– Skills – How To Tackle Long Rock

Australian Mountain Bike - - Contents - AMB WORDS: JARED RANDO PHOTOS: NICK WAYGOOD

Rock gar­dens come in all shapes and sizes, but the big ones can be se­ri­ously daunt­ing. Smaller rock gar­dens can be a bit of a point and shoot af­fair – pick the exit, aim for it and hold on! How­ever, the big­ger ver­sions re­quire a much more cal­cu­lated ap­proach. Quite of­ten you’ll have mul­ti­ple lines, trees on the side and a whole lot of stuff you don’t want to hit be­tween you and the exit. The key to get­ting through safely and quickly is to scan ahead, pick your line, scan ahead some more and don’t look at any­thing you don’t want to hit. Here’s how to get it done.

STEP 1 Scan ahead and pick your line

Al­ways take the op­por­tu­nity to jump off your bike and have a look at what’s ahead. If you don’t have that lux­ury, take a quick op­por­tu­nity to dab the brakes, look up and see what lies ahead. Tak­ing a split sec­ond to scan ahead can make all the dif­fer­ence. Pick your line and don’t look any­where else once you are com­mit­ted.

STEP 3 Keep scan­ning ahead and ad­just your body po­si­tion to suit

The most com­mon mis­take is for rid­ers to not know what’s com­ing up and not ad­just ac­cord­ingly. There’s al­ways go­ing to be lots of sur­prises in big rock gar­dens – you’ll come across a steep drop or get bounced off line. By look­ing ahead as far as you can, you’ll have time to pre­pare for what lies ahead. If there’s a steep drop, no prob­lem! Get your weight way back so you don’t go over the bars. The fur­ther you can look ahead the bet­ter.

STEP 4 Stay calm and re­laxed

OK, so this might be a bit hard, but once you get in the groove of things, take no­tice of how tense you are. There is a fine bal­ance be­tween be­ing too tense and too re­laxed, but you re­ally need to be as calm as pos­si­ble. Tens­ing up too much is just as likely to throw you over the bars as los­ing your grip. You want to be re­laxed enough to have the bike move around un­der­neath you, but still have enough punch to keep the bike in a straight line over the small bumps and not lose your grip.

STEP 2 Keep your weight back

Once you are rolling through, you’ll want to keep your weight slightly back and ad­just it as nec­es­sary. As you hit the rocks, mo­men­tum will throw your body for­ward, so hav­ing your weight back will coun­ter­act this and keep you from go­ing over the bars on the big im­pacts. You also want to stay strong through your up­per body – hold on tight but be wary of tens­ing up too much as you’ll need to let the bike move be­neath you and find its path to a cer­tain de­gree.

STEP 5 Exit as smooth as pos­si­ble

When you come up to the exit, look ahead and see what’s next. It is way too easy to for­get that the trail doesn’t stop at the end of the gnarly rock gar­den and have it all come un­stuck at the last sec­ond. Like with cor­ner­ing, your exit speed is the best judge of how well you have done. As you exit, re­mem­ber to let off the brakes as soon as pos­si­ble, look up, see what’s next and take an op­por­tu­nity to re­lax your grip so you can keep the fun go­ing all the way down the hill - be­fore the in­evitable arm pump starts to kick in!

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