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How much can I actually grip with my legs?

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I have been trying to improve my technique and have been doing what I can to get smoother and stronger riding while standing up, especially over rough terrain. For a little background I ride a 300 XCW. I am 5'11" tall, 155 lbs without gear, probably 185 lbs with all gear including a full hydration pack. I would consider myself moderately fit. I lift weights three times a week and run around fifteen miles a week. I only get to ride once a week at the moment. I feel confident standing on the bike and am not a chronic sitter. I am having real issues staying centered and balanced under hard acceleration as well as climbing hills while standing. I don't feel like I can get a good grip on the bike with my legs other than maybe being able to lock my ankles into the frame a bit. This helps but it would be much better if I could get a more solid lock on throughout the entire contact patch between my legs and the bike.

What happens is that during hard acceleration or climbing a hill I am forced to lean very far forward to stay balanced which does not help with traction or headshake. I also end up gripping with my hands much more than I would like which causes finger cramps after a few hours of riding. So I usually sit during a steep climb which gets very interesting if it is rocky and rutted. What am I missing when it comes to gripping the bike? Is this mostly a strength and endurance issue? I do not consider myself an especially strong person even though I work to improve that. On days when I am focusing heavily on gripping with my legs I will often end up with leg cramps from the constant muscle tension. I know the cramps are a whole other issue and I am working to figure out what is causing them.

Any tips for getting more locked on to the bike? I know I have a few things working against me such as a powerful bike, my height, and my riding weight. Everything on the bike is stock. Bars, pegs, seat. I would prefer to not rely on adding things to the bike if necessary but am more interested in improving my skill an technique. Thanks for any help!

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Hey NK,

It sounds to me like your bars are too far back and/or too low. I ride a CRF150RB with the bars as far forward and as tall as I can get them and the bike still doesn't fit, since it was built for kids 5" shorter than me (why I have this bike is another story which I won't go into here). When I crank it on I better have my head out over the front axle and hanging on with a strong grip and pull of my arms, or, as most often happens, I have to be sitting down. I choose my riding areas accordingly, which sucks.

You, however, have a better option on your full sized Katoom: make it fit you. Paul Clipper, in his book The Art of Trailriding (Amazon Kindle only), devotes the first three chapters to getting your bike to fit you and work for you while you ride standing up. He addresses bar height, bend, position, and width (28-30") in chapters one and three, and the standing "resting" position and "attack" positions in chapter two. The other 30 chapters are all about riding technique in rocks, mud and other challenging circumstances—it's a great book, and I highly recommend it. 

This is what Clipper says about setting up your handlebars: "With your bike up on a sturdy stand or box, get on the bike with your feet on the pegs just forward of the arch of your foot. This is pretty much a neutral riding position for your feet. Stand straight up in a comfortable stance, neither stretched up or crouching, just straight up. Rotate forward slightly until your chin is intersecting a straight line that you could draw right up from the axle, parallel with the forks, and reach for the bars. What you want is to find the handlebar grips just tucked into the palm of your hands, so that your thumbs can drape around the back of the handlebars and your fingers curl naturally around the front. And this is standing straight up, no crouching and no bending of knees, or reaching forwards or backwards. You want the handlebars to fall naturally and exactly into your grip without having to crouch down or bend your arms at your elbows." This is the "resting" position. When the trail is easy and flowing you ride in this position.

Clipper goes on to say, "It's not an efficient position to be in when you're trying to ride fast and aggressive, but it's not supposed to be. When you go into 'attack' mode, you want to be crouched down with your elbows out and your head up. Gary Bailey has for years called this position the 'attack position,' and it is the only way to ride when you want to be really aggressive. Get on your bike—your properly fitting bike—right now and try it. Head over the triple clamps, elbows up and out, knees bent slightly, butt up off the seat. This is the position to "attack" the whoopdedos from, also the rocky sections, log crossings, ruts, mud, everything. If you're going to ride fast, the attack position is where you want to be."

When your bike is set up like this, you have no need to grip the bike hard with your legs except momentarily in very special circumstances. If you watch videos of extreme enduro riders closely, you will see that they are very loose on their bikes, allowing the bike to move around underneath them while their bodies flow relatively smoothly over the wild movements of the bike beneath them. Most of these guys developed their skills in observed trials, riding the gnarliest terrain imaginable on bikes with very little suspension travel and not much damping, using their legs for suspension, body english for control, and disciplined right wrist to keep the momentum going. Those same techniques and skills carry over to the extreme enduro arena.

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 When climbing hills try not to think of yourself as leaning forward, think of letting the front of the bike come up to you as your body maintains the same relationship to the earth as it did when you were on flat ground. Try to have your bars and levers in a position that makes this feel  natural, and relaxed.

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Go to the gym and work on arms and forearm strength.  Will make a big difference.

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Plonker: Thank you for the generous response. I will have to look into that book, it sounds like it could be a great resource. I have never put a lot of thought into getting my bike to fit me. I've always just adjusted things until they felt mostly comfortable and just gotten used to that. Sounds like this could give me an actual method of getting things set up.

Motovita: I try to do this on short, very steep slopes that I can be up and over in a second or two. I will see what I can do about applying that same method and mindset to other hills.

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I know it sounds way easier than it really is but instead of trying to grip the frame with you legs/knees, just work on balance and you'll learn to shift your weight to compensate. It may sound counter-intuitive to some, but I often make it a point of not trying to "pinch" the bike with my legs, as you actually lose some sense of balance when the bike moves around in rough terrain. I usually ride in the attack position, but tend to stand more upright and to the front on steeper hills. My feet are supported more on the front edge of the pegs this way and I'm not using my arms to hold on. 

 

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This has more or less been said, but it is all about balancing your weight between the bike and where the bike is trying to go. You want the pegs to be pushing you through your legs, not the bars pulling through your arms. As Sierra stated, if you do this right you don't need to squeeze your legs as much. Squeezing your legs is a good technique but you don't to have to do it unless you need to. It's also important to note a lot a fast guys don't really stand when accelerating all out. They crouch with their butt off the seat, which gives maximum leg area to contact the bike with as well as their butt if they really need/start to slide back.

 

BTW I use a similar workout schedule and it works really well to stay in shape for hare scrambles. The downside for you only riding once a week, is that riding is really the key part to building stamina and speed.

Edited by EEE299
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Bruh 

you need Steg Pegz.  These are basically skateboard wheels that are mounted on the bike behind your calves, so when you accelerate the wheels lock your calves in place, thus not using as much arm strength and reducing arm pump.  So you can be a better rider. 

If you are resourceful, you can buy some scrap metal and a pair of skateboard  wheels and there you have it.  

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If you aren't stand on your balls of your feet and turn your toes in. It forces your knees in. 

 

 

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I also have a 300 xcwand I had the same trouble of hanging on under hard acceleration....it is a 300 2 stroke after all lol. Steg Pegz have helped a ton. It took a few rides to get used to them but they have helped with everything you mentioned in your post.

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On 6/9/2017 at 11:31 AM, NitkoKoraka said:

I have been trying to improve my technique and have been doing what I can to get smoother and stronger riding while standing up, especially over rough terrain. 

Don't be religious over gripping, specially over rocks the way to ride is being loose, let the bike move below you. Standing and not gripping also makes it possible to use a leg to balance.

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I would also recommend skateboard tape or stomp grips to get some traction between your legs if needed

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5'11" and 155 lbs? You are an insect on a beast of a bike. Eat more and get your 5rep max deadlift up to 1.5-2x body weight. And stop running while strength training, all that slow twitch makes you weak. For conditioning, kettlebell swings and power cleans (maybe start w/ a 35lb bell) will work wonders for you.  

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18 minutes ago, jbake said:

5'11" and 155 lbs? You are an insect on a beast of a bike. Eat more and get your 5rep max deadlift up to 1.5-2x body weight. And stop running while strength training, all that slow twitch makes you weak. For conditioning, kettlebell swings and power cleans (maybe start w/ a 35lb bell) will work wonders for you.  

Maybe good advice for someone with a strong, non damaged back. Otherwise be careful. Interesting theory about the running-weak thing, never heard that in many many years of training. Can you provide credible research to support that?

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On 9/3/2017 at 1:08 PM, YHGEORGE said:

Maybe good advice for someone with a strong, non damaged back. Otherwise be careful. Interesting theory about the running-weak thing, never heard that in many many years of training. Can you provide credible research to support that?

Let me preface this by saying the terms "Strength" and "Endurance" are subjective, and without putting DATA, VARIABLES, PARAMETERS and BASELINE around using them it can all be a toss up. Having said that there are a couple factors that lead to skinny runners, and the default is that they are weak and most of them are...........

FROM MY EXPERIENCE - Running, while great for your engine CAN be catabolic, if you don't supplement for it, and most people don't. Once you get past the 60 minute-ish mark, you've been steadily depleting energy resources and your body is looking for fuel. Typically your main source will be carbs/sugars stored in your body as glucose(unstored) or glycogen(stored) and worse case OVERSTORED as fat. These can last quite a while but for the most part a runner can go about an hour to an hour and a half (depending on age/sex/general fitness) before they have depleted most carb based energy if they aren't fueling. Then your body then goes in search of more energy. Once you burn your main source of energy (carbs) your body goes after the two other available sources, fat and protein. If you don't have adequate amounts of the either of these in your diet or readily available (in your tummy) it will source them else where. So when this happens your body is using your body fat ALONG with your muscles (protein). Now we are catabolic, breaking our body down to survive! Along with this, the whole time you are running you are creating micro tears in your muscles, similarish to lifting weights. Man what a great burn! I'm a super athelete! Now I go home and eat a bowl of pasta. Im good right? NOPE! Carbs don't repair muscle. Protein does. BUT I DON'T WANT BIG MUSCLES BECAUSE OUNCES ARE POUNDS AND POUNDS ARE PAIN AND ILL BE SLOW. So the runner doesnt eat enough protien and looks like a slow skinny bitch. A key component here is that the majority of uninformed runners will hesitate on feeding the engine THE PROPER FUEL and go into a catabolic state (muscle burning/body depleting), and EVEN IF THEY DO feed the engine, they don't repair the muscles. Muscles need protein, and runners seem to never eat the adequate amount for fear of getting bulky. SOOOOO for the majority of the uninformed running world you will burn this muscle by not feeding yourself properly, and people see running as a great way to "lose weight" and so ya get a bunch of skinny weak people.

His reference in slow twitch muscle is a little off base. Fast twitch, slow twitch I mean..............yea you want a balance but It doesn't have a lot to do with strength........it has more to do with how your muscles are trained to function optimally. Look at cyclists and sprinters, BOTH have huge legs but a cyclist can't run 100 meters under 10 seconds, and a sprinter cant ride for 21 days through France for 5 hours a day.....but they are both strong.  

HOWEVER, after all that inaccurate science explanation (Check please, call a professional who can explain the science better) You will get endurance, cardiovascular strength and stamina. You just have to find a happy medium between running for endurance, and not just burning your whole body away. Burning is an accurate statement too, because you are literally burning through calories.

To strength - One of the best ways to fix a weak and damaged back (giving exceptions to herniated/slipped disks/surgery/disembowelment) is to do train your core. Most people with "damaged" backs just have weak core muscles, and major muscle imbalances, and inflexibility from sitting all day. I was one of them. If you can only do one strength training exercise dead lifts are almost perfect, with second place being squats. They don't require a lot of skill, and you can do them with anything. You don't even need a bar. They build muscle from the ground up, feet to head. They also build the muscle groups mostly closely associated with strong athletic ability, your butt and your core (that's the tummy and the lower back).

If you want to balance the two, strength and endurance, your favorite Russian comrade the kettle bell is a fantastic way. It also lets you learn to "enjoy the suck". Try 1000 swings, in a row, of a 2 pood kettlebell. That sucks. Also again, a common misconception for people unfamiliar with a kettle bell swing is that it can damage your back. Actually this is complete rubbish when performing the technique correctly. In travels in an arch and puts nearly zero compressional (is that a word?) force on your spine. You are also getting a great god damn stretch and reversing decades of "desk back, and office tummy". KB swings build stamina, strength and flexibility where it counts. Also a kettbell is so freaking veristale there exists a whole damn world dedicated to kettlebelling. Russian Kettlebell Challenge and Pavel Tsatsouline. 

If you only have 50 bucks for your entire yearly budget for fitness go buy a jump rope and a kettle bell. If you have 500 bucks buy a barbell and 200 lbs of bumper plates, some kettle bells and a jump rope.

Those 3 pieces of equipment can make you into one mean "mam'ah jam'ah". Balance, speed, endurance, strength and flexibility. Can't beat it. And you won't have to run a single mile.

TLDR - he wasn't all wrong but he wasn't all right either. Running can make you fit, but it is incredibly inefficient at making your strong. 

Edited by NEGbrap
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On 9/3/2017 at 9:53 AM, jbake said:

5'11" and 155 lbs? You are an insect on a beast of a bike. Eat more and get your 5rep max deadlift up to 1.5-2x body weight. And stop running while strength training, all that slow twitch makes you weak. For conditioning, kettlebell swings and power cleans (maybe start w/ a 35lb bell) will work wonders for you.  

LOL.  He's built like most PRO riders, nothing wrong with that.  Riding dirtbikes has a huge component of cardio associated with it.  How many jacked dudes do you see out riding for a salary?  Lets be real, having enough strength is fundamental (maybe some of the keyan runners wouldn't have it) but outside of a being strong enough (can you pick up your bike and hold on), it's mostly cardio that does people in. 

 

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23 hours ago, NEGbrap said:

Let me preface this by saying the terms "Strength" and "Endurance" are subjective, and without putting DATA, VARIABLES, PARAMETERS and BASELINE around using them it can all be a toss up. Having said that there are a couple factors that lead to skinny runners, and the default is that they are weak and most of them are...........

FROM MY EXPERIENCE - Running, while great for your engine CAN be catabolic, if you don't supplement for it, and most people don't. Once you get past the 60 minute-ish mark, you've been steadily depleting energy resources and your body is looking for fuel. Typically your main source will be carbs/sugars stored in your body as glucose(unstored) or glycogen(stored) and worse case OVERSTORED as fat. These can last quite a while but for the most part a runner can go about an hour to an hour and a half (depending on age/sex/general fitness) before they have depleted most carb based energy if they aren't fueling. Then your body then goes in search of more energy. Once you burn your main source of energy (carbs) your body goes after the two other available sources, fat and protein. If you don't have adequate amounts of the either of these in your diet or readily available (in your tummy) it will source them else where. So when this happens your body is using your body fat ALONG with your muscles (protein). Now we are catabolic, breaking our body down to survive! Along with this, the whole time you are running you are creating micro tears in your muscles, similarish to lifting weights. Man what a great burn! I'm a super athelete! Now I go home and eat a bowl of pasta. Im good right? NOPE! Carbs don't repair muscle. Protein does. BUT I DON'T WANT BIG MUSCLES BECAUSE OUNCES ARE POUNDS AND POUNDS ARE PAIN AND ILL BE SLOW. So the runner doesnt eat enough protien and looks like a slow skinny bitch. A key component here is that the majority of uninformed runners will hesitate on feeding the engine THE PROPER FUEL and go into a catabolic state (muscle burning/body depleting), and EVEN IF THEY DO feed the engine, they don't repair the muscles. Muscles need protein, and runners seem to never eat the adequate amount for fear of getting bulky. SOOOOO for the majority of the uninformed running world you will burn this muscle by not feeding yourself properly, and people see running as a great way to "lose weight" and so ya get a bunch of skinny weak people.

His reference in slow twitch muscle is a little off base. Fast twitch, slow twitch I mean..............yea you want a balance but It doesn't have a lot to do with strength........it has more to do with how your muscles are trained to function optimally. Look at cyclists and sprinters, BOTH have huge legs but a cyclist can't run 100 meters under 10 seconds, and a sprinter cant ride for 21 days through France for 5 hours a day.....but they are both strong.  

HOWEVER, after all that inaccurate science explanation (Check please, call a professional who can explain the science better) You will get endurance, cardiovascular strength and stamina. You just have to find a happy medium between running for endurance, and not just burning your whole body away. Burning is an accurate statement too, because you are literally burning through calories.

To strength - One of the best ways to fix a weak and damaged back (giving exceptions to herniated/slipped disks/surgery/disembowelment) is to do train your core. Most people with "damaged" backs just have weak core muscles, and major muscle imbalances, and inflexibility from sitting all day. I was one of them. If you can only do one strength training exercise dead lifts are almost perfect, with second place being squats. They don't require a lot of skill, and you can do them with anything. You don't even need a bar. They build muscle from the ground up, feet to head. They also build the muscle groups mostly closely associated with strong athletic ability, your butt and your core (that's the tummy and the lower back).

If you want to balance the two, strength and endurance, your favorite Russian comrade the kettle bell is a fantastic way. It also lets you learn to "enjoy the suck". Try 1000 swings, in a row, of a 2 pood kettlebell. That sucks. Also again, a common misconception for people unfamiliar with a kettle bell swing is that it can damage your back. Actually this is complete rubbish when performing the technique correctly. In travels in an arch and puts nearly zero compressional (is that a word?) force on your spine. You are also getting a great god damn stretch and reversing decades of "desk back, and office tummy". KB swings build stamina, strength and flexibility where it counts. Also a kettbell is so freaking veristale there exists a whole damn world dedicated to kettlebelling. Russian Kettlebell Challenge and Pavel Tsatsouline. 

If you only have 50 bucks for your entire yearly budget for fitness go buy a jump rope and a kettle bell. If you have 500 bucks buy a barbell and 200 lbs of bumper plates, some kettle bells and a jump rope.

Those 3 pieces of equipment can make you into one mean "mam'ah jam'ah". Balance, speed, endurance, strength and flexibility. Can't beat it. And you won't have to run a single mile.

TLDR - he wasn't all wrong but he wasn't all right either. Running can make you fit, but it is incredibly inefficient at making your strong. 

Most pro cyclist don't have big legs nor are they particularly strong.  They have great endurance, but couldn't squat 'squat' to save their lives.  It's a endurance sport unless we are talking cyclists that specialize in 'sprinting'.  Regardless, anything over say 10 minutes to 5+ hours cyclists are built the same, thin, wiry, efficient with good endurance....kinda like most 'salaried' moto guys, if we want to reference an ideal.  

Slow skinny ***** = fast

I don't disagree with strength training, sounds like you know your stuff, but not at the expense of keeping cardio / endurance tip-top.

 

 

Final-Podium021p-630x420.jpg

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54 minutes ago, Oregon Comrade said:

Most pro cyclist don't have big legs nor are they particularly strong.  They have great endurance, but couldn't squat 'squat' to save their lives.  It's a endurance sport unless we are talking cyclists that specialize in 'sprinting'.  Regardless, anything over say 10 minutes to 5+ hours cyclists are built the same, thin, wiry, efficient with good endurance....kinda like most 'salaried' moto guys, if we want to reference an ideal.  

Slow skinny ***** = fast

I don't disagree with strength training, sounds like you know your stuff, but not at the expense of keeping cardio / endurance tip-top.

 

 

Final-Podium021p-630x420.jpg

Yea cycling is fantastic for motocross, enduro, harescrambles. Its also much less taxing on your joints. 

Either way, I think for amateur riders balancing core strength and endurance is key. You don't need a huge muscles to moto, but you want to be strong. Again strength is relative. Also make it enjoyable or you won't do it. Running everyday for hours isn't enjoyable for me, so I find stuff that is more enjoyable.

We could get into the fact that LSD doesn't allways benefit everyone..........and that Tabata, when done correctly is known to have equal if not better gains to O2max and endurance than LSD runs.... but i digress 

Edited by NEGbrap

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I am no expert rider so take with a grain of salt but I do ride and race at Glen Helen quite often so here is what works for me.  I am 6'5, 220 and ride a CRF250/KX500 hybrid bike.  On the uphills, which are twice as steep, twice as long and twice as rough as they look on video I have no choice but to stand but am in the attack position to keep forward and as low CG as possible to avoid looping out.  I do not squeeze with my knees climbing Mt. St. Helen's.  Decending the hill I do squeeze the shroud with my knees and point my toes in just a little.  My right foot coveres the brake the entire way down. By the end of Moto 2, especially if your race is late in the day the down hills are absolutely BRUTAL.  Braking bumps the entire way from the very top.  You have got to have your bike stable under you.

At the end of 2- 6 lap moto's my legs feel sore and by the time I wake up the next morning they are bruised and blue. 

 

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