The key to staying smooth through rough terrain is timing, balance and spotting your line early. I find recceing the trail helpful. In general, you want to pick the safest, most direct line. Look for small banks and channels to use like a berm to hold your tyres or change direction.
Perfect speed takes practice reps and patience, but once you get it right, the feeling of charging through a rough section will make your day! So here are a few tips on how to get it right…
Timing and balance come from a solid, neutral position. Stay relaxed, arms and legs slightly bent, eyes up and equal pressure on both pedals. Try to anticipate obstacles and skim over them to carry momentum.
If you notice your back foot dropping, the solution could be shifting your hips forward or checking your shock isn’t soft or the fork firm. The key is to reduce the movement required to control the bike.
If you drag your brakes through rough terrain it’ll be much harder to find control because your wheels will be bouncing around. Straight lines and smooth surfaces offer the most grip for scrubbing speed.
Another good time to brake is when landing in a compression. The faster you go, the smoother a section will feel, because you’ll float over any holes rather than sinking into them.
3. Line choice
It’s best to think in straight(ish) lines. Ride straight, find a ‘catch’ to pivot off, then go straight again, to give smooth, arcing lines.
Fade wide in the entries of the turns to open them up, if you can. Scan everything on the trail. Decide where you’d like to be at the end of a section to figure out how to get there. Giving up a little speed to start is often worth it for a clean run through the roughest bit.
Think of pumping like doing a squat. With a straight spine, lower yourself by opening your hips and knees, with your chest staying in a neutral position. Then explode up as if you’re jumping on solid ground, to give you free speed.
Perfect the timing — unweight going up, crest with your rear tyre, then re-weight on the downward transition. Your arms will bend naturally when you get it right.
5. Conquer your fear
Dealing with fear is a skill. The first step is to decide whether the line or trail feature that’s scaring you is worth the risk and if you think you can do it.
Starting small and progressing is the best approach. Solid fundamentals are important too. If there’s something I’m scared of, I figure out why and break down what I need to physically do to get over the obstacle. I’ll try different start points and speeds, practice, fail and try again.
Some days I’m just not feeling it and will listen to my intuition until I’m ready.