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Mountain Biking FAQ
Section - 2P. Switchbacks

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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
-Slow down as you enter the turn.  Start outside, hit the apex of the turn 
 on the inside and leave on the outside.
-If it's real tight, stick your foot out to pivot your bike.
-If you are real good, stop and bunny hop the bike straight and ride out.

To this, some added:
"Sautter, Chris/EUG" [cfsautte@sp-eug.com]
We have lots and lots of switchbacks here in Eugene, Oregon.  Here are some 
things that I do to clean the switchbacks around here.

Downhill:
Slow down for the corner.  It's a lot faster to make the corner without 
dabbing no matter how slow you have to go to do it.

Stay on the uphill side of the trail as you approach the switchback.  This 
will allow you to make the widest arc as you turn and prevent you from 
hitting anything at the apex of the switchback.

As you approach slowly, put your weight back and put your outside pedal 
down.

As you enter the corner, look at the exit where you want to go.  DO NOT 
look at the 100' drop-off that you will fall down if you don't make the 
corner!

With your weight on your outside pedal and slightly back, the next step is 
to commit to the corner.  Lean hard into the corner until you are almost 
falling to the inside.  When this happens, ease off the brakes and let the 
your bike roll under yourself.  This is actually really easy to do once you 
get started.

If you have a hard time with this last step, you can quickly modulate the 
brakes to adjust your balance.  It works really well.

When you have passed the apex of the corner, you can let off the brakes, 
start accelerating, and prepare for the next switchback.

You should never skid around a switchback.  You have less control and rip up 
the trails.

Uphill:
For uphill switchbacks, you take the same line as for DH switchbacks.

Approach the switchback with your bike on the extreme DH side of the trail 
so you can make the widest arc possible.  Keep your weight centered.

Lean hard into the corner and pedal your bike under yourself so you don't 
fall to the inside.  The trick is to commit to the lean.

By the time your bike is under you, you are around the switchback.  Cool.

Jim Wagner [jwagner@mail.bcpl.lib.md.us]
On Sat, 21 Oct 1995, Tim Franz wrote
] OK, more switchback skills.  Has anyone perfected this move? If so,
] please feel free to give me tips.  I am *not*, definitely *not*, an expert
] at it.
] On vacation two summers ago, I was riding the Tsali Trail in NC.  On one 
] of the loops, there is a switchback that is SO tight, I could not steer
] around it.  So, I hit the bushes on the downhill side of the turn :^o  .
] Since then, I have been trying to learn how to hit the front brake, turn
] the wheel, lift the rear in the air, and flip it 180 degrees around on
] the front wheel.  Using this, you can make a turn with no room to spare.
] So far, I have only been able to get the wheel around about 90 degrees,
] but I also have not had a tight singletrack to really test it on.  I'll
] have to travel out of the great, mountainous, midwest to try it (say that
] last line with alot of saarcasm).
] 
] Someone else who can actually do this can probably explain it better.

That maneuver is called a tail-whip in the bmx & freestyle world, and 
it's a lot easier to do on a bmx bike than an MTB.  90 degrees is about all
I can do too.  I tried to do 180 and tacoed my rear wheel.  Very easy to 
taco a 26 inch wheel if you don't do it right.  IMHO, it's not worth it try
to tail-whip around a switchback, just slow down, lean the bike into the 
turn and stick out your foot if you have to.  Even better, if there is a berm 
on the outside of the turn, use that.

Takayuki Shodai [ravenone@panix.com]
>hit the front brake, turn the wheel, lift the rear in the air, 
>and flip it 180 degrees around on the front wheel.  ...
>
>That maneuver is called a tail-whip in the bmx & freestyle world, and 
>it's a lot easier to do on a bmx bike than an mtb. 90 degrees is about
all

That's not a tail whip.  A tail whip consists of putting all your weight
on the front end, and spinning the tail around the headset.  Of course,
this is not possible AT ALL if you have brake cables.  

What Michael is thinking about is (was, in my day) referred to as a
kick-out. It has no practical use in BMX riding or racing.  There is one
freestyle trick using the kick-out: on PAVEMENT, lock up the front end
while kicking out the rear.  As the back end is moving around, lock up
the back wheel.  When it lands, immediately pull the front end, spinning
around the back wheel.  If successful, you'd have done a 360 now, and
can continue riding on (or lock up the front end and continue on to
720s, etc).  Note! With ANY speed, momentum will carry you in the
ORIGINAL direction.  Kicking out to 180 will leave you rolling
backwards- kicking out any less will probably cause you to highside.  

It's not a move I'd recommend at any level of riding ability.  You might
1. taco your rim (and possibly your whole rear end).
2. get thrown off the bike (into those trees that define the
switchback).
3. hit a perfect 180, and (going fast) end up rolling backwards and #2.
4. hit a perfect 180, and (going slow) end up at a complete stop, and
get plowed into by the rider behind you who's using a more conventional
technique.
5. get hurt.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Well, that's my two bits (to keep people from hurting themselves and
ruining hardware unnecessarily). 


Michael P Ley [leymp@nextwork.rose-hulman.edu]
] ] ...  hit the front brake, turn the wheel, lift the rear in the air, 
] ] and flip it 180 degrees around on the front wheel.  ...
] 
]  That maneuver is called a tail-whip in the bmx & freestyle world, and 
] it's a lot easier to do on a bmx bike than an mtb. 90 degrees is about all

In freestyle a "tail-whip" is done by stopping the front wheel and rotating
the frame around the headset, while keeping your body above the front wheel/
handlebar area.  (A trick I almost mastered before school got in the way.)

The maneuver described above doesn't have a flashy name that I know of (I just
use "front wheel 180") but it IS much easier on the BMX/freestyle bike.  On my
freestyle bike I can do 180+ degrees easily, but on the MTB I can barely make
it to 180 degrees.  No wheel damage yet... :-)  I've tried this only in a
parking lot, not on the trail.  It's easier to go backwards after the 180 
than to stop and go back the way you came.

Hints:  Keep a little speed, just above walking pace
	Start with pedals level, outside foot forward (if back end is swinging
	  to the left, put left pedal forward)
	Start turning into the spin, grab BOTH brakes (keeps the pedals from
	  moving on you), unweight the rear wheel, and turn
	Push forward on the outside bar and pull down and back on the inside
	  use your rear/inside foot to help pull the back end around
	As you set the back end down, let go of the rear brake (or both if
	  you want to roll backwards)

] ... IMHO, it's not worth it try to tail-whip around a switchback ...

Depends on how open the sides of the trails are.  Very easy to hit thick brush
alongside the trail, but if it's open enough it'd work.  Probably best done
on the uphill loop only.  :-)  I'd probably go for the trials-style hop and
twist if I couldn't ride the corner.  Just stop mid-turn, start hopping for 
balance, and then rotate until you're headed the right direction and ride
away again.  

J. Wesley Prince [wesprince@csra.net]
Going Down: (Without a nose wheelie) Weight as far rearward as possible.
Getting off the back of the saddle and with the butt down low is sometimes
necessary. Swing up on the upper part of the switchback to enlarge the
turning radius as much as possible. Use both brakes, you will need a lot of
front brake to prevent a rear skid so keeping the weight rearward and on the
pedals will help prevent a wheelie.  You should concentrate on crouching on
those pedals thus keeping as little weight as possible on the bars. Turn the
wheel as steeply as you need to in order to keep the bike on the trail. At
this point it becomes a balancing act. Too much weight on the outside and
you go crashing down the hill, too much on the inside and you fall in that
direction but at least not very far. If you must err, err to the inside. If
you keep the front tire on line, the back will follow. You will find that
you can turn much more sharply than you at first believe, just maintain that
balance and force the turn, the bike will do the rest.

Wheelie Method: This must first be mastered on level ground, then gradually
increasing slopes on grassy hills. The idea is to grab the front brake and
push forward on the bars raising the back wheel off of the ground. You then
twist your lower body, basically rotating the rear of the bike along the
axis of the headset as the front tire remains pointed in the original
direction. As the back wheel is about to land, quickly align the front wheel
with the rear of the bike and pedal away. Obviously this is a skill which
takes some practice to master (on the open grass prior to trying on the
switchback). First try to master balancing on the nose wheelie prior to
trying to turn. 

Going Up: Usually more of a challenge. Again, swing a little toward the
downhill side to give yourself as much radius as possible. You usually need
to be in the lowest gear. As you start up, you will lean slightly toward the
inside and keep steering on track. You should lean hard enough that if you
were to stop pedalling, you would slowly fall over on the inside (which is
what you will do if you slip or screw up!). The interesting part is that the
driving force of your pedalling will actually hold you up. If the turn is
very tight and the climb is very steep you will need a nice low granny and
really need to crank it hard. To prevent yourself from doing a wheelie you
may need to edge your weight forard. If you try to stand it will sometimes
screw up your balance but if you are having trouble using the seated method
it's worth trying. Also if you are a technical wizard you can try to wheelie
halfway up and whip your tire over to the right line to finish the turn. I
have usually found that this is only needed in the extremely sharp turned
switchbacks on narrow trails.

One more final bit of advice, you must, in your mind, visualize yourself
making the move before you actually try the move. I have found that this
proper frame of mind helps more than anything else with pulling off
technical moves.

Rik Allen [richard@prl.research.philips.com]
(regarding tail-whip)
It is a useful move in trials or very twisty singletrack - there are
plenty of places I know where the bike cannot turn tighly enough with
both wheels on the ground. You can either get off and walk the bike
round, tail whip round (an endo with the weight to one side), or just
come to a halt (track stand), and hop round.
I've not taco'd a rim doing that in many years, and I can suggest many
other ways of falling off. Learn by doing endos first, then shift the
weight a little to the side and the bike will swing that way while the
tail is in the air. Lower it down with your legs, rather than just
releasing the front brake whilethe tail is still swing.

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