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Help Tackling Downhills on Singletrack trails

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Ok, I did a search first and found a few threads that touched on this but wanting more detailed advice.  On Sunday, we went riding on our friend's 60 acres of land and after spending some time on the main loop and feeling pretty good about venturing out to some of the other trails, my first encounter was a bit of a steeper downhill that started out open at the top, but ended turning to the right between a few pines and not being able to see the trail from that point on.  I'm completely afraid of heights, so even if I was on this hill on a bicycle, I would still feel fairly fearful of venturing down this part.  So I get to the top and freeze up and didn't end up going down the trail.  :thumbsdn:   If I was at the bottom and looking up, I would have attempted it without much fear.

I haven't had much practice on downhills.  The ones I've been on are fairly open and fairly gradual declines I guess you'd say?  So, I'm sure that is part of the issue, but also my fear of heights isn't helping.  Some of the other declines I've been on are less than 20 ft in length, have a bit of a slope and do have turns, but don't end with trees on either side and looking closed in as much.   So it is all mental block I'm sure, but lack of skill in this area isn't helping either.

So, how do I go about tackling a steeper downhill in general and getting over this mental block?  What happens when I'm fearful is I tend to get started too slow, wobble, freak and grab the front brake too hard and halt or tip over.  So I need to get over that.  Once I get past that, I tend to overuse the rear brake and lock up the tire and skid around or stall and end up having to coast down the hills.  I leave it in 1st gear but pull the clutch in and try to modulate with the rear brake so as to not stall, but usually end up just coasting/skidding down hills.  I'm sure that is not proper technique by any means...

There is one slope I go down on a regular basis on the main trail there that I do use the throttle and enjoy gaining speed on, but it is grass and wide open and ends turning onto a grassy driveway that continues downhill but is a long, gradual downhill.  This one I froze on was a bit more loose dirt terrain.

Any advice, helpful tips, etc. are much appreciated.  I will get this, I'm determined, but needing some help!  Thanks in advance!


 

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do your best not to lock up your wheels particularly the front! if you are super nervous then also spot your bailout area but lets avoid that.

spot your line early and work towards it - fully commit- , you can start slow just try and keep the skidding to a minimum, engine braking might be a good idea, if you start to loose control then slow as much as you can and hope you have a solid line, keep your eyes on that line.

maintain a rearward position but not fully rearward unless it's super steep, stay loose and on the pegs if you can so you can get to that rear brake, scan but look where you want to go, if you are scanning a long decent, keep snapping back to your line so you stay on track.

as the speed picks up you may need to find a gear strong enough to pop/carry your front wheel over or off obstacles or drops and for those you want to keep a little space to pull up on the bars and lean back for.

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do your best not to lock up your wheels particularly the front! if you are super nervous then also spot your bailout area but lets avoid that.

spot your line early and work towards it - fully commit- , you can start slow just try and keep the skidding to a minimum, engine braking might be a good idea, if you start to loose control then slow as much as you can and hope you have a solid line, keep your eyes on that line.

maintain a rearward position but not fully rearward unless it's super steep, stay loose and on the pegs if you can so you can get to that rear brake, scan but look where you want to go, if you are scanning a long decent, keep snapping back to your line so you stay on track.

as the speed picks up you may need to find a gear strong enough to pop/carry your front wheel over or off obstacles or drops and for those you want to keep a little space to pull up on the bars and lean back for.

I would agree with all of this but to add try to stand up with your weight back. Use your engine to slow you not your brakes if possible to avoid skidding, if you do use your brakes,use mostly rear. Once you do it a few times you will get used to it and see how you are most comfortable.

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Thank you for the tips.  Hubby did give similar advice as far as stance, to stand and place my weight over the rear tire and stay loose and let the bike roll down the hill and just use the brake to keep steady speed.  But I had not been standing on any of the down hills I've encountered so far, so that was new to me to try and do.

My bike doesn't seem to have much for engine braking (2 stroke), so I have to feather the clutch/throttle to keep it from stalling and work the brakes to maintain even pace without picking up too much speed, which I have not mastered.  Instead, I've just been pulling in the clutch and letting it coast down and using the brake to maintain speed on other hills in order not to stall out.  But I don't think that is what I should be doing?  And I tend to be tense/scared so I push too hard on the rear brake and lock it up.

I also end up riding alone, and trying to figure out techniques that get me through.  But then what I develop doesn't work well in other parts of the trails.  There are no other women riders, only the guys, and they all are a A-B riders and venture off on the hardest trails out there.  So, I have to figure things out on my own to some degree but have some basic foundational skills to draw from.  

Here is a video of the trails we ride out there.  This is of our daughter and my hubby, he was taking her on some of the harder trails.  At the 1:58 mark is where they come out to the main part of the loop that I ride on all the way til the 3:13 mark.  I go down a bit further and go up a steeper hillside that curves but ends up top on a flatter, windy trail that leads back down to the grassy driveway back down to the bottom again.  The start of the video is an example of the trails he is wanting to take me on, but that day it was on another part and the very first part of the new trail was the steeper (longer) downhill that turned to the right into some trees...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghwHNbYRTZk

It is that feeling of winding through a trail, slightly uphill then having to turn and venture down a slope that is more than 20 ft in length and turns at the end that I end up coming to a halt at the very top and looking over and not being able to budge out of fear...

 

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Nice flowy trails on the video- advice would be to get your elbows out and up and squeeze the tank and keep your feet on the pegs. Concentrate on riding/cornering smoother versus cranking it around or trying to go faster. The down hills will be easier when you feel smoother

Have fun!

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Nice flowy trails on the video- advice would be to get your elbows out and up and squeeze the tank and keep your feet on the pegs. Concentrate on riding/cornering smoother versus cranking it around or trying to go faster. The down hills will be easier when you feel smoother

Have fun!

They are nice trails out there.  In the video, that wasn't me, that was our daughter riding her kx85.  I was just giving people the example of the terrain and the hillsides.  The trails wind up the hillside and then back down and then back up again.  His property is at the top of a larger hillside, so his trails wind down through the trees to the valley/field below and then they wind back up again in various spots along the way.  He has trails to the right of his house and left of his house, as his house is atop the hill and valleys on either side with farm fields below.  There is a main loop that is 2.5 miles long and is on the outer edges of his property.  Then he has another 6-8 miles of inner loops that snake up and down the hills in trees.  The main loop connects at points along the way of the harder trails and does snake through the trees and goes up and down the hillside, but isn't as technical and tight but still has obstacles like makeshift bridges over the creek, some loose terrain with roots/rocks, etc.

For me to venture onto the harder trails, I have to get over my fear of going down a steeper/tighter decline.  I can do all the uphill climbs, over the logs, etc.  Just the downhills freak me out and I don't feel I know how to make it down without loosing control/locking up the rear tire and tipping over.

 

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Sounds less to do with technique and more to do with getting over your fear. For that my best advice is watch someone do it first and then let them tow you in (follow them). Even better if your tow in has a rear tail light as you brain has been wired to brake when you see red lights....

Others have given you the right advice on what to do in terms of technique so I have little to add....

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Sounds less to do with technique and more to do with getting over your fear. For that my best advice is watch someone do it first and then let them tow you in (follow them). Even better if your tow in has a rear tail light as you brain has been wired to brake when you see red lights....

Others have given you the right advice on what to do in terms of technique so I have little to add....

You are right.  It is that initial looking over the edge that I'm having a difficult time with.  Hubby demonstrated going down it over & over about 3 times, but I wasn't really watching him but rather preoccupied with the pit in the stomach feeling of going over a drop off (even though it wasn't a drop off) but it was a steeper, longer hill than I've been on and my mind makes it feel steeper than it likely it.  But also not feeling confident in knowing what to do wasn't helping me want to try and go down either...

So I guess proper technique would be to pick my line, leave it in first gear, pull in the clutch, lift off the seat and weight over the rear wheel, let the bike roll and use the rear brake gently to modulate speed and at the bottom let out clutch and continue as usual.  If so, then I need to just practice going down hills in general, but we don't really have anywhere to practice that without going to this friend's property which is 1.5 hours away unfortunately.

Edited by leadfoot70ss

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You are right. It is that initial looking over the edge that I'm having a difficult time with. Hubby demonstrated going down it over & over about 3 times, but I wasn't really watching him but rather preoccupied with the pit in the stomach feeling of going over a drop off (even though it wasn't a drop off) but it was a steeper, longer hill than I've been on and my mind makes it feel steeper than it likely it. But also not feeling confident in knowing what to do wasn't helping me want to try and go down either...

So I guess proper technique would be to pick my line, leave it in first gear, pull in the clutch, lift off the seat and weight over the rear wheel, let the bike roll and use the rear brake gently to modulate speed and at the bottom let out clutch and continue as usual. If so, then I need to just practice going down hills in general, but we don't really have anywhere to practice that without going to this friend's property which is 1.5 hours away unfortunately.

I would cover the clutch but I wouldn't pull it in. The instant you pull it in the bike will freewheel and gain speed. If by chance you do panic, stomp on the rear brake and stall, the bike will just lock up and probably be safer then freewheeling....

As for practicing, grab the tent and spend a weekend out there... As bad as it sounds it's all about commitment.... If you really want to get good at doing this your going to have to make a sacrifice and make the drive...

Edited by originalmonk

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Keep it in the lowest gear you feel comfortable with and don't pull the clutch in. If it stalls just pop the clutch and bump start it as it rolls down. My best advice is to actually get on the gas and throttle down the hill. This'll give you control over the bike and ends up being much smoother and less stressful than letting the bike control itself with you fighting it as it rolls down due to steepness/gravity.

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As for practicing, grab the tent and spend a weekend out there... As bad as it sounds it's all about commitment.... If you really want to get good at doing this your going to have to make a sacrifice and make the drive...

Lol, that was what that weekend was, we rode there over labor day weekend and people camped out all weekend.  But it isn't about the distance away but rather that he opens his private property to friends on certain occasions...it's not open all the time, it is his and his family's personal home and school is back in session now.

 

The only public trails around here are old railroad beds, wide and flat not challenging, and the private trails we have at our inlaws are great, but no hills of any kind to practice on.  There are some power lines by us that might provide some slopes, but they aren't trails by any means.  Tall grass and weeds tend to hide large rocks & such, so it can be crap shoot riding over there.  I'll sacrifice time to drive if I had somewhere to drive to.

 

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Keep it in the lowest gear you feel comfortable with and don't pull the clutch in. If it stalls just pop the clutch and bump start it as it rolls down. My best advice is to actually get on the gas and throttle down the hill. This'll give you control over the bike and ends up being much smoother and less stressful than letting the bike control itself with you fighting it as it rolls down due to steepness/gravity.

Thanks, I will try and do this instead. 

I will get this, I've overcome other obstacles that were a challenge, thanks for all the advice everyone.

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Keep it in the lowest gear you feel comfortable with and don't pull the clutch in. If it stalls just pop the clutch and bump start it as it rolls down. My best advice is to actually get on the gas and throttle down the hill. This'll give you control over the bike and ends up being much smoother and less stressful than letting the bike control itself with you fighting it as it rolls down due to steepness/gravity.

 

 

 Pretty much this ^^^^^^ depending on the grade and what is on said hill will make me decide which gear to be in ;) If it is STEEP and twisty I usually keep it in first and let the motor do the braking for me ;) and yeah, on a straight shot I will give it some throttle and keep my momentum up :D And yes.. I toooooooo am afraid of heights :eek:

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 Pretty much this ^^^^^^ depending on the grade and what is on said hill will make me decide which gear to be in ;) If it is STEEP and twisty I usually keep it in first and let the motor do the braking for me ;) and yeah, on a straight shot I will give it some throttle and keep my momentum up :D And yes.. I toooooooo am afraid of heights :eek:

Thank you, it's encouraging to know others are afraid of heights yet get through it on the trails!

 

I don't have a picture of the slope, but this pic from the internet is somewhat close - other than the hillside I was on was more loose dirt & some loose rocks and more overgrown brush and bushy evergreens (not as wide open) but would have been about the steepness, but the one I was on was a bit longer overall in length and with the same righthand turn at the bottom and back around.  Thanks for all the advice everyone.

burke_dan_1.jpg

 

Edited by leadfoot70ss
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Thank you, it's encouraging to know others are afraid of heights yet get through it on the trails!

 

I don't have a picture of the slope, but this pic from the internet is somewhat close - other than the hillside I was on was more loose dirt & some loose rocks and more overgrown brush and bushy evergreens (not as wide open) but would have been about the steepness, but the one I was on was a bit longer overall in length and with the same righthand turn at the bottom and back around.  Thanks for all the advice everyone.

burke_dan_1.jpg

 

 

 

 I wanna ride that trail :D

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You've gotten some great advice here, it just takes seat time to get the practice and confidence. If you can find them, start with some gradually steeper hills that aren't so densely populated with trees. That will help you get your technique figured out without too many mental distractions. Remember that momentum is your friend. If you go too slow down the hills, any little rock or tree root can throw you down. Bouncing over the obstacles is much easier. Not sure I would agree with giving it gas going down a very steep hill, but leave the clutch out and let the engine hold you back as much as possible. Like you said, this is more difficult with a two stroke and especially if it's geared high. 

 

Good luck, I love to hear from other girls that are riding and really getting into it. Hang in there, once you get some of these basic skills, you will have a lifelong addiction - but it's a good addiction to have!

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Was thinking about your question while out riding yesterday (is it wrong to think about TT while riding??), and thought of this... like others suggested, first gear engine braking is what I usually do on a steep twisty downhill. But I can remember not that long ago that the top speed of the bike in first gear was about 10% faster than I could or wanted to go in tough stuff.

 

I'd suggest finding a downhill you are comfortable with, and getting used to the speed your bike will go in first, then gradually adding throttle. When you can do that, getting to something steeper won't be so intimidating because you'll be used to the speed the bike wants to go. When you get bounced around, keeping your rear over the rear fender and a touch of throttle will straighten you out quickly. And lots of seat time - nothing can replace that. I don't get nearly enough :(  Good luck!

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Thanks for all the help, I will implement these tips and see how it goes.  I totally agree it comes down to seat time, which this season is severely lacking.  Work somehow gets in the way of things at times...and this year has been especially busy.  That is good, but not so much for riding time.

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I love downhills. Not crazy steep ones but flowy ridable ones.

When you're learning, you always think they're way steeper then they really are. I laugh at myself now when I ride the little hills that I thought were big when I was learning. I hardly even brake on some of them. Which leads me to the use of brakes thing... too much brake means too jerky and too slow so is awkward. Find some hills were you can practice just lightly touching/tapping the brakes a bit, then work on finding the right gear to use. I find that 1st is just about never the right gear as it's just too low and you need to be able to flow from braking to rolling, especially as you come out of the hill. If you're in too low of a gear you just get an awkward jerk/drag instead of a nice roll every time you come of the brake. 2nd gear is probably the lowest gear you should be in.

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