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Negoiating Switchbacks

Catrin2012-08-31 11:23:13 +0000 #1
Had a great mtb ride yesterday (even if I did have a small endo). It has become apparent that I need to address my little problem with switchbacks. I am so conditioned now to stopping for them that my body automatically stops

I did, however, roll through a couple of them.

I am unsure right now if the problem is "simply" in my head or if I am doing something mechanically wrong like not looking far enough ahead, or going too slow/too fast but generally what happens is I wind up off the trail in sketchy stuff.

I love the trail we rode yesterday, but there are a couple of places where I have to stop. I intend on taking care of that. I seem to be fine with handling roots and rocks (at least on that trail), but the switchback and armored crossing in curves are a problem.

Any advice on how I can deal better with switchbacks? Part of me wonders if it is as simple as not having the right combination of speed and brakes to get around...
Becky2012-08-31 11:31:54 +0000 #2
How are you handling them now? Lots of brake, no brake, steering through, leaning? Downhills or uphills?

(Sorry for all the questions- trying to get a good picture of what's happening!

)

Your statement that "what happens is I wind up off the trail in sketchy stuff" makes me wonder if you're trying to steer the front wheel through the switchback and understeering.

I'm sitting here trying to picture how I ride through one particular switchback... I *think* that I brake before entering the switchback (it's on a downhill), and then use a combination of steering and leaning to make the turn. That lean at the top of the switchback is tough, because you're actually leaning in the downslope direction, but you end up leaning upslope pretty quickly, almost like you're pivoting the bike around your body.

Now I have to go ride this section to pay attention to how I actually do this!
Catrin2012-08-31 12:10:25 +0000 #3
Quote:

Originally Posted by Becky

How are you handling them now? Lots of brake, no brake, steering through, leaning? Downhills or uphills?

(Sorry for all the questions- trying to get a good picture of what's happening!

)

Your statement that "what happens is I wind up off the trail in sketchy stuff" makes me wonder if you're trying to steer the front wheel through the switchback and understeering.

All good questions. The trail in question is a 2-way out and back so I ride the switchbacks both directions. While there are a couple I walk both ways, there are one or two that I can ride in the down hill direction - and that includes two armored crossings that are quite close to each other on a curve.

I THINK that I am probably trying to steer around the curve - I can't remember what I do with the brakes. My instructor at this year's clinic advised us to point our belly button in the direction we want to go - but it is a bit difficult to do that on a switchback...

Generally I wind up in the brush on the inside of the curve or I try to ride up and over the berm (if there is one)...where there is typically a dropoff

So stopping has become my preferred way of dealing with this - which is fine unless I am riding with others and also means I never improve.

This next week I've 5 days to camp/ride in this same park and I am going to practice a lot on this trail. I also have practice cones to play with in a grassy field...
Becky2012-08-31 11:32:18 +0000 #4
Huh....I assumed that you were riding off the trail to the outside, not the inside. (That's what I get for assuming!) If you're riding off the inside, that would point towards oversteering....I think.

I definitely agree with the belly button thing. It allow you to use your hips and core to assist in control of the bike. I still wonder if there's a leaning issue here...too much or not enough...

This is one of the situations where actually seeing what's happening is worth a thousand words.... What do your riding buddies say about this situation?
Irulan2012-08-31 12:32:24 +0000 #5
get out of the saddle; stand up a bit and bring your cg back just a little. LOOK where you want to go - eyes, neck and shoulder follow. You should be looking at the outside of the exit of the corner as that's where you want to aim for. Feather your brakes if necessary.

copied from my mtb skills page:

www.specialtyoutdoor.../biking/ridetips.asp

Look-look-look around the turn, and keep moving.

Look beyond the exit of the turn, down the trail

Remember to stay in the neutral position. Extend your legs(but don't lock them) and move your body back as needed.

Go slow if you need to really control the turn, "rachet" if you need to but don't coast

Your bike will turn tighter than you think it will!

Dartman added this tidbit about switchbacks: " As far as switchbacks are concerned I've found it helps to keep the bike as upright as possible. A tight slow speed turn is not one you want to lean into unless you have a berm to rail. To do this keep the outside arm straight at the elbow and bend the inside arm. This'll lean the bike out of the turn with your weight in balance on the inside. This also maximizes tire contact with the ground."

I found that after I had my brake levers adjusted in for a shorter reach, it improved my cornering especially on switchbacks. With a more comfortable reach, I have much more control with feathering and modulating my front brake. This has helped my cornering immensely: I use both front and back to control my turn.

Be sure you are out of the saddle, move your weight back if it's steep.
SadieKate2012-08-31 13:18:34 +0000 #6
www.instructables.co...le-Switchback-Turns/

Catrin - Just off the top of my head it seems that you report an awful lot of endos. In my decades of riding and observing both my own and others' crashes, most are to the side. I think I've gone over the bars one time in decades of riding, but countless times every other direction. My husband has gone over twice but one time was his own stupid fault (trying to do a nose wheelie without thinking it through

).

Are you focusing on getting your butt back? If so, focus on getting it back more.
Becky2012-08-31 13:33:34 +0000 #7
Irulan and SK, that's good stuff. Thanks for sharing! I'm looking forward to trying the technique that Dartman describes.
Catrin2012-08-31 13:44:42 +0000 #8
Quote:

Originally Posted by SadieKate

www.instructables.co...le-Switchback-Turns/

Catrin - Just off the top of my head it seems that you report an awful lot of endos. In my decades of riding and observing both my own and others' crashes, most are to the side. I think I've gone over the bars one time in decades of riding, but countless times every other direction. My husband has gone over twice but one time was his own stupid fault (trying to do a nose wheelie without thinking it through

).

Are you focusing on getting your butt back? If so, focus on getting it back more.

I've not had a actual endo. Yesterday was the closest - but even that was more in a diagonal sideways direction. It was just silly, we had just entered the trail and had barely gotten started when I got distracted and apparently grabbed that front brake

I would like to say that it was caused by erosion and the large amount of dust on the trail due to the drought but that had nothing to do with it.

Thanks for the tips and advice, it is getting embarrassing the trouble I have with switchbacks when I have far less difficulty negotiating roots and rocks...as long as they aren't in curves

The video is quite helpful and I will watch it a few more times this weekend before I leave Monday. I think that I might be trying to steer to the inside of the curve and using too much brake...perhaps. I've some practice cones and can do some tight turning grills in the grass.

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