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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I’m pretty new to the single track stuff. Been riding asphalt on a mountain bike for several years. I have started riding some more aggressive trails in NW Arkansas and ran into a situation last week I didn’t know how to fix. Rode out at Hobbs park and some of the climbs I hit I either kept weight back to not lose traction and couldn’t keep frontend on ground, or leaned forward to keep frontend down and spun the back tire and couldn’t keep momentum. I had to get off and walk a couple of the hills and looking for advice on how to fix this next time out.


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Keep your center of gravity low and in motion. Varying terrain calls for constant adjustment of your position on the bike. Minor adjustments to your position can make a big difference. Sometimes just dropping the elbows a bit is enough to change the center of gravity and allow the rear tire to hook up without bringing the front end up. Also, over-inflated rear tires have less traction.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Keep your center of gravity low and in motion. Varying terrain calls for constant adjustment of your position on the bike. Minor adjustments to your position can make a big difference. Sometimes just dropping the elbows a bit is enough to change the center of gravity and allow the rear tire to hook up without bringing the front end up. Also, over-inflated rear tires have less traction.
Good point.. what psi should I be running FS Giant Trance.

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Good point.. what psi should I be running FS Giant Trance.

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"if in doubt, let it out"

if you ding your rims, your tire pressure is too low. if your tires are squirmy or they fold over in corners, your tire pressure is too low.

You need pressure on BOTH tires when you want to keep both of them on the ground. Low and centered. Sounds to me like a pretty classic case of new rider doesn't have the subtleties of body position dialed yet. It takes practice to "feel" what you need. Every bike is different, but being able to feel it, you can adapt quickly to most any bike's body position requirements.
 

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Very good advices so far. We need to practice. Try crawling your way up. Pushing hard you might loose traction. Obviously if you know the trail you might swing the first part. Being in a small gear also helps. Staying seated also helps. It is kind of huging your frame, low head and elbows, barely touching the nose of the saddle to keep the front rubber in contact and being delicate on the pedals to maintain traction. Talk to the other riders to know wich tires grip well in your area. Here you can go to some forums by area, look that up. Ride on snow that teaches to maintain traction and the ability to restart when your bike stalls, no need to put a foot down.
 

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If leaning forward causes the rear wheel to lose traction, and leaning back causes the front wheel to lift, then you need to find a dynamic sweet spot between those two extremes.

Assuming you've got a variety of gears to chose from on your bike, you might also try these steep sections in a slightly harder gear. I see many people just drop into granny gear and spin like mad, assuming that the low gear will get them up anything. In many situations, a slightly higher gear and slow, steady pedal strokes will help you maintain traction and balance better than riding like a hamster in a wheel. That is a difficult skill to master and requires a little more core stability to hold that position than most people realize.
 

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Good info. Thanks to the OP for posting this, I've been having the same issue. In fact the last time out I came into a difficult spot where the trail dipped down then quickly back up and I ended up going over backwards. I was in too low a gear, which gave me too much torque and I quickly did a wheelie and over I went. Using a higher gear is less tiring for me too, it seems. Lots to this MTB thing!
 

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Maybe try one gear harder.

As mentioned a few times above, get forward on the seat the best you can. Lean forward as far as you can (to weight the front), and use slow, controlled power to the pedals. Trying to spin fast to speed up the hill will result in wheel spin. Each of your power strokes should be deliberate and cautious. Plan on going slower up the hill than you think you should be, and in a gear harder, if possible and all the body position stuff and you'll get there.

Practice this on a part of the hill that you are having trouble with. Just session the trouble spot and enjoy the skill increase.
 

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So, to summarize all the factors:

1.) Balance front to back
2.) Smooth pedal stroke, (jerky mashing will cause slip) Plug gear selection into this one.
3.) Tire pressure
4.) Tire tread


I have found that an oval chainring helps with #2 for climbing, but that may be a bit of a crutch vs better form.
 

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I have found that an oval chainring helps with #2 for climbing, but that may be a bit of a crutch vs better form.
I used an oval for a little while, and then went back to round. In some respects, I think there is a degree of truth to the crutch statement. I actually found it useful to get me THINKING about my pedaling form. So the oval itself didn't make my pedaling form better, but it took my mashy pedaling form and translated it to smoother power delivery at the rear wheel. Which did improve traction on steep, loose stuff somewhat. IMO, body position and gearing played larger roles. When I went back to a round ring, though, I was still paying more attention to my pedaling form, but because the chainring wasn't smoothing out the power delivery for me, I had to make the changes to my form. I do pedal a bit more smoothly now, because the oval got me to notice my poor form, and switching back to round pushed me to fix my poor form. Plus, it's not so easy to find sub-$20 steel oval chainrings.

Now, most of the trails I ride that are that steep tend to be hard-surfaced (not loose) - slickrock or really chunky/ledgy from loose rocks and/or roots. The slickrock is nice and grippy granite and traction is almost never an issue. The chunky/ledgy stuff requires different technique altogether.
 

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So I'm as green as the grass, but I went out today for another ride with my new 5 10 freeriders and what a big difference in every aspect of my riding. I really had no idea that shoes could make that much of a difference. I rode much faster on the blue trails and even ventured on some black trails.

I am posting it here because I climbed some of the hills I had been struggling with much more easily. I got up on the pedals, leaned over the bars with my chest down and climbed right up areas that I was hike-a-biking before.

I don't know, maybe I was just having a really good day, but the new shoes made me feel a lot more confident and I think that's the key to getting better... at least for me it is.
 

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So I'm as green as the grass, but I went out today for another ride with my new 5 10 freeriders and what a big difference in every aspect of my riding. I really had no idea that shoes could make that much of a difference. I rode much faster on the blue trails and even ventured on some black trails.

I am posting it here because I climbed some of the hills I had been struggling with much more easily. I got up on the pedals, leaned over the bars with my chest down and climbed right up areas that I was hike-a-biking before.

I don't know, maybe I was just having a really good day, but the new shoes made me feel a lot more confident and I think that's the key to getting better... at least for me it is.
Being confident in your gear is definitely important and it can make a difference.
 

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So, to summarize all the factors:

1.) Balance front to back
2.) Smooth pedal stroke, (jerky mashing will cause slip) Plug gear selection into this one.
3.) Tire pressure
4.) Tire tread

I have found that an oval chainring helps with #2 for climbing, but that may be a bit of a crutch vs better form.
Sounds like the OP has the awareness to figure this out with just a bit more trial and error/practice.

I'm only chiming in because it was quite muddy today and I was struggling, even on my fatbike. No, I didn't stall, but the experience is fresh in my mind:
1) Balance - it was constantly changing. I noticed that I unweighted the rear a little too much when crossing a few mud holes, causing me to reduce traction. I have enough experience to quickly adjust and prevent tire spin.
2) Smooth pedal. I think I have pretty good pedal skills; smooth power, even around the top and bottom of the stroke. Additionally, if you do slip a tire in the midst of your smooth pedal stroke, it doesn't upset your balance. You can correct without putting a foot down, and even maintain forward motion as your bike slips and slides left/right (you can't do this very well seated).
3) 5-8psi.
4) Specialized FastTrak 4.0. It is a low-tread Summer tire, not suited for mud, so I had to work it.

5) Seek traction. Learn to read the trail. Rocks, roots, and soils of different types run the gamut of traction/no traction depending on ...everything. Sometimes those puddles persist because the bottom of the puddle is rock (good traction) - sometimes it's slick clay. I strongly discourage widening of the trail in one's search for traction, which I observed a LOT of today.

Good luck!

-F
 

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rock (good traction)
oh are you in for a surprise when you learn that high grade midwestern limestone as encountered in southern Indiana (this exact stuff was used in the construction of many gov't buildings around the country) has worse traction than glare ice. I avoid smooth slabs of it whenever I can. If it's chunky and irregular, the edges can be useful for traction, but you've gotta watch out with anything off camber or when it's damp.

western NC granite that I deal with these days has such different traction characteristics. or southwestern sandstone. so many different rocks. some desirable to ride on. some not so much.
 

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Harold said it (post #14) we deal with - A mental factor, confidence
- B physical capacities
- C technical capacities, practice, i like hills that make me put a foot down. They are my teacher, i will make it, on the third try, the fifth?? 14 months ago i made it on the 10th day, each morning i tried ounce.
- D equipment, tire pressure and selection
 

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oh are you in for a surprise when you learn that high grade midwestern limestone as encountered in southern Indiana (this exact stuff was used in the construction of many gov't buildings around the country) has worse traction than glare ice. I avoid smooth slabs of it whenever I can. If it's chunky and irregular, the edges can be useful for traction, but you've gotta watch out with anything off camber or when it's damp.

western NC granite that I deal with these days has such different traction characteristics. or southwestern sandstone. so many different rocks. some desirable to ride on. some not so much.
Oh yeah...I've been on Georgia red clay, PA granite, OH shale, TN sand, leaves, snow, sometimes wet, sometimes dry, with moss, without moss, sometimes right past a creek crossing where the first guy gets it easy, and the last guy barely has a chance. :)

-F
 

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Beginner here too. So far I have found that when I lose traction its usually due to un-even pedaling. That's usually due to fatigue, where one pedal stroke is too weak and I try and compensate with a harder pedal stroke and the wheel slips. I try and focus on smoothly letting off one leg while smoothing powering down the other to keep the force even.

I also lean forward for better climbing, I look for the point where I am balanced enough that my hands are lightly steering even on a climb, never pulling back on the bars.

My chin is usually down near the handlebars by that point and that posture makes the pedaling a bit more difficult. So then its down to fitness I find.
 
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