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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have encountered two obstacles (sorry, no pic available at the moment) which are steep embankments studded with tree roots. I am reluctant to hit either one at speed for fear of damaging my bike. So, I try to climb them at low speed, but invariably, the bike makes it over a few roots, then does a kind of wheelie rather than proceeding up the rest of the obstacle, then leans over and falls. The wheelie happens under maximum effort through the pedals. I think the pedal effort is contributing to it, though with the steepness of the embankments, I end up pulling on the handlebars a bit (hard to get all my weight on the pedals and not have any pull exerted on the bars).

Should steep obstacles be taken at low-speed?
 

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Lots of variables but basically sit on the very nose of the saddle such that it's trying to go up your butt, keep your chest low, don't pull up on the bars at all, carry some momentum. If that might damage your bike, you probably need a different bike. But like I said, there are a lot of variables.
 

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+1 what Lone Rager said... forward on the saddle, chest low, resist pulling up. But, yeah, a lot of unknown variables. 30, 45, 60 degrees? Might just be impossible. Bike geometry plays into as well. I have an XC geo bike that can't climb nearly as steep as my trail geo bike. Also, are you clipless or flats? I've found I can climb steeper with SPDs by pulling up on the peddles more which tends to lessen the wheelie effect. Takes practice, but pulling up on the peddles actually make you lean forward.
 

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speed

speed

speed

and

dance

mtb is a lot about dancing with your bike at speed, or at a slow crawl.
 

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If you can't keep enough weight on the front wheel while sitting, stand up. Maybe use a harder gear instead of the easiest gear available. I don't know why many riders are so intent on sitting and motoring over everything like a tank. Stand up and attack the terrain with your whole body when necessary.

Bike setup- it is possible that you have your handlebar too close to you, giving the bike an excessive rear bias. Either the bar is too high or the reach too short. Too-short reach is rarely and issue with the long reach on most modern bikes, but it's worth considering. If you have a tall stem, riser bar, and/or a lot of spacers under your stem, consider lowering it to allow more weight on your front. This should help with climbing and cornering.

If you need an excessively tall hand position, and you don't have a diagnosed medical condition that makes it necessary, and lowering your hand position causes pain, you can probably fix this because that is what happened to me. I have severe lower back pain that forced me to compromise between a bike that handles well (lowered handlebar) and back pain. I started doing crunches, planks, Russian twists, etc to strengthen my core. The result is that I can ride a bike with a position that optimizes handling but I am strong enough to ride in that position.

For the record, I don't have a stretched out old school racer position. 50mm stem, moderate reach frame, grips are just a tad below the saddle level. (Overall reach and stack from the BB is what counts here, but most people can visualize that for reference.) If I had not worked on core strength, I'd have the handlebar 2" higher and ride a bike that likes to flip over backwards all the time as a result.
 

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Yup, momentum is your friend. That and about 8 years of practice and I'm sure you'll nail it eventually. It takes time and practice to develop technical climbing skills.

I also agree you need to attack and not just sit there and expect it to just magically happen.
 

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I also find that on steep hills getting some momentum before the climb helps because I can run a harder gear and the front won't lift up as easy. Of course if you are trying to ride something steep as a wall you might need a ultralight fat bike with helium in the tires. I also agree with getting far up on the saddle or even hovering over it to keep your weight on the back tire without lifting the front. As for standing I only have luck with that when i'm going pretty fast otherwise I wind up spinning out in the back on a rock or root part-way up the climb.
 

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Was actually working on this with the middle/high school team I coach last night. There are lots of variables in play, but here's a sort of checklist, if you will.

Approach with some speed. If nothing else, your momentum will carry you partway up with no other input. If you have a really good approach (especially a fast downhill approach) and the climb is short, momentum can do all the work for you.

At this point, you have a decision to make and in some respects it tends to depend on the specific climb. You'll have to try both to see what you like best for a given situation.

--Seated Climb-- I tend to use this one on longer steep sections and in spots where I am able to carry less momentum into the climb.
Get your chest LOW and forward to keep the front end planted and in control.
Keep your butt on the saddle, though you will probably need to slide forward so your taint is perched on the nose of the saddle.
Shift to a lower gear and spin

--Standing Climb-- This one works well when the climb is short and you want to power up it, or if there's an individual technical move in a longer climb you need extra power to clear.
Stand up on the pedals
Shift body weight forward of the saddle to keep balanced pressure on both tires. If front wheel lifts, shift forward. If rear wheel starts to break loose, shift back.
Rock the bike side-to-side to help engage your upper body in generating power

Engaging the pedals on the upstroke is not the exclusive domain of clipless pedals. You can do it on platforms (good platforms with grippy shoes), too.

As I hinted above, you might alternate between both techniques on a single climb. You might choose to use the seated climb most of the way, but stand up for shorter sections that require even more power. Every bike handles this stuff a little differently. I've got one mtb that does NOT like for me to stand up on climbs. Doing so shifts my body weight too far forward and the rear tire breaks loose EVERY TIME. After 3yrs of riding the bike, I've not found standing climbing to be good on that bike. It's kinda frustrating at times, but that's how the bike is. If I keep good weight on the rear tire, though, it's got traction for days and will claw up almost anything. My new bike works well climbing either way, which is a relief, but I've spent the past 3yrs training myself NOT to stand up on steep climbs so I now have to train myself again to stand up sometimes.

Shifting technique is going to come into play eventually. Shifting under a bunch of power is going to result in bad noises in the drivetrain and potentially broken parts if you do it too much. So you'll need to work on shifting while climbing, too. Especially the timing of your shifts. You'll want to do so right before you NEED to, when you can back off on the power just a tiny bit, soft pedal until the shift is completed, and then lay down power again. It's a subtle technique, but an important one.
 

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Great tips from Harold and from others in this discussion.

A couple of things come to mind when I think about this type of climb:

I micro-adjust my position during the climb in order to try and maintain the sweet spot between the rear wheel breaking loose and the front end coming up, with my climbing postion on short steep climbs being almost a crouch over the bike.

Work on leg strength to be able to power over obstacles.

I typically climb in a higher gear that most of my buddies, but my rear wheel is less likely to break loose in a higher gear.

Like Harold mentions, I will often rock the bike and use my upper body and arms in tough climbs. By using bar ends, I can get additional leverage due to a different hand position, and pull up with my arms as I power down with my legs.
 

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This is one of those situations where trials skills can come into play on the trails, trackstands, and being able to pick up the front and rear wheel. High engagement hubs helps too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks for all the replies. Read them all just now. Currently on a trip and with limited time / internet connectivity. I will practice trying to shift my weight forward when I get back.
 

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Lots of good tips.

More speed. Higher gear. Actually lifting the front up over the roots intentionally to keep momentum where possible. And finally locking brakes at times pulling you body forward and then a quick release under power while lift/throwing the bike forward underneath you. Its like the bike stopped for a second but your body was still moving up followed by the bike coming along again beneath you! Good luck.

Isnt it great to have a problem in life thats.... how do i get my bike up and over this feature!
 

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Was actually working on this with the middle/high school team I coach last night. There are lots of variables in play, but here's a sort of checklist, if you will.

Approach with some speed. If nothing else, your momentum will carry you partway up with no other input. If you have a really good approach (especially a fast downhill approach) and the climb is short, momentum can do all the work for you.

At this point, you have a decision to make and in some respects it tends to depend on the specific climb. You'll have to try both to see what you like best for a given situation.

--Seated Climb-- I tend to use this one on longer steep sections and in spots where I am able to carry less momentum into the climb.
Get your chest LOW and forward to keep the front end planted and in control.
Keep your butt on the saddle, though you will probably need to slide forward so your taint is perched on the nose of the saddle.
Shift to a lower gear and spin

--Standing Climb-- This one works well when the climb is short and you want to power up it, or if there's an individual technical move in a longer climb you need extra power to clear.
Stand up on the pedals
Shift body weight forward of the saddle to keep balanced pressure on both tires. If front wheel lifts, shift forward. If rear wheel starts to break loose, shift back.
Rock the bike side-to-side to help engage your upper body in generating power

Engaging the pedals on the upstroke is not the exclusive domain of clipless pedals. You can do it on platforms (good platforms with grippy shoes), too.

As I hinted above, you might alternate between both techniques on a single climb. You might choose to use the seated climb most of the way, but stand up for shorter sections that require even more power. Every bike handles this stuff a little differently. I've got one mtb that does NOT like for me to stand up on climbs. Doing so shifts my body weight too far forward and the rear tire breaks loose EVERY TIME. After 3yrs of riding the bike, I've not found standing climbing to be good on that bike. It's kinda frustrating at times, but that's how the bike is. If I keep good weight on the rear tire, though, it's got traction for days and will claw up almost anything. My new bike works well climbing either way, which is a relief, but I've spent the past 3yrs training myself NOT to stand up on steep climbs so I now have to train myself again to stand up sometimes.

Shifting technique is going to come into play eventually. Shifting under a bunch of power is going to result in bad noises in the drivetrain and potentially broken parts if you do it too much. So you'll need to work on shifting while climbing, too. Especially the timing of your shifts. You'll want to do so right before you NEED to, when you can back off on the power just a tiny bit, soft pedal until the shift is completed, and then lay down power again. It's a subtle technique, but an important one.
This is awesome. I have trouble with short uphill obstacles which I cannot approach with momentum. One is a rock that I have turn 45 degrees from the trail to get up on and roll over and one is a log obstacle with a similar approach.

With the rock, its a short roller and a quick, sharp drop so I've been taking it in the seated position with my seat post dropped. (I went OTB on the drop on my first attempt which is the reason for the dropped seat.) I think the low seat is making it more difficult for me to get up on top of the rock. I'm going to try it standing and try like hell to drop the seat quickly when I reach the top.
 

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This is awesome. I have trouble with short uphill obstacles which I cannot approach with momentum. One is a rock that I have turn 45 degrees from the trail to get up on and roll over and one is a log obstacle with a similar approach.

With the rock, its a short roller and a quick, sharp drop so I've been taking it in the seated position with my seat post dropped. (I went OTB on the drop on my first attempt which is the reason for the dropped seat.) I think the low seat is making it more difficult for me to get up on top of the rock. I'm going to try it standing and try like hell to drop the seat quickly when I reach the top.
You might be surprised how useful a standing position with your dropper down is when trying to get over technical obstacles, especially if you definitely need the seat down on the back side of said obstacle.

Drop the saddle before you reach said obstacle, stand up, and make use of that extra range of motion! It really allows you to engage your upper body to throw the bike around. If you need to put down some power to the pedals, there's no real reason you can't do that while standing, too.

I frequently stand and hammer with the dropper down, and it's usually a timing thing. Like when I just rode something that I dropped the saddle for. A descent. Something technical, etc which is followed by a climb. If the climb is short, I'll stand and hammer the whole way up. If it's longer, I'll stand and hammer part way to get some momentum, raise the saddle, and then drop some gears to settle into the climb.

The short of it is that rather than try to raise/lower the saddle IMMEDIATELY before I need it, I'd rather raise it late or drop it early, and stand and pedal so that I have time to work on other movements like shifting, setting up for a drop, getting my wheels over something, and so on.
 

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You might be surprised how useful a standing position with your dropper down is when trying to get over technical obstacles, especially if you definitely need the seat down on the back side of said obstacle.

Drop the saddle before you reach said obstacle, stand up, and make use of that extra range of motion! It really allows you to engage your upper body to throw the bike around. If you need to put down some power to the pedals, there's no real reason you can't do that while standing, too.

I frequently stand and hammer with the dropper down, and it's usually a timing thing. Like when I just rode something that I dropped the saddle for. A descent. Something technical, etc which is followed by a climb. If the climb is short, I'll stand and hammer the whole way up. If it's longer, I'll stand and hammer part way to get some momentum, raise the saddle, and then drop some gears to settle into the climb.

The short of it is that rather than try to raise/lower the saddle IMMEDIATELY before I need it, I'd rather raise it late or drop it early, and stand and pedal so that I have time to work on other movements like shifting, setting up for a drop, getting my wheels over something, and so on.
Yeah....I hadn't really thought of that until watching this video. There's a bit of that in use here (time 4:50, and 18 tries!), with some nice examples of what I think the OP is asking about on the Ahab section (esp. time 10:40).

 

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I typically prefer to hit steep sections with some speed. How long are these sections? If they're short and you can hit them with decent speed, you might be able to pop off a root and clear the whole thing. (Oh, wait. This is the beginner's forum. Try only if you're confident you won't wreck yourself.) On longer sections, you can still hit with a little speed and pump/pedal up while standing. Just pedaling up would probably be my last choice.
 
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