Category Archives: Learning to ride

Riding in fresh snow: challenging, fun, puzzling

Last Thursday MORC Chair Ryan Lieske posted this alert to the MORC forum thread on trail conditions for Murphy-Hanrehan:

Trail Condition: Snow – Fat Tires Needed
Date Posted: 02-23-2012 @ 11:03 AM

Details: 3RPD opened Murphy today. Get out and enjoy it, our winter riding days are numbered!

(3RPD = Three Rivers Park District which serves "the suburban areas of the Twin Cities metro including suburban Hennepin, Carver, Dakota, Scott and Ramsey counties.")

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With little snow here in the Northfield area, I was skeptical of the ‘fat tires needed’ rating but once I got on the trail early Saturday morning, it made sense. There was more fresh snow than I expected, especially on the north-facing areas. I lowered my tire pressure (tubeless) to 10 PSI but I still had to walk my 29er on a few of the uphill segments (left photo above).

The 3-4 fat bikes that had been through sometime on Friday laid down a nicely packed path (right photo above) but staying on it was challenging, like riding a skinny log or plank the entire time.   After a couple of miles, I figured out that the more I focused on A) leaning, not steering the bike and B) focusing my eyes way further ahead than normal, the easier it was. I’m used to doing that in technical areas or when going fast around downhill turns but it hadn’t occurred to me to do it on the more leisurely areas. Duh.

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I had a little trouble predicting traction on the obstacles. 

I assumed that snow-on-wood would be slippery but I had no trouble riding up the stepped bridge (left photo above). I know, riding the bridge up is riding the wrong way/against traffic but with no leaves on the trees, it’s easy to see if anyone’s coming.

On the rocks (center photo), going down was no problem but up? Not. After several attempts at the lower section, I picked the bike up and placed it halfway up the rocks. Zeeeeeero traction. 

There was great traction both directions on the larger sloped rock (right photo). I was even able to do a downhill turn on the fresh snow (see my tire tracks). Very puzzling.

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I’ve yet to attempt riding the entire length of the long, curving, and high skinny at Murphy. Now that I’ve got flats with Impact 5.10‘s, I’m confident in my ability to do it but I’d rather not do it alone, just in case of a get-off that doesn’t end well. Smart or lack of cojones, you decide.

I rode the first third but took the out on the snow-covered dirt mound (left photo).  When I got to the end, I noticed that one of the fatty bike riders had ridden the entire thing (right photo).  No mean feat, considering that much of the skinny was icy.

Learning to bunny hop: lifting the rear wheel with a rear foot ‘scoop’ motion

Hans "No way" Rey at the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival grand opening Hans "No way" Rey at the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival grand opening
At the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival grand opening last June, I asked Hans “No way” Rey how he was able to leap his bike vertically from a dead stop to the top of a picnic table. He pointed to his calf muscles, explaining that he lifts the rear wheel off the ground with his rear foot pushing back and up against the rear pedal. I didn’t own a mountain bike at the time so this concept didn’t make sense to me.

Nor did it sink in when I blogged back in August about learning to manual and noticed in BikeRadar’s Learning the Manual – Part 4 that there is a sentence about the bunny hop in which the author wrote:

Pushing forward on the bars as you ‘scoop’ backwards against the pedal with your rear foot to lift the rear wheel off the ground will also help.

It wasn’t until I saw this new BikeRadar video on the bunny hop in which Sam Pilgrim isolates the rear wheel lift with the rear foot (Step One in the tutorial) that I ‘got it:’

After just a few minutes of practice today, I was able to use this motion with either foot to clear a curb with my rear wheel. No bunny hop (or is it one word, bunnyhop?) yet, but I’m confident I’ll get it. I’m young yet.

Progress on the skinnies

I’m getting better at the skinnies at Leb. Instinctively leaning the bike instead of turning the handlebars is the key.

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Above: Last week was the first time I made the right hand turn on the man-made skinny. I used a front wheel hop at the apex of the turn.

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Above: I made this log for the first time about 6 weeks ago. Last week, I almost did it again, ending up a couple feet short.

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Above: I got about 3/4 of the way up this log last week. My goal is to get all the way up, do a sharp turn around on the hillside, and then go all the way back down… with no dabs or falling off, of course.

Once that happens, I’ll still have a ways to go. Look at this video for some amazing skinny rides:

Learning to manual: a wheelie with no pedaling

Bikeradar.com manual3-480-90-480-70I made a big step forward last week when I began to understand the difference between a pedal-powered wheelie and a manual. These articles helped me:

I’ve been using it this week to get over larger rocks and logs at speed.  And when I say ‘larger,’ I don’t mean large.  I mean bigger than the curbs on my street. Go ahead and laugh, but it was pretty cool when I got the hang of doing a manual over the curbs repeatedly.  And I can now see a bunny-hop in my future.

Steep climbs with steps

uphill steps at Lebanon HillsI’ve cleaned some steep uphills with steps/logs recently (St. Olaf College, Lebanon Hills) after reading about the techniques in this BetterRide.net blog post:

MTB Skills Tip w/ Pic, Technical Climbing w/Andy Winohradsky

Losing traction, “bogging out”, doing accidental wheelies, and/or getting a case of the “swirvies”, are all common causes of riders not making it to the top of technical descents.

Oh yeah. But I’m now getting the hang of how to do it right.

  • scoot far forward on the saddle
  • lower your chest (nose near the handlebars)
  • keep your elbow elevated
  • only stand slightly and briefly in order to make extreme weight-shifts or grossly accelerate the bike