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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
what a blast - and a workout!

some things that are concerning/some questions/observations:
  • riding over features, even very small ones, was pretty scary. i found myself questioning what speed to hit them at, would i even be able to make it over, should i pedal while rolling over them, etc. if it was too questionable i just walked over/around.
  • i found myself really struggling with shifting - not only when and where but even which lever did what. for whatever reason it wasn't sinking in which lever shifted up and which down.
  • to that point, there were a few times when i shifted while climbing as well as once instance where i was shifted all the way down and, not realizing it, was attempting to shift past that. hopefully i didn't mess anything up but it felt and sounded fine after my ride.
  • braking is also something i need to get used to. when to use which brake. when to brake at all? is it normal/OK to brake to trim speed on downhills and/or when approaching tight trees?
  • i definitely need riding gloves.
  • i found myself (probably obviously) enjoying the more flowy sections vs. the more technical stuff.

some photos and stuff of what i encountered to give you all an idea. this is in Westchester, NY. i've been told there are easier parks to start with. but again, i will reiterate, i am already hooked!

the steed:



the features:









the carnage:

 

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jcd's best friend
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Welcome to mountain biking! We were all in your shoes once. Much of the stuff you noted will be easier with experience. I highly recommend looking for a skills class in your area to help you get the basics down. If you can't clear an obstacle, there is no shame in walking it! Once you get used to your bike, you will shift gears without thinking about it too much.

If you want to practice climbing up and rolling over an obstacle, try some curbs in your neighborhood! You can practice popping your front end up just enough to get over the curb and get a feel for rolling down the curb too. That's how I'm teaching my daughter!
 

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since 4/10/2009
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Nice to see you got out there!

You'd probably be well served to practice shifting in an open, low-consequence setting. A big, grassy field with a gradual hill is helpful. Get a feel for which lever makes it "easier" and which makes it "harder" and also start to get a feel for timing. Downshift too early, and you'll find that there's a period of time where your pedaling doesn't help at all. Shift too late, and you'll hear a nice "crunch" as the chain attempts to move. Don't do that. It'll take time to work out when the "best" time to shift is, but I like to do it when I feel the extra resistance from the climb, but it's not "too much" yet. And then try to only do one downshift at a time at first. You can really get into trouble by trying to dump a whole bunch of gears at once when you're pushing the pedals. You can pull it off, but it requires that you have enough forward momentum that you can "soft pedal" a couple strokes while the chain completes the shift. As you get to know the trails, you'll start to improve your timing.

Riding over obstacles is going to require some extra skills. Just letting the bike roll over stuff is going to really test your ability to keep it under control, especially without suspension. You need to work on moving your body weight around over the bike. You can look up some drills for this on youtube, and parking lots are good spots for this practice. As you get a feel for where you can move your body, and being comfortable doing it, you'll be able to start working on USING shifts in your body to get the wheels off the ground to make riding over stuff a LOT more smooth. The less suspension your bike has, the more you need to use your body for this. I'm getting some good lessons on this since I started riding a hardtail again for the first time in about 18yrs. I'm having a lot of fun with it.

Speed is generally your friend on that stuff, but you've gotta work to be able to use it. Like I said, you can't just plow over stuff all the time. Sometimes you can, but working on the range of motion drills and then on to lifting your wheels over things will help you a LOT.

Also, learning to read the trail and see the line you like best, and the control to hit the line you want is something you'll want to work on. Riding with others willing to stop and session stuff can help a lot here. You can talk about the lines you see together, watch others on them, and get feedback when you try them yourself. Sometimes if you just stop and hang out at a technical spot, you can just watch other riders ride through. It can also help if you video record yourself. Set up your phone or other camera on a tripod or have someone else record you. It can help you identify where you went wrong, especially if you can compare to a video of someone riding it successfully.

As for braking, you want to work on using them BOTH. Once you get comfortable with using them both more or less the same, you can start working on giving one brake a little more or a little less force than the other for certain situations. Generally, for trail riding, it's exceedingly rare that you'll ONLY use one or the other. You also want to brake BEFORE the turn. You only have so much traction on your tires. If you're trying to split it between braking AND turning, it's going to be a painful lesson. It's possible to feather your brakes through a turn to help control speed, but I'd call that a little more advanced braking technique. At your stage, it'll be better to avoid braking IN the turn. Brake before it so you can roll through.

It'll be very similar when dealing with technical stuff, too. You want to do your braking (slowing down) before the techy spot. Brake in the middle of it and you're likely going to have to step off the bike in the middle of a bunch of rocks or roots where you run a risk of buggering your ankle or something else (like a collarbone). Most of us have done this at some point or another, though. The art of the bail is a skill all on its own.

Riding gloves are important, but IME don't tend to do much for blisters. The reason I started wearing them in the first place was to keep my palms from getting shredded when I crashed. I don't do that so much anymore, but they're super beneficial for maintaining your grip on the bars when you're sweating balls. I ride in the southeast, and sweat is inescapable in the summertime. Usually I'm swimming in it. If I forget my gloves for a ride, I'm honestly quite terrified my hands will slip, and I ride super conservatively.
 

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Bikesexual
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Awesome!

Shifting and braking will become second nature, but I agree take it for a spin at the park to practice.

Rigid forces you to slow down a bit, and pick better your lines. Also check your tire pressures, run them as low as possible.

Enjoy! I'm glad at the end of it all, you had a blast. Nice bike btw.
 

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Good for you! I'm at just over 100 miles since I bought my bike in March, so I know how you feel. Keep riding as often as you can and ride the same trails over and over. Get used to standing on your pedals with knees and elbows bent.

I was walking a lot of features at first, especially skinny bridges, but recently I started going over them with momentum and it's almost second nature now. Keep riding, you'll get better and it's great to feel yourself progress.
 

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One thing that gets repeated a lot is "feet heavy, hands light." And it's true, but sometimes hard to get a real feel for. With no suspension, you use your arms and legs for suspension, so they tell you to stand, knees and elbows bent. Makes perfect sense, right?

But here's the thing. Unless you come from BMX, what you don't realize is that when you do that, you usually keep your butt over your saddle, even when you bend knees for "attack position." And that puts a lot of weight on your hands and front wheel, which is bad for going over obstacles (good for climbing, though!) and can lead to nasty crashes.

So what you need to learn to do is move your butt behind your saddle, both front-to-back, and up-and-down wise. This is why people rave about droppers, but it isn't strictly necessary.

Eventually, you even learn to pop your front wheel up and onto or over obstacles, and you can even do it with the rear wheel. But for now, just keeping dead weight off your front wheel will make those little rock gardens and drops safer and easier.

But one of the most fundamental things is getting really feet heavy, hands light by shifting your weight to the rear as you descend or go over obstacles. Also, dropping your heels will keep your feet on the pedals through rough stuff.

Kind of related to this is to learn to stay off your front brake. It has most of the stopping power, but can lock your front wheel, which, if your weight is forward, or you are pointed downhill, may pivot you right over the handlebars. When you are new and still subject to applying brakes in a panic, learn to apply rear first, which will drag but not stop you, and follow on with the front so that you banish the instinct to slam on both brakes at the same time. You get conditioned to it pretty quick. Then you can learn to modulate and intelligently apply one or the other or both brakes as the situation requires.
 

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The pictures show some pretty aggressive features for your first time. Well done.


Enjoy and practice. Start easy with your shifting and braking and work you way up to more intense shifts and build into the aggressive braking. Then work on braking with different conditions such as hard pack dirt, you will slide way more easily than you will on pavement, or even dry grass. Expect to lean to control your braking forces at the brake lever.

Good job. Be careful. Make sure you are wearing a protective helmet. Build up a small supply of tools for your trail side repairs; multi tool, tube, tire changing tools, pump or CO2 cartridge (learn how to use a CO2 cartridge).
 

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Cycologist
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Welcome to the great sport of mountain biking and to the site! As Harold mentioned, shifting of your weight is key, side to side, forward and backward; a lot of finesse to riding well. It really just becomes part of you after awhile. Riding experience will get you straightened out on how and when to shift and braking technique. Watch some videos and take some classes if you can. Don't be afraid to ask questions on this site. And have fun.
 

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Also, as mentioned, there are a lot of skills videos on youtube. Personally, I like Skills With Phil a lot. Even though he is a super-skilled rider, he seems very attuned to newbs and explains what a fair number of videos take for granted. Ymmv.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Awesome!

Shifting and braking will become second nature, but I agree take it for a spin at the park to practice.

Rigid forces you to slow down a bit, and pick better your lines. Also check your tire pressures, run them as low as possible.

Enjoy! I'm glad at the end of it all, you had a blast. Nice bike btw.
thanks! re: tire pressure (and this will be a stupid question) - is there a tool to let air out to a specified pressure that i can purchase?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Nice to see you got out there!

You'd probably be well served to practice shifting in an open, low-consequence setting. A big, grassy field with a gradual hill is helpful. Get a feel for which lever makes it "easier" and which makes it "harder" and also start to get a feel for timing. Downshift too early, and you'll find that there's a period of time where your pedaling doesn't help at all. Shift too late, and you'll hear a nice "crunch" as the chain attempts to move. Don't do that. It'll take time to work out when the "best" time to shift is, but I like to do it when I feel the extra resistance from the climb, but it's not "too much" yet. And then try to only do one downshift at a time at first. You can really get into trouble by trying to dump a whole bunch of gears at once when you're pushing the pedals. You can pull it off, but it requires that you have enough forward momentum that you can "soft pedal" a couple strokes while the chain completes the shift. As you get to know the trails, you'll start to improve your timing.

Riding over obstacles is going to require some extra skills. Just letting the bike roll over stuff is going to really test your ability to keep it under control, especially without suspension. You need to work on moving your body weight around over the bike. You can look up some drills for this on youtube, and parking lots are good spots for this practice. As you get a feel for where you can move your body, and being comfortable doing it, you'll be able to start working on USING shifts in your body to get the wheels off the ground to make riding over stuff a LOT more smooth. The less suspension your bike has, the more you need to use your body for this. I'm getting some good lessons on this since I started riding a hardtail again for the first time in about 18yrs. I'm having a lot of fun with it.

Speed is generally your friend on that stuff, but you've gotta work to be able to use it. Like I said, you can't just plow over stuff all the time. Sometimes you can, but working on the range of motion drills and then on to lifting your wheels over things will help you a LOT.

Also, learning to read the trail and see the line you like best, and the control to hit the line you want is something you'll want to work on. Riding with others willing to stop and session stuff can help a lot here. You can talk about the lines you see together, watch others on them, and get feedback when you try them yourself. Sometimes if you just stop and hang out at a technical spot, you can just watch other riders ride through. It can also help if you video record yourself. Set up your phone or other camera on a tripod or have someone else record you. It can help you identify where you went wrong, especially if you can compare to a video of someone riding it successfully.

As for braking, you want to work on using them BOTH. Once you get comfortable with using them both more or less the same, you can start working on giving one brake a little more or a little less force than the other for certain situations. Generally, for trail riding, it's exceedingly rare that you'll ONLY use one or the other. You also want to brake BEFORE the turn. You only have so much traction on your tires. If you're trying to split it between braking AND turning, it's going to be a painful lesson. It's possible to feather your brakes through a turn to help control speed, but I'd call that a little more advanced braking technique. At your stage, it'll be better to avoid braking IN the turn. Brake before it so you can roll through.

It'll be very similar when dealing with technical stuff, too. You want to do your braking (slowing down) before the techy spot. Brake in the middle of it and you're likely going to have to step off the bike in the middle of a bunch of rocks or roots where you run a risk of buggering your ankle or something else (like a collarbone). Most of us have done this at some point or another, though. The art of the bail is a skill all on its own.

Riding gloves are important, but IME don't tend to do much for blisters. The reason I started wearing them in the first place was to keep my palms from getting shredded when I crashed. I don't do that so much anymore, but they're super beneficial for maintaining your grip on the bars when you're sweating balls. I ride in the southeast, and sweat is inescapable in the summertime. Usually I'm swimming in it. If I forget my gloves for a ride, I'm honestly quite terrified my hands will slip, and I ride super conservatively.
thanks a ton Harold - a bunch of useful information that i will be sure to put to good use!
 

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thanks! re: tire pressure (and this will be a stupid question) - is there a tool to let air out to a specified pressure that i can purchase?
this was on my wishlist for a while, though not sure if it has the sensitivity you're looking for in letting air out to a certain pressure.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07B57FLM...olid=37H57MQ0G2O8Q&psc=1&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it

I ultimately chose this:

https://www.homedepot.com/p/RYOBI-1...on-Inflator-Deflator-Tool-Only-P731/203060297

since I've already have a plethora of batteries. I cut off the original hose off of the ryobi and attached this:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000FIE4J...olid=37H57MQ0G2O8Q&psc=1&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it
 
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