Jump to content

Balance, bar position and whiskey throttle

Recommended Posts

Been mountain biking for a long time, but just starting to learn to ride. I'm 6'4", about 250 in street clothes and have an '02 YZ250.

I went with a Renthal RC High bar to get the bars up high enough to stand comfortably. With my weight balanced on the pegs, in a standing attack position, it seemed my hands wanted to be farther forward then they were, even with the bar rotated somewhat forward.

I have driven some seriously fast cars and am comfortable with a lot of throttle, but on the bike, it seemed like I was always behind it, even with modest throttle inputs. I prefer to stand much of the time on my mountain bike, but I was really uncomfortable standing on the YZ. Even though some things seemed to work a lot better standing, it seemed like I had to hang onto the bars and pull myself forward too much. Eventually, I ended up having a whiskey throttle get-off. Safety gear all worked awesome, just a couple scratches in between my sleeve and glove.

As I was putting the controls back together (replacing a broken brake lever), I was checking the bar position, and noticed that with the bars where they were, with my arms in a comfortable attack position, my hands wanted to be about two inches forward of the grips. Moving my hands back to hold the grips shifted my c.g. so I had to hold onto the grips to keep from falling backward. If I pulled my body forward to stay balanced, it would be totally unnatural and akward, with poor leverage on the bars, not good.

I didn't do this before, because I'd read some comments about steering getting weird when the bars are too far forward. I got a set of Rox risers and installed them almost all the way forward, only a little bit up. Had to trim the upper edge of the number plate to make room for the cables and risers, but everything moves freely lock to lock and there doesn't appear to be any need for custom long cables.

Now, when I stand on the pegs in a balanced attack position, the bars are perfectly centered in my hands. I can open my grip and float, with the bars staying centered in the grip, not touching them. Perfectly natural and comfortable. No need to grip the bike between my legs to hold position.

It seems intuitively that I have it right. The reason I was always "behind" the bike is because I was already falling backward before anything even happened. I had to use the bars to stay with the bike, so I was a lot more prone to whiskey throttle than I should have been. Now, I should be able to easily and naturally shift my weight forward and backward when needed.

Hoping to get my buddy to go out to the desert with me to work on basic skills this weekend. I have also installed an 11-oz Steahly, more for help on the singletrack when I get back to it than to moderate the throttle response. I am not really looking for crutches - I'm committed to building the skill to ride well. I've read a few threads on whiskey throttle, and had already worked out some drills to practice (clutch in) to try to build some instincts to help me out on the trail.

Anyone have comments on this setup before I go?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not enough time to get into details here, but what you are experiencing and trying to solve is THE main fundamental that we work on in Trials Competition. However, our bikes are designed differently to work around this. On yours you are a little crowded by the bars when you stand because your foot pegs are basically in the middle of the engine. Ours are way back just in front of the rear tire.

We typically find that tall people assume they need taller bars, but when you consider all things, taller people have longer arms. Raising the bars by more than an inch will crowd you even more.

Without getting into more detail than we have room for here, there is another physics factor that you didn't deal with on bicycles. It's the amount of power available to you and the need to adjust your stance at the FEET to compensate for that power. Basically, when you stand, you want the foot pegs to drive your body forward with the bike, so your knees need to adjust down and forward so that a line drawn from your knee to the foot pegs is in complete balance with the amount of speed change you are asking for. This is a very quick move and exactly proportional to the amount of acceleration AND the duration of that change in speed so that when you back off or even brake, that line between your knees and the foot pegs needs to move in relation to the changes which is often more than a 90 degree arc from forward to rearward if look at from the side.

If you stand with boots locked to the frame, your upper body will fall behind or into the bars as you change speed with power and brakes. If you roll your feet to the front or rear of the pegs so that the foot pegs are driving your boots, you'll be able to hover over the bars and use them for leverage and other actions without depending on them to keep you attached. The only problem is that there is not as much room on your bike for this adjustment as there is on my Trials Bike. But then, I have nowhere to sit either.. :cheers:

Instinctively, we seem to have the need to grip the bars and hold them out in front of us and then we try to keep our heads directly centered between the grips. When ideally, we need to allow those grips to move all over the place while we remain over the sweet spot with the foot pegs driving us.

Makes sense?? Difficult to type about and can take a long time to break the habit of depending upon the bars for support... Basically, when your hands are doing a lot of work to keep you with the bike, something below is not right. You'll hear people all day long telling you to squeeze the bike with your legs and in some situations to regain control or stabilize the bike, that is true, but is a bad habit to do it all of the time. Keep your knees active for suspension and keeping centered by making sure your ankles and boots are not locked to the frame. If they are, bending at your knees while the knees stay in the same position relative to the frame is going to throw your upper body back or you'll have to "hunch" over at the waist... both bad!

Hope that helps a little. Take videos of your riding and watch other people's videos to look for this in yourself and others. Slow motion or frame by frame can reveal what we can't see at regular speed.

There is a lot more to it, but that is one of the core principles. :thumbsup:

Ya see?? even THAT little pointer took up a ton of web space... :thumbsup:

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That makes a lot of sense, 2PLY! I'm really new to riding but I do have some minor mountain bike experience.

So if I'm understanding the concept correctly. When you accelerate, you will sort of roll forward on the pegs so they push you forward with the bike. When you brake, you roll back so you are pushing on the pegs to slow yourself with the bike.

From a physics point of view, when you are at constant speed, the only(yeah, let's keep it simple...) force acting on you that you need to counter is gravity, basically straight down, so you stand on top of the pegs. When you accelerate or brake, you are adding another force into the mix that wants to move the bike out from under you. You need to keep the mass of your upper body moving with the bike, so you can hold the bars tight to support your upper body (wrong way) OR you could adjust your foot stance so the force travels up your legs and acts on your upper body moving it with the bike.

Am I getting the general idea?:thumbsup:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
...........

Am I getting the general idea?:thumbsup:

BINGO!!! Exactly! But it's a constant fight with instinct and self-preservation.. the moment we see something we are unsure of or is intimidating, we take hold of the bars, squeeze the bike with the boots and HANG ON!! :cheers: The EXACT opposite of what we SHOULD be doing.

I have to constantly remind myself and do little test jabs at the throttle and brake with my hands partially open to see if I can stay with the bike. It takes time, but that is the key you are working toward.

It's a little harder on your bike to do because the foot pegs are closer to the bars and the bars will limit how far you can sink forward.

When you see people bending over at the waist trying to get their head forward, their butt will be behind the foot pegs... a sure sign that their boots are locked to the top of the pegs and immobile. Keep your eyes open for that.

Also, to a great degree, DON'T lean over with the bike in dirt turns.. Lay the bike over to turn but stay over it. The slower you go, the more important this is... but then, this is another long subject with many variables..

Don't forget to Have fun! :thumbsup:

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

2PLY, I always look forward to your posts. These above have a tremendous amount of very helpful information on balance and body position that I, for one, have needed to see. I think they'll help me a bunch. Thanks tons.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What you're saying about not squeezing the bike with my legs too hard makes sense. On my mountain bike, I use my legs as a guide for the frame. Let the seat float freely between them, to stabilize the frame in side to side motion, but let it do whatever it needs to up, down, front, back.

I definitely understand that raising the bars too high will crowd you. As the front end comes up, either climbing or lofting it, higher bars get closer to your torso, but they tend not to be at chest/shoulder level where that could help control. Instead, they are closer to your belly, and your arms have less leverage in that area.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2PLY, I always look forward to your posts. These above have a tremendous amount of very helpful information on balance and body position that I, for one, have needed to see. I think they'll help me a bunch. Thanks tons.

Glad to hear that! Makes the time and thought worth my time. Sometimes, because I'm coming from a Observed Trials point of view, some people think the tips are not applicable to Enduro or faster trail machines, but I'm finding more and more examples of non-trials riders benefiting from the cross-training and we are seeing a cross-over group of Trials People getting into racing and Enduros and doing VERY well. Take David Knight and Taddy (the Polish Champion). I watched and video taped "Taddy" in the World Trials events for 4 years before he went to work with KTM.

You can see some good examples of that in the "Waterfall Steps" thread.

If you are going to race your bike in serious competition events where speed is more important, then there are obviously other tips that I have no real experience with... So, I don't know EVERYTHING.. But I know a heck of a lot more than I did when I started 35 years ago... mostly the hard way. :thumbsup:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What you're saying about not squeezing the bike with my legs too hard makes sense. On my mountain bike, I use my legs as a guide for the frame. Let the seat float freely between them, to stabilize the frame in side to side motion, but let it do whatever it needs to up, down, front, back.

I definitely understand that raising the bars too high will crowd you. As the front end comes up, either climbing or lofting it, higher bars get closer to your torso, but they tend not to be at chest/shoulder level where that could help control. Instead, they are closer to your belly, and your arms have less leverage in that area.

For turning ability, I move my boots about 1 to 1-1/2 inches away from the frame so that the tip of the foot peg is in the middle of my boot sole. This allows me a little room to tip the bike from leg to leg for a majority of the shorter and quicker turns without the need to open my legs. The tip of the peg in the middle of my boot sole allows me to keep my outside boot level with the ground as the bike tips over.

Any tighter on the turn requires me to open the inside leg for more room to lay the bike over.. However, it's important that the outside leg bow out the same amount and that you allow more pressure on the outside peg to counter-balance the bike for any slower balance turn.. Any slight lean into the turn with your head will have you depending upon centrifugal forces to maintain balance and any change in speed or slip of the tire will require a quick adjustment of your entire body so you don't fall into or out of the turn.

If you can think of "walking the pegs" to initiate quick turns with a little room between your legs to snap the bike left and right, you'll be amazed at how quick you can change direction and make corrections. While you are learning this, try to do it with no handle bar input. As you get better at it, you coordinate bar pressure along with peg pressure but try to keep your upper body upright and don't "lean over the bars" by bending at the waist. As you sink forward on power to remain on the front of the pegs, you waist will come closer to the steering head... If that is not happening, it means you are bending over. It's quite identical to the stance a good snow skier uses... torso fairly upright, head up, eyes forward with knees and ankles doing the suspension work... NOT knees and waist.

And yes, I DO lean the bike over against the inside leg and use my leg to stabilize the bike, but my other leg is way out the other direction with the tip of the foot peg in the center of my boot as I add weight to that peg... As the bike leans to one side, the pegs shift away from the center of the bike until at some point, the outside peg is really in the center of the bike over the tire contact patch. To bring the bike out of the turn, I only need to close my legs and step on the outside peg to bring it up or recover from a slip.

Now, combine the side to side turning control with the front to rear movement to keep the pegs under your boots at all times and you will be a busy rider, but in total control. The rider that stands or sits in one place and thinks the bike is supposed to do the rest is lost. :thumbsup:

Another long post... sorry, but how about a couple photos as examples. We were practicing a tight turn in the middle of a loose and steep climb, so some of the principles stand out well.. Notice how the inside leg and arm have to extend while the outside leg and arm have to bend to allow the bars to move without pushing your head out of plumb with the trees in the background... the first photo is an example of incorrect stance.. Though you could get away with it many times, it shows the classic stiffer arms pushing the upper body back and into the turn:

wrong.jpg

Here is a corrected version of the same turn:

right.jpg

And here is me trying to demonstrate. Notice how my left hand is almost in my face and my body is aligned with the trees in the background. Taller bars would be a problem here.

turn-practice.jpg

And here is a favorite shot showing classic form of hands and arms.... And though these are Trials Photos, the principle works on other bikes.. And notice how far back the foot pegs are...

bildt-002.jpg

And then there is Geoff Aaron going to extremes... tipping his head a little, but he's NOT trying to learn the basics, you can bend the laws once you've mastered them.

moz-screenshot-7.jpg

Edited by 2PLY

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On the subject of "Whiskey Throttle"... I'm not sure about others, but I find it happens once in a while to me when I'm tired and want to stand up more straight with a loose grip on the throttle but not following the bars through the bumps and then a front end bump pumps the throttle grip up into my hand hitting my palm first... BLIP!!! and if I'm tired and not ready, the bike leaves me.

Though it looks like I use my entire hand on the throttle, I actually use only my thumb and index finger with the others laying over the grip..... just in case.

I keep my palm away from the grip as a general rule.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

AWESOME THREAD! Thanks for the info 2Ply!:thumbsup:

I'm in the same boat as the OP, with the exception that I'm coming from a mountain snowmobile back round. We don't have pegs, we have running boards. As we climb the steep and deep, we are clinging to life by our hands and ankles.

I plan on saving the info and re-reading prior to every practice session.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
...

I plan on saving the info and re-reading prior to every practice session.

Cool!! :thumbsup:

If you have a video editor, a good exercise and learning tool is to copy some of the better videos and then slow them way down and look for the correct and incorrect application of some of the key fundamentals and learn to identify them.

After that, you'll be more able to critique your own riding and spot the good and bad habits before they become permanent.

It's quite often better to use videos from "Good" riders and avoid the Pros as the Pros are so good that they can appear to bend the rules and use isometric energy where you are expecting some movement.

As you can see, we work on key fundamentals and take videos and photos of each other. I often use just a pocket Canon ELF camera that allows us to instantly view the videos and at very slow motion for an instant feed-back. It works wonders since many times what you "feel" you are doing is far from what you are ACTUALLY doing.

The first time I purposely had some video of me riding a rock pile to look for problems, I was horrified at what I saw!! I had no idea I looked that bad. :thumbsup:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Awesome info 2Ply...thank you!:thumbsup:

+1 on that 2Ply. This thread is a virtual riding clinic.

After hearing some of the mechanics explained, I feel somewhat vindicated. The gripping the bike with the boots thing never worked me, as I am also tall (6'4") and have long legs. My legs are usually spread somewhat with the bike bouncing around in between. If I suck them in together to grip the bike, I don't feel my balance is as good.

Another problem with being tall is that it is hard, at least for me, to modulate the rear brake when seated. My legs are so folded up when sitting that it makes it hard to have a good touch on the pedal. Anyone else have that problem? Not sure what the solution is.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, thanks for the time and effort you put into this thred 2ply. I'm off to practice your suggestions after 50 yrs of riding. Your never to old to learn.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Loading up the bike in the morning, driving to my buddy's place after work, and out to the desert first thing on Saturday. Thanks for the tips! :thumbsup:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have fun guys. This stuff might be fundamental, but it's about 95% of what will make or break you... I have found that if you can master just this little bit, you could probably skip the really advanced stuff and still win most competitions you enter... Or you can have the time of your life just enjoying the control and confidence just these few simple basics can add to your riding pleasure.

I have not mastered it but I'm working on it... Might have to continue in my next life if I don't get it soon. :thumbsup:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
+1 on that 2Ply. This thread is a virtual riding clinic.

After hearing some of the mechanics explained, I feel somewhat vindicated. The gripping the bike with the boots thing never worked me, as I am also tall (6'4") and have long legs. My legs are usually spread somewhat with the bike bouncing around in between. If I suck them in together to grip the bike, I don't feel my balance is as good.

Another problem with being tall is that it is hard, at least for me, to modulate the rear brake when seated. My legs are so folded up when sitting that it makes it hard to have a good touch on the pedal. Anyone else have that problem? Not sure what the solution is.

I am not tall, but I found that seated having my right knee snugged up next to the shroud(but not in a death grip sense, just a steadying point), allows my ankle/toe to move free for a light touch on the brake.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the response Plushpuppy. I can't bend my toe upwards and still keep my foot on the peg when seated. As an exaggeration, think of trying to bend your toe back when your legs are in a full squat - it's not quite that bad but almost. I'm going to give some thought to mounting a rear brake lever on the handlebar like the rekluse clutch guys do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I getcha. When I do this(tickling the brake) my foot isn't on the peg(sorry I didn't add that). Dunno if that is Kosher, but it works--at least it gives me way better feel. My feet are stubby/small so I can't just rock it on the peg to do the brake, I HAVE to move my foot. My seat is cut out too so it sets me a little lower/legs jacked up--if you can call it that, heh.

Don't know if this is applicable to the topic, but I do work on riding with one foot on a peg, and the other unweighted to work the levers. It has helped improve balance to remain centered despite the momentary unweighting of one foot--sometimes this un-symmetry can really upset people's equilibrium. Another way to use that one leg is to stand up on the outside leg coming out of a turn. I would imagine though, that this one leg work would enhance one's use of weighting one peg at a time, like when 2-ply sez "walk the pegs" (?). In any case your legs have to be stronger to do this, and more strength always helps!

The yoga poses, Tree and T would address this balance on one leg thing, retaining that centered cg despite using one foot on the ground(ie not being symmetrically grounded).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have to confess, the title of this thread sounds like asking for tips on winning drinking games...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Reply with:


×