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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a Mongoose Sommet. I think it's just a little too big. The frame is large and I'm only 5'8" with a 32" inseam.

I'm 37 and just starting to learning how to do more than ride a bike down a paved path.

I just learned how to bunny hop. I've never been able to wheelie, but I'm working on the manual.

What should the setup of the bike be? Tire Pressure? When they say, set the preload high, they mean stiffer, correct?

I have clipless pedals, should I replace my pedals while learning the new skills?

Thanks

Hardwarz
 

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Setup - Size - Skills

I am your same height and I ride a medium comfortably. Before buying I tried others and the mediums and 17" sizes felt best. That said, my son is also my same height, but we bought him a large (mom is tall - he is only 14). We bought a shorter stem so the large fits him pretty well right now. See if you can experiment with bar placement, seat placement, stem length, etc...I'll bet you can get that large fitting you pretty well. If you start to ride more and more, you will probably find that you want a new bike eventually, so you can perfect the fit at that time. The two skills I would recommend are two that I need to work on as well: (1) riding over obstacles by popping your front wheel then back wheel onto the obstacle (like a slow motion bunny hop) - there's a good video in another post:

http://www.adksports.com/files/videos/log_jump.wmv

and (2) riding skinnys. I am practicing with a long 2 X 6 propped up on concrete blocks in the back yard.
 

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Trackstand: Learn to balance the bike with both brakes locked up if you have not already. This is probably the single most valuable resource on technical trails. If you hit an obstacle which stops your bike, you are going to fall or have to put a foot down if you don't know how to do this.

K-turn: bounce the front tire off an obstacle, roll backwards, and then go forwards steering around the obstacle.

Endo turn: momentarily lock the front brake, turn the bars the direction you want to go, pick up the rear of the bike and swing it around. This should happen quickly enough that you don't loose momentum.
 

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OK here goes...

the bike is probably too big, so it's like a track meet with track shoes too large. It isn't easy, and if possible, you need to move to a right sized bike.

Get flat pedals, any will do, while you learn. clipless is for power when climbing and spinning, primarily for racers or those serious about single track and speed. Flats are better for stunts, manuals, etc.

Good luck, Jim
 

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sunset1123 said:
Trackstand: Learn to balance the bike with both brakes locked up if you have not already. This is probably the single most valuable resource on technical trails. If you hit an obstacle which stops your bike, you are going to fall or have to put a foot down if you don't know how to do this.

Endo turn: momentarily lock the front brake, turn the bars the direction you want to go, pick up the rear of the bike and swing it around. This should happen quickly enough that you don't loose momentum.
I'm a beginner as well and was intrigued by what you have mentioned... for the "trackstand" is that something you do while sitting or hovering? As for the "endo turn", how do you go about picking up the rear of the bike?
 

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Track stands are easier if you don't use your brakes. With your front wheel at a 45 deg. angle and pointing slightly uphill or in a small depression, add and remove a little pedal force to rock the bike back and forth and prevent tipping over. Too low a gear will result in too much force. This is the tiny little adjustment you need to maintain balance. If you keep practicing, you should be able to stay in this position for several minutes.

I've read that trackstands are best done while standing, and leaning into your bars. But I find it easier while seated. Different strokes... Try everything until you find what works for you. It really is a great trail manuever to have in your reportoire.
 

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beginner skills:
-basic body position (neutral/attack) aka the saddle is not a butt rest
-proper brake use (front brake is your friend)
-climbing and descending
-dynamic riding
-really slow riding instead of a trackstand
-front wheel lifts
-how to do corners

The rest are important, but not beginner. I coach beginner clinics and the above are what we start with.

Endo turns, tail whips, trackstands, riding wheelies etc and what not are advanced skills that folks that have been riding since they were 2 think are beginner skills. I've been mountain biking for 10+ years, never rode bikes as a kid, and I still can't do that stuff. They may be important skills, but they are not beginner.

Here's some skills tips,
http://www.specialtyoutdoors.com/penny/biking/ridetips.asp

also, Mastering Mountain Bike Skill by Lopes/McCormack is a great book.
 

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I've been riding desert trails here for several years and can't wheelie, can't ride no-handed, haven't popped up a curb since I was 10, don't catch air etc. Depends on what you ride and what you feel happy doing. I just love riding, especially being fast, being outside and being fitter for it.
 

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Perhaps the difference is this: "beginner biking skills" vs. "beginner mountain biking skills". Most of the really easy, truly beginner skills are really just general biking skills, and I agree that for someone with no experience on a bike before, they are required.

However, for anyone who has spent some time on a bike, and is moving from path/flat smooth offroad riding to actual mountain biking, it's all about bike handling skills when things get technical.

I think the hill method for learning trackstands is counterproductive. One does not learn to control the bike, but relies on the hill to do it instead. The bike can easily be rocked back and forth with the body, locking the brakes to arrest the movement. This also more accurately simulates situations in trail riding, where a rock will stop a wheel dead, or a rider will brake until stopped before something hairy.

The best follow-up to trackstands would be hopping. This is just bouncing on the bike with the brakes on. You can use this to maintain balance, move around, etc.

K-turns are the best for learning not to bail every time your front wheel stops against a rock. Just let the bike bounce back and then ride around it. A confidence builder and a good beginner skill. An advanced rider will learn techniques to not let the rock stop the wheel.

Endo turns are a little more advanced... but it's a trick of the mind more than anything else. If you are rolling forward at a walking pace, lean most of your weight on the bars and lock the front brake... pick up your feet and the rear wheel will come up. Fear will prevent you from getting any real height at first, just practice. Next, turn the front wheel just before you "endo" and when the rear wheel comes up, move the bike sideways with your feet, pivoting on the front wheel. This skill is _essential_ trail riding techinque depending on where you ride. Some switchbacks just cannot be ridden through with a normal turn.

Anyways, it all depends on how and where you want to ride. These skills are probably not necessary in many places, and definitely required in others. I'm teaching my 9 year old son how to mountain bike this season. He's gone from barely being able to get down the urban path to negotiating fairly challenging trails in a couple months.
 

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+1 to what Formica says.

The bike is probably big for you, as you suspect.

For learning stuff like wheelies and jumps, flat pedals are good: you can easily step off the bike in any direction. People often need to dismount to the rear when getting the hang of wheelies.
 

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if you are set on doing tricks yah flats are the way to go but if you are going to get serious (AM/Trail) stick with the clipless (if their good,there's some really crappy clipless out there....) mastering those will save your butt later......
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I though tricks like bunny hops and manuals would help with true mountain biking. Am I wrong?

Hardwarz
 

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They do, immensely, but they are not beginner skills.

I mean, what use is a manual if you don't how to climb steeps or use your front brake?
 

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hardwarz said:
I though tricks like bunny hops and manuals would help with true mountain biking. Am I wrong?

Hardwarz
+1 in what she said.......they are very important..... but I would focus on fundamentals
 

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A hop can help you get over something without having to slow down.
A wheelie or manual can help you get over, or down, something. Before you get to those situations, you need the stuff that formica listed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
OK, so now it's time for me to find somewhere that will teach me the basics/fundamentals.

Funny thing was, I thought bunny hops, j hops, etc were basics/fundamentals.

Hardwarz
 

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Ahh, just go and ride away from the pavement. Find some trails that don't look too intimidating. If you have a local club or shop, they should be able to help you finding "newbie rides". Riding behind someone who knows what he/she is doing can teach you a lot.

-basic body position
Get your butt off the seat when you expect anything interesting to happen.Stay relaxed.
Let your arms and legs absorb the bumps.

-proper brake use (front brake is your friend)
Use both brakes, try not to skid, front brake stop you better but go easy on slippery ground.
Sometimes you don't want to brake: going down something steep, when tyres are on an obstacle, etc.

-climbing and descending
Keep your weight between the tyres: forward when climbing, back when descending. Don't exaggerate.

-really slow riding instead of a trackstand
Practice in front of the house: how slow can you go. Great for balance.

-front wheel lifts
I think you can already lift your front wheel over a curb, or something a bit bigger
Can you unweigh the rear of the bike when it follows?

-how to do corners
There's many variables here
Look at where you want to go (not at where you are or where you don't want to go)
Keep your weigh centered (a tyre needs some weight on it for traction
Lean the bike (usually more than yourself)
Don't hit the inside pedal on the ground
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
formica,

Thank you for the suggestion of the book. (Mastering Mountain Bike Skills by Lopez/McCormack.)

This book is GREAT. I signed up at Border.com and they e-mail me a weekly coupon. This week's coupon was 40% off one item. I picked up the book for $13.77+tax.

Hardwarz
 

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interesting stuff in here...makes me wonder how id fare in a beginner class...

just thought i pipe in with, i learned by doing...most things...like how not to fall clipped in, how to take hills, im only 3 years in, but i still have trouble with things like steep descents and hairpin corners

just figured this was a good palce for it, if a corner isnt banked at all, but is near hairpin, how do you take it with a bit of speed, i have a ton of trouble with that...
 

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Good thread. I too am just getting back into biking. Years ago I got a mountain bike but had barely started riding it before I stopped. Otherwise it was strictly road riding. I'm going to track down that book as well.
 
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