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  1. #1
    Senior Member Hornbiker's Avatar
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    Downhill switchbacks gettin' me down

    I need some help here. I'm fairly new to mountain biking, always been more of a roadie, so I'm catching up on bike handling skills. Most of the trails I do around here involve some pretty sketchy downhills---very steep, with sharp switchbacks. The trail is sandy, too, so I don't feel very secure re. traction.

    Here's what I already know I should do:
    Look ahead, no fixating on what's in front of me
    Pick a good line
    Get the weight and butt back off the seat

    I have clipless pedals, and am comfortable with them (have heard those can help). Any other suggestions? I really hate bailing on these!

    A related problem: I am a bit afraid of heights, so technical trails that I could do in my sleep become an adrenaline-induced nightmare when they're on the side of a mountain. I know, don't look down, and I don't. But I still know the drop off is there. I snowboard and ski too, and used to have the same heights problem with those until I got good at them. Is this just something that I will get over as I do it more?

  2. #2
    Wood Licker Maelstrom's Avatar
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    point C is a sort of. You want your body balanced. And to be honest dhillers tend to ride over there front wheel more than you think. Think of it this way. Unweight the front you have no control over steering. Its a serious balance between front and back.

    Clipless pedals help in really tech sections so you don't bounce up and down. They don't really help in the turn.

    Start outside and turn in. Also lean your bike avoid turning only by using the handle bar. IF you notice most dhillers we REALLY whip the bike around. We will lean the bike, keep the bike loose under our bodies and drive our hips down in order to keep the wheels on the ground.

    I am terrified of heights. This sport has been and is a lot of work for me at times. Iknow your trails as they are closely related to mine. Very exposed, very technical and sometimes downright scarey. You do get used to it, but also don't look Also if you get a chance do some lift assisted riding (like whistler) it allows you to ride the same trail 20 times in one day, you really get a feel quickly for how the bike reacts under you.

    http://sports.freecaster.com/Media/Files/199_large.mov

    Give that a peruse too and watch them turning (not on berms) should give you a good idea.

  3. #3
    Wood Licker Maelstrom's Avatar
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    There is another way if you arent moving super fast. Take a look at http://www.petefagerlin.com/The_Hub.htm for tips. Not official tips but one guy in his movies uses a rear wheel pivot method. As he comes into the corner he will lift his rear wheel and whip it around the switchback. Pretty cool method although I have never used it.

  4. #4
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    you also have to remember like they said uptop lean your bike into the turn and always start outside to inside learn how to recognize the apex of a turn to help guide you through the turn and just like it was mentioned up top if you lean back going downhil you loose a lot of crucial steering traction so you want to make sure you have at least a descent amount of weight over the center front of the bike...remember also to use your hips to help guide you around. were your hips and shoulders are facing is where your going....if the switchback is off camber( i know spelling is wayy off) always put more pressure on your outside crank to force that side of the bike down to gain traction or your inside cranck will force you to have your rearend wash out.. good luck and just keep practicing.no matter how many times i ride a trail or ride something i always have nervious energy just part of the sport. if you dont scare yourself your not going big enough


    AN6's .02
    Last edited by an6freerider; 09-23-04 at 07:22 PM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Hornbiker's Avatar
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    Many thanks for the tips, the link was excellent too. I notice that it looks like you lean the bike, but not yourself too much. I assume that helps keep the weight over the wheels better? Sorta like road biking descents, eh (sorry about the "eh," misguided Canada joke ). Good to know I'm not the only one out there getting the heebies about heights. My husband just doesn't get that. At all.

    Went to Whistler last winter to snowboard. Absolutely sweet. I MUST go back!

  6. #6
    Wood Licker Maelstrom's Avatar
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    Depends on the pro buts lots do keep there bodies upright. The only thing I can figure (I do it to) is it allows you to quickly bring the bike back up to prepare for a quick turn. If you are fully leaned like on a road bike you not only have to move the bike buy your body.

    i always have nervious energy just part of the sport
    I guess this is why we do it eh

    I just took up snowboarding last winter...I sucked badly. Will try again this year. It looks like we are going to have a long DEEP season with snow already on the mountain.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Hornbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maelstrom
    I just took up snowboarding last winter...I sucked badly. Will try again this year. It looks like we are going to have a long DEEP season with snow already on the mountain.
    That's it, I'm on my way!

    Snowboarding gets much easier if you can hang in there past the first few times out, or past the first 100 falls or so Seriously, the learning curve is easier than skiing, and on powder there ain't nothing like it!

  8. #8
    Senior Member geoduck's Avatar
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    I'm not sure if this is the preferred technique or not, but it's something I use for very tight downhill switchbacks.

    ...and that is to take your inbound foot (right foot if turning right) off the pedal and and hang your leg out and back. This helps keep the weight on the inside of the turn, without leaning the bike and risking a washout.

    I've found this technique allows me to move faster through the switchback, and with *much* more control. I'm sure there are times it wouldn't work, like if you had to pedal over something right after the apex of the turn.

    A modification of this (which you may recognize from road riding) is to simply lean your inside knee out in the direction of the turn. This accomplishes the same thing.

  9. #9
    Wood Licker Maelstrom's Avatar
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    Motocross uses it too. And if I find I did't get my bike down in time I have been known to use that technique too

  10. #10
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    i love snowboarding to the point i have time shares in a few places that have snow...i have been riding my bike and snowboard for about 10 years maybe more..freeriding is the sh*t.i am hitting whistler up for 2 weeks this winter and prob tahoe for at least a week....good luck on the descending switchbacks


    AN6

  11. #11
    Wood Licker Maelstrom's Avatar
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    Cool...I am hoping to get up a few times for boarding. I hope I can find the enjoyment in it. My first 2 days left me almost unconcious (I had one bad crash the second day)...dhilling is so much easier to a certain point haha

  12. #12
    Long member...oh wait....
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    Excellent post Maelstrom! In response to the tight swithback question.....The vid you want to see is the Napa vid in the California section. I never thought of doing that on tight swithbacks. Looks like it's very usefull!
    "The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart."
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  13. #13
    Senior Member Hornbiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by namaste1978
    Excellent post Maelstrom! In response to the tight swithback question.....The vid you want to see is the Napa vid in the California section. I never thought of doing that on tight swithbacks. Looks like it's very usefull!
    Where would I find that?


    Hey, thanks to all of you for your help. I'll be trying these tips out tomorrow.

  14. #14
    Wood Licker Maelstrom's Avatar
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    I believe he is talking about the vid on peter fagerlins site.

  15. #15
    Senior Member drumbum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by geoduck
    I'm not sure if this is the preferred technique or not, but it's something I use for very tight downhill switchbacks.

    ...and that is to take your inbound foot (right foot if turning right) off the pedal and and hang your leg out and back. This helps keep the weight on the inside of the turn, without leaning the bike and risking a washout.

    I've found this technique allows me to move faster through the switchback, and with *much* more control. I'm sure there are times it wouldn't work, like if you had to pedal over something right after the apex of the turn.

    A modification of this (which you may recognize from road riding) is to simply lean your inside knee out in the direction of the turn. This accomplishes the same thing.
    If you're riding clipless, wouldn't this be abit hard?

  16. #16
    Wood Licker Maelstrom's Avatar
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    IT shouldn't be. In clipless you should be able to remove your foot with ease.

  17. #17
    Senior Member drumbum's Avatar
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    I was assuming you would be taking a fairly techinical switchback at high speed-which would mean it would be more difficult to clip in again after the switchback.

  18. #18
    Wood Licker Maelstrom's Avatar
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    It shoudlnt be. I don't ride clipless but know lots of riders who can do it pretty easily and are clipped in.

  19. #19
    ÖöÖöÖöÖöÖö Dannihilator's Avatar
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    Another trick is to shift your weight when turning towards the side you need to turn in.
    Strike like an eagle and sacrifice the dove.
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  20. #20
    Just give'er. hooligan's Avatar
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    I don't get what a switch back is? A hairpin style section?

    This is what I got when I googled it up.

    A very early type of wooden coaster. The riders would climb up a flight of stairs, to board the car, then ride down a series of slight hills, until they reached the other end. Then the riders would get out, and walk up another staircase, while workerd hoisted the car back up, and then using a railroad switch moved the car over to another identical, parallel track, except that it rode in the opposite direction, back to the staion. Riders faces out sideways on these rides, and their purpose was a sightseeing ride.


    Umm...no. That's not what I wanted.

  21. #21
    Wood Licker Maelstrom's Avatar
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    a 180 degree turn. In varrying degrees of sweep (some tight some wide).

  22. #22
    Humaniod Typhoon -Stretch-'s Avatar
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    hooligan, watch the videos in the links man, and watch them turn...its almost like hairpin....just watch
    04 specialized hardrock xc with eggbeater sl pedals
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  23. #23
    I ride my bike Revtor's Avatar
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    Man those guys are hauling a*s!!!

    ~Steve

  24. #24
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    When I read your post ‘steep with sharp switchbacks’ I think of a single track that is making it’s way down a 45-degree slope. The trail is one to two feet wide cupped like a cow path and descends at a 12 to 14 grade. Where the trail switches back there is no arc per say the trail just changes direction by 300 degrees or so with a 1 to 3 foot drop at the inside.

    The riders I know that are proficient at this type of turn weather clipped in or not always seem to keep there feet in place on the pedals, and use one of three types of maneuver.

    Dabbing in my circle is a sin and being caught at it assures free beer for the rest of us after the ride.

    One
    Approaching turn with chain on big ring, lower saddle and test traction. Carve the outside edge as long as possible. Shift weight low, forward and inside with body erect. Steer into the inside of the new direction. Rotate down hill pedal from horizontal to bottom and shift weight to that leg. Let the burm keep the back end from flying out. Keep weight on front until you get your line then sprint to get your speed back up. Raise saddle again.

    Two
    Approaching turn with chain on big ring tuck tight behind saddle move into deepest part of track and off weight the front wheel. As your front wheel approaches the drop, pull back and in the direction of the turn, lean in and start applying more rear break to bring your front tire down. Have it land on your intended line. Release rear break, squirt bike forward and return to a standing position.

    Three
    Approaching turn with chain on big ring drop saddle all the way down. Slow to negotiate turn. With your feet horizontal and not peddling move your front shifter to the middle position. From outside of track turn into inside and go over drop off nearest inside. Pull up front wheel so both land at same time. Turn into middle of trail and your chain will drop on the first ¼ peddle revolution. Peddle like mad to catch up to the pack.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by namaste1978
    Excellent post Maelstrom! In response to the tight swithback question.....The vid you want to see is the Napa vid in the California section. I never thought of doing that on tight swithbacks. Looks like it's very usefull!
    the guy in blue in that video is insane! did you see him do that nose wheely thing to get around trees and whatnot going 15+? insane, and he was popping wheelies whenever there was a smooth spot to do so.

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