Mountain bike riding has become more and more technical over the years, as riders push the boundaries of what's rideable. Nowadays, there's virtually nothing that some maniac wouldn't ride down, through or over.
This has largely come about because of advances in technology: proper, effective suspension, decent brakes and stronger frames and components. But riders themselves have also found new ways to hit stuff, and have picked up new ideas from sports such as snowboarding, motocross and BMX. New riders come into the sport, discover the established limits and set about destroying them - everyone progresses and riding stays fresh.
Although this is happening in all aspects of mountain biking, the most visibly developing area is technical riding. You only have to look at some of the North Shore stuff to see the extreme end of that movement. But alongside the ridiculous drops and ladders through trees, technical riding techniques filter down to everyday trail use, and sections that might have seemed impossible before end up looking like a walk in the park.
Professional UK riders Oli Beckingsale (cross country champ) and Will Longden (downhiller and 4X champ) give you some pointers to get your tech game up to speed.
Big rocks and roots
Sometimes rocks or roots look too big to ride over or through at any decent speed. If the section is littered with rocks it's affectionately known as a rock garden - usually there's more rock than ground and you literally have to pick your line through boulders the size of basketballs. You can also come across some huge exposed roots that can cause similar troubles...
Sure, you can slow right down and, if necessary, slip into trials mode and hop from rock to rock, but there is an easier way. You can keep your speed up and fly over the top of the rocks or roots. But, you really need to be happy catching a bit of airtime and be familiar with bunnyhopping to take on this technique.
Hit the section out of the saddle. Either use a handy rock as a kicker or make sure your bunnyhop has enough pop. Stay loose and use your arms and legs to absorb the landing or suck up impact if you clip the top of any of the rocks.
Walk the section and scope your line. Once you have this locked in your head, visualise a line passing from your takeoff to the landing. Focus on the end of that line and adjust your position and bike in the air to hit the exit perfectly.
You've decided not to roll this section, so hit it as fast as you can. Always take into consideration the exit, the surface and the conditions though. You need enough speed to clear everything but not so much that you lose it on the landing.
Brakes don't have much influence when you're off the ground. Gyroscopic effect can come into play on massive jumps, but not for this kind of thing. Just cover your brake levers with at least one finger in case you get out of shape on the exit.