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Riding Fast on Singletrack

Many trails, and most of the best mountain biking takes place in woodland. Riding between the trees inevitably means that there will be roots on the trail. Roots can make the trail bumpy and difficult to ride in dry conditions, but when wet they become very slippery. You want to ride root-strewn trails without difficulty. Watch competent riders and they appear to float over roots whether they are wet or dry. Poor technique or not treating roots with due respect is guaranteed to cause you problems.

If you have ridden a trail before then you may remember a particular section of bad roots, but in general the first time you are aware of the roots is when you almost on top of them. You cannot really prepare for roots in terms of tire choice and bike set-up, you just need to see them and use your technique to ride over them smoothly.

Look for the best line; you may even see a root-free course. If you have to ride roots, look for those that are perpendicular to your course. Roots at an angle to your direction of travel are more likely to throw you off balance. On descents, slow down before you reach the roots. When climbing, speed up before the roots. Your momentum will carry you over them but erratic pedaling will have you off.

Ride as smoothly as possible. If you need to pedal, brake or steer when you are on the root, be very light. When descending, rise up off the saddle and keep your arms relaxed. Your elbows and knees can act like wishbone shock absorbers and the bike can, to a large extent, bounce around beneath you and find its own way over the roots. Avoid using the brakes as much as possible. Stay relaxed and you are unlikely to slip.

When climbing the problem is usually the lack of traction, so you need to have enough speed before you reach the roots. With enough speed, you can stand up a little and freewheel over the roots, before powering off again. When you need to pedal, sit towards the front of the saddle, with your arms bent. Keep your chest low to keep some weight and control over the front wheel. Be very light with your pedal pressure. If you pedal too hard your will wheel spin and stop. When climbing you will be traveling slowly, so keep looking for a better line to avoid those roots lying diagonally across your path

Once you are through the section you can resume total control, and this is the chance for you to slow down if you have gained speed or pedal hard to go faster again.

Heavily rooted, steep trails or corners will cause more problems, as you will be forced to steer or pedal on the roots themselves. There’s no substitute for regular practisce to get you through these situations you have to know when to make an action and when to relax, so that you are smooth over the very slippery roots and do the work in between. By riding on roots your general bike handling skills will be tested and therefore improve.


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