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Trail riding basics

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Trail riding basics

Post by Smoker on Tue Jun 03, 2014 6:44 am

Basic Trail Riding 101 Part1

Jack HeminwayThis month we’re going to go over the basics of how to control the bike in all sorts of terrain—rocks, mud, sand, downhills, uphills and tight terrain. Proper body position on the bike is very important to help you ride safely and smoothly over rough terrain. Though there are some basic skills that apply for everything, each different type of terrain demands a slightly different approach.

Ride Standing Up

While helping out with the 2001 Kids Classic ride, I noticed that many beginner riders are not comfortable with stand-up riding. On smooth trails, you can ride safely sitting down. On rough trails, I recommend stand up riding, especially if you are a beginner rider. To become at home with stand up riding, practice on smooth terrain until you are comfortable with it. Ride slowly, practice tight turns and figure eights. Keep most of your weight on the outside foot peg while turning. You can practice this in your driveway, if your bike is quiet. Then go trail riding and you will begin to appreciate the advantages.

Rough, Level Terrain

On level ground, body position should be neutral with the weight evenly distributed on the foot pegs, knees slightly bent, and with light pressure on the handlebars, neither pulling back nor pushing forward. Avoid gripping the bars tightly. This can cause the arms to “pump up” or cramp. Ride standing up, slightly crouched with knees bent like a downhill skier. The rougher the trail, the more bent should be your knees. Let the knees flex as the bike rises towards your body on bumps. Straighten the knees as the bike falls away. Using your knees this way helps the suspension absorb bumps in the trail and can prevent bottoming the suspension. On trails and on downhills, I like to ride with one index finger on the front brake lever and the other on the clutch lever. On nasty, gnarly uphills, I keep all ten fingers on the grips since I probably will not need to use the brakes or clutch.

Downhills

On a downhill, the center of gravity of the bike and rider shifts forward, putting more weight on the front wheel and less on the rear wheel. This makes your rear brake less effective so that most of the braking is done by the front brake. Use moderate finger pressure on the front brake being careful not to lock up the front wheel. On moderately steep downhills, stand on the footpegs in a crouched position with your body shifted towards the rear of the bike. This transfers weight back to the rear wheel, increasing its traction and braking power. Do hard braking before the downhill to get your speed under control.For extremely steep downhills, the front wheel does nearly all of the braking. Crouch low, arms straight out, and get your butt back as far as possible. This lightens the front end and keeps you from going over the bars if your front tire encounters a rock or dip. Use moderate pressure on the back brake and enough pressure on the front brake to control your speed. Do not lock up the front wheel. Steer around rocks or holes if you can, but if you must hit a rock, release the front brake briefly as the front tire hits it. If traction is poor, pull in the clutch to avoid stalling the engine.

Uphills

On steep, uphills with mud or loose gravel, rolly rocks and otherwise poor traction, ride standing up with the body shifted back to shift weight to the rear wheel for traction. Pull back on the bars to put most of the weight of you and the bike on the back wheel.  On hills with poor traction, good climbers carry 98% of the weight of bike and rider on the rear wheel.  Try to apply smooth, steady throttle, shifting your weight forward if the front end lifts off the ground. Where traction is poor, looping out is usually not an issue. Try to keep your speed up but be ready toslip the clutch if you begin to lose speed. It is advisable to gain speed and engine revs before starting up the hill since you are likely to lose speed as you progress uphill. Try to stay on the foot pegs as long as possible in order to let the bike do the work. Once you begin dabbing to push the bike, it becomes very tiring.On uphills with good traction, such as granite, body weight should be shifted forward more to avoid looping the bike. The steeper the hill, the more you move forward. I have a picture of Geoff Aaron, US National trials Champion riding up a steep, granite face with his belly pressed against the crossbar and his head over the front fender. He looks like he is inspecting the tread on his front Michelin.

Tight Trails, Turns

On smooth trails, ride sitting to rest your quadriceps. On rough, tight trails stand up over the center of the seat in a neutral body position. Accelerate after a turn, do your braking before entering the next turn. As you enter the turn, get off the brakes and transfer weight to the outside footpeg. Chuck Sun, a top MX rider in the 1980s, once told me “It is easy to go fast on a motocross track. Just peg the throttle between turns and weight the outside foot peg during the turn.” (I’m not recommending that beginners “peg the throttle!”)

Braking, Accelerating

For beginner trail riders, a neutral body position when braking on rough trails is safest. Experienced trail riders may want to shift some weight forward to increase the front tire’s traction while braking (except on downhills) or when turning. When accelerating, or in poor traction conditions, shift your weight back for best rear tire traction.Karen Cader told me that she learned how to use body position while watching the Pro Flat Track Racers at the Rochester National race. Karen noted how the top riders slide their body forward during braking and turning. Then they shift weight back while accelerating out of the turn. Karen then used this technique at an MVTR family day to win the women’s race.

Mud Bogs

One of a trail rider’s challenges is the dreaded mud bog. You can make them fun if you know how to ride through them. When you come upon a bog, there are often several ruts or lines to follow. It is a good idea to stop, watch some other riders and select a line that seems to be a good one. Here, stand-up riding can really help. Stand up, shift your weight back to help rear tire traction. Try to stay on the pegs, fingers ready on the clutch to keep the motor from stalling. Keep the bike moving while watching ahead for the best line.Soft, Dry SandSoft, dry sand soaks up power and tries to slow you down. The key here is to shift your weight back and pull back on the bars to keep the front end light. Use power and speed to keep the tires floating up on top of the sand. If you slow down, the front end plows and the sand steers the bike. When this happens, don’t fight it. Try to keep going generally in the right direction as you get back on the throttle and get some speed up. Assist turning by using foot peg pressure.That is enough to practice for this first issue. Next month we will cover front wheel and rear wheel un-weighting. This can help you to ride the bike safely over rocks, logs and slippery stuff.ound on the web at
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Re: Trail riding basics

Post by Smoker on Tue Jun 03, 2014 6:53 am

Basic Trail Riding 102

Jack HeminwayLets begin with a quick review of the main points we covered last month. January’s article dealt with basic body positions used on different terrain. First, we stressed the importance of riding standing up.  Standing on the foot pegs on rough terrain allows your knees and leg muscles to absorb shocks from bumps, ruts and rocks and allows weight shifting.  Standing up allows you to shift your weight rearward where traction is poor or forward to avoid looping out on steep up-hills. It allows you to help steer the bike by shifting weight to the left or right foot peg. Now lets talk about the benefits of wheel unloading (un-weighting) and loading (weighting) techniques.  Front and rear wheel loading and unloading helps you to ride safely over obstacles such as rocks, ledges, logs, mud and ditches.  Loading and un-loading only works from a stand-up posture.  I relearned this the hard way during a Turkey run in early November.  It was near the end of the ride.  Luis Colom, an A rider friend and I had ridden nearly 60 miles on tight, rocky trails and I was getting tired.  As we finished a muddy section, we came to a slippery, mud covered stonewall. Luis rode over it standing up, making it look easy.  I tried to ride with no technique other than ‘sit on your bum and gas it’.  All it got me was a hard landing on my butt with my bike upside down on the wrong side of the wall.  

Front Wheel Unloading

Front wheel unloading is used to initiate a wheely.  Wheelie’s are not only fun, they are needed to drive the front wheel up and over rocks, logs and ledges smoothly without banging into the obstacle.  The front wheel unload begins with the rider standing up and applying a hard down force on the foot pegs about two feet before the front wheel hits the obstacle.  To do this, suddenly collapse your knees allowing your full body weight to come down hard on the foot pegs. A hard down force compresses (loads) the suspension storing energy in the front and rear springs.  Simultaneously blip the throttle and jump off (unload) the foot pegs while pulling back on the handlebars.  This allows the front springs to rebound and lifts the front end onto the obstacle.  Next, shift your weight forward un-weighting the rear wheel to help it roll up over the rock or obstacle. If you time this correctly, the front wheel rises up and rolls easily over the rock or log followed by the rear wheel. Powerful bikes can do a wheely just by blipping the throttle so why all the tricky loading and unloading?   Here’s why.  If the terrain is wet and muddy, the power wheely may not work.  The rear wheel can spin, producing no lift of the front wheel.  Occasionally, you may come upon a log across the trail while riding down a hill. It is more difficult to wheely when riding downhill because some of your weight and the weight of the bike shifts to the front wheel.  Here is a trick to help. As soon as you see the log, slow down.  When your front wheel is about three feet feet from the log, apply a quick hard jab on the front brake to compress the front suspension.  Immediately, release the brake, unload and apply a jab of throttle.  The front wheel should rise up and over the log and the back wheel will follow.  This trick requires precise  timing and should definitely be practiced first without a log. Fortunately, you can practice the loading/unloading techniques anywhere, even in your back yard.   It helps to learn how to wheely on terrain with a slightl uphill.  First practice without any obstacle until you can do a small wheely.  Then, practice with a small diameter limb or a piece of 2” x 4” until you get the timing right.  Then move on to larger obstacles.  On most structured trail rides, you will not have to ride over any rock or log higher than about 8”.  But, even a 3” wet limb angled to the trail can dump you hard if you do not unload the front wheel properly. Tip:  If all this loading/unloading sounds too complicated, just do a good hard ‘stomp’ on the foot pegs, followed by a quick blip on the throttle while pulling back on the bars.  It is much easier than it sounds. Rear Wheel UnloadingThere are situations where you will need to unload the rear wheel to help it over an obstacle.  At slower speeds and with smaller obstacles such as 6” diameter logs, front end loading is usually enough.  If you get the front wheel over the log, the rear wheel will usually follow. However, if the 6” log is slippery or it is at an angle to the trail, it may throw you into a rear wheel sideslip.  For an angled log, first use front wheel unloading to help the front end over the log.  Then, just before the rear wheel hits the log, unload again by jumping off the foot pegs. This allows the rear spring to rebound to help pop your rear wheel over the log, thus avoiding a rear wheel sideslip. Also, use the rear wheel unload technique to reduce the impact when the rear wheel hits a log or rock at high speed.  Advanced riders, riding at high speed, will first pull a wheely to clear the front wheel over the log and then do a quick, hard “bunny hop” to jump the rear wheel over the log.  Ditches and Gullies. While riding woods roads or trails you frequently come upon ditches.  Treat the ditch like a log and use unloading technique to “wheely” the front wheel over the ditch.  Try not let the front wheel drop into the ditch.  If the ditch is deep or has a steep bank, it can stop the bike and throw the rider over the bars.  This is called “doing the flying W”.  It is not fun. Try practicing longer and longer wheelies on a smooth grassy surface while wearing all your safety equipment.  Use a bit more unload along with more power and a harder pull back on the handlebars. Control the height of your front wheel by modulating the throttle.  As you get better, you will be able to amaze your friends with long wheelies and you will also develop a very useful trail riding tool.  

Safety

Whether practicing or trail riding, always wear your helmet, goggles, boots and other safety equipment.  This is especially important when learning or practicing wheelies.  Let people know where you intend to ride and never ride or practice alone.  Always ride in the company of others so there is someone to get help in case of an injury. If weather permits, try to get out and practice loading and un-loading techniques. Next month, we will cover whoops, turning techniques, jumps and some advanced techniques.
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Re: Trail riding basics

Post by Smoker on Tue Jun 03, 2014 6:56 am

Basic Trail Riding 103

Jack HeminwayThis is the third in a series of articles about basic Trail Riding Techniques for beginners and novice riders.  The first article, in the March issue, dealt with basic body positions used for riding up-hills, down-hills, slippery rocks, sand and turns.  The April article covered suspension loading and unloading techniques used to ride over obstacles such as rocks, ledges, logs, mud and ditches.Call me a nag, but I cannot stress enough the importance of  “standup” riding.  If you do not learn to ride standing up over rough terrain, you cannot become a good rider. My vision is to see all young riders ‘standing up’ at the 2004 Kids Classic ride on June 12th and 13th.  

Spring Bike Prep

Before we cover whoop-de-doos, bermed turns, jumps and wheelies, lets begin with a bit of bike prep.  If you have not already done it, this is the time to get your bike ready for spring riding.  It is time to delve a bit deeper into the bike than you usually do after each ride. If you did not wash the bike before putting it away for the winter, do that first.  Then, remove the seat, tank, fenders, air filter, air box, lights and any other easily removed accessories. Clean these parts with hot water and detergent and inspect them as you wash them off.  Next, remove front and rear wheels and clean these thoroughly checking for broken spokes and tight or rough feeling wheel bearings. Clean and check for wear on the sprocket and chain. Clean and repack the wheel bearings with waterproof grease. Replace worn seals and worn brake pads. With the bike on a stand, check for slop in suspension linkage and rear spring bushings.  Disassemble the linkage and clean and repack the bearings with waterproof grease.  Replace any rusty, sloppy, or sticky linkage bearings.  Check the fork seals for signs of leakage. Replace the fork fluid if it is a year old or more.  Next, check the steering head bearings. Handlebars should rotate smoothly with light effort and there should be no slop or roughness. Clean and grease the bearings or replace them if necessary.Next, remove the carburetor and the float bowl.  Dump out any water in the bowl and clean the carburetor passages and bowl with solvent and reassemble.  Inspect both ends of the throttle cable.  If there are any broken cable strands or a bent outer sheath, replace the cable.  Check torque on all nuts and bolts, especially motor mounting bolts, steering head and triple clamp bolts, swing arm bolts and any other bolts before doing the complete reassembly. Change the motor/transmission oil and put in a new sparkplug. Clean and re-oil the air filter. Finally, clean and wax all the nooks, crannies and parts of the bike.  Now, you have a spiffy, almost new looking bike ready for another year of fun and safe riding. 

Riding Whoop-de –doos

When I moved from Massachusetts to the New Mexico desert in the summer of 1974, I thought I knew how to ride whoop-de-doos. Wrong!  I learned that Western desert whoops are different.  They are up to 5 or 6 feet high and during a 100-mile desert race they beat you up if you do not learn the proper riding technique.  Fortunately for me, I made friends with a top, local rider who taught me how to ride the whoops. Body position is very important.  Ride standing up with your knees bent, butt back, shoulders low, arms outstretched and pulling back on the handlebars to keep the front end light. As your rear tire contacts the whoop, accelerate to raise the front wheel.  As the front wheel touches the next whoop let off the throttle a bit.  Keep modulating the throttle, on/off with each whoop. If you get into the correct rhythm, everything feels right.  Speed helps as it lets you kiss the top of each whoop with the front tire, absorbing most of the hit with your knees and the rear suspension. Your bike should glide over the tops of the whoops while your engine and rear suspension does the work.  If you ride too slow, or sit down on the seat, you will bounce and down each whoop and become exhausted within a few minutes.It is important to have your suspension damping dialed in correctly.  Too much compression damping beats you up. Too little, lets your shocks bottom causing loss of control.  Too much rebound damping makes your forks makes your suspension pack up, reducing suspension travel.  Too little rebound damping makes your bike pogo.  If you are not familiar with suspension tuning, ask your local “A” rider for help. 

Bermed Turns

Most trails develop berms at the turns from years of riding.  If the trail gets a lot of use from quads, there are two parallel berms to ride in.  Berms can help you ride safely because they keep your wheels from sliding out while accelerating through a turn.  When approaching a bermed turn, look ahead, decide which berm you are going to use and keep your speed up.  As you get better and develop confidence, berms help you to ride faster.Some very good riders hold their inside leg straight out, ready for a dab should the bike slide out.  Except when riding on ice or snow, I do not recommend this as you can break your foot or tear out your knee.  Generally, if there is a berm, you do not need this crutch anyway and your feet can serve you better on the foot-pegs. Be careful on narrow trails and power lines with brush at the sides and poor visibility.  Another rider may be coming head-on.  I usually slow down and stay to the right side of the trail and hope anyone coming toward me does likewise and stays to his (her) right.  Be careful, a head on collision with a 500-pound quad can spoil your whole day.  Be especially careful of this on power lines because of two-way traffic.  Marked trails like the Hopkinton Everett State Forest are safer as most trails are marked for one-way traffic. 

Jumps

Jumps are not often encountered while trail riding.  Occasionally however, you may be riding along a trail when you suddenly come upon a rock, ledge or dirt mound that sends you airborne.  Practicing how to handle these surprise jumps can save you some grief.  When launching off a jump in unfamiliar territory, it is best to land on the rear wheel first, followed by the front wheel.  If you land on rocks, front wheel first, you can crash hard.  So keep the front wheel high by moving back on the bike while holding the power “on” as your rear wheel leaves the jump.  Fight the tendency to hit the rear brake while on the jump as this causes the bike to land “nose down”.   If you must brake, do it before you get to the jump, then get ‘off’ the brakes and ‘on’ the throttle going over the jump. This can be practiced safely in an open field maybe even on grass near your house.  Once you get familiar with jumps, you’ll enjoy it.  My friend and riding mate, Luis Colom loves to jump. He launches off rocks, logs, small animals or other riders, always with a big grin on his face. 

Wheelies

Ahh, wheelies are fun.  Everybody likes to wheelie.  Boys like to wheelie.  Girls like to wheelie. Even old farts like me like to wheelie.  Wheelies are also a useful tool out on the trail.  For example, riding safely and smoothly over a large rock or log begins with the wheelie maneuver. When encountering a surprise ditch, a wheelie can save you from a bad crash.  I like to wheelie over streams or large puddles because the water could be hiding large rocks that could cause a bad crash.Wheelies are easier to do on big bore bikes but with good rider technique, even 80cc and 100cc bikes can wheelie.  The best place to learn to wheelie is in an open grass field with a moderate long uphill.  Wear all your protective equipment, especially your helmet.  Head uphill, standing on the foot-pegs in 2nd or 3rd gear depending on your bike.  Do the ‘load and unload’ movement that we learned in the APRIL trail Rider.  To do this, stamp hard on the foot-pegs with all your weight, then immediately apply hard throttle and pull back on the handlebars as you jump upwards.  Your first few tries may only produce small wheelies but this is OK.  If the front end gets too high, control it by easing off on the throttle or pulling in the clutch.  By modulating the throttle on or off, you can sustain the wheelie.  Steer the bike by using pressure on the foot-pegs.  If you start to loop out, tap on the rear brake.  This will bring the front end down.  If all else fails, simply slide off the back of the bike.  That is why you practice on a grass field and not on asphalt. Feathering the Clutch It is good practice to develop a habit of riding with your index finger or two fingers always on the clutch. Be ready to pull in or feather the clutch when riding up steep hills.  On steep hills with good traction, feather the clutch if you begin to loop out.  On steep hills with poor traction, keep the throttle wide open and control speed and power with the clutch, not the throttle. Feather the clutch if you begin to get wheel spin.  This trick lets you keep your RPMs up nd helps prevent bogging the engine.  More stored flywheel power is always available instantly. Now, as we move into Spring, lets all get out there and practice.
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Re: Trail riding basics

Post by Rooster on Tue Jun 03, 2014 7:45 am

Brilliant set of tips.

Will be re-checking this every Friday night!

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Re: Trail riding basics

Post by GateCrasher on Tue Jun 03, 2014 10:07 am

Excellent tips, thanks Smoker. I have to read and re-read it. I am going to copy it and paste it for Lefty as she
just doesn't come to the forum. So many of these tips
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Re: Trail riding basics

Post by Astrid on Tue Jun 03, 2014 10:11 am

Will make time to read this properly. Thanks Smoker!

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Re: Trail riding basics

Post by Cindy Bear on Tue Jun 03, 2014 11:36 am

Thanks smoker, i have been looking online for some decent info. this is great!

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Re: Trail riding basics

Post by Smoker on Tue Jun 03, 2014 4:28 pm

Only a pleasure guys, will post more that I have found
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