Pinning it on narrow, grass-lined trails
I am enjoying your advice on your website. Any advice on how to focus and go fast on narrow trails with grass growing along them (ie Colorado Roaring Judy in Crested Butte)? I feel very confident on rooty, technical trails but as soon as enter into a narrow, foliage-lined trail I get concerned on hitting the front wheel on the trail’s edge then flip. Any advice?
All the best
Thanks for writing.
Your question reminds me of a ride I did last summer off Vail Pass in CO. Craig Schwechel and I climbed to the top of the mountain then worked our way along the the back of the ski area to the pump track in Eagle. Photos by Craig:
It was a long, beautiful ride with lots of trails like you’re describing: narrow and potentially fast, with tall grass alongside and rocks hiding just out of sight.
Beautiful … and sketchy! Lots of rocks hiding in those flowers.
I have to admit these sections really freaked me out. Some of the rocks were big, and my shoulders weren’t liking the hits. As a result, I started riding more slowly and carefully, which meant I tensed up, the rocks disrupted me even more, and I got even more scared.
Finally, I was like “Dude, you know better!”
The following tweaks helped me enjoy the rest of the ride. I wasn’t racing, but I’ll bet I wasn’t slow.
Look way ahead. It’s hard to tell where a trail like this goes. Scan along the top of the foliage. Look for gaps and paths. Keep your guidance system tracking forward — into your future. But don’t sweat the details. The path will reveal itself in due time.
Ride the middle. Like many riders, I tend to ride trails from edge to edge, using banks and making late apex entrances. On these trails I decided to ride right down the middle. Maybe that’s less ideal and shreddy, but it felt safer.
Stay balanced. You might be tempted to lean back so a rock doesn’t buck your forward, but that creates tension and makes the bike turn horribly. Besides, if you hit something hard enough, being too far back bucks you forward. No matter how nervous you get, stay on your feet.
Heels down. Since any unseen impact would push me forward onto my excruciating shoulders, I dropped my heels more than usual. This helped drive some random violence into the feet instead of the hands.
Head up. This contradicts my usual Get Lower, Now Even Lower advice, but 1) I wanted to see farther ahead and 2) by riding higher than usual I could absorb bigger rocks. When it was time to turn, I got low again.
Carry speed. Right now I have to remind you to be safe and ride within your limits. That said, I was riding a 2016 FOX 34 fork with the FIT4 damper. This is an amazing piece of technology: a complete game changer in terms of violence absorption. When I hit bumps slowly, the high speed circuit stayed closed and the handlebar moved a lot. When I hit bumps fast, most of the energy and movement went into the fork’s valving. Way smoother and better.
Have fun out there!
Know more. Have more fun!
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Thanks for sharing your tweaks and reassuring some key points. I agree, keeping balance, speed and sight forward are very important! In addition focus is key!! The challenge is focusing vs. enjoying the foliage!! Well, I think the dilemma is what makes Mountain Biking so exciting!! Cheers, Daniel
I like to cheat a little and follow someone who knows the trail. All body mechanics remain the same. That is a great trail, even better when you shuttle.