7:37p.m and 71°in Sedona, AZ
Learning to ride rock gardens fluidly and gracefully at speed takes quite a bit of practice, but I believe that with the correct technique it is very attainable for anyone that follows these principles.
The first and most important thing to understand is that you need to isolate the bikes movements from your body’s movements. Your arms and legs have way more shock absorption capabilities than the suspension on the bike, so use them!
What has a tendency to happen with a lot of riders, is both their arms and legs tense up when being loose and supple is needed most and this makes their body start jolting around.
Let’s start with the hands.
Holding onto the handlebars with a death grip is completely counter productive. Your grip on the bars should feel like you’re holding an egg that you don’t want to crush. Your arms need to be loose. There’s a cascading effect when clenching the grips. Make a soft fist then feel your forearm, then make a tight fist and feel it again. This tension transfers all the way into your shoulders. You’ll be able to feel a significant difference I’m sure.
When riding down a high speed rock garden you should be in the” Ready position”. Think of this as the middle of your potential reach for both your arms and legs.This gives you the ability to lift and drop your body as needed. You’re now standing on the pedals with your feet wedged between the pedals that are level to the ground.Your forward foot, heel down and the back foot toes down. This should give you the feeling of being in the bike rather than on it.
Your lower abs are engaged and they’re holding your torso up rather than your arms holding the torso up. This is a very important piece of the puzzle as the front of the bike can now move up and down freely because there’s no weight on the handlebars. If this isn’t done properly the bikes rough movements get transferred into your body.
Now for your legs. I’m sure we all did this as kids when goofing around on a trampoline where you jumped on the spot rapidly on a trampoline without actually leaving the trampoline surface. Your body barely moved. This is how your legs should feel, loose but engaged and rapidly absorbing the bikes movements.
This enables you to keep your body smooth over the rough terrain.Your center of mass is located behind your belly button, think of this as a heavy medicine ball. The objective is to keep this medicine ball suspended and traveling in a fluid and graceful path.
The next thing to consider is your up and down pressure control,weighting and unweighting the bike. Rhythmically pumping, making the bike heavy then light as you work your way through the rock garden.Think of it like this, you and your bike will be virtually weightless after every pump. What this enables you to do is not only carry more speed with less effort but you’ll be starting to flow through the rough sections. This doesn’t happen overnight but once you get the principles you’ll start to feel it. Check out my tutorials on SimonSaysMTB.com to get more in depth information on this.