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Old 10-02-06, 05:30 PM   #1
mcoomer
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Downhill switchbacks = crash, burn, bodily injury!!!

OK...here's your chance to help out someone who just isn't getting it. I love to ride technical single track. Climbs, descents, long fast trails, I love it. I've only been riding again since the beginning of the year but I've picked up a hardtail, full suspension, and a road bike. I've gotten stronger, I've got more trail experience, I've gotten faster, but I still can't take a switchback turn on a downhill without risking life and limb.

I've tried different lines, keeping tight to the inside and trying to ride the bike through the turn. I've tried taking the front wheel wide and then bringing it back across the turn. I've tried moving through the turns while dragging the rear brake a bit to try to tighten my turn radius. Nothing seems to work for me. I usually end up with the front wheel drifting wide and off the trail to the outside of the turn, occasionally I'll find myself too far to the inside and struggling to keep the bike from falling to the inside of the turn but only once in a blue moon do I get one even close to right. It happens so infrequently that when I manage to pull it off I don't really know how I did it. It feels the same as previous failures but it worked that time.

So, what do you do to navigate serious single track switchbacks? Believe me, if you can help me beat these things you may be saving my life. On one failed attempt I went over the bars and caught a bar end squarely in the gut, while riding solo about 7 miles from my truck. That one hurt so bad that I didn't ride that section of trail again for a couple of months. Tell me what I can do to practice, what I can do to negotiate the turn. Believe me, I'll listen. I'm ready to try anything at this point.

Thanks,
Mike
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Old 10-02-06, 05:42 PM   #2
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How much speed are you keeping in the swithchbacks?
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Old 10-02-06, 05:58 PM   #3
Taerom
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Darn, I clicked on this thread expecting pictures!
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Old 10-02-06, 06:02 PM   #4
AfterThisNap
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what tires are you running? Some tread patterns just can't hook up at speed at certain angles depending on the trail conditions.
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Old 10-02-06, 06:10 PM   #5
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One thing that is important in conquering switchbacks is practicing slow riding/balance drills on flat ground. It's not as fun as riding trails but if you want to improve try these: 1, Ride in an empty parking lot and act as though the painted lines of the parking spaces will give you flat tires if you cross the lines. Ride up into the parking space and slowly turn a 180 while staying in the lines. Get good at both left & right turns. 2, Practice track stands on a SLIGHT uphill. Do not use the brakes but put a little pressure on the pedals to avoid going forward or backwards, stay loose on the bike and move your knees and shoulders to keep your balance as long as you can. Practice both of these over & over, before long it will make switchbacks MUCH easier. If you have the confidence to stop & balance in the corner, maybe ratchet the pedals and crawl around the turn you'll start having more success.

Next, it helps a lot to swing as wide as you can just before the turn, then dive to the inside to straighten out the turn. You want your weight back and concentrate on feathering the rear brake as needed. Practice practice practice. Find someone that can make the turns you want to make & do what they do also!
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Old 10-02-06, 06:12 PM   #6
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hmm, skidding the back wheel around, If you can drift confidently you can corner thjrough anything, but drifting is hard as hell for me so I just skid it out
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Old 10-02-06, 06:16 PM   #7
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skidding is hard on tires and the trail. You're better off finessing it around the turns.
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Old 10-02-06, 06:29 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AfterThisNap
what tires are you running? Some tread patterns just can't hook up at speed at certain angles depending on the trail conditions.
also what psi and how much do you weigh? too much air on a good tire can cause it to be like a bad turning tire.
are you leaning your body in the turn? try to keep the body vertical and lean the bike as much as needed
I have absolutly no problem putting a foot down in a tight downhill curve. in my favorite park there is a series of switchbacks that are sandy as well as steep and very tight( the entire diameter of each turn is not much wider than the length of my bike,twice the length at most, and its off camber too) and I put a foot down on it because I cant lean ther bike enough to make it at more than a crawl speed( so slow I fall over) without dabbing down. I use clipless pedal too. unclip, dab, clip, pedal. the turn is hardest left, a small straight section, hard right, a small straight section, harder right, straight section with lots of big roots, hard left into a rain runoff thats off camber( like a small ditch), hard right, end of switchback.
I will dab on almost every attempt at this section ,not because of tire washout, but kinetic energy will take me straight at any kind of speed if Im pedaling
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Old 10-03-06, 02:18 AM   #9
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Tires on the bike are Kenda Nevegal 2.1's at about 35psi. I've run these as high as 38-39psi but it seems that keeping them in the neighborhood of 35psi gives me good traction over roots and rocks but doesn't feel squishy.

Right now I don't keep a lot of speed through switchbacks because I suck so bad at the attempts. Generally, I come up to the turn braking with front and rear brake, release the front brake on the entry, and try to modulate the rear to maintain a consistent speed. I would guess that I'm doing no more than 2-3 mph through the turn.

I have had a couple of people tell me about the importance of being able to do a trailstand. I can usually hold the bike upright when I'm trying to get into position to take on a log or a big rock or tree root so I think that if I practice a bit I will be able to stop and maintain my balance. I can also cut nice tight turns on clean flat surfaces. I practice pedalling into my garage and doing u-turns and coming back out but I will work on that and try to tighten those turns up.

Keep it coming. If you've got pratical advice I'm all ears.

Mike
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