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I suppose I should have posted this to "beginner's corner", but it is XC specific. Maybe I'll cross-post it.

Here is the back story: I'm a former roadie that got struck by a careless driver in a pick-up truck a little over a year ago. It was a pretty bad one, bike was totaled and I was taken out of commision for about a year myself. Not being terribly anxious to get back on the road again, I used the insurance money and bought a fairly decent mountain bike (Trek Fuel EX 7- the locals recommended that I get a full suspension given the "rooty" terrain on most trails around here).

My legs are coming back, but there are a couple of problems.

1) On a road bike, I could dial in 90-95 cadence and, except for climbs, descents, and traffic, could hold that cadence for the entire ride. I got in shape fast that way, but this just doesn't work on the trail.

2) My biggest limiting factor is how fast I can physically maneuver the bike through the trail. My climing is coming back, but my descents are tentative and other riders just ride right by me on the flats. It's not that I can't make the bike go that fast, I just can't keep in on the trail at those speeds.


I just don't seem to be getting any better and it's compromising my ability to get a good training ride in. How does an ex-roadie develop off road bike handling skills?
 

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dirty_crank said:
1) On a road bike, I could dial in 90-95 cadence and, except for climbs, descents, and traffic, could hold that cadence for the entire ride. I got in shape fast that way, but this just doesn't work on the trail.

2) My biggest limiting factor is how fast I can physically maneuver the bike through the trail. My climing is coming back, but my descents are tentative and other riders just ride right by me on the flats. It's not that I can't make the bike go that fast, I just can't keep in on the trail at those speeds.
I would say dont even think about cadence when riding trails.

It sounds like you just need more time on the trails...I'd find the most technical trails and spend some time riding them, ride w/ someone that is a little faster then you. Even hit up a lift assist DH place.

and does the bike fit you properly? could be a reason you have a hard time staying on the trails
 

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I've gravitated to off-road riding just because I don't like playing in traffic much and the scenery is way better.

Anyway, I've had the same problem and here's what's been working for me. Mind you I'm still slow but I'm getting faster almost every ride.

Forget the cadence counting. I tend to spin naturally and I'll leave it at that. Frankly the mtb will improve the smoothness of your pedaling motion. Also you'll find that going to a bigger gear will pick your butt off the saddle which is good when the terrain gets bumpy.

There is a certain zen-like abandon called for. These bikes are smoother and easier to control the faster you go. Find a section that doesn't scare you too badly and just let it rip, then come back around and continue the speed further into less comfortable terrain. You'll be amazed at how fast you can go sometimes. Past a certain speed the bike will just pull together into a tightly handling package.

Jedi mind trick that helps me: On technical sections that I'm sure I can go faster - instead of just going as fast as I can, visuallize that I'm really practicing in slow motion to go a lot faster. The next time I'm usually faster. Like if there's a switchbacky trail I can only take at 10mph, instead of thinking of that as being as fast as I can take it, think of it as practicing in slow motion to take it at 12mph. Pretty soon I'm taking it at 12mph and picturing it faster again.

The main thing is finding a trail to grow on, one you can start getting comfortable with the speed and then extend that comfort zone. You'll never have the knife edge control of a road bike, but you'll be amazed at how accurately you can place the bike at speed.

Have fun and let us know how it goes.

Ron
 

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Metalheadbikerider
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The best advice I can think of...

is finding riders that are faster than you that will be willing to reride sections with you, and give you advice along the way. Sometimes there are little things that you can do (lowering your shoulder into switchbacks, for example) that can make you faster on trails. On the trail once lose your momentum it's easy to lose the wheel of other riders.
I also recommend buying Ned Overend's book on mtb'ing-very helpful advice for ALL aspects of becoming a better mtb'er. A must-read, IMO.
Keep at it, it takes some work but once you get to "that point" it's all downhill. :D
 

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Im having a simular problem to this, and most posted wont help me. I can navigate technical sections and downhill at... if im riding hard, 18mph. The thing I struggle with is bankless turns. Just a flat, sharp turn... I have to slow down nearly to a stop to navigate such things because they are sandy and if I try to lean like I would for banked turn, my tires slide deep into the sand or skim the top, and I fall. If I try leaning less, I cant quite pull the turn off, if I try not leaning the bike at all, but shifting my weight, I cant seem to get the handelbars where I want... suggestions? Ive tried about everything.
 

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1. Not to be a smart arse or any thing but the secret to speed is... Dont use your breaks, at least as much. Try to break at the very last second, but not a panic stop.

2. Look further up the trail, if you ever watch a downhiller, they are looking way down the trail. This lets you focus on whats comming up ahead, and the stuff that is right in front of you shouldnt be a problem if you have enough experience.

Thats my two cents, happy trails.
 

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Its amazing what saddle time will do for you on the trail.
Dont focus too much on your cadence for the time being. You already have a sound spin and you will naturally become comfortable on the trail with your natural cadence once you have more time on the dirt. Training specificity states that to become good at any activity you need to DO THAT ACTIVITY. Just riding those trails will do wonders for your speed, handling and comfort and skill level.
If you come to an object or section of the trail you arent smooth on, simply stop, go back, and ride it again, a few times, until you are more comfortable with it. This is something you never do on a road bike, but is perfectly acceptable on a mountain bike.
Be patient. You didnt become a great roadie overnight and you wont be an accomplished mountain biker overnight either. But you do have the lungs, legs, and cardi. The rest is skills and specificity. Both are accomplished with repeated efforts.
You can do it.
Good luck. :)

dirty_crank said:
I suppose I should have posted this to "beginner's corner", but it is XC specific. Maybe I'll cross-post it.

Here is the back story: I'm a former roadie that got struck by a careless driver in a pick-up truck a little over a year ago. It was a pretty bad one, bike was totaled and I was taken out of commision for about a year myself. Not being terribly anxious to get back on the road again, I used the insurance money and bought a fairly decent mountain bike (Trek Fuel EX 7- the locals recommended that I get a full suspension given the "rooty" terrain on most trails around here).

My legs are coming back, but there are a couple of problems.

1) On a road bike, I could dial in 90-95 cadence and, except for climbs, descents, and traffic, could hold that cadence for the entire ride. I got in shape fast that way, but this just doesn't work on the trail.

2) My biggest limiting factor is how fast I can physically maneuver the bike through the trail. My climing is coming back, but my descents are tentative and other riders just ride right by me on the flats. It's not that I can't make the bike go that fast, I just can't keep in on the trail at those speeds.

I just don't seem to be getting any better and it's compromising my ability to get a good training ride in. How does an ex-roadie develop off road bike handling skills?
 

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en are es said:
Im having a simular problem to this, and most posted wont help me. I can navigate technical sections and downhill at... if im riding hard, 18mph. The thing I struggle with is bankless turns. Just a flat, sharp turn... I have to slow down nearly to a stop to navigate such things because they are sandy and if I try to lean like I would for banked turn, my tires slide deep into the sand or skim the top, and I fall. If I try leaning less, I cant quite pull the turn off, if I try not leaning the bike at all, but shifting my weight, I cant seem to get the handelbars where I want... suggestions? Ive tried about everything.
Not that I am an expert in this are but here's my 0.02.... It is amazing what the right tires can do for you in a situation like this, a more squarish profile tire has more grippiness at an angle and might help you. (I love my Panaracer Fire XC Pros for this.) One other thing I've had success at with this type thing (usually in an oh no I'm gonna crash moment) is to put on the back brake and sort of skid the back tire around the turn. Good technique? Maybe not, but it works for me.
 

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Good choice, I also recommend reading Ned's book "Mountain Bike Like A Champion". It has helped me. A real important thing is balance, balance, balance. Do your track stands and hop around on your bike. Don't worry about the speed, it will come. You may be a lot closer to breaking that barrier than you think. Good luck bro.
 

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Shaman
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Wow, this is interesting.

BikeCoachDave said:
Its amazing what saddle time will do for you on the trail.
Dont focus too much on your cadence for the time being. You already have a sound spin and you will naturally become comfortable on the trail with your natural cadence once you have more time on the dirt. Training specificity states that to become good at any activity you need to DO THAT ACTIVITY. Just riding those trails will do wonders for your speed, handling and comfort and skill level.
If you come to an object or section of the trail you arent smooth on, simply stop, go back, and ride it again, a few times, until you are more comfortable with it. This is something you never do on a road bike, but is perfectly acceptable on a mountain bike.
Be patient. You didnt become a great roadie overnight and you wont be an accomplished mountain biker overnight either. But you do have the lungs, legs, and cardi. The rest is skills and specificity. Both are accomplished with repeated efforts.
You can do it.
Good luck. :)
Some of the above is good advice: "Don't focus too much on your cadence for the time being. You already have a sound spin and you will naturally become comfortable on the trail with your natural cadence once you have more time on the dirt." and "Be patient. You didnt become a great roadie overnight and you wont be an accomplished mountain biker overnight either. But you do have the lungs, legs, and cardi. "

The rest is a little misguided. I may be miss-reading this but it sounds like BikeCoachDave is saying that if you go ride more you will get better. Or the old expression: practice makes perfect. Sadly this isn't true. You must first understand what you are practicing and then practice with quality in mind. Perfect practice makes perfect, practice makes permanent. So if you practice a bad habit you will get really good at the bad habit. Like any other sport mountain biking has "core skills" which are the foundation to good riding technique.

Example: A rider is slow through the corners and is frustrated by this. So the rider decides he must corner faster. So he goes out and enters every turn going faster than he used to but, his times aren't getting any faster. For quite a few years this bothers him but he cannot figure out why despite going faster his times are not getting any faster. Then the rider picks up a good book and learns that exit speed is more important than entrance speed. Reading the book he also learns that sometimes to get good exit speed you must enter some corners slower (than he is currently entering them). He also learns the correct body position and vision techniques and starts cornering "correctly". Now despite going slower on parts of the course (often the entrance to corners) his times are getting faster. Sadly, this rider was me half-way through my pro career. If I knew what I know now when I first turned pro 11 years ago I might have been a contender. So don't make my mistake, learn skills early and reach your potential before you are 39.

What this means is, athletic ability can only take an athlete so far and
if an athlete doesn't have the basics wired they will stop progressing well
before they reach their potential. In ski and snowboard racing the competencies (drills that show if you have a specific skill mastered)
are so important that the US SKI and Snowboard development team chooses
their athletes purely on their mastery of the competencies, not their racing
results. I know many athletes who can ski, snowboard and/or mountain bike
and get down the mountain quickly but, they have bad habits and are surviving
on athletic ability and daring.

Dan Milkman (World Champion Gymnast, coach and author of "The Inner athlete",
"Body Mind Mastery" and The "Peaceful Warrior Series") states, "Athletes'
problems with learning or improving their skills are tied to weak fundamentals.
To raise athletes' potential you need to rebuild their foundation for success".

With this in mind the fastest way to learn to ride trails better is to take a skills lesson/clinic/camp from a competent skills coach. The second fastest way is to get a good book (Mastering Mountain Bike Skills by Lee McCormack and Brain Lopes is an excellent book) on skills and practice the skills taught in the book. This will take a lot longer than taking a camp (because you don't have some one to demonstrate correct technique, answer your questions and help you learn the skills with specific drills). Either way you go about it remember that when learning any new skill quality is MUCH more important than quantity. US Olympic coaches (in gymnastics and Ice Skating) have found that your quality starts to deteriorate after the third attempt at a new skill/trick. Practice in a "safe" non-scary environment like a field or a parking lot. It is very hard to learn on trail because the conditions (trees, roots, rocks, exposure) can put you in a fearful mind state. So learn off the trail and then try to apply what you have learned on the trail.

The first core skill is having fun. When you are having fun you usually smile and/or laugh. Smiling and laughing releases endorphins which relax you and you must be relaxed to ride smoothly.

So take a clinic or pick up a book and enjoy your practice and enjoy watching your skills grow quickly.
 

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Here's my best advice:

Don't focus on speed at all. Instead, focus on riding and flowing down the trail as smoothly as possible.

It's a cliche, but try to "flow like water" down the trail, taking the path of least resistance.

Speed will come
 

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dirty_crank said:
I suppose I should have posted this to "beginner's corner", but it is XC specific. Maybe I'll cross-post it.

Here is the back story: I'm a former roadie that got struck by a careless driver in a pick-up truck a little over a year ago. It was a pretty bad one, bike was totaled and I was taken out of commision for about a year myself. Not being terribly anxious to get back on the road again, I used the insurance money and bought a fairly decent mountain bike (Trek Fuel EX 7- the locals recommended that I get a full suspension given the "rooty" terrain on most trails around here).

My legs are coming back, but there are a couple of problems.

1) On a road bike, I could dial in 90-95 cadence and, except for climbs, descents, and traffic, could hold that cadence for the entire ride. I got in shape fast that way, but this just doesn't work on the trail.

2) My biggest limiting factor is how fast I can physically maneuver the bike through the trail. My climing is coming back, but my descents are tentative and other riders just ride right by me on the flats. It's not that I can't make the bike go that fast, I just can't keep in on the trail at those speeds.

I just don't seem to be getting any better and it's compromising my ability to get a good training ride in. How does an ex-roadie develop off road bike handling skills?
Ok..
alert. I am a walking billboard for Gene Hamilton.. so take what I say with a grain of salt.

Do yourself a HUGE favor. Get some skills coaching from Gene or someone similar. You are like a blank slate. A fit rider just starting out in mountain biking. Don't ingrain bad habits off the bat. How I wish I was you and took some serious skills coaching when I started rather than 15 years into it.

I recently took a private lesson from Gene. You can read about it on my BLOG
(http://ashwinearl.blogspot.com/2005/11/review-better-ride-private-lesson.html) . I also have Lee McCormack's book, Ned's book, Keith Code's book and several others. Nothing comes close to having a coach teach you how to feel what the right way is like. Why deal wiith trial and error when you can learn it right?

As a 15 year veteran of mountain biking, I'm finding myself relearning some things and looking at the trail differently after the lesson. In fact I'm going a little slower for the time being trying to put it all together but I can feel the improvement coming.

I went riding recently with a relatively new mountain biker. He had gone to a camp of Gene's early on in his riding, and let me tell you he was riding incredibly well for being a new mountain biker.

WRT to the cadence thing. It is real common to see roadies hit the trails and try and spin it like they do on the road and bounce all over the place. John Tomac wrote an article years ago describing this. He said that off road with the uneven terrain that pushing a slightly larger gear than on the road gives you "something to push against" which gives helps to stabilize you.
 

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You know, there are a few things I always do that has helped me-
*always take the most difficult line when out for a fun ride...almost any trail can be made challenging.
*If I dab, I go back and try again....I'll ussually give myself 3x before moving on.
*If i see a log, big rock, obstacle, I try to ride it.
*When just riding along, practice your wheelies & manuals.
*When waiting or sitting in the parking lot, practice trackstands, rear wheel hops, hopping up on stuff....learn how loading your brakes & cranks affects the bike. Just mess around with your bike and see how it reacts to different things. Watch some trails riders and practice basic moves such as pedal kicks.
*Speed is relative. What seems fast to you know will seem much slower as you become accustomed to your bike and the way it behaves.
*Staying off the brakes is flat wrong. Learn how to use your brakes effectiely, especially when going into corners and technical sections. If you want to rail a hairpin you need to know how to use your brakes.
*Learn to compress & unload your bike before rock gardens so you "float" over them instead of riding through them.
*Learn to bunnyhop the right way- like the BMX'ers do it. It is possible to clean many obstacles without even slowing down (Its a good feeling to sail over the log everyone else slows down to chainring)
*When going fast, NEVER, EVER start thinking about wrecking. You have to relax,concentrate, and let it hang out...think about how a good surfer or snowboarder carves down a mountain, that's you....smoooooooth.
 
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