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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a Kona hardtail. I'm 5-8 and the bike is a 17" frame with a 100mm travel fork. It is very comfortable on long rides, easy to ride up hill. Downhill has been a real nightmare. I went over the bars on Wednesday night at a place that was really over my riding skill level. The rear brake wasn't slowing me so I used the front a little and the wheel caught.

When I look at my bike, the hand grips are the same elevation as my seat. Is this right? Should the hand grips be a little higher?

What things can I do to feel stable going down hill (not bomber fast)?

What things can I change to make the bike feel equal going up or down? Down is fun, but not when I have to worry about flipping over.
 

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YOU SCRATHED MY BIKE!!!!
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well when im going down hill i tend to lean back just a little but my weight is still pretty even. even though im new to this sport i find going down easier and i still havent gone over the bars. as for seat height it should be approximately you waist height and the bars i think should be where you are comfortable

but take my advice lightly as i am new to the sport
 

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I hate rock gardens
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I am also new to the sport of mtb'ing, but leaning back slightly is fine, but I think it is more important to have a small bend at the elbows to help that shock out and cushion your body by absorbing it's movements. The human body is truly amazing when it comes to inertia and shock absorption. Next time you are a passenger in a car, hold your arm out in front of you and watch how little it moves as the car travels over bumps in the road.

You are doing with your arms what downhill skiers and water skiers do with their legs. :thumbsup:
 

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Pimpmobile
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For extended descents, lower your seat a few inches, (or more). This allows you to get lower and shift your weight much easier.

Knowing your trail will help a LOT, being able to scrub off some speed before you're in the middle of a tech or particuliarly nasty turn will help keep you between the wheels.
 

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Dirt Abuser
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If your going on a long downhill ride (2-3miles), you should lower your seat. General position is handlebar height. Some like it lower.

You should be in the attack position almost all of the time while heading downhill. The only exception is when you have a drop, obstacle that will lower your front tire a lot. You'll need to sit behind your seat in those cases. Knowing the trail helps...

Keep riding and you'll gain more experience.
 

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Allow me to suggest a couple of things.

Learn to use both brakes. There's really only a few special situations, like inducing drift thru turns, that should be rear brake only. Remember that most of your braking power is in the front. While it needs to be used judiciously so as not to lock up and cause an endo, it should be used along with the rear.

To counter the forward momentum that braking induces on your body, especially while descending, you may need to move your weight (butt) further back during braking, as well as use your arms and legs to counter the forward propulsion.

Don't lock those elbows!

In general, and especially when descending technical sections, I do not brake while negotiating an obstacle (rock, root, drop, etc) - I roll thru. I use the in-between sections, sometimes very short, to scrub speed.

Remember, riding on technical terrain is VERY dynamic, A huge part of riding roots and rocks is learning to counter the forces trying to knock you off the bike. Moving your weight fore and aft, up and down, redistributing weight from saddle to pedals, etc - these are the tools you can use to stay upright. Don't get too far over you head, keep the challenge (and danger) manageable. The more you ride the better you get. I've been riding 13 years and I'm still (slowly!) getting better.
 

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Fat-tired Roadie
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tonkota said:
I have a Kona hardtail. I'm 5-8 and the bike is a 17" frame with a 100mm travel fork. It is very comfortable on long rides, easy to ride up hill. Downhill has been a real nightmare. I went over the bars on Wednesday night at a place that was really over my riding skill level. The rear brake wasn't slowing me so I used the front a little and the wheel caught.

When I look at my bike, the hand grips are the same elevation as my seat. Is this right? Should the hand grips be a little higher?

What things can I do to feel stable going down hill (not bomber fast)?

What things can I change to make the bike feel equal going up or down? Down is fun, but not when I have to worry about flipping over.
The biggest thing is just to increase your skill level. :D

More specifically, your riding position is really important. Lift your butt just off the saddle, so you have the freedom to move forward and back relative to the bike. Depending on what your dropping off, you may actually get all the way behind the saddle. I find that position impractical for a long descent, but as long as I'm hovering, not sitting, and well balanced, it doesn't matter - I have the freedom to put my weight wherever I need it, whenever it comes up.

EDIT: For general descending and singletrack riding, if you're hovering you should also make your "platform." Put the pedals at 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock. 6 o'clock and 12 o'clock is good for cornering, but it tends to bias the weight of the bike to one side, so it's not great if you're just trying to stay balanced.

I like to get low in the torso, so I have a fair amount of bend in the elbows. Having a lot of bend is another thing that gives me the freedom to get behind the saddle, or initiate a manual.

If your cockpit is sized wrong, getting in a good position is a lot harder. You might feel cramped, or you might not be able to get back far enough, depending on whether your cockpit is too long or too short. Having the bars level with the saddle is a pretty standard XC position, among riders with average male proportions and who aren't masochists. Shortening your reach or raising your handlebars will tend to put you in a more upright position in the saddle and facilitate being further back when you want to get behind it, but may mess up your handling on a climb. Lowering your handlebars or lengthening your reach may improve climbing slightly, although it sounds like you're pretty happy with that already, but it'll make it a lot harder to get the front wheel up.

Too soft a fork can also cause the bike to nosedive under braking or in a compression.

A really useful skill for descending is a Manual. They look sort of like wheelies, but it's done with a weight shift, not torque on the pedals. People who are good at them can sometimes balance on their rear wheels and do all sorts of crazy stuff, but all you really need to be able to do to have it make mountain biking more fun is get the front wheel up a little bit, so you land a drop in a more balanced position. IMHO, the best way to land a drop on a hardtail is on the rear wheel, with the front wheel landing almost immediately afterwards. Obviously you need to be off the saddle so you can soak up some of the impact with your legs.

It's also useful to practice a wheelie because, in my experience, they're easier to do at slower speeds but have a similar feel to a manual. You can work on wheelies and manuals someplace flat, like a park or the sidewalk in front of your house. I think different people find they prefer different skills; bear in mind that for a wheelie, you need to be in the "right" gear, so they're not always that useful for descending. There are good videos of both on YouTube. Everyone's approach is different, so if you don't get anything out of one video, watch another. (You do NOT need the trials or freeride bikes the guys demonstrating them typically have. Lowering your saddle can help to learn, though.) It's useful to practice wheelies going up curbs and and manuals dropping off them. If you can manual off a curb and land nicely, you're most of the way to being able to manual off something bigger.

Aside from making sure your fork spring is stiff enough, I wouldn't worry about buying a new stem until you've spent some time practicing. If your stem's not already flipped up and at the top of the spacer stack, though, you might do that, since it doesn't cost anything and is easy to reverse.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks! These tips really help me.

Right now I might be a little stretched out, I have a difficult time moving behind the seat very far. I'll do some minor adjustments and try it out.

Practice. Yes, I need more of that!

Manual. OK. I can bunny hop about 3-6", working on that. I'll have to give the manual a try.
 

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You will know you are positioned correctly (at any angle up or down) when you are balanced on the pedals. If you are pushing down or pulling on the handle bars to keep your balance then you are NOT positioned correctly. If you pay attention you can tell if you are balanced on the pedals. This is THE way to know for sure and its easy to check anytime during a ride.

Next, you need to keep your body low and your elbows forward and out. When you lower your body it forces you off the back of the seat. If you can't get off the back of your seat then you need to lower your seat and you might need to get a narrower seat. Some people get wide comfortable seats that won't allow your legs to pass back and off. That effectively makes your bike a death trap on steep technical downhills. Lower that seat for steep downhills and you will feel much more stable. There are seats like the Gravity Dropper and the KSi900R that allow you to raise and lower the seat on the fly for this very reason. People spend $300 on a remote seat post because its worth it to be able to have optimum downhill and climbing seat positions without stopping.

Remember, pay attention to your balance. Don't take your hands off the bars but if you aren't balanced on your pedals enough to have very light pressure on the bars then reposition your body forward or aft until you are. To get a good feel for where your body needs to be at different grades just put your back tire up on a curb or a stump or whatever and have a friend hold your bike while you move around until you can take your hands 1/2" off the bars while you are in the attack position and looking forward. That's the right balance position for that grade. Then, lower your torso and recheck your balance. This will give you a feel for how much you need to get off the back of the seat for different angles also. Keep practicing this until it becomes second nature. The lower you can get your body the more stable you will be as long as you are balanced on your pedals.

You will be surprised how steep of a grade you can go down if you lower your seat and lean back until your butt is almost on the rear tire (remember to stay balanced on the pedals still though). Keep in mind, as you apply the brakes you have to lean further back to stay balanced on the pedals so its a dynamic process that you constantly have to move around to maintain.

Whatever you do, don't sit on the seat or stand straight armed or legged while going down steep technical terrain. That will get you over the bars very quickly.

Summary:
Always stay balanced on the pedals. (don't lean or pull on the handle bars)
Lower your seat until you can get off the back of the seat to balance on the pedals
Elbows forward and out (think bench press vs. triceps curl)
Lower your torso as much as you can
Practice pedal balancing with a friend holding the bike with the back tire up on different height objects

Hope that helps.
 

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Bike Set up:
Bars for somone your height should be 1" to 1 1/2" lower than your seat when it's in the optimal climbing position.

60-70mm stem and 27-28" wide bars. ( for your height, I use 30" wide bars.)

Get a droppable seat post! Once you have one you'll never go back. Otherwise like others have said lower your seat while descending.

Descending Body Position:

Stand up with all your weight on the pedals, in other words don't lean on the bars or hang off them either. I don't like the term getting back or leaning back; think keeping your belly button above your bottom bracket in a vertical plane, so on a really steep hill your seat would be in front of you but you didn't lean back behind it. So if the seat is way up for your optimal pedaling height it can be very difficult to be in the proper position.

Lower chest, elbows bent & out, knees bent and head up; moto or attack position.

Brakes:
Just like a car your front brake is most of your stopping power especially when descending that's why your rear brake alone won't work.

Just like a car the brakes are on your bike and not you but we don't have seat belts on our bikes. The bike didn't flip you over the bars you didn't keep yourself from moving forward and flipped the bike over ( if only bikes could talk, "that jackarse didn't brace himself, kept going forward and flipped me over")

Hard braking use both brakes squat a little and brace yourself and feel that energy move through your legs and arms into the pedals and little into the bars. (keeping your arms and legs bent)

Brake pro active instead of reactive.

Take a skills camp.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
tshulthise said:
You will know you are positioned correctly (at any angle up or down) when you are balanced on the pedals. If you are pushing down or pulling on the handle bars to keep your balance then you are NOT positioned correctly. If you pay attention you can tell if you are balanced on the pedals. This is THE way to know for sure and its easy to check anytime during a ride.

Next, you need to keep your body low and your elbows forward and out. When you lower your body it forces you off the back of the seat. If you can't get off the back of your seat then you need to lower your seat and you might need to get a narrower seat. Some people get wide comfortable seats that won't allow your legs to pass back and off. That effectively makes your bike a death trap on steep technical downhills. Lower that seat for steep downhills and you will feel much more stable. There are seats like the Gravity Dropper and the KSi900R that allow you to raise and lower the seat on the fly for this very reason. People spend $300 on a remote seat post because its worth it to be able to have optimum downhill and climbing seat positions without stopping.

Remember, pay attention to your balance. Don't take your hands off the bars but if you aren't balanced on your pedals enough to have very light pressure on the bars then reposition your body forward or aft until you are. To get a good feel for where your body needs to be at different grades just put your back tire up on a curb or a stump or whatever and have a friend hold your bike while you move around until you can take your hands 1/2" off the bars while you are in the attack position and looking forward. That's the right balance position for that grade. Then, lower your torso and recheck your balance. This will give you a feel for how much you need to get off the back of the seat for different angles also. Keep practicing this until it becomes second nature. The lower you can get your body the more stable you will be as long as you are balanced on your pedals.

You will be surprised how steep of a grade you can go down if you lower your seat and lean back until your butt is almost on the rear tire (remember to stay balanced on the pedals still though). Keep in mind, as you apply the brakes you have to lean further back to stay balanced on the pedals so its a dynamic process that you constantly have to move around to maintain.

Whatever you do, don't sit on the seat or stand straight armed or legged while going down steep technical terrain. That will get you over the bars very quickly.

Summary:
Always stay balanced on the pedals. (don't lean or pull on the handle bars)
Lower your seat until you can get off the back of the seat to balance on the pedals
Elbows forward and out (think bench press vs. triceps curl)
Lower your torso as much as you can
Practice pedal balancing with a friend holding the bike with the back tire up on different height objects

Hope that helps.
OK.

I can tell you right now that I have not been balanced. Too much weight on the handle bar. I'm going to fix that this weekend.
 

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Fat-tired Roadie
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Jeff in Bend said:
Bike Set up:
Bars for somone your height should be 1" to 1 1/2" lower than your seat when it's in the optimal climbing position.

60-70mm stem and 27-28" wide bars. ( for your height, I use 30" wide bars.)

Get a droppable seat post! Once you have one you'll never go back. Otherwise like others have said lower your seat while descending.
Interesting. I share the OP's height, but have a very different setup. My bars are roughly level with my saddle, and I found that 65mm and 80mm stems both gave my bike pretty poor climbing manners. I also cut my bars down to 22.5," but they're effectively a little narrower with the bar ends. (I'm on a 17.5" Hardrock, with a 590mm top tube, 90mm stem and 80mm fork.) I also really only lower my saddle for dirt jump areas, sometimes not even then.

Is the setup you suggest the way you have your bike? What kind of terrain do you ride? Clipless or flat pedals? Do you ride road at all?
 

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We get titles?
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HamfisT said:
For extended descents, lower your seat a few inches, (or more). This allows you to get lower and shift your weight much easier.
I don't know about this advice. Maybe it's a regional thing, but I don't know anybody who changes their saddle height like that. Admittedly, I'm more of an XC rider, but I don't have any problem putting my belly on the back of the saddle when the going gets steep.
I think the best advice for this guy, which has been given by others in better detail is 1) learn to use your front brake, and 2) keep practicing to develop better handling skills.
 

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I hate rock gardens
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A 30" handlebar wouldn't fit between some of the trees on the trails I ride...

:D

30" is 6" wider than my 600mm bar right now...holy crap is that a wide arsed handlebar...
 

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AndrwSwitch said:
Interesting. I share the OP's height, but have a very different setup. My bars are roughly level with my saddle, and I found that 65mm and 80mm stems both gave my bike pretty poor climbing manners. I also cut my bars down to 22.5," but they're effectively a little narrower with the bar ends. (I'm on a 17.5" Hardrock, with a 590mm top tube, 90mm stem and 80mm fork.) I also really only lower my saddle for dirt jump areas, sometimes not even then.

Is the setup you suggest the way you have your bike? What kind of terrain do you ride? Clipless or flat pedals? Do you ride road at all?
A shorter stem will make your bike climb different but what were the poor climbing matters? You do have to lower your chest more and scoot forward on the sadlle on steeper climbs to keep weight on the front wheel (a lot of people don't have enough mobility to do this) but you gain way more hadeling and control for descending. Wider bars give you more leverage, more leverage is better for cornering and control. So you have to decide do you want a bike set up for a little easier climbing being stretched out or way more control and handeling going down hill.

You should be standing while descending why do you want your seat up your arse and in the way? I think If you don't have a droppable seat post it's to much of a pain to keep raising and lower your seat all the time. I know some people don't truly get their seat at optimal pedal height because it ends up being way to high for going down hill so they compromise.

My current bike is a 22" frame 4" travel bike, 70mm stem and 30" wide bars. I'm currently building a new bike with a 23" frame 5 1/2"travel 50mm stem and 31" bars. I ride xc/am and rock flat pedals with 5:10 shoes (a whole other argument there). I have to climb everything I go down.

I do not ride on the road ( I'm afraid of getting run over, the trees and rocks don't move on the trail.)
 

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TwinBlade said:
A 30" handlebar wouldn't fit between some of the trees on the trails I ride...

:D

30" is 6" wider than my 600mm bar right now...holy crap is that a wide arsed handlebar...
I'm thinking 600mm (23 5/8") holy crap that's a really narrow bar. But I bet you'd rock on a 27-28" wide bar.

I'm also 6'4" with a 80" wing span so yeah they seem wide to you. I think the tree issue is the first comment I hear about wider bars. I ride in the trees and rarely run across a situation where the trees are that close and directly acrooss from each other. I'd rather slow down the 1% of my ride where it's an issue and have great control 99% of the rest.
 

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Fat-tired Roadie
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The reason I asked about the pedals is that I notice a lot of people who have flat pedals never get around to learning to spin, rather than alternately pushing on each side. I think that power output with a push-push technique is better with a higher saddle than with a spinning technique, so I think that people who learn on flat pedals and ride flat pedals exclusively may benefit a lot more from an adjustable seat post. I doubt that my saddle is lower than the low position most people would have on their gravity dropper, but it's certainly lower than the high position many people choose, and that's based mainly on endurance and comfort on a long ride.

Of course, a lot of people on clipless pedals have bad technique too, and they can even mask bad technique. :D I'm told I could be smoother myself (by a guy I passed on a climb - go figure.)

I notice a lot of taller people choose to put their handlebars lower, relative to the saddle, than shorter people. I'd speculate that that has to do with having relatively longer limbs. With longer arms and the same torso length, a rider would have to put their handlebars lower and further away to maintain the same riding position. That's one of the reasons I'm suspicious of announcements like "everybody would be better on a 65mm stem" - people with different bodies get different results.

Bad climbing manners, to me, are the front end wandering or tending to come up by accident. Certainly both of these can be mitigated by getting more forward. I just don't want to spend a 48 minute climb mitigating something. I didn't notice any worsening of my bike's descending when I went from a 65mm stem and risers to an 80mm stem and flats, and while things got a little worse when I went to the current 90mm stem, they got a lot better on climbs. I think I found the sweet spot for me and this particular bike in the 90mm stem. I like the way it climbs when I'm out of the saddle too, with this stem.
 

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I wouldn't be too concerned about bike setup as much as your skills, as some have said here. You endo'ed; I think we all have. I endo'ed a good 3 or 4 times in the first month or two, and simply learned to not do it anymore. How? leaning back helped me the most but also it's your overall skills on the bike...

So keep riding! Getting over those "fears" is what makes this sport so damn cool!

edit: not to throw more to the plethora of advice here, but putting your heels down helps with your overall bike position (bent knees, letting the bike do its thing). This made a world of difference to me when I started doing it...
 

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AndrwSwitch said:
The reason I asked about the pedals is that I notice a lot of people who have flat pedals never get around to learning to spin, rather than alternately pushing on each side. I think that power output with a push-push technique is better with a higher saddle than with a spinning technique, so I think that people who learn on flat pedals and ride flat pedals exclusively may benefit a lot more from an adjustable seat post. I doubt that my saddle is lower than the low position most people would have on their gravity dropper, but it's certainly lower than the high position many people choose, and that's based mainly on endurance and comfort on a long ride.

Of course, a lot of people on clipless pedals have bad technique too, and they can even mask bad technique. :D I'm told I could be smoother myself (by a guy I passed on a climb - go figure.)

I notice a lot of taller people choose to put their handlebars lower, relative to the saddle, than shorter people. I'd speculate that that has to do with having relatively longer limbs. With longer arms and the same torso length, a rider would have to put their handlebars lower and further away to maintain the same riding position. That's one of the reasons I'm suspicious of announcements like "everybody would be better on a 65mm stem" - people with different bodies get different results.

Bad climbing manners, to me, are the front end wandering or tending to come up by accident. Certainly both of these can be mitigated by getting more forward. I just don't want to spend a 48 minute climb mitigating something. I didn't notice any worsening of my bike's descending when I went from a 65mm stem and risers to an 80mm stem and flats, and while things got a little worse when I went to the current 90mm stem, they got a lot better on climbs. I think I found the sweet spot for me and this particular bike in the 90mm stem. I like the way it climbs when I'm out of the saddle too, with this stem.
Are you saying that riding clipless pedals and spinning are better with your seat lower? That's what it sounds like and if so be ready for the carnage coming your way. But I like people that go out on a limb and voice their views. Reminds me of someone I know.

Everyone IMO would benefit with an adjustable seatpost, I doubt your seat is 4" lower than your optimum pedal height.

I rode clipless since I started and switched to flats last year, I just have more fun but you have to invest the money on a good pair of flats and 5:10 or similar shoes. With that set up you can swipe the dog crap off the bottom of your shoe as they like to say.

Your right on taller riders and bar to seat height and that's why I said based on your height. Most people probably have there seats a little lower than optimal pedal height to begin with. If I had my bars level with my seat it would put me in a really bad descending position and be a circus bike.

I'ts great you found your sweet spot and it's working for you. It's all a matter of comprimises but I'll stand by my statement that your bike will handle better going down hill with a shorter stem and wider bars. I would go as far to say ( if your top tube was long enough) your bike would handle best going down hill with no stem at all just like a motocross bike; why don't they have stems if they would handle better? My current bike 05 Giant Trance came with a 120mm stem, 26" wide bars, and has a 71 deg. head angle, couple my 38" inseam seat height and I'm really surprised I'm still alive. My cuurent set up has made the bike way safer and controlled going down hill ( but not great with the 71 deg. head angle) with a marginal sacifrice in climbing.
 

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I hate rock gardens
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Jeff in Bend said:
I'm thinking 600mm (23 5/8") holy crap that's a really narrow bar. But I bet you'd rock on a 27-28" wide bar.

I'm also 6'4" with a 80" wing span so yeah they seem wide to you. I think the tree issue is the first comment I hear about wider bars. I ride in the trees and rarely run across a situation where the trees are that close and directly acrooss from each other. I'd rather slow down the 1% of my ride where it's an issue and have great control 99% of the rest.
Size difference aside, that post does make some sense to me...obviously the wider the handle bars, the wider the swing arc and more control you have...it is simple physics, but it is that 1% statement that has my brain working...

Great viewpoint my friend. :thumbsup:
 
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