mid-level trials training: creek beds & wet rocks
Creek beds and wet rocks can be extremely challenging and exhausting to ride in, but also a lot of fun - the balance and bike control you develop will transfer across to all other facets of your dirt riding. A quick note - creek beds tend to be environmentally sensitive areas so focus on your traction skills to minimize wheel spin and prevent erosion.
Body positioning is critical to mastering creek beds. Keep your legs bent and apart. When your legs are bent they will help to soak up the bumps and achieve a smoother ride. When your legs are apart, you are more likely to be able to recover from the bike slipping sideways without putting a foot down. This style of riding also lowers your centre of gravity.
Keep your body positioning toward the rear when possible. This keeps the front light and able to skip from rock to rock, and allows an easier recovery if the front wheel is deflected. It also provides extra traction for the rear wheel as it increases the "footprint" of the rear tyre if you are running reasonably low pressures.
Usually the moment you start to have trouble in creek beds and on wet rocks it is because of incorrect body positioning!
Maintain momentum as much as possible, and et your body move around a lot in response to it moving around - the longer you can stay on the pegs and balanced the better.
clutch & throttle control
Keep your turns, throttle and clutch control very smooth. Any jerky responses are likely to dislodge rocks and ensure a foot is needed on the ground. Riding in a higher gear and slipping the clutch will help a lot with this. Always ride with one finger on the clutch and front brake levers. Two strokes can be trickier in creek beds due to their snappy response but a higher gear and clutch slipping will help to keep traction.
finding the right speed
Ride too slow and the rocks will start to bounce you around too much. It will be harder to recover from front wheel deflections and you'll probably have traction problems too if are a gear too low. But ride too fast and you'll push beyond your skill levels and end up out of control. You will also probably hang on too tightly and wear yourself out. There is a psychological aspect to riding creek beds - you need to relax and to some extent let the bike do what it wants, although your brain will be telling you to hang on very tightly and fight for control.
It is surprising how smooth the ride can be at the right speed. If there are sheets of water you can wheelie through these to avoid the front wheel being deflected by hidden obstacles. Once the water gets quite deep though, it's probably best to slow down enough so you can see if there are any hidden logs or large rocks.
A common problem is fixating on the rocks just before your front wheel, but you need to constantly look ahead to pick your lines in creek beds. Pick your line carefully to ensure a smooth a path as possible. If you do get off line, don't panic as you'll be surprised at the size of rocks you can hit and ride over as you apply all of these skills.
Remember to watch the line your rear wheel will take in turns over rocks, and to back off the throttle if there is a large rock your rear wheel can't avoid.
If you can pick a good line around water puddles, do so to keep your tires dry for better traction.
Try riding creek beds deliberately slowly - this will exercise your balance, body positioning, and clutch/throttle control to the max!
Look for wet moss-covered rocks to really put yourself to the test. This involves nothing more than all the skills already mentioned, but with extra emphasis on
maintaining momentum and avoiding rear wheel spin.
Normally you want to pick as straight a line as possible, but try increasingly tight corners in creek beds to test all your skills.
See our Youtube video Riding in creek beds for a visual demonstration.
Copyright B. Morris 2014
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