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  1. #1
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    Tight downhill single track switchbacks

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    I am pretty decent biking uphill on mountain (even though I only use flat pedals), but the downhill single track tight switchbacks (150 degree to 180 degree tightness) scare the CRAP out of me.

    I am too scared to go very fast. I have to force myself to loosen the brakes at the right moments (I am also working on the exact timing of when to pick up more speed) to give enough speed to go around the tight turns.

    I force myself to keep my eyes on the path because the bikers are correct...your bike follows where you look. But I can't help peaking over at the cliff edge worrying about my front tires falling off of the cliff. This is a mental challenge that I am working on currently.

    I also can't relax because I worry about getting hurt all the time (thank goodness for flat pedals....I definitely could not do this clipped in).

    I am also trying to figure out whether to go around the tight curves with both legs level on the pedals and crouching more backwards(which a lot of the bikers seem to be able to do) or to have my outside leg down for better stability but more difficult to crouch backwards.

    I am trying to get practice in on the technical downhill tight switchbacks but would appreciate any tips that seem to work for you all.
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  2. #2
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    I've had to work on these tons. Here's what you need to analyze for yourself.
    1. Picking your line. Sounds like you know what you aren't doing here. There's more to it, like looking at the entrance and exit of the turn, but looking down the trail past the trun is the main key.
    2. Body position - where are you? Are you in "attack/ready" mode? Are you out of the saddle? Are you balanced on your feet?
    3. How are your body/bike separation skills? This means, are you loose on the bike, and the bike moving independently of your body? You might need to lean the bike some and shift your hips to the outside of the corner to balance.
    4. Use mostly the back brake to control your speed, and really steer the bike with the bars and your eyes.

    Pedals level is always good - cornering with an outside foot down is an advanced technique.
    Too far back and you will unweight the front of the bike which will make it squirrelly.
    Try putting your saddle down. It will make everything easier.
    And some switchbacks are really, really hard.

    And what do you mean by crouch? Are you clear on what attack position is? The difference (to me) between attack and crouch is that attack position is well balanced on the feet, elbows out, knees NOT hugging the frame, and a crouch is more inward; contained, with elbows and knees in and tight. Hope that makes sense. :-)
    Last edited by Irulan; 09-27-2013 at 05:00 PM. Reason: trying to clarify but probably making it worse.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irulan View Post
    I've had to work on these tons. Here's what you need to analyze for yourself.
    1. Picking your line. Sounds like you know what you aren't doing here. There's more to it, like looking at the entrance and exit of the turn, but looking down the trail past the trun is the main key.
    2. Body position - where are you? Are you in "attack/ready" mode? Are you out of the saddle? Are you balanced on your feet?
    3. How are your body/bike separation skills? This means, are you loose on the bike, and the bike moving independently of your body? You might need to lean the bike some and shift your hips to the outside of the corner to balance.
    4. Use mostly the back brake to control your speed, and really steer the bike with the bars and your eyes.

    Pedals level is always good - cornering with an outside foot down is an advanced technique.
    Too far back and you will unweight the front of the bike which will make it squirrelly.
    Try putting your saddle down. It will make everything easier.
    And some switchbacks are really, really hard.

    And what do you mean by crouch? Are you clear on what attack position is? The difference (to me) between attack and crouch is that attack position is well balanced on the feet, elbows out, knees NOT hugging the frame, and a crouch is more inward; contained, with elbows and knees in and tight. Hope that makes sense. :-)
    1) I am trying to figure out what a good "line" to pick is. I aim away from ridges/ditches. But those tight turns near cliff edges...so hard to NOT look at the edge and to focus my eyes ahead on the trail.

    2) Oh. I guess I was using the wrong jargon. Based on your description, I am in a crouched position and riding the nose of the saddle when I climb UP steep hills.
    Based on your description, I am in the attack position on the steep downhills with my butt up and back off of the saddle but not completely off of the saddle (because the steepness is not remotely close to your recent photo of you riding that steep downhill wooden ramp). I am still trying to figure out whether to do the steep downhill single track tight turns with my feet level and in attack position OR with my outer leg down (which means my butt is almost in the saddle rather than back and off of the saddle).

    3) I have difficulty with this body/bike separation skill as I am scared to death. So, I don't know how to relax and let the bike move independently of my body. When my outer leg is down, I can lean my bike more inward compared to when I ride in the attack position with my pedals level.

    3) I was told to give 60% braking to the front brakes and 40% braking to the rear brakes on the descends so that the bike steering works better. I don't understand the mechanics of this, but this is what I was told and what I have been doing.

    Thanks for all your great advice so far!!!
    2014 Liv Lust
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by TigerMom View Post
    1) I am trying to figure out what a good "line" to pick is. I aim away from ridges/ditches. But those tight turns near cliff edges...so hard to NOT look at the edge and to focus my eyes ahead on the trail.
    I had an instructor the used the phrasing, "Where would the water flow?" and that actually helped me a lot with technical bits, including switchies and as Irulan mentioned, look past your exit and down the trail.


    3) I have difficulty with this body/bike separation skill as I am scared to death. So, I don't know how to relax and let the bike move independently of my body. When my outer leg is down, I can lean my bike more inward compared to when I ride in the attack position with my pedals level.
    There is a really great drill to work on this, drop your saddle down low then pedal around on a grassy surface, when you have enough momentum to roll a bit, coast in the attack position and very purposefully lean your bike side to side under you while maintaining your body position in space. This will help you learn to move your bike under you without disturbing you body stability.

    This video is helpful, especially with regards to how to use your arms through the turn and where your head should be.
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  5. #5
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    Tight downhill single track switchbacks

    Wahine, I love that visual. Just goes to show there are so many ways to get an idea across.
    For tiger mom, playing with bringing the weight forward might be something to do. I did switchbacks weighted more to the back for a long time, with the brakes 60-40 as described, and this year I started weighted a little more forward and less front brake, and for me it's made a huge difference.
    Nice video too but it looks like crap on my iPad.

    I am going to see if I can find the Shaums March basic skills video. It has superb demos of body bike separation- both side to side (the drill Wahine describes) and fore-aft.

    Here we go- the first three skills are attack/neutral; fore/aft; side to side. Wahine is talking about side to side. You move the bike, not the body. It's a balance skill, something you can practice anywhere. Don't worry about the rest of the video.
    http://vimeo.com/71991937

    I really encourage you to try this stuff with the saddle lowered as far down as it will go. This will allow you to move your body more freely to feel and find balance. Also, pedals level-ish, no leg down. You will balance better and be safer overall.

    Here's another fun video on balance. He has some pretty good ideas on how to practice for switchbacks in your back yard.
    http://www.mtbtips.com/mountain-bike...s-switchbacks/
    Last edited by Irulan; 09-28-2013 at 06:09 AM.
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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
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    Rowland Hts, CA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wahine View Post
    I had an instructor the used the phrasing, "Where would the water flow?" and that actually helped me a lot with technical bits, including switchies and as Irulan mentioned, look past your exit and down the trail.




    There is a really great drill to work on this, drop your saddle down low then pedal around on a grassy surface, when you have enough momentum to roll a bit, coast in the attack position and very purposefully lean your bike side to side under you while maintaining your body position in space. This will help you learn to move your bike under you without disturbing you body stability.

    This video is helpful, especially with regards to how to use your arms through the turn and where your head should be.
    @Wahine: That video was "spot on" for me in every way. The steepness and the tightness of those switchbacks are exactly the types that I am riding. In addition, I guess I have NOT been "picking the right lines" because I was not going on the inner part of the curve on the way down and then going to the outer part of the curve and then aiming inward. I have been doing what the guy said was "picking the wrong line" at the end (I was just sticking to the outer part of the curve from beginning to end of the turn) and then stumbling with one leg down EXACTLY like he did. I'm going to have to re-watch this video several times. Interestingly, I have no problem going uphill on the switchbacks and don't even need to try to "pick the right line".

    @Irulan: Wow! I think I can only do up to the forward-backward on the saddle part of the exercises for body/bike separation. I have a LOT of homework for myself, especially that tight high speed turn looks super scary and difficult for me. But, hey, one step at a time.

    THANKS A LOT FOR ALL THE TIPS AND VIDEOS!!!!
    2014 Liv Lust
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    2010 Santa Cruz Juliana with R kit and Crampon pedals (sold)

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  7. #7
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    Apr 2012
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    Oops, another question. When you turn, I thought that you were supposed to lean you bike inward into the turn and your body to stay centered. But in Wahine's video, the guy says to lean your body inward during the downhill turn instead of leaning the bike inward.

    Are both methods correct or have I been getting it wrong all this time?
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    2013 Specialized Fate Expert with carbon wheelset (sold)
    2012 Specialized Amira Elite
    2010 Santa Cruz Juliana with R kit and Crampon pedals (sold)

    2011 Specialized Ariel Sport,suspension post,Serfas Rx Women's Microfiber saddle (sold)

  8. #8
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    Tight downhill single track switchbacks

    Tiger mom, only pay attention to the first three skills in that video. Those are really easy to monkey-see, monkey-do. The others should really be taught to you by a qualified coach to break them down and take you though the correct progressions. That video is the "things you need to know to take the level 2 test". Maybe I shouldn't have posted it? TMI?

    I've been taught the lean bike method - easier said than done.
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  9. #9
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    Apr 2012
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    Thanks to you all, I did do MUCH better on the tight downhill switchbacks today.

    Apparently, my problem was "picking the right line" (which includes NOT looking over the cliff and looking inward at the road instead) and leaning my bike inward at the correct moments with the correct speed. I tried keeping my pedals level, but I seemed to do better on leaning my bike inward with my outer leg down instead.
    2014 Liv Lust
    2013 Specialized Fate Expert with carbon wheelset (sold)
    2012 Specialized Amira Elite
    2010 Santa Cruz Juliana with R kit and Crampon pedals (sold)

    2011 Specialized Ariel Sport,suspension post,Serfas Rx Women's Microfiber saddle (sold)

  10. #10
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    Oct 2002
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    Wahine's line about flowing water helped me on Sunday. I also found it easier to do a couple of the switchbacks with my outside leg down.

    I also discovered that my bike will not stop on a 20% grade when I only use the rear brake. I was experimenting with my braking, so it was a plan, not an accident.

    Veronica
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  11. #11
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    Tigermom, what width handlebars are you running? I just switched out to 28" bars from 25" and oh wow, I can't beleive what a difference it has made. On a lot of different levels, but steering aroun tight corners was easier than ever.

    elbows bent and presure your hands, too.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irulan View Post
    Tigermom, what width handlebars are you running? I just switched out to 28" bars from 25" and oh wow, I can't beleive what a difference it has made. On a lot of different levels, but steering aroun tight corners was easier than ever.

    elbows bent and presure your hands, too.
    Good point. I have already had a brief bike fit for my mountain bike. 6 months ago, my LBS chopped off an inch from both sides of my handlebars which greatly helped in my steering control. They said that I was close to my optimal size, but that to be optimal, I would have to buy a smaller handlebar. Since I already found great improvement, I decided not to buy a smaller handlebar.

    After multiple trials of the same downhill switchbacks, my personal problem is picking the correct lines (which includes keeping my eyes on the road rather than how close I am to the edge of the cliff....very difficult to train myself to NOT look at dangerous areas) and, eventually, getting a telescoping seat post because I don't want to lower my seat for the downhills because that would be a big "pain in the butt" to do every time I find myself in a difficult downhill section of the ride; Because you are correct that I can do the bike/body separation and turns better with a lower seat. Currently, I can decently power uphill with my flat pedals without any knee pain with my current saddle height.

    Thank your all for your advice thus far. I am doing MUCH better than before even though I am still freaking out each time on difficult downhills.
    2014 Liv Lust
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    2012 Specialized Amira Elite
    2010 Santa Cruz Juliana with R kit and Crampon pedals (sold)

    2011 Specialized Ariel Sport,suspension post,Serfas Rx Women's Microfiber saddle (sold)

  13. #13
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    So you went narrower? Hmm. I went wider. Just goes to show how different things work for different people.
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  14. #14
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    I went wider too with the Ibis. I really like it when I'm climbing.

    Veronica
    Discipline is remembering what you want.


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  15. #15
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    TM, I think it's really interesting that the fit involved cutting your bars down. Are these guys used to fitting roadies? Every thing I am learning about MTB technique with my coaching certs points to wider bars being more stable, and have many other advantages but that certainly did not used to be the case. Example, my 2001 FS came with 22" bars, the one I bought in 07 had 25" and now 28" or more is standard. The shops I work with want you to start wide, try and then cut them down after you've ridden them for a bit. And sure, they can be intimidating and feel pretty strange if you are used to narrow bars.
    Last edited by Irulan; 10-25-2013 at 04:40 PM.
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