Riding tips for MTB Noobs

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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby HappyHumber » Wed Mar 16, 2011 1:38 pm

Gabe wrote:
drubie wrote:Gah, bunny hop fail - no matter how many videos I watch I just can't get the back wheel off the ground. Getting fairly adept at popping the front wheel up but I do that on the roadie to mitigate bigger bumps so it's not much of a stretch.


All you have to do is move your body forward rather than upward. It is natural to try and jump upwards to get the bike off the ground, but in actual fact you should be pushing forward on your handlebars and moving your bodyweight at an up/forward angle, not directly upwards. And remember, as with everything, focus on relaxing your body and mind and not being too tense. You will do everything better if you can keep yourself relaxed, and you will exert less energy and thus go longer without fatigue.
ATM I'm trying to build up my skills/confidence enough to jump onto a park bench - I can see myself ending up in a pile and crying over my broken bike at some point



Thanks for the comments Gabe. This is proving elusive for me as well. So much so I think I need to put slicks on the MTB and commute with it a bit to get up some more practice time during the week!
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by BNA » Sat Mar 19, 2011 6:29 pm

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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby drubie » Sat Mar 19, 2011 6:29 pm

Mud.

I suck at riding in mud. The race was today and I spent more time pushing my bike than riding it. Race was eventually called off. People were careening past me on muddy descents at insane speeds yelling stuff, totally crossed up and completely at the whim of physics. I couldn't bring myself to do it anymore after the first couple of crashes.

Crashes generally involved tyres loading up, me sliding around desperately while losing momentum, getting crossed up and plonking into the (thankfully soft) ground either side of the track. Amazingly only a couple of minor grazes but I was so stuffed by the final climb (not helped by that 28 tooth rear cog while people whizzed past with 34s) I thought I was going to blow chunks. 18km of muddy hell, rocks, barbed wire and thistles.

I spent the hour or so off the bike desperately trying to talk myself into getting back on the bike while my team-mate was out on his lap. It took a good 40 minutes to steel myself, finally ate a HTFU muesli bar and went to the start line only to be told the race had been shortened. I was...relieved although after making the effort to get back on the bike somewhat disappointed. His times were 20 minutes (!) better than mine for 18km. He didn't crash.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby HighFi » Mon Mar 21, 2011 3:03 pm

trailgumby wrote:I do most of my heavy braking with the front, but tend to be on the rear brake more as a % of time per lap, so to speak. Reason for that is that you want to be off the front brake when rolling over rough stuff so you keep the bike rolling while controlling your speed and don;t flip yourself over the bars. However, like road bikes, from weight transfer you get more braking value out of the front. In my case it's a more aggressive tyre as well (Nobby Nic) so it digs in better. So I sometimes drag the rear, and am pumping on the front wherever I find smooths bits of dirt or rock to brake on, even if just a metre or two's worth..

Eventually you'll get the skill and confidence to come back to using the front brake more, but for now what you're doing is perfectly fine, as it keeps you rubber side down and out of trouble. :D


I had a go at some front braking yesterday and today. I can see how it would be useful too! I hit the rear brakes on a big rock going down it and lost the back end, luckily I got my foot out in time. However, that being said, on the local trail I do almost daily there's a lot of stairs too, so a mix of front and rears it's where it's at for me. I'm yet to ride a purpose built trail which I think adds to the confusion of things. :)
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby trailgumby » Tue Mar 22, 2011 4:48 pm

drubie wrote:Mud.

I suck at riding in mud...

I have resolved that problem. I don't do it. :lol: Hopefully it doesn't rain at The Mont. :x Wet races are hard.

Deep dry sand is my other pet hate - it's impossible to keep control of where the blasted front wheel goes on TwoPointSomething tyres. Some guys manage - I have no idea how.

Well done on sticking it out, drubes. First races are often like that... mine was similar, except instead of feeling like I was going to throw chunks, I cramped up and couldn't move for 5 minutes halfway around my second lap. "Arrgh... how do I get out of THIS?!" Managed ot complete the lap, but was done for the day.

But it took my riding to a new level next time out on the bike, and opened my eyes to what's possible with some practice. and it served to put my ego firmly in it's place, which is never a bad thing. :oops:
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby toolonglegs » Tue Mar 22, 2011 5:34 pm

Wet and horrible races are the best :D ...good technical skills really shine thru and the water keeps us big fellas cool...although for those that remember the NSW state champs at lithgow in the snow...well I draw the line at the that!...although now I have the gear for it so maybe I would be up for it:lol:
The biggest cost of racing in shite conditions is just that...$$$ for the servicing (new pads,discs,fork rebuilds,drive train etc etc etc).
GOD I hope I can race again!!!.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby drubie » Wed Mar 23, 2011 10:31 am

trailgumby wrote:But it took my riding to a new level next time out on the bike, and opened my eyes to what's possible with some practice. and it served to put my ego firmly in it's place, which is never a bad thing. :oops:


Ego is firmly back in place trailgumby. Still in awe of the skills and fitness those guys have.

I'm a bit in the dumps now - sorta miss the urgency of the training (and the fun I guess of a bike that promises to go anywhere). Back to roadie training for a series of long road races (our clubs 100km is coming up) so the MTB is sitting in the shed, looking lonely but still with it's race number on. Might drag it out on Friday just for giggles.

Can't say I really enjoy the "post big race doldrums" much - training is much easier when you have a goal.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby Mugglechops » Fri Mar 25, 2011 6:05 pm

I have a tip for riding off drops, don't use my technique :D

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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby trailgumby » Sat Mar 26, 2011 3:28 pm

Didn't lift the bike and thrust it out ahead... Oww! :x
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby Mugglechops » Sat Mar 26, 2011 5:11 pm

trailgumby wrote:Didn't lift the bike and thrust it out ahead... Oww! :x



Tell me about it, I couldn't walk properly for a week :D

I only do samll drops now
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby RecRider » Tue Apr 05, 2011 3:30 pm

Now learning to adjust to my new ride, a 2011 Giant Trance X2. I've decided that its capability far exceeds that of its newbie rider. It seems a great bike for the $2400 price and I can clearly see the difference in quality compared with my older basic hardtail. Dual suspension is a vastly different (comfortable) experience and the Elixir hydraulic brakes are incredible. I rode 30-40 kms of easier trails over the weekend and nearly sent myself over the bars a few times. It feels like I can ride over almost anything now, which might be bit dangerous?

Only bit I don't like is the Gobi saddle, which has to be the most uncomfortable seat on the planet (even wearing generously padded knicks). Oh, and presta valves are a PITA. I thought I could buy adapters and use my existing schrader pumps and gauges but nothing worked properly. Either didn't fit at all or air bleeds out profusely. I ended up buying a tiny Crank Bros. Power Pump Pro - nicely made, cost a bomb and takes forever to raise any pressure, but at least it fits the valves and has a working gauge (not sure about the accuracy).

So, other than just getting out and riding it, is there anything ese I should be doing to improve my skills or look after the bike? The LBS did a proper fitting and bike adjustment/setup and briefed me on various things, but I have a memory like a sieve sometimes. I'll get around to reading all the manuals including, brakes, forks and rear shock.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby mikedufty » Tue Apr 05, 2011 6:15 pm

Only takes five minutes to drill the rims out to take schraeder valves. My only regret after doing it on my bikes is that I didn't do it sooner.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby Gabe » Tue Apr 05, 2011 10:20 pm

For the rims, you can get clip-in rings to make the valve holes smaller again if you want to go back to presta at some point. I had no problems with the valves themselves, but I got sick of bursting tubes and patches not holding well on the thin surface, so I got some treble thick tubes which you can only get with schraeder valves (that I know of). The tubes are heavy but incredibly tough, pretty much impossible to get a pinch flat and really good for thorns, etc..

The seats on proper MTBs are never comfortable when you first ride, but if you keep riding you will get used to it. You should be on your feet most of the time anyway, at least on the trails. Although - if you haven't adjusted after 4 or 5 rides then you probably should look at alternatives..

I use squirt chain lube, it's non-toxic and can be worked into the chain by hand, has only a very mild smell and dries out a few minutes after application to form a waxy layer all over your chain, meaning a nice protective coat and you get less mess from it that from other lubes. You would need to completely clean out any previous lube though, meaning soaking the chain in a degreasing solution. And you get slighly more chain noise, in case that kind of thing bothers you.

Best way to improve your skills is practise, and experimenting to find the best braking and cornering techniques. Be wary of braking too much when entering or navigating a corner, you need to slow down just before you hit the corner and ease off the brakes as you enter it. Work on smooth pedalling technique, it helps reduce bob and maintain rear grip on steep inclines, and feel the way the bike responds to the way you move your weight around.
Also - try to avoid tensing up your muscles too much, it increases fatigue and can even hinder your technique. Ride nice and relaxed with legs slightly bent, and let the bike do as much work as possible. And WEAR GLOVES.

With the shocks, it's a matter of trying out different adjustments. Try fast rebound for half a ride then switch to slow (or the other way round, whatever), you'll notice a difference. Then go from there. With pressure, I set it so that the schocks *almost* bottom out during a rough ride, and pretty much ignore sag. There isn't much maintenance to do really, mainly re-greasing the chain and truing the wheels if they get knocked around. But you do need to keep the bike clean and most importantly, dry. Reading the manual is always a good idea.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby trailgumby » Tue Apr 05, 2011 10:27 pm

Not sure I'd want to do that (drlling out). It's a bit... well, agricultural. :x Sorry :lol:

Nearly all the decent bike pumps you can buy these days have Presta ("french valve") as one of the choices and if you go tubeless conversion kit like Stan's or Bontrager, they only come with Presta valves in any case. I've never had a real problem with getting it to seal on the valve, except for when it's a user-related problem (ie, me).

So my recommendation would be to just accept and get used ot it as one of those weird things that are peculiar to bikes.

As for adapters, yes they can be a PITA if they are too long. You want the little stem thingy that you unscrew to release the french valve to sit either just flat with or just marginally inside (say no more than 0.2mm) the end of the adapter when it's fully screwed on. Any longer and the pin in the head of the Schrader pump head won't be able to depress it to get the air in. Me, I never go near service stations to pump my tyres, so have no need to go near a schrader valve on a wheel.

With shock settings, see my tips above re: rebound speeds. You want to err on the side of slow on the rear and faster on the front unless you like to do your unplanned dismounts over the front of the bike. (Take it from me, that does not end well. :oops: ) Set your shock and fork air pressures to give you 25% sag for XC use, with you fuly kitted up with helmet, hydration pack etc and full water bottle(s). Buy a specific shock absorber pump with a dial gauge and pressure release button.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby trailgumby » Tue Apr 05, 2011 10:33 pm

For skills development, I can heartily recommend the one-day skills courses run by AMBC. Brilliant - has made my riding safer and more fun.

http://www.ambc.com.au/

No I don't have shares in them... but I'd like to :D
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby toolonglegs » Tue Apr 05, 2011 11:09 pm

Mugglechops wrote:I have a tip for riding off drops, don't use my technique :D



Nice endo!...hey at least you tried :lol: .
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby RecRider » Thu Apr 07, 2011 3:56 pm

Thanks very much for the comprehensive replies guys, really appreciated.

LBS also said I could drill out the rims to take schrader valves without weakening them, but I don't think I'll do that. Somehow seems like sacrilege or something (and I wouldn't want to muck it up). I'll try and learn to live with the Presta ones (they're good enough for Tour de France bikes after all :)). I wonder if I could saw off the adapters I bought a bit shorter to extend the range of options for inflation etc?

I'll definitely look into the AMBC course trailgumby. I now remember reading about these ages ago. Not too expensive either. I think $140 for a 6 hour course sounds like pretty good value to gain practical skills that are immediately useful (unlike many work-related courses :roll:).

Rear grip was occasionally an issue ascending a couple of very steep hills last weekend, although (once I shifted to the big chain ring instead of the middle) I got up everything attempted with only a small amount of slippage. At least two of these hills I wasn't able to climb previously with my old hardtail.

Steep descents are probably my biggest weakness, particularly with a lot of loose surface rubble and turning sharply at the same time. I did ride through a couple OK (sort of) but it was a bit like hanging on for grim death and hoping the bike would make up for my lack of skill. I'm not up to significant drop offs just yet, although I can ride over most smaller obstacles on undulating surfaces. I usually get off and walk if I don't feel confident/sense danger. Mugglechops I feel your pain, I cringed when I watched your video :shock:. I'm a very fit, lean 56 year old, but need to consider that I'm not getting any younger before attempting anything too serious.

Will try and relax a bit more and try out some of those ideas. I do wear gloves but short finger ones, I'll get some long finger ones as well.

I haven't yet played around with the fork/shock settings. At this stage LBS has set up everything according to my weight and type of riding that I told them I generally do. I guess I'll start to experiment more as I get used to the bike. I do have a shock pump with dial gauge/pressure release which came with the bike. I think Giant supplies them as standard with their DS models.

With the chain lube, I've been using Rock'n'Roll Gold on the old bike and recently bought a big container of it. I've found it to be really good so might use that up before I try something different, but the Squirt one sounds interesting.

One other thing comes to mind. Although the bike came with clipless pedals, I have no experience with these. So I got the LBS to fit flat pedals for the time being and I've put the clipless ones aside until I feel ready to upgrade. In any case I still need to buy shoes/cleats to suit. Any thoughts on this? I was considering Shimano MT42 shoes as I sometimes like to get off and do some bushwalking as well.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby trailgumby » Thu Apr 07, 2011 6:49 pm

I'd stay with flats until you start to feel they're holding you back. Just wear some shinguards so that the studs don't bite you.

I started with clipless immediately and the prospect of not being able to get my foot free especially on techy stuff messed with my head and held me back.

If you're anywhere near the north of Sydney you'd be welcome to tag along for one of our newby rides at Terrey Hills. Nothing too technical, and some marvellous views. Some loose scree slopes to practice on. :wink: I'm down at the Mont 24 this weekend, but should be available afterwards.

Edit: I see you're at the SW side of Sydney. Mt Annan Botanic Gardens is supposed to be pretty good.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby RecRider » Mon Apr 11, 2011 3:39 pm

trailgumby wrote:I'd stay with flats until you start to feel they're holding you back. Just wear some shinguards so that the studs don't bite you.

I started with clipless immediately and the prospect of not being able to get my foot free especially on techy stuff messed with my head and held me back.

If you're anywhere near the north of Sydney you'd be welcome to tag along for one of our newby rides at Terrey Hills. Nothing too technical, and some marvellous views. Some loose scree slopes to practice on. :wink: I'm down at the Mont 24 this weekend, but should be available afterwards.

Edit: I see you're at the SW side of Sydney. Mt Annan Botanic Gardens is supposed to be pretty good.

Thanks very much for those comments TG. That's good, I won't rush into clipless then, which suits me fine at present. The thought of getting my foot stuck is a bit daunting. I don't normally wear shinguards but the studs on these pedals are fairly aggressive, so I'll look into those.

Yes, unfortunately travel-wise northern beaches is getting a bit far but thanks very much for the offer. I will try and get over there for a ride eventually.

I've ridden around Mt Annan BG a number of times, mainly last winter before they finished the XC MTB course. I've ridden parts of what is now within that course. So I'm keen to get back there again now that the weather is cooler and have a look at it. It's not the best location for summer rides IMHO - too exposed/hot, also needs care if wet as a lot of the general riding is on grassy old farm trails which can get quite slippery.

I'm getting a bit more confident with this bike now on the easy trails. On Saturday I rode Lady Carrington Dr in Royal NP and managed to keep up for several kms with a fairly serious looking rider who was riding clipless at a solid pace on a Merida hardtail. Neither of us was racing but eventually I passed him and was a minute or two ahead when I stopped to rest and turn around at the halfway point.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby idw » Fri Apr 15, 2011 9:30 pm

trailgumby wrote:I'd stay with flats until you start to feel they're holding you back. Just wear some shinguards so that the studs don't bite you.


but remember those holes in your shins are a right of passage.

good platforms and the right type of shoe make all the difference and grip.

anyway my tips. practice basic techniques on some soft grass, bunny hops, log hopping. small drops before you need them. prop up a long bit of wood on a few bricks so you have a platform and just mess around abit until you have a feel for each technique before you need it. if its looks hard walk it before you ride it. don't try the doubles if you haven't jumped before. learn on a tabletop. dont jump on a bike that isnt designed for it at the very lease you'll wreck your forks.

falling is the best way to learn what not to do.

if you get into trouble always try to ride it out, more often than not by ditching you've got more of a chance of hurting yourself or someone else damaging your bike or hurtling your bike into another rider. but that said when its time to ditch you'll know it.

ride with people similarly skilled to yourself or slightly better. you'll have more fun and not feel like your being left behind.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby Gabe » Thu Apr 21, 2011 12:15 pm

For most riders I would say shinguards are the last thing you need.

Last weekend I messed up my arm and knee for the 100th time and it's always a bastard waiting for it to heal, whereas the holes on your shins from pedal whip don't require any real attention and heal up quick and easy. A padded long sleeve shirt and something that protects your knees is going to be far more valuable, and the only reason I don't wear them is because I'm a dumbass and just haven't been bothered. After this lil stack I will definitely re-evaluate my position.

How much you hurt yourself and your bike will come down to you personally. All the advice in the world on how to be safe won't make much difference to how often you crash; if you're "enthusiastic" you'll learn quick and stack often, if you're laid back you'll learn slower but rarely get into trouble. If you wanna go hard and are willing to take the pain if it goes awry then just go for it, you'll get bored eventaully anyway and say "screw it let's smash this trail" so you might as well enjoy yourself from day 1. If you're scared about injury and not after the adrenaline then you'll be safer anyway, and in this case perhaps shinguards might be more useful because that's something that can happen more by mistake than zealous riding.
Going by what you've said I would guess you're more in the 2nd category, and a bit of off-trail practise of specific techniques is probably a good idea. I would still hit the trails as much as possible - try to repeat the same sections while varying your technique to learn the best approaches, always thinking about braking, speed, and where your weight is. IMO confidence is absolutely the most important thing to build up
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby Matthewb » Tue Jul 26, 2011 5:08 pm

Really great advice here, I'd love to get into more serious off road tracks but my barrier is the idea of buying a more expensive bike for a less practical reason that my current one (Giant Seek 3 - I use it to get to uni everyday)!

I still have the slicks that the Seek came with (although I had to put puncture protection strips in) but I still get the urge to take 'shortcuts' through mud and gravel although obviously I get no traction so I can't go uphill... Ordered some cyclocross tyres to help with this but Aust Post managed to lose them...

My question is would something like a Giant Talon 1 (no rear suspension) be much better than my Seek if I managed to find good offroad tyres for it's 700c wheels? I've never tried a front suspension bike before - I'm assuming its much more than a gimmick in a $1000 bike? The dual suspension ones certainly seem nice but even the cheapest is worth more than my car... I also like the idea of some of the long (ie 60km) firetrail rides so if I can fit a rack to it that would be great (not doable on dual suspension I'm guessing).

Also, if drubie is still reading this thread (or anyone else from the New England area); do you know of any other good tracks near armidale besides the pine forest and 'goat track'? I hear some riders descend the gorge to blue hole which seems insane!
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby Gabe » Sat Jul 30, 2011 3:49 pm

Before I got my DS I rode a GT hard tail that was about $700-$800, and deciding to finally upgrade was tough because I knew it would only be worth it if I rode even more often and took on some tougher trails with it. But since I bought it, I've loved every time I've gotten on the saddle, and I do both trails and urban riding with it.

But this is important: Unless you are 100% sure that your more expensive bike is insured when chained up in a public place, never take it to uni. If I go somewhere that I know I'll be leaving my bike chained up for a while, particularly at uni, I'll take my old bike. Universities are the ideal place for bike thieves, and they'll take anything worth a couple of hundred or more - and a bike worth more than $1k is begging to be stolen. Hasn't happened to me, but I've seen it happen all too often.

A Talon will serve you well and you will notice a fair difference in grass and gravel and will actually be able to take on trails with it, but if you want to do long trail rides and/or take on some technical stuff and can afford to go to $1.5k, you could get a notably better bike at this time of year.
And you can get racks for DS but I don't know much about them, I only have a pouch for a spare tube and basic tools, and a bottle holder. I would absolutely hate having a rack off-road....
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby silentbutdeadly » Mon Aug 01, 2011 10:51 am

Matthewb wrote:Really great advice here, I'd love to get into more serious off road tracks but my barrier is the idea of buying a more expensive bike for a less practical reason that my current one (Giant Seek 3 - I use it to get to uni everyday)!

I still have the slicks that the Seek came with (although I had to put puncture protection strips in) but I still get the urge to take 'shortcuts' through mud and gravel although obviously I get no traction so I can't go uphill... Ordered some cyclocross tyres to help with this but Aust Post managed to lose them...

My question is would something like a Giant Talon 1 (no rear suspension) be much better than my Seek if I managed to find good offroad tyres for it's 700c wheels? I've never tried a front suspension bike before - I'm assuming its much more than a gimmick in a $1000 bike? The dual suspension ones certainly seem nice but even the cheapest is worth more than my car... I also like the idea of some of the long (ie 60km) firetrail rides so if I can fit a rack to it that would be great (not doable on dual suspension I'm guessing).


Keep the Seek - the frame is strong enough and even the forks are fine enough for rigid. The cyclocross tyres are the go especially if the frame will fit 700x38 tyres. If the front end is stock then flip the stem over and re-adjust the seat to suit and you'll find the bike will handle better off road with a lower centre of gravity. If you can find the dough for some deep V (ie. stronger) wheels (like Velocity Dyads) then that's what I'd be up for in the first instance.

You could get short travel (63-75mm) suspension forks to suit the 700C wheels but if you have a look at most of the ones fitted to such bikes (like Merida Crossways) you'll see that they aren't up to much....same goes for the forks on the Giant Talon though....capable but not outstandingly better than rigid. Besides.....rigid forks are much lighter than suspension forks....
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby trailgumby » Mon Aug 01, 2011 11:11 am

You can get racks for DS but they are not cheap, and you would need to tape up the frame with some FrameSkin patches so as not to rub through the paint.

$1k-$1500 for a good hardtail is the place to start. Malvern Star are the bang for buck brand at the moment. But I'd hang onto your existing bike for commuting purposes.

I have 3 bikes: dual suspension for weekend riding and racing, a real nice hardtail with a second 700x23c wheelset for commuting as I have great security arrangements at work, and a $10 Trek mtb dunger for going up to the local shopping centre for groceries and errands. Actually, make that $18 - the cable lock cost $7.95 from Woollies. :lol:

I can't wait for more paint to fall off it, it isn't nearly ugly enough and is still a potential theft target.
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Re: Riding tips for MTB Noobs

Postby trailgumby » Mon Aug 01, 2011 11:19 am

As for skipping shinguards, yes I agree knee guards are a good idea. 661 Evo Lites are supposed to be pretty good, and easy to ride in compared to the ones I've got.

However, I've seen the aftermath of some pretty nasty meetings between shins and spiked flat pedals. Depends on what kinds of trail you're tackling I suppose. For newbies on Sydney's northern beaches' sandstone singletrack I think shin protection is prudent. My shins are pretty ugly these days, marked up from all the scars even just from rocks flicking up from the trail off the front tyre, and getting lashed by undergrowth.
"People have a right to their own opinions, but not their own facts. Evidence must be located, not created, and opinions not backed by evidence cannot be given much weight." -- James W Loewen

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