TRIALS TRAINING: DESCENTS, DROP OFFS & DOWN HILLS
Our fear of heights can kick in on very steep descents and riding off ledges, but a few handy techniques will have you mastering these in no time.
body positioning for down hills
You will have your body to the rear of the bike - sometimes to the point where your butt is pushing the rear fender on to the rear tyre! With sufficient traction you will be surprised at how far you can nose the bike over and still not go over the handlebars.Your arms will be almost straight but don't lock your elbows as you will still need to steer.
As the descents get steeper, put some of your balancing practice into action and go as slow as possible - this will be very handy when it gets very steep. The diabolical crew who mark out trials sections are sure to put a sharp turn right at the bottom of that steep slope!
Most of the time we grip the handlebars tighter than we need to, but if a downhill run is uneven it can pay to keep a good hold on the handlebars. Trials bikes are so light that a small rut or bump could rip the bars from your hands so maintain a reasonably firm grip.
brakes on descents
Use both brakes with most emphasis on the front. The back brake stabilizes the bike on the way down. The front brake provides most of the braking power.
On loose terrain should be able to apply enough brake to where both wheels are just starting to lose grip - that should give you maximum braking power. It can be handy at times to lock up the rear wheel to slide the bike around if there is a turn on the slope or right at the bottom, but resist the urge to lock up the rear wheel otherwise.
Having one finger always on the clutch is useful here as you can pull the clutch in if the rear wheel locks up and not stall the bike. Alternatively just pull the clutch in and don't worry about engine braking - chances are you are on a two-stroke anyway!
If there is a drop off too steep to clear your bashplate (skidpan), you will need to de-weight the bike to clear it. On a steep descent you usually don't want to build up extra speed, so usually you will just release the front brake just before you reach the drop off. Your front suspension will decompress and you can pull back on the handlebars to lighten the front end enough to clear the drop off.
However, if there is a clear track after the drop off you can simply launch the bike off and treat it as a jump. In some extreme situations, you may need to jump the bike but on to a steep descent in which case you need to keep the front end low. This is definitely an advanced move and something you will want to build up to slowly.
ridiculous down hills
There does come a point where the descent is so steep you begin thinking of upgrading your life insurance. When caution is the better part of valor, simply take the five points and live to ride another section.
If it all goes wrong, don't worry about saving the bike and going over the handlebars - throw the bike to one side and look after yourself. There is no point cart wheeling down the slope with your bike trying to perform surgery on you. Remember you can see these techniques in our Youtube video here.
Copyright B. Morris 2014
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