Last weekend I posted a bunch of photos from the great trails in Texas – if you like mountain biking, the spring in and around Austin, Texas is a great time to experience nature from the bike seat… You get to see great colors, may be even encounter some wild life on the trails.
This April has been wet – tons of rains in the area – resulted in greenery everywhere and of course tons of wild flowers.
As a result of the rains, the local creeks are also running wild – so you may need to be careful on some of the trails. Lucky for me – by this Saturday the trails along Barton Creek (photos below) were almost dry with only some areas that were still under water – but easy to bike through on your bike.
I think the photos speak for themselves – April is a great time to go out and ride the trails.
Lately, I have been wondering – when would some of the problems we as mountain bikers discover, make it into production units of the various manufacturers. So, I decided to add some ideas and also identify what are the items that turns out have been developed as new capabilities on mountain bikes. Here we go:
Shock Absorber and Bike Frame Stiffness: (image courtesy of REI.com)
- The front fork and shock absorber can be actually too responsive and make climbing up a hill less efficient as some of the force the rider generates – especially if you stand up on the pedals, gets dampened by the front shock.
- The solution:CUSTOM BRAIN FORKS (as labeled by Specialized) – the fork senses the difference between actual bumps and pedaling force, using an inertia valve and oil flow to regulate suspension. When you stand to accelerate, the fork immediately stiffens up, eliminating “bob” motion. But, when taking a hit from a rock or a root, the fork is allowed to compress accordingly
29er – Big Wheels and Great Performance on the Trail and on the Cross-Country Road:
- Those 29-inch wheels just eat up the trails and the road. You get a great performance, increase in comfort and stability and a very good way to go over those obstacles as you ride. Additional benefit (at least per what I have observed) – you can use a hardtail bike with 29-inch wheels with similar comfort to fully suspended 26-inch one….I welcome your feedback on that one…
Storage and Tools:
- SWAT: An acronym for Storage, Water, Air and Tools – Specialized came up with the approach for getting all of us well prepared for all those eventualities – integrating a storage space on the mountain bike frame. Simple but cool and very helpful!
- I know that Carbon is all the rage as a way to make the frames stiff and the bike ride even more controlled – BUT the $$$ cost of those carbon frames is pretty high as well as you get the luxury of changing the frame once you hit that big boulder on the trail…
- Enters the friendly and nice on the wallet Aluminum alloy – what a great option! The Aluminum alloy frames have been around for a while but they continue to be important aspect of a great mountain bike. Designers in all top gear mountain bike companies have figured out the precise approach to eliminating excess material from the points in the frames that do not contribute to stiffness and strength and applying new techniques to welding to increase the strength of the overall frames. I have seen that described in the frame designs of most leading designs.
- All that allows us the users to buy the bikes with Aluminum frames and expect a great performance overall.
Mountain Biking How To — How to ride on gravel trails
I have been on rides across many parts of the US, Asia, and Eastern Europe. Given my experience – conditions in the US Southwest are somewhat unique – specifically they are unique in the fact that the trails are often made of relatively loose gravel. Many of the trails in Texas for example are covered with crushed lime stone and other rocks – and overall represent a relatively tricky surface for many beginners and less experienced riders. After several recent bike rides with my family, I decided to post this “HOW TO” summary to provide some guidance at least based on my experience of riding in those conditions for the last 5-6 years. So here we go:
- As you start on the ride, you need to relax and try not to tense your body. Being anxious you would tend to tighten your shoulders, elbows and arms and as you start riding the vibrations of the track will translate into your tense body and cause an early fatigue and potentially discomfort.
- Being tense will also potentially bring to less ability to maneuver fast along the track and may even cause you to lose control of your bike in some cases
- Focus on steering not only with your hands but also with your overall body especially with your hips. You may want to practice this first on a relatively flat surface — I suggest you do that around your house – on a safe street practice maneuvers where you use your body and hips to direct the bike.
- Make sure you look ahead on the trails and time the use of brakes. More so, please apply brakes OFTEN and in a GENTLE manner — i.e. control your speed on a frequent basis rather than via sudden stops. WHY? You will prevent going over the handlebars! Trust me – I have done that on more than one occasion as I learned to control my bike. The brake system on new mountain bikes – with hydraulic brakes – is so efficient in translating force of brake initiation to braking that you get a braking action very fast and that combined with the momentum of a fast moving bike will cause you to go over the handlebars…..So let’s avoid that by figuring out the physics of the movement – i.e. reduce speed by braking often and with a slight touch.
- Stay high on your bike and try to stand up above the saddle often especially when going over a series of larger rocks – that will reduce the likelihood of busting your tires and potentially also flipping off the bike.
All in all biking on gravel trails is not tough once you get used to it. If you pay attention to the pointers above and enjoy the rides!