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  1. #1
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    How to get ok/good at mountain biking?

    Hi all,

    I'm a roadie, I have no fear going downhill at 40+mph on the road, but I have a massive fear of single track.

    It's all in my head and I know it. If someone is riding behind me and I don't know what's in front of me I'll go over 3 ft. log piles, off drop offs, etc. My body knows what to do, but my head screams "Nooooooo" the entire time. I ride the brakes, and skid on corners as a result. I really want to be a competent mountain biker, and would love to race x-country, but I can't seem to get over my fear.

    I have 3 decent trails within a 30 minute ride (10 min drive) and 2 other trails within a 20 minute drive, so access isn't a problem. When someone good rides with me, I'm fine, I scream a lot, and am slower than they are, but I can keep a decent speed and handle most stuff. But then I'm a pain in the ass and slowing guys down who'd rather be having fun.

    What should I do?? Anyone else have this problem staring out? I'd love to go to dirt camp or something, but it's really expensive.

    (btw, I'm a female, and ride a trek 3500)

  2. #2
    ...is my hero! DylanTremblay's Avatar
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    All I can really say to that is...practice...once you get used to it and you see that your capable you'll be fine. Just remember if you fall its no big deal you'll just know what to do next time not to fall...sorry I can't be of anymore help...I guess I would tell you to grow some balls but your a chick

  3. #3
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    ride with people better than you.

  4. #4
    Custom User never's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DylanTremblay
    All I can really say to that is...practice...once you get used to it and you see that your capable you'll be fine. Just remember if you fall its no big deal you'll just know what to do next time not to fall...sorry I can't be of anymore help...I guess I would tell you to grow some balls but your a chick
    Definitely practice, it'll come with time. If you have a trail/loop you can do regularly, time your laps then think about how and where you can go faster the next time around. Use your brakes less than you "think" you should and look to where you want the bike to go (not at the obstacles you want to avoid).

    I've cut tons of time off of the singletrack loop near my house compared to when I started riding it...so just keep at it.

  5. #5
    Throw the stick!!!! LowCel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sjjone
    I'm a roadie.
    Sorry, but not anymore. Your new classification is "cyclist".


    It's all in my head and I know it.
    The only way to get over the mental aspect is practice. Even doing a race or two will help you get over it. Honestly, I still fight it when just out riding. However once I'm in a race the problem seems to go away. It's amazing what adreanline does for you.


    When someone good rides with me, I'm fine, I scream a lot, and am slower than they are, but I can keep a decent speed and handle most stuff. But then I'm a pain in the ass and slowing guys down who'd rather be having fun.
    Your not as big of a pain as you think. I think it's sad that a lot of newer riders won't get out there and ride with more experienced riders because they "think" they are holding them up. Most riders don't care to wait up. It's worth it to help out someone new in the sport that could possibly be a future riding buddy.


    Anyone else have this problem staring out?
    I imagine that 99% of us did.
    I may be fat but I'm slow enough to make up for it.

  6. #6
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    Get a copy of Ned Overend's book Mountain Bike Like a Champion. Amazon has used versions which are really new. It's very readable and it will get you practicing the correct techniques so you won't have to unlearn poor ones later. He also has the video Performance Mountain Biking, the Basics and Beyond. IMO the book is better if you have only one. It's got more detail. I still refer to both before I ride in the mountains.

    Once you understand the techniques, you'll lose your fear, progress more quickly and just enjoy yourself.

    Al

  7. #7
    Old School Rad mtnbiker66's Avatar
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    Time on the trails will help.The more you ride the better you will get.
    Like a circus monkey on a stolen Harley......

  8. #8
    Commited Suicide WannaGetGood's Avatar
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    I don't really lie single tracks either, but you will learn to get used to it.

  9. #9
    Senior Member 4SEVEN3's Avatar
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    I love single track. I get a bit timid too, but its more about clearing obsticles in my case. As in any riding/driving activity, seat time, seat time, seat time. You can talk about it until your blue in the face, but you still have to get out there and apply the new knowledge you have.

    Im no expert, and dont pretend to be one!
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  10. #10
    sarcasm meter: jerk mode santiago's Avatar
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    This is my first season riding and like you had to fight two big things:
    - fear going downhill on a loose surface
    - feeling bad that I'm holding up the faster members of my club

    I got over the part of feeling bad simply because I realized that there are many who don't mind waiting because they remember having started.

    I haven't completely gone over the long, fast, slippery downhills but I use my brakes a lot less than before. My first ride out on a very technical trail I had a death grip on my brake levers to the point that my hands were too cramped to turn the keys in the ignition on my ride home.

    I knew I was at fault here and have consciously NOT done this. This helps a lot.
    First Class Jerk

  11. #11
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    Hey, if you can go 40mph+ on asphalt, you're well on your way to taming the wickedest of singletracks! As has been previously said, it's just a matter of getting out there and doing it. At some magical point, it will all come together, and you will realize that you've just "cleaned" a section of trail that used to give you fits...

    In addition to the good advice already listed, here's some more pointers:

    *Don't outride your vision--if you can't see a section of trail ahead, slow down.
    *Don't keep a deathgrip on your bars--let your front tire "find" its way over rocks and roots. The slower your speed, the more you can let the front wheel "wander" a bit (but just a bit!).
    *Speed is often your friend over obstacles large and small. Don't try larger obstacles at higher speeds until your skills improve, but understand that you must carry enough speed to let your momentum complete your passage over logs, roots, ruts, rocks, etc..
    *On steep descents and drop-ins, remember to get off the back of your saddle. When your butt is behind your seat, you're able to make more use of the front brake without going over the bars.
    *On steep climbs, get into a gear low enough to carry you to the top (this takes some practice to determine). Sit on the nose of your saddle, and pull back and down on the bars with each pedal stroke to dig the back wheel in. Getting forward on your saddle (and leaning low over the bars) will keep your front wheel from lifting up. Pulling back and down on the bars keeps your back wheel from spinning out. Soon the uphills will be more fun then the descents--there's nothing like cleaning a hill that others have walked.
    *Trust yourself, but understand that you WILL sometimes fall. Once you accept that fact, and learn that it is possible to fall many times without injury, you will actually feel like you haven't ridden hard enough (meaning level of trail difficulty--NOT speed) if you complete a ride without a fall.
    *Watch out for angled roots, especially when moisture is present. In my experience, nothing can ruin a good ride faster than hitting an angled root you didn't see. Try to hit them at right angles. If you can't, slow down. When your confidence improves and you're able to hop them, you'll be able to keep your speed up.
    *Tunnel vision is good. The faster your speed, the less you can afford to sightsee. Keep your eyes where you want to go. What you don't see can [and will] hurt you.
    *Dedicate some time to simply practice your bikehandling in an open field. Pedal to a stop and do a trackstand to stay upright. Hop as necessary to keep your balance. When you lose it, pedal just enough to try again. Practice "wheelies," at least enough to consistently lift your front tire more than a foot off the ground.
    *Have fun and keep at it.
    *Know that as a "roadie," you already have my respect...

  12. #12
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    Thanks all for the tips, I was so motivated by them I went out and did 6 miles of singletrack! It took 45 minutes, but at least I got out there today.

    Oddly, I take minor falls all the time on the mountain bike, that doesn't really bother me-the forest floor is a lot nicer than pavement to fall on. I got up to 15 mph on one section and it was awesome!

    My bigest problem area today was corners that are going downhill-I know where the trail is going, but I can't maintain eye contact with it, so I get jerky and lay on the brakes until I get around the corner, and then enjoy the ride down, but I'm losing ALL my momentum in the turn.

    Getting off the back of the saddle is a whole 'nother discussion...

  13. #13
    just try me!! bobflyer's Avatar
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    just grab your mountain bike and practise.. sooner or later you will notice that you have gotten better..

  14. #14
    Te mortuo heres tibi sim? scrublover's Avatar
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    as everyone else has said: practice. riding with better riders is a very good thing, too, so long as they aren't all pissy about it. helped me alot when i started riding. watch them picking lines, and how they brake/accelerate.

    trail ride solo sometimes. if you need to stop and re-ride a section of trail, do so. at your own pace. however many times you feel like it, until you get it down.

    play with your bike setup as well. perhaps a slightly higher front end or wider handlebars; that may help you get more comfortable on the downs/corners.
    I believe the clouds in my coffee more than the weatherman on t.v.

  15. #15
    Junior Member GregC's Avatar
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    Riding with better riders is great, but when I was learning I often found that riding with someone who was at the same level helped just as much. The pressure of keeping up with a faster rider is no longer present and you can both enjoy the ride and learn together...I figure if your rides are fun, you are more likely to continue riding!

  16. #16
    nos
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    Ride a lot. Realize that you will fall and run into trees. I started riding in the dark by the mississippi river, where there where a bunch of single tracks that where rooted, wet muddy etc. I used moonlight with my buddy to go throgh the trail. A short trail in the day, becomes a long one at night. this taught me how to see and act fast. Now, single tracks, or fast technical downhills or long hill climbs don't really bother me, even though I am getting back into MTBs after doing mostly road rides for the last 4-5 yrs.

  17. #17
    Senior Member iamthetas's Avatar
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    look further ahead on the trail than just in front of the bike and dont focus on any one thing or it will be your entire focus. the further ahead you can look the faster you can go without fear because your brain has a chance to think of alternate lines, options as well as the lines the guys in front of you take in a curve etc., long before you reach the critical point of decision. it helped me tremendously to start looking ahead and BTW I didnt know there was anything BUT singletrack ha ha. as far as slowing your buds down, they were there once and probably DONT mind or if they do not much. those that have forgotten the newbieism should not be ridden with ayway in my opinion because to them its not fun but serious stuff. the real confidence booser is to get to the point( for me anyway) when one of the super fast guys remarks at how well Ive come along in NOT slowing him down. the guys I ride with use it as a chance to get to an area and practice stunts while waiting for me. Ive gotten to the point where I dont give them more than a few seconds to wait but it took a while to get there. just keep at it and you will be surprised at how quickly you no longer hold them up or fear the singletrack. ewquarter is a good place to practice as well. PM me if you are ever coming to central Va. and we can hook up. also www.cyclingcentralva.org is a good place for riding in my area and www.evma.org is a good one for your area
    for the creation was subjected to futility,not willingly , but because of Him who subjected it in hope...that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:20-29
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  18. #18
    Digs technical steeps
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    Quote Originally Posted by sjjone
    My bigest problem area today was corners that are going downhill-I know where the trail is going, but I can't maintain eye contact with it, so I get jerky and lay on the brakes until I get around the corner, and then enjoy the ride down, but I'm losing ALL my momentum in the turn.

    Getting off the back of the saddle is a whole 'nother discussion...
    Lots of good tips already! I rode hilly single-track with a friend who is a new rider recently. He always has trouble with staying on the trail; he catches the edge and bites it. What he has to overcome is being so stiff.

    Loosen up on the bike and let the bike find its groove. Don't ride the bike, ride the trail. Let bumps flow through you, not into you; lots of body english. My goal (I ride a HT) on every ride is to not take a bump that jars my body; I hit the bumps but want them to flow through me, not into me (I frequently ride a smoother line than my friends on their FS's).

    Speed is your friend; skidding puts you out of control (and wrecks the trail). Use less brake than you think you need; it is much smoother to fly, to skim the surface, then to jerk through a section (gli-i-i-i-ide!). Make sure your butt is way back on downhill sections; much better to bail off the back than to go over the bars.

    Practice making really small circles in both directions; smaller, smaller, smaller. Practice going up a steep grade as slowly as possible; practically a track stand. Practice using body english to 'flick' your bike around an uphill switch-back corner.

    I'll bet you'll love mountain biking! I've ridden and enjoyed a lot of road bike in my day, too, but this is a whole new dimension to cycling that has rush factor second to none. Plus, the overall fitness development is maximum (bigger biceps from cycling? yup!).

    Have fun and good luck!
    'My other bike is a bike.'

  19. #19
    Senior Member Brian's Avatar
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    I love riding with women. Guys never scream going downhill or over sketchy stuff. Women make it fun. Your fitness will help you with conquering the dirt, but your roadie skill set doesn't transfer over well.

    My advice? Practice a different skill set each ride, or as time permits. Scared of drops? Spend a bunch of time on your next ride going over the same drop several times. Work out what your fear is, and show yourself there's nothing to worry about. Same with corners. If you feel the need to slow down, go back 20 yards and try it over and over. Learn to pick the good line, learn how far you can lean, and start shifting your weight. Don't forget to lower your seat on DH stuff. You won't be sitting down anyway, and this gives you more room to move about.

    Good luck, and give us progress reports.

  20. #20
    KGB Style dirtyamerican's Avatar
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    How to get good at mtb? Ride as many styles as possible. Dirtjumping will help you flow singletrack. Singletrack will help you flow/ride DH faster. Long/fast spins will get your legs in shape for anything. Trials will help you with balance in every direction.......

    My point? So many of you limit yourselves to singletrack or whatever. Go out and spend some Q time doing different things on your bike.

    A guy that can ride the Leadville 100 in 7 hours might win some gold medal or something but it ain't really **** unless you can huck a 15 footer, jump a 6-pack, manual 100 feet, trials lunge 6 horizontal feet and flow the MRT in 6 minutes.

    Don't limit yourself. Now go ride.

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