Technical Single Track Techniques

Ok, I’ve been riding muni since October 2010 and have improved somewhat since my 1st ride. I can ride over roots and rocks, grass etc. and am pretty good at leaning turns which I REALLY enjoy.Downhill is no problemo.

Here is my problemo: the terrain I ride on includes several small dips and steep ‘bumps’ covered in roots. I find it near impossible to get over a cluster of roots or rocks going over such ‘bumps’. (I wish I could include a picture here, I don’t mean a steady uphill, I’m talking undulating bumps where your momentum is broken - almost like a pump track.)

Another problem I have is clearing small dips that are not small enough to ‘fly’ over, their just big enough to catch my wheel and subsequently I bail. They are rather steep, so I don’t naturally roll through them but rather get stuck at the bottom. Any tips on how to approach these?

I’m doing a single speed race in 5 weeks and am worried that technically I will be unable to perform :(- the tracks I ride are beginner ones, but the race will definitely include intermediate/advanced tracks. Any advise for handling technical terrain (I mean TECHNICAL) will be appreciated.

You could hop on/over them. If your hopping skills are good enough you can get over them pretty quick. ie one hop per root or rock, bunus if you can skip series of these.

Make a “bump” track in your yard where you practice rolling or hopping on/over the bumps. Like a series of pallets w/ just enough space in between for your wheel to drop all the way, if that’s too hard for now put some more space between them. If that’s too big, you could put something a bit smaller just before like a 2X4, or line up your pallets and nail blocks in. If it’s too easy put the pallet upside down to give you more bumps.

For ridding over a big bump I get a moderate speed and lean back a bit just before I hit it, pull up on the seat and really try to pedal through those fist degrees of the crank’s revolution. For multiple bumps, after I hit that first one I really try to stay centered and keep pedalling smoothly and constantly as I can, not stoping no matter what.

The best advice I can give is to find more technical places to ride and start practising at those more frequently. Go back and hit trouble spots until you make it. It’s about learning to read the terrain and get your body to do what it needs to do. Try rolling sections, try hopping through sections, see what ends up working for you.

Well I’m not too experienced, but I’ve found a few of the drain dips that you speak of that cross the trail. What I’ve found to help me get over them is to go at a decent speed (with control) and as you go through the dip, pump your weight off the uni, that way when it hits the part of the bump to go over, it has little or no weight on the uni, and just rolls right over it. having a lower seat helps with that trick as well.

Do you generally hold your seat handle with one hand when in these technical areas? I don’t think I did this when I first started riding. I think it helps.

And the advice given so far seems good to me.

All the replies so far are great. I’ll add, when encountering the bumps, grab your handle, pull up hard while standing on your pedals and drive over the bumps. That and… practice will help you to continue to improve :slight_smile:

Also, try not to think of the bumps or anything on the trail as obstacles you must conquer; think of them, rather, as wonderful opportunities to impriove your uni skills:D

But don’t forget to let out holler when you master a big obstacle, it feels great :slight_smile:

This is the best advice to improve your tech-muni skill. John Long called it “tractoring” as if one were riding a tractor over improbable terrain. Just take the bumps as they come, keep the wheel spinning, and hold on tight.

Hopping is a technique best saved for rare occasions. It takes a lot more energy to hop, and in the later miles of a long ride, you just won’t have the energy to do it cleanly or accurately. Hops can also destroy the flow of a beautiful piece of singletrack.

Keep on rolling! Practice truly is the gateway to muni mastery. Let us know how you get along.

An important clarification:
When “tractoring,” your entire body is usually not leaning back, as that would offset your center of gravity from directly above the wheel. Rather, your lower body is at a backwards angle and your upper body is leaning slightly forwards. That way, when you hit an unpredictable series of bumps that slow you down, you can push your waist forward and still be balanced (and maintain your momentum). Really technical terrain might require you to actually lean backwards, but for the most part it is not necessary.

Lots of great suggestions here. Someone mentioned using the seat for power and support; something I might forget to mention without watching a person ride. If you’re not doing that already, expect it to take a while to make sense. But once you see the power you can get (and a little extra riding comfort when pushing down), you’ll wonder how you handled the rough terrain without it.

What’s your wheel and tire size? A fat tire is at its most useful under these conditions, so if yours is not very wide, consider an upgrade (if it will fit your frame).

Then your next best friend will be practice. Find the hard stuff, and work it over and over until you can master it. This applies with any riding technique(s), any wheel, etc. Nothing replaces actual experience. Look for new and different obstacles, trails or areas. Mix it up. Remember, the challenge of MUni is more about getting over the terrain than it is about going fast. If you were only interested in speed, you’d have more wheels. :slight_smile:

You also mentioned you have a specific goal ahead, which is to be able to do well in a race. The requirements for racing will be different than for “regular” or “hobby” MUni. Speed is #1, and you don’t have to ride over anything that would make you slower than walking/running. So practice some of that as well, making dismounts before you hit stuff that will fall off, getting over it quickly, and not swinging your uni around where it might hit a nearby bike. Be courteous, and the bike riders will be friendly.

So let’s assume you want to be able to ride as much as possible over the next 5 weeks to cut down on running; a very worthy goal. This will rule out the hardest stuff in any case. Though you may be able to get through it, if it’s slower than walking speed there’s no reason to do so in a race (unless there are other unicycles, I guess). Anyway, concentrate on increasing your skills over the rough stuff, and at the same time, work on increasing your speed over those rough areas bit by bit.

Get some good wrist guards. Racing + learning to roll the rough stuff can lead to some good crashes, where hands always seem to lead the way! Leg armor is also recommended. For MUni and racing, knee coverage is probably more necessary than shin coverage, though the backs of your legs are also common victims in MUni dismounts.

Specific techniques for bump-riding are hard to explain in text, mostly in matching them up with the type of bump or terrain they go with. For the big hits, you have to lean back as described. For long areas of roughness you have to try and keep the momentum up. For dips, if you unweight the unicycle at the right time (like an almost-jump), you can sort of float over them.

Then there’s the terrain that requires picking your way through. For situations where you proceed one half-revolution at a time, the speed is so slow it won’t be compatible with racing so you might save that stuff for after the big event.

For best results, if you can get together with some other MUni riders in your area, they can show you more in a couple of minutes than you’re ever going to get from reading all of this…

Great suggestions guys, but I have to admit I already do a lot of ‘seat float’ riding and handle pulling. I can’t see how you could do true muni without this (as opposed to just riding off road)

I agree about the practice thing - trails I found near impossible at the start I now use as warm-ups. I aim to go back to the track tonight so will take some specific photos of what I mean. The biggest problem is the loss of momentum, but you’ll see what I mean once I’ve posted some photo’s! I manage to get over 1 bump ok,then hit some roots, then there’s a sharp bump again, but by then I have lost most of my speed.

Thanks heaps for the advice (John you should really write a book: please!)- I’m hoping for some more once I have some photos up - perhaps you can suggest ‘lines’

Spend some time tuning your tire pressure for the conditions of the race. Lower pressure will let the tire wrap on the root. Too much pressure will be to much kick. Too low of a pressure will just flat wear you out on the distance of the event. Plus or minus a tenth of a Bar can be noticable.

Did I make it…

Before and after…
It honestly does not look as deep a dip in the photos as it is in reality. Apart from the mud and the pipe, the uphill bit with the roots make it hard to roll through this one…how would you approach it?

You have to get the wheel out in front of you; it’s going to slow down when it hits the far side of that dip. In that first photo, you look like you’re overbalanced forward; in that posture you’ll come off as soon as you hit anything that slows the wheel down.

Practice throwing the wheel out in front of you–not literally throwing, but leaning back while pedaling quickly. When the wheel slows down, you’ll be back in the center of your balance envelope.

If the exit is too steep to just lean back and slam into it (i.e. if the wheel will just jam in the bottom of the pit) you could try either a small “semi-hop” (hardly any more than just going light, like when riding a bike up a small step) to avoid the very bottom of the dip, or approach the entry more slowly but be ready to power up the other side (if there’s enough traction). I’m no hopper but I use the “semi-hop” quite regularly on v-shaped stone drainage channels on my local trails, that are a fairly similar shape to your dip.

In a race situation though, TBH, I’d most likely keep over to the far left where it looks less of a sharp dip. Taking the easier line rather than risking falling off usually pays off, although perhaps less fun or satisfying.

Regarding walking/running parts of the course, officially you’re not allowed to run in a cross-country bike race. You’re allowed to walk past sections that you can’t ride, but not run (because some courses would otherwise be won by a good runner with a little bike on their back!). If it’s a cyclocross race, you can (and are expected to) run.


First things first: Can you negotiate that bit of trail in the opposite direction?

If no, then you know what to do next.

You probably need more time in the saddle, first working over little obstacles before trying to get through complex obstacles.

You need to be out of your seat to get through that set, sitting down will only send you flying.

Try going through the set in parts, pausing between the roots and mud hole, also consider different approach angles.

You can also cut around some of the obstacles, which migh make it more doable in the immediate future, then gradually work up to completing the whole thing.

Sometimes you need to throw a pause/idle into a set, otherwise you can carry to much momentum, so try to break the set down into parts and complete one at a time, then see what you need to do to complete the whole thing.

Are you riding a 24 x 3"? What air pressure? Is your seat down so you can get up and crank unimpeded?

The set you are showing, with mud and roots, that is very similar to what we ride in East Tennessee. You need to gain more stability and get off of that seat. Drop the tire pressure until you start bottoming out, then add a little pressure back, now drop your seat down so you have some decent leg bend when sitting on the seat; you can always raise it later, so now sweat. Relax as you go over the obstacles, let the uni rise and fall as it rolls along, don’t fight it or it’ll fight back.

Great everyone thanks so much for all the advice - can’t wait to get out there again to put it into practice.I will be:

> Sitting upright more, rather than leaning forward in anticipation (tholub)
>Lowering my tyre pressure a bit (nurse ben and doug)
>Breaking the ‘obstacles’ into sets and retrying the same obstacle rather than riding on after a UPD (nurse ben & max d)
> relaxing my upper body more, rather than cramping up in anticipation of a bail or UPD (nurse ben)
>changing the way I think about trouble spots (tirving)
>wearing some knee pads (john f)

Nurse Ben, my setup is a 26" with 150mm cranks and my tyre pressure is HARD as 'cause I like the feel of hard tyres - but yes, I should drop the pressure I know.

As for seat height its slightly lower than for road riding. I find this works for me uphill and on the flat and my knees prefer it this way. (I use to have my muni seat height really low and it slowed me down overall)

I think I would be allowed to run as its the single speed champs - single speed events are kinda crazy, they even have beer shortcuts where you get handed alcohol and if you don’t dress up you’ll feel kinda silly. See an article about the sswc2010 here:

PS: The next WORLD champs are in Ireland.

Mr. UniGeezer almost slapped me for having my tire pressure too high, which is muni blasphemy!! As soon as it was lowered, and my seat was lowered too, I was having much less trouble. And yes, lower seat means on flat sections your legs work harder, but that is what the quick release is for!! :slight_smile:

And if you stand and take pressure off the pedals as you are going over obstacles, you will be amazed what the uni rides over, that was my biggest Muni “Aha!” moment. I only have a 24 right now, so your 26er should be better for the bumpies when you get your aha moment :smiley:

My knees pack up if my seat is too low - I’d rather hang onto my knee health, cause without it I won’t be able to ride muni at all.

So let me get this straight - I should be taking the pressure off the pedals and onto the seat? I thought it was the other way round???