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Self-training tips for off-road riding?

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OK I will tell you a few of the tips that i found useful that I used when I first got back into it.

Off road riding you sit down a bit more than MX so when you do sit, sit up close to the gas tank so that when you transfer back to the standing position you do not pull or push on the bars.

Ride on the balls of your feet. It will keep your feet from being ripped off the pegs when rubbing agains brush. It also gives you a bit more cushion for hard landings.

Scan the trail ahead of you so that have more time to tackle obstacles.

Practice hard stops using both front and rear breaks. Being able to stop is more important than going.

Keep your elbows up and work on technique.

A lot of this will feel awkward at first but by practicing it will become second nature.

Above all keep having fun.

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All of what he said and even though you don't plan to race motocross I would say to ride MX once and a while. Riding MX will get you more comfortable with using all the controls and increase your aggressiveness. It will give you an edge on a lot of the other Harescramble only riders.

this is pretty good advice especially if you plan on getting into harescrambles. i just started racing this year and of the races i've been in so far every one had at least a little section on an mx track or a jump or two. evansville especially really intimidated me and it was my first race and the first time i've ever hit a jump on a dirt bike. i've gotten a little more comfortable but still need to get to a mx track to get some practice in.

Setup a 3 to 10 mile course of the tightest, nasty woods and hills you can find. Stuff you DON'T think is fun. Use a stop watch or enduro computer. Try to beat your time through the course. If using a enduro computer set speed average to about 15 mph and start there. If you beat that then go to 16mph , etc.

Dwight

:worthy: me and a couple guys i race/ride with put in a 7.6 mile loop of hell here in my backyard... unfortunately there's no jumps... yet :lol:

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......

You should only be gripping the bike with your legs when you have to to keep control, usually when you hit something that causes you to swap, or when you are jumping and need a little extra control in the air, other than that you should allow the bike to float under you.

Gripping with your legs is bad technique 90% of the time. So telling a noob to do it is just going to cause bad habits.

Thanks Ttoks, Mtman and Plushpuppy,

From what I've been taught, when it comes to acceleration and braking, that is handled by adjusting your seated position or feet so that your body is propelled or held back from the lowest point of contact. Though you can use sitting forward or rearward to achieve that, it's much faster to adjust from the feet.

One of the most common errors I see from trials people is they lock their boots to the top of the pegs by squeezing their boots against the frame and then try to correct for acceleration by bending over at the waist with their knees pretty much in the same position all of the time.

Now, I ride Trials 100% of the time so I can't verify what I'm told by the people that cross-train using Trials Bikes to improve their racing skills, but I'm told that ALL of the Trials Basics apply to faster riding too. From experience, I know you can still be successful getting through terrain 90% of the time with bad habits. It's that last 10% that makes or breaks you.

From what I've learned over the last 35 years is that Balance is much more complicated than not falling over. It's a constant dance to stay over the driving point of the bike and / or the center of the Earth when not changing speed by keeping the pegs directly between you and the driving forces + Gravity. To keep it simple, I will not get into using the seated position. I would think that the seated position (with most of your weight on the seat) to be used when the going is not difficult. And many times when it looks like a rider is sitting on the seat, they are really just hovering above it.

For my riding, I have found that the key is in the knees and feet, mostly adjusting the knees to allow the feet to remain on the opposite side of the pegs relative to gravity and power/braking forces as explained above. Squeezing the tank or frame for anything but a split second prevents that adjustment. I'm not talking air-time because I have no experience with that, so maybe it's important there.

While video recording National Championship rider Max Nelson recently, I was able to catch this classic example of power balance from a launch from a dead stop with the bike starting out front wheel low. I extracted 6 still shots to show what is sometimes so difficult to explain.

fp-acc-1.jpg

fp-acc-2.jpg

fp-acc-3.jpg

fp-acc-4.jpg

fp-acc-5.jpg

Note how his upper body is aligned with the trees all through this ride and how he's NOT bent over at the waist. Foot pegs are supporting him and driving him, NOT the handlebars.

.

fp-acc-6.jpg

The first photo shows a good example of a braking or downhill stance. Note the position of his knees relative to the bike and the foot pegs.

The next two photos show the wind-up for the release. Look how far his knees have moved from the first shot and the rear tire has not even left the starting point. His waist has moved even further forward and would not be possible if the knees had not moved forward, down and out. Most flawed riders will still have about the same distance from the triple clamp to their waist as they did before hitting the throttle. In an attempt to keep the front down, they will bend over at the waist to end up with their head in almost the same position as Max's head, but still, the driving forces are in their hands and not their feet.

In the last two photos you can see the transition from acceleration to neutral power and then preparation for braking and the pending drop. Knees and waist position is constantly changing from the gravity center relative to power or braking.

Pay close attention to his hands, knees, feet relative to his bike and upper body relative to the trees in all shots.

I'll bet that if you have a good library of Top MX or Enduro riders, you will see similar examples.

And cudos to Plushpuppy! You have come a long way from the first few months of riding! :worthy::lol: I'm impressed!

And I'm still open to other people's reasons for squeezing the tank and frame. thanks. :lol:

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Thank you 2-ply, it's just cuz I love it so much!!!!

I'd just like to add that when going up or down hills on a horse your back/torso is up and down like the trees are up and down...same angle. This, combined with being centered with your cg over the horse's cg--which is just about behind it's elbows--which if you make a horse into a bike it's roughly the same. Going down a steep hill on a horse is a little different, especially with speed(think Man from SNowy RIver) in that you are leaning back a bit more, BUT the positioning of staying over the center of gravity of whatever you are riding is the same--that is the important idea. ETA, thought I should clarify, with more speed(on a horse) the more you lean into the hill--which is forward when going uphill, or backward when going down.

If you are over the cg, you are in sync with your ride, and your ride can do it's thing efficiently and easier with minimal interferance from you.

I'd also like to say that "balance", to me in riding, is not the same thing as like being able to stand on one foot on top of a still pole. It's being able to stick with something no matter what direction it takes like you are a part of it, even if that direction is totally whacked--like if someone is shaking that pole and it's waving all around. I used to ride a lot of psycho horses that would blow up any which way without warning--but the fun thing was, once they knew you could stick with them and give a little discipline to channel their wild hairs, they were a blast to ride :worthy:. Just like a motorcycle:D

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Thanks Ttoks, Mtman and Plushpuppy,

From what I've been taught, when it comes to acceleration and braking, that is handled by adjusting your seated position or feet so that your body is propelled or held back from the lowest point of contact. Though you can use sitting forward or rearward to achieve that, it's much faster to adjust from the feet.

One of the most common errors I see from trials people is they lock their boots to the top of the pegs by squeezing their boots against the frame and then try to correct for acceleration by bending over at the waist with their knees pretty much in the same position all of the time.

Now, I ride Trials 100% of the time so I can't verify what I'm told by the people that cross-train using Trials Bikes to improve their racing skills, but I'm told that ALL of the Trials Basics apply to faster riding too. From experience, I know you can still be successful getting through terrain 90% of the time with bad habits. It's that last 10% that makes or breaks you.

From what I've learned over the last 35 years is that Balance is much more complicated than not falling over. It's a constant dance to stay over the driving point of the bike and / or the center of the Earth when not changing speed by keeping the pegs directly between you and the driving forces + Gravity. To keep it simple, I will not get into using the seated position. I would think that the seated position (with most of your weight on the seat) to be used when the going is not difficult. And many times when it looks like a rider is sitting on the seat, they are really just hovering above it.

For my riding, I have found that the key is in the knees and feet, mostly adjusting the knees to allow the feet to remain on the opposite side of the pegs relative to gravity and power/braking forces as explained above. Squeezing the tank or frame for anything but a split second prevents that adjustment. I'm not talking air-time because I have no experience with that, so maybe it's important there.

While video recording National Championship rider Max Nelson recently, I was able to catch this classic example of power balance from a launch from a dead stop with the bike starting out front wheel low. I extracted 6 still shots to show what is sometimes so difficult to explain.

Note how his upper body is aligned with the trees all through this ride and how he's NOT bent over at the waist. Foot pegs are supporting him and driving him, NOT the handlebars.

The first photo shows a good example of a braking or downhill stance. Note the position of his knees relative to the bike and the foot pegs.

The next two photos show the wind-up for the release. Look how far his knees have moved from the first shot and the rear tire has not even left the starting point. His waist has moved even further forward and would not be possible if the knees had not moved forward, down and out. Most flawed riders will still have about the same distance from the triple clamp to their waist as they did before hitting the throttle. In an attempt to keep the front down, they will bend over at the waist to end up with their head in almost the same position as Max's head, but still, the driving forces are in their hands and not their feet.

In the last two photos you can see the transition from acceleration to neutral power and then preparation for braking and the pending drop. Knees and waist position is constantly changing from the gravity center relative to power or braking.

Pay close attention to his hands, knees, feet relative to his bike and upper body relative to the trees in all shots.

I'll bet that if you have a good library of Top MX or Enduro riders, you will see similar examples.

And cudos to Plushpuppy! You have come a long way from the first few months of riding! :worthy::lol: I'm impressed!

And I'm still open to other people's reasons for squeezing the tank and frame. thanks. :lol:

Good example with the pics, but they show how much more extreme the movements are in trials then they are in XC/MX at least the majority of the time. I believe this is because the majority of the time trials riders have to focus on traction much more then other styles of riding, because of the short runs at obstacles or the complete lack of traction to begin with. Where as XC and MX riders generally have a decent run at obstacles and thus have more momentum built up then trials riders do. The principals are the same though for both, if you can get your center of gravity forward of your pegs when your accelerating hard and getting pulled back then you can relax your arms some and relax, but as soon as your not getting pulled back then its good to get your weight back and pull on the bars to drive the rear wheel into the ground as much as possible. But this has nothing to do with gripping with your knees, so to make up for all that here is something hopefully help full.

-When you get your suspension setup like you think you like it, write down your settings, all of them for your forks and shock. After that find an area that you can ride that represents terrain like you normally ride but in either a short loop, or a short out and back trail. Then time yourself several times, and pay close attention to what your suspension is doing. Then give your buddy access to your bike and let him play around with the suspension clickers and go out and take times again and notice how the bike changes, hopefully if your buddy knows anything about suspension you will eventually find a better setting then what you originally had, but if all fails go back to your originals.

The reason for having someone else make the changes is that you go in blind with no expectations, about what you just did, all you will know is if its better or worse, faster, or slower. But if you make the changes you will be hung up on the idea of what you did actually being better and not really paying attention to what was done.

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Get a camel-back and continuously hydrate. You'll last ALOT longer in the heat and you don't have to stop to get a drink! I fill mine with ice, add water and leave the pack in the fridge overnight. It's good for 4-5 hours of ice cold water.

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........ Going down a steep hill on a horse is a little different, especially with speed(think Man from SNowy RIver) in that you are leaning back a bit more, BUT the positioning of staying over the center of gravity of whatever you are riding is the same--that is the important idea. ETA, thought I should clarify, with more speed(on a horse) the more you lean into the hill--which is forward when going uphill, or backward when going down.

......

The main difference in stance going down is because the horse has no handlebars :lol:

And because your controls are there, you still have to keep your hands on the bars. That is why going downhill can be more difficult: You are trying to stay centered over the balance point while still trying to reach the bars.

Instead of clamping to the bike, what we practice is picking a line where we want to go and then strive to keep our head over that line while allowing the bike to move contrary to that line within reason. A slightly bow-legged stance will lower your body and give the bike room to vary from your line. If you clamp yourself to the bike, every twitch it takes throws you off line with it. But if you can remain on your line and independent of the bike, you can bring the bike back on track.

Once you learn to keep over the driving foot pegs and NOT rely on the handle bars for support, the bars become available as tools for leveraging, moving weight from one wheel or the other in traction situations etc. but once you fall behind the bike and have to use the bars to stay attached, you lose all of that and you lose the ability to turn the bike with foot pressure.

It's embarrassing to think how many years I rode by brute force, with cramped forearms and all. It's only over the last 10 years that I've gradually discovered my bad habits and after 25 years of using them, they are hard to break. :worthy:

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Thanks mtman,

My example was only to show an why squeezing the tank or frame advice to newbies is so detrimental. If it's not made clear that it's an instantaneous move, they will try to hold that position.

Even in teaching Trials, when I point out that the rider should dip the knees while on the gas, they tend to dip them and keep them there. It's ONLY for the amount of time that your speed is increasing and that is usually no more than a second or two.

In the photos, the main point is how far the knees and waist must move to maintain the centered position over the driving pegs and how they change quickly and in direct proportion to changes in acceleration and deceleration, always coming back to opposite of gravity when speed is constant.

But since I see so many people almost always adding "squeeze the tank or frame" in the tips to new riders, I just wanted to know if I might be missing something. I know it is never suggested in Trials, for one reason, the tank is too low and narrow. Your knees would have to come together to pinch the tank :worthy:

There IS however, one time that we squeeze the frame with our boots, and there is a rubber strip on the frame for it. That is when hopping the rear wheel up and around for a nose wheel turn. Like a "Stoppie" but finishing with the rear tire to one side and done while the bike is stationary as well as while braking.

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It's embarrassing to think how many years I rode by brute force, with cramped forearms and all. It's only over the last 10 years that I've gradually discovered my bad habits and after 25 years of using them, they are hard to break. :worthy:

Ain't that the truth! I am where you are but... I think those years of brute force riding have prepared me to handle the tough stuff. Correct body position and relaxation does wonders for endurance. It is nice to be able to snap into brute force mode to avoid get offs. Man I wish they had the internet back when I started riding. I shouldn't be faster now than I was then but I am! Still have lots of improving to do as I can hang with some of the faster guys around just not for 1-2 hours, and after 30 minutes I am beat and they have not broke a sweat...

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This might sound strange, but go spend a couple days at the track. I'm just getting back into riding after being away for about 30 years. I had some friends talk me into going to the track (I'm an off-roader, not a MX'r), so I gave in and went. I have progressed more in 2 days at the track than in the entire 6 mos that I have been back on the bike. My braking, cornering and jumping have vastly improved. The track is a great way to work on your endurance also. I can ride at a hard pace for 1.5-2 hours off-road, but 4 laps at the track and I was done.

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Yah 4 laps on a track kills me too. I agree a track is a great place to learn to ride loose. Also a good place to balance your suspension. I recently did a Grand Prix style race that had a 5 mile woods loop mixed in with 2 miles of MX track. Killed me. Been back a few times since and really learned to loosen up.

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Just ride every opportunity you get. When I switched from quads to bikes almost 2 years ago, I had a lot of bad habits from the quad. Spent a lot of time reading online about gripping the bike with my knees and approaching things in the "attack position". But when it came down to it, I realized that trying to constantly grip with my legs was hindering my progress, and that in reality there is no magic postion. Now that i'm much faster, I just go with the flow, If I'm in 5th WFO, and the bike tries to swap out or I get an unexpected bounce that tries to fling my feet off the pegs then i'll instinctively grab the bike w/my legs etc. Just ride a lot with people who are faster than you. But at the same time, don't ride over your head as injuries put a damper on your learning. If your following someone, Pick a different line. If you ride behind someone the desire to follow their line is almost unavoidable for new riders. Once I started purposely picking out a diff. line than the rider in front of me, I eventually stated to look past that rider. Once I started looking past that rider I started passing that rider.:worthy:

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Just ride every opportunity you get. When I switched from quads to bikes almost 2 years ago, I had a lot of bad habits from the quad. Spent a lot of time reading online about gripping the bike with my knees and approaching things in the "attack position". But when it came down to it, I realized that trying to constantly grip with my legs was hindering my progress, and that in reality there is no magic postion. Now that i'm much faster, I just go with the flow, If I'm in 5th WFO, and the bike tries to swap out or I get an unexpected bounce that tries to fling my feet off the pegs then i'll instinctively grab the bike w/my legs etc. Just ride a lot with people who are faster than you. But at the same time, don't ride over your head as injuries put a damper on your learning. If your following someone, Pick a different line. If you ride behind someone the desire to follow their line is almost unavoidable for new riders. Once I started purposely picking out a diff. line than the rider in front of me, I eventually stated to look past that rider. Once I started looking past that rider I started passing that rider.:worthy:

LOL i like that theory.... going first is alot less dusty :lol: :lol:

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Funny thing about being first... When I ride 2nd behind by riding buddy I have a hard time keeping up. But when he follows me (or tries to) I leave him behind...

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Funny thing about being first... When I ride 2nd behind by riding buddy I have a hard time keeping up. But when he follows me (or tries to) I leave him behind...

Normally it's the other way around...since you can gauge the terrain from what's happening to the guy in front of you. He also takes the brunt of oncoming traffic for you. :worthy:

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i found that after i got a good days ride in some really soft sand on my RM 250, i got alot more comfortable riding it...id say riding bulcher is a great spot to hone your skills and get more comfortable on your bike, as is barnwell mountain...

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Probably not that much land :lol: And we are in TX, so the hills are laughable at best, but trees I have!:worthy:

Hey, we have hills! You just have to know where to look. Barnwell Mt. and Red River (Bulcher) have hills that can humble the best riders.

Sean, where do you live, I might be able to recomend some riding areas.

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Another vote here for riding more motocross.

You'll be humbled at how fast those guys can take a corner, and hopefull, you

too could pick up a ton of skills and transfer them onto the trail.

Not to mention, I can ride 60 miles of singletrack on a practice day and feel pretty

darn good. But if I try to chase my buddy, who is a solid intermediate mx'er,

around the track, I'm seriously whooped by noon.

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Another vote here for riding more motocross.

You'll be humbled at how fast those guys can take a corner, and hopefull, you

too could pick up a ton of skills and transfer them onto the trail.

Not to mention, I can ride 60 miles of singletrack on a practice day and feel pretty

darn good. But if I try to chase my buddy, who is a solid intermediate mx'er,

around the track, I'm seriously whooped by noon.

Yeah I agree with that to a point, but the a lot of the guys I know that ride mostly mx who can corner faster than me on a turn with a berm, prepped loamy dirt, and perfectly moistened ground are completely lost when you point them a the same angle turn littered with rocks, ruts, hard packed dirt with zero traction, and no idea whats going to be facing them on the exit, then they're the ones humbled at the speed we take corners on the trail.

I think mx/offroad have completely different skill sets, but there are enough similarities to make them both a learning experience for each other. and besides you can't just ride trails because there is too much fun to be had at a track and vice versa.

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