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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
After working with explosives for a number of years, I have learned that there really is such a thing as a dumb question, and I’m ok with asking one…
Took my new bike out for a first real ride today. I have had it out playing around the last two days (I picked it up on Sunday afternoon). I rode the section of Trail 100 here in Phoenix between the Pointe and Cave Creek Rd. I rode every down and only had to push up the one really big incline. Considering it is my first MTB and my first real ride, I’m pretty happy. My question is about technique going up hill. If I stand up and lean forward, my rear tire spins. If I sit down to lessen the torque applied by my legs, I really have very little power and it seems to me that I have to exert too much energy. Going uphill center of gravity forward, going downhill center of gravity back. I’m sure there is an easy and obvious answer but I’m not seeing (or feeling) it.
 

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You don't always have to sit in your seat, but you should position your hind end above and a little bit behind it. Your goal in climbing steep grades is to keep as much weight as possible on the back tire for traction - the farther back you are, the more your CG is back (watch tire squish for proof of this) and the better your tire will grip. It's possible your seat is too far forward and you can't generate enough torque in this position; try raising it and moving it back a little bit at a time.
 

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Please remain seated ....

Pedal mashing is simply wrong. It's not fair to your pedals or yourself for that matter.

You just need to get ok with slowing down on inclines. Just gear down and pedal. You'll develop more pedaling strength.

Ok, if its a low grade incline you can pedal mash a little. But, generally it's not a good idea, not just for traction but it will eventually wear you out.
 

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That's not a stupid question. . . in fact, it's not a question at all.

First, be patient and tell yourself the climb can be done. Try to maintain your momentum before approaching the climb; this will help you conserve energy. Take a swig of water, settle into a comfortable breathing pattern and find a "do-able" gear for the pain ahead. Do your best to keep your weight centered to slightly forward on the bike while remaining seated. The only time you should consider standing is if an obstacle needs negotiating. . . or you're near the top and ready to drop the hammer for a downhill section coming up.

Two things mentioned were wheel slippage (because you're unweighting the rear) and too much torque on your legs. The latter may be because of seat height or because you're pushing too big a gear. The next time you attempt a climb, do two things. Raise your seat about 1/4" to 1/2" and shift into a comfortable low gear ratio - you're not going to impress anyone by mashing a 34 X 16 gear combo because chances are you'll fry yourself well before you finish the climb. Your bike comes with (hopefully) 27 gear combinations - use 'em!
 

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It really depends on the climb you're attempting.

If it's a nice, smooth, mild/moderate grade, staying seated and concentrating on a good pedal stroke is key. You'll need to shift your weight forward, but not dramatically. Lower your upper body over the bike by flexing your arms a bit and leaning into the climb.

Steep/OMG climbs are not going to be that easy. Maintaining momentum is essential, and traction plays a big part. Don't creep up to a gruelling climb already in granny-low gear, and by the same token, don't charge up to one and immediately drop your gearing as soon as you hit the incline; you'll just spin out and waste momentum and power.
Approach the steep stuff at a good clip and steady pedalling cadence, and once you start to climb, maintain the same cadence while dropping gears only when needed. And at this stage, try to maintain the highest gear possible. Shifting to a lower gear prematurely while in a climbing position will only make you lose traction and waste energy.
You can make seriously steep climbs while seated again, but very often once you're nearing the top, you'll need to get up and put some power down. As mentioned beforehand, pedal-mashing isn't cool. But you can deliver a smooth power stroke while standing and still maintain traction.
Instead of shifting all of your weight forward, get up off the saddle (you don't have to fully stand up, it's just a modified seated position), flex your arms to bring your CG lower and forward, and counteract every pedal stroke with an opposite pull on your handlebars. By this, I don't mean sawing the bars back and forth wildly, just use them as extra leverage. Keeping this up will also help drive your back tire into the ground.
However, I've found that most climbs on non-groomed singletrack require a rider to get up off the saddle. Small bumps, rocks, roots, and gullies will bounce you off the saddle if you insist on sitting. Getting up, keeping your arms flexed and torso low & forward will allow you to climb over these obstacles without losing traction.
Most importantly, though.... If you do lose traction, don't stop pedalling! Sooner, rather than later, your back tire will hook up again. It's about committment! I've seen lots of people choke on climbs when they were almost to the top.... But the second their rear wheel started to slip, it was all over. As long as you can keep a little forward motion going, a little tire slippage won't hurt.
Good luck!
 

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Plant the tip of your saddle in the one place that the sun don't shine and bend your elbows so that your nose is over your stem and pull back and down on the handlebars and you'll climb the steepest hills that you physically can.
 

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Bombardier said:
Shifting to a lower gear prematurely while in a climbing position will only make you lose traction and waste energy.
Basically, it is right. But on technical climbs you will need to shift down in advance - before controlling the bike becomes difficult. Don't forget also, that shifting itself causes loss of momentum - at least, 1 pedal stroke will go in neutral gear, so to speak. So you need to shift while you are still carrying enough momentum to keep going up and control the bike. It is also a good idea to make a strong burst to gain some more momentum before shifting down.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
(I promise, I won’t turn this into a newbie blog…)

So today was real ride number two. Even after 10 hours at work that started at 3:30 this morning, I was able to squeeze in a decent and tough 1 ½ hour ride. I rode the same area that I had before plus quite a bit more. I did what you all said, kept my ass on the seat, geared WAY down and pedaled slow and steady. So guess what happened… The front end started hopping all over the place and became uncontrollable. I again stopped and pushed. BUT as the ride went on and I conquered smaller hills (with some momentum) I was able to keep both wheels in contact and under control. I did need the momentum so as to not rely so much on pedaling.
So for those of you who have been at this a while, here are a couple laughs…
I learned two very important things today:
1. Damn those pedals hurt when they come around and bite you on the shin! I think I’ll tell people that they are “scoop” marks left by the aliens that abducted me.
2. If you fidget with the Camelback while going downhill, you tend to run into things. I just think I won’t mention that one again.
Oh yeah, I just remembered one more thing:
3. I had a blast!

I'll be buying the book when the bank account recovers from the blow of the wife and I both buying new bikes.
 

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ralph029 said:
After working with explosives for a number of years,...
couldn't let this go without remark.

i've spent alot of time on a lot of internet forums (not this one), and that takes the cake as the coolest opening for a post I've seen.:thumbsup:

some helpful advice on this thread too.
 

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ralph029 said:
The front end started hopping all over the place and became uncontrollable.
Two possible causes, at least:
- you might be in too low gear, giving you more torque than you need
- you might need to move more forward, either sit on the very tip of the saddle or lean your chest towards the bar, or both
1. Damn those pedals hurt when they come around and bite you on the shin! I think I'll tell people that they are "scoop" marks left by the aliens that abducted me.
2. If you fidget with the Camelback while going downhill, you tend to run into things. I just think I won't mention that one again.
Oh yeah, I just remembered one more thing:
3. I had a blast!
1. clipless pedals would help but I guess it is best to get some riding technique dialled first, before you go that way.
2. "look Ma, no hands". ... "Look Ma, no teeth..."
3. Excellent!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I went back out yesterday and rode in the same area and a whole lot more. I tried very hard to lean forward and push down on assents. This seemed to work well but what I found to be the most helpful was timing my first stroke according to when I needed it. If I caught the stroke at the right time it seemed like a seamless transition. I have not adjusted my seat at this point, hell, I’m to new at this and think I need to wait until I’m pretty sure I will be able to feel the subtle differences. Besides, with how badly my ass hurts, I don’t think I can feel anything (sorry, didn’t mean to whine there).
Yesterday’s lessons:
1. A faulty hydration pack (needed gear here in the desert) will make you so frustrated that you will want to kill all the happy little creatures, riding partner included, that you are out there to commune with.
2. Sneakers suck for MTB riding.
3. Everything in the desert that you can run into either has thorns, quills, or sharp edges. Man I miss trees.
 

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Kudos on getting into the saddle and riding...I'm just getting back into it from a several year hiatus and forgot how much I love the sport.

going uphill is a skill that has to be learned...one that I myself struggle with. You have to distribute your weight far enough forward to keep weight on the front wheel, but far enough back so that you still have traction with the rear tire.

A couple of things I find really help me in steeper uphills. Get really far forward on your seat, as Mike T. pointed out, sitting on the very point of the saddle and sinking down as low as you can helps by supporting your weight but allowing you to still get forward.

Also, make sure you tuck your elbows into your body, and make sure you're pulling straight back...it seems to give me more climbing power for whatever reason. Whem my elbows are out I don't seem to get the same power...maybe it's just me....

Most importantly, and I' think you've got this point down, just get out and ride. When you're clearing stuff you walked before, it really is a cool thing.

tim
 

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ralph029 said:
I went back out yesterday and rode in the same area and a whole lot more. I tried very hard to lean forward and push down on assents. This seemed to work well but what I found to be the most helpful was timing my first stroke according to when I needed it. If I caught the stroke at the right time it seemed like a seamless transition. I have not adjusted my seat at this point, hell, I'm to new at this and think I need to wait until I'm pretty sure I will be able to feel the subtle differences. Besides, with how badly my ass hurts, I don't think I can feel anything (sorry, didn't mean to whine there).
Yesterday's lessons:
1. A faulty hydration pack (needed gear here in the desert) will make you so frustrated that you will want to kill all the happy little creatures, riding partner included, that you are out there to commune with.
2. Sneakers suck for MTB riding.
3. Everything in the desert that you can run into either has thorns, quills, or sharp edges. Man I miss trees.
You seem to be getting it quite well.

Its is a balance between traction and front wheel popping this is controlled by your center of gravity, you need to be able to adjust very quickly and smoothly, so you have to be almost or off of your seat.

There are different techniques for standing that work just as well, you have to push your bike forward when the pedals are at 12:00. then pull youur body forward during the power stroke. (Balance for and aft still applies).

Get some clipless pedals and bike shoes.

Oh and practise the cleats with gloves where there aren't any trees or thorns.

One last thing adjust your saddle now before you hurt something, numb nuts usually means that it is pointed up at the front too much, try bringing it down to at least level with the ground or a degree further.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
Just wanted to say thanks again for everyone's help. I have been out every other day and riding at least for 45 minutes. I'm going to try moving the seat down a little but not sure there is really any problem other then a newbie butt that gets pretty sore. I have found that after a few minutes I really don't notice it much. I try to have minor victories out there each time. Maybe nothing more than not taking my foot off the pedal during a tricky descent that I had to the day before. I am focusing on the getting the skills down and enjoying the minor accomplishments. I still think that I need to learn more before I switch to clipless though. I never realized the fine balancing act that happens with every stroke of the pedals. It sure does become obvious when you are trying to go uphill through a channel cut in a large rock that has edges that are just above pedal height while trying to get the power to get over the big rock right in the middle of it all. I switched over to an old light weight hiking boot and that seems to have made a lot of difference with stability. I’ll keep riding with these until I make the switch. How important are the larger platforms of say the Mallets? I understand that the large platform is great if you need it but how often do you truly need it and are smaller platforms, say the Candy's, better for actually navigating in the tight spaces that are all over here in the desert? By the way, I bought a Dakine Session hydration pack and LOVE IT! For those of you that prefer the feel of a backpack vs. a hydration pack, than this is a great pack. It's not big and bulky like a backpack with a hydration bladder in it, it just rides (on your back) like a backpack. I had to buy a new on, all the cute little birdies and bunnies out there were in far greater danger than they ever realized.
 

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The generic rule used for adjusting the saddle height is that if you rest your heels on the pedals, the feet should be straight at the six o'clock position when you are not rocking your hips. That will give a slight bend in your knee when you are pedaling normally with the ball of your foot on the pedal. Cycling with the saddle height too low is often compared to walking with bent feet and can be discomforting. And yes, it does take some time for your butt to get used to being on the saddle. But if butt-soreness does not go away even after a few weeks, you might want to change the saddle.
 
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