikes are some way ahead of roadies with respect to technology (all these new fangled disk brakes and puncture goop in the tyres and springs and stuff). I'm still running to a budget on this bike and not sure whether to invest in commercial tyre sealant or follow one of the wacky online recipes.

THEN there's the stuff that makes no sense - out of the saddle on anything with a flat bar seems very "tip toey", I assume a lot of climbing is done seated for traction? And descents standing up? IT's ALL BACKWARDS! and it's doing my head in.


I'm usually seated climbing, unless its got steps.

The race I did, I took puncture kit and spare tube in a little top tube bag, and had thornproof tubes and set of belted tires. Inevitably I didn't get a puncture and cursed the weight the whole way :) There are of course riders out there that would be better served by bringing a multi tool, pliers and a spare RD.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby Mulger bill » Wed Feb 16, 2011 9:48 pm

If you hit a technical section too slow you will crash.
If you hit a technical section too fast you will crash.
For greatly different reasons.

Seriously, too slow and your wheels won't have sufficient gyro action to stop the lumpy bits pushing them off line.
Finding the right speed is part of the fun :wink:

You will need to use your body weight lots more than on a roadie, try the rythym section at your local BMX track to find out why.
...whatever the road rules, self-preservation is the absolute priority for a cyclist when mixing it with motorised traffic.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby HappyHumber » Wed Feb 16, 2011 10:15 pm

Mulger bill wrote:..try the rythym section..


I love that term :D And they're usually my favourite bits of a good single track trail

But as for trying a BMX track.. that's GENIUS! Time to go an bully some young grommets off my local track....
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby Mulger bill » Wed Feb 16, 2011 10:26 pm

Do it Kym. :mrgreen:

My local track, the last leg is all rythym, about eight rollers all up. Enter at medium pace off the last berm and I'm blazing by the end, all without a single pedal stroke 8) Get it wrong and it just hurts.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby drubie » Wed Feb 16, 2011 10:41 pm

Rhythm section?

Most of the BMX pilots here seem to hang sullenly around the skate park, couldn't learn much from that!
So we get the leaders we deserve and we elect, we get the companies and the products that we ask for, right? And we have to ask for different things. – Paul Gilding
but really, that's rubbish. We get none of it because the choices are illusory.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby HappyHumber » Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:04 pm

Mulger bill wrote:My local track, the last leg is all rythym, about eight rollers all up. Enter at medium pace off the last berm and I'm blazing by the end, all without a single pedal stroke 8) Get it wrong and it just hurts.


Here's my local. I've always just sailed past it on the road or bike path nearby, never really giving it too much attention. I reckon it has potential for what you describe. Nothing too steep or extreme; it would strike me as being something more for the racers rather than the tricksters - which is how I remember BMX anyway!
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby flashrider » Thu Feb 17, 2011 10:40 am

Uumm a couple of Mantras for me when I'm riding is "Look past what you are trying to avoid." If you look at it, chances are you'll hit it...and "Think thin." For when you are in tight twisty singletrack and trying not to clip stuff. Also keeping your pedals level will minimize pedal strike butt clench moments.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby Nobody » Thu Feb 17, 2011 11:09 am

If you are jogging up stairs while carrying your bike, keep in mind what may happen if you trip and what you might do to avoid injury. This happened to me recently and I'm still recovering from it. I tripped on a large wooden step on a track, I let go of the handlebar on the left to land on the ground. The bike went forward, bounced off another step and the handlebar came back up and hit me in the nose. :( Suffice to say it was bleeding from the outside and inside of my nose.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby trailgumby » Thu Feb 17, 2011 12:15 pm

@Nobody: Ouch! :shock:

Bike setup:
1: Start out with flat pedals. They make it much easier to get away from the bike before it takes you with it when you're about to have an off.
2: Have your bars slightly higher than your seat.
3: Position your seat 1-2cm lower than you would on your road bike. In combination with the slightly higher handlebar position, this makes descending safer by enabling you to easily slide your hips off and behind the seat to keep your centre of gravity well behind the front axle when the bike is pointed down.
4: Set the preload on your fork so that when you are seated on a level surface in your normal riding position, your weight causes the suspension to sag by 25% of the available travel. On a 100mm fork, this means you would compress (sag) 25mm. Adjust the air pressure (air forks) or spring tension dial (coil forks) to achieve this. Sag allows the front wheel to drop into depressions on the trail, keeping your front tyre in contact with the track.
5: It is better to err on the fast side for rebound speed on the fork. Otherwise it will pack down over successive bumps, increasing the risk of an OTB.
6: On the rear, if you have a shock it is better to err on the slow side for rebound damping. This is so that a harsh landing won't see the bike seat kick you hard in the backside and send you OTB.
7: Start with your tyres at about 32psi front, 35psi rear for tubed tyres (80kg rider), or 28 and 32 psi for tubeless. For rocky terrain with lots of square-edged bumps you may need to increase this to stop pinch flats.


Safe riding tips
1: If you can't see how to ride the obstacle, walk it.
2: Always carry a mobile phone, and let someone know when you expect to be back
3: Ride in company, especially if the trail is unfamiliar, or you will be a long way from help
4: Carry enough water for the ride. A litre of water an hour isa For rides longer than an hour, ensure you carry enough nutrition as well.
4: If you baulk twice at an obstacle, walk it and try again another day.
5: Ride within your limits. If you're tired choose an easy trail.
6: Don't ride faster than your ability to read the trail.
7: If you're having an off day and aren't hitting your lines on the trail, stop riding and return when you're fresh.

Technique tips
1: Stay off the front brake over tree roots, rocks and obstacles
2: Look for smooth patches of dirt or rock to brake on with the front wheel
3: Try to hit roots and rock lips at 90 degrees. If you can't, lift the front wheel over them
4: Keep your pedals at the 9 and 3 position when coasting
5: On technical descents, drop your hips behind and below the rear of the saddle. Try lowering your seat.
6: Where you look is where you'll go. Focus on fiding the right path for your front wheel.
7: When you see a freaky obstacle that will hurt you if you hit it, focus on the path around it.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby HappyHumber » Thu Feb 17, 2011 12:52 pm

Nice summary, trailgumby...

the second set are generally becoming my way of thinking. What I need to work on are the techniques for better negotiating things - lifting the front wheel when the inertia isn't behind you (i.e. the first half a bunny hop) and following through with being able to lift, or at least take the weight off, the back wheel to better clear obstacles or gaps. I've been on the hardtail XTC now for close to 3 years, and always ridden clipped in, as I was used to them from road riding.

Being a natural unco is countering against me, but I find my confidence gradually improves throughout the season, It's then a shame it rapidly disappears again in the off, or when recently the bike was out of action for a bit with some niggling freehub problems. Only workaround there is just to ride ride ride whenever I can I guess.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby Nobody » Thu Feb 17, 2011 1:40 pm

Yeah, nice summary TG. I should take more notice of the ones to just go home when I'm just not having a good day. :oops:

I'll add that MTB can be a bit seasonal too. Meaning that some trails can get overgrown and fulll of debris in summer making it a bit more hazardous. Also the hotter air is more noticeable when your average speed is about half that of a road bike.

trailgumby wrote:3: Position your seat 1-2cm lower than you would on your road bike.
[General comment]
This is reasonably good advice and I'm currently using it with my saddle 1cm lower than before. However, the fit experts say that you should only drop your saddle by 0.5cm a week. So if you need to drop 1-2cm at once then don't do too many Kms at first or your knees may object. Also it might be an idea to consciously drop your heel when powering up a hill with this lower saddle height.
I ended up lowering the height of my road bike over time to match. It was probably too high before anyway. I've also got matching crank lengths now too. Couldn't hurt.

trailgumby wrote:7: Start with your tyres at about 32psi front, 35psi rear for tubed tyres (80kg rider), or 28 and 32 psi for tubeless. For rocky terrain with lots of square-edged bumps you may need to increase this to stop pinch flats.
[General comment]
Obviously this is highly dependent on the trail surface hardness and/or roughness, tyre size and what shocks (if any) you use. For example, I prefer about 22-25psi on the front and 25-28psi on the back. I'm also about 80Kg but use 2.2" tyres (tubed) on a rigid. Some trail parts can be quite soft (especially in the wet) as they are not actually tracks but just parkland grass. If in doubt start with higher pressure, but the aim is to get your tyre pressure just above pinch-flatting or rim damage. The lower the pressure the better grip, control, comfort and on soft ground, faster too.
Last edited by Nobody on Thu Feb 17, 2011 2:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby mikedufty » Thu Feb 17, 2011 1:59 pm

HappyHumber wrote:Here's my local. I've always just sailed past it on the road or bike path nearby, never really giving it too much attention. I reckon it has potential for what you describe. Nothing too steep or extreme; it would strike me as being something more for the racers rather than the tricksters - which is how I remember BMX anyway!

That track is kind of a miniature bmx track, not quite full size. Does have a bit of a rhythm section at the end, but very small. Still fun. The southside track in Bullcreek is a better size, with still nothing scary. Worth a look if passing that way.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby trailgumby » Thu Feb 17, 2011 4:13 pm

+1 to Nobody's general comments.

On the pressures, I run mine lower as well, but you see a lot of newbies running theirs at 45-50psi and wondering why they feel so out of control! My local has a lot of rocky sections and pinch flatting is common for hardtail riders, hence the higher suggested starting point.

Good comment on the seat height - change in small increments, especially if riding on the road. I arrived at my ideal height by having a slipping carbon seatpost. :lol: Since lowering mine I've adopted a more heel-down pedalling action, and have found it reduces the load on knees and calves quite a lot and I dont get the niggles that used to plague me whenever I upped the distance.
Last edited by trailgumby on Thu Feb 17, 2011 4:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby toolonglegs » Thu Feb 17, 2011 4:16 pm

trailgumby wrote:
Here's one of the obstacles at my local:

Image


OMGosh!...what have they done to Manly Dam :evil: ...looks like a bloody footpath.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby trailgumby » Thu Feb 17, 2011 9:45 pm

That's down by the hydraulics lab and the angle of the photo is a bit deceptive, which is why I edited it out. It's steeper than it looks.

The guy at the back looks like he's level in the photo, but he is actually descending too and the guy in front has his butt off the back of the bike and his arms thrust out in front for a reason.

Those boards are nasty slippery when damp. :x

When dry, I really enjoy this and the last bit of trail off the end of the boardwalk behind where the photographer was standing.

Unfortunatelhy since this shot was taken, where the bits of branch are on the right of shot, Council has in its wisdom put a set of steps for walkers. I've not seen anybody walking up them, but I have seen a few riders hurt themselves falling on them. Trail safety assessment fail. :roll:
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby Mulger bill » Thu Feb 17, 2011 11:43 pm

Very well put Gumby, years of my error and more error condensed into a single post. :oops:

Nice looking track Kym, here's mine, pity the pic doesn't do it justice. It's a little tamer since they took out the 3m high step up/down jump, methinks the ambos asked for it. :shock:
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby Nobody » Fri Feb 18, 2011 8:14 am

trailgumby wrote:Since lowering mine I've adopted a more heel-down pedaling action, and have found it reduces the load on knees and calves quite a lot and I don't get the niggles that used to plague me whenever I upped the distance.
Thanks for confirming the same conclusion I came to. :)

I also had my road bike post slip recently from the already lowered position by a further ~1.2cm. I noticed it was a bit harder to power up the hills (which alerted me to it) but didn't affect my knees anymore than before. This active heel dropping technique seems to work. :D
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby drubie » Fri Feb 18, 2011 11:05 am

Thanks for that detailed response Trailgumby. I'll try to absorb it all.

Speaking of absorbing, I take it the camelbak or similar is the way to go for hydration. I have an old Black Wolf backpack that has a hydration port, should I just buy a bladder or are the dedicated smaller sized packs better? The pack in question is my normal commuting backpack when not riding with panniers and is perhaps twice the size of a dedicated hydration pack and the stomach strap got ripped off at the airport many years ago.

Smaller packs will move around less I assume? The loop is 18km (I've been told it's about an hour) and I don't really want to be fiddling with bottles. The frame in question has got bottle cage mounts but I'd probably rather not fit bottle cages for stuff to fall out of.
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