Hi, Andrew, et al:
The whole rolling thing is a work in progress, a long process (at least for us) that’s happened naturally on that particular terrain (steep, rocky, and long single tracks).
Here’s a few rambling thoughts on it all, worth writing out, I think, because I rarely read anything about this.
The SB trails are not spectacular, high flying, North Shore type stuff. Rarely are there drops over 3 or 4 feet. What makes the riding technical is the narrowness and steepness, all the rocks mixed with sections of loose dirt, the off-camber drops and tight corners, and the fact that hard sections can sometimes go for 1,000 or more yards. So it’s often as much a fitness challenge as a technical drill.
My own progress is pretty typical for our group, and for anyone who has slowly realized that rough terrain rolling is the one thing that distinguishes Muni as separate and totally different from trials riding on a trail. Hard rolling, we’re learning, is a skill as specialized as hard freestyle moves or complex street shenanigans.
Anyhow, 16 months ago I couldn’t roll the hard sections at all. I used to watch Eyal and want to kill him. I didn’t know how to continuously back pressure the cranks, which is THE key.
Perhaps the turning point for many of us came on a group ride at Point Magu, several months ago, on a trail that Hans “The Flying Dutchman” used to jog up (because he’s insane) That trail—rarely wider than a few feet and hedged in by tragic cactus–was so steep we could only plow down a half revolution at a time. I think that one experience opened up a new level of violently backpresuring to limit speed. Pretty much from that trip on, the roll was on for every bit of every trail up in SB. Before that, only Eyal had the confidence that if you started trying to roll the steepest bits, you wouldn’t simply blaze out of control and faceplant onto the rocks–a very real possiblity.
As the rolling gets more familiar, we’re finding that this technique works on stuff we thought impossible just a few months ago. But this is concerning the steep stuff, and the fact is, lower angled rolling can also be damn hard.
There’s basically two different rolling techniques worth mentioning.
“Tractoring” (I’m just pulling these terms out of my ass) is essentially rolling over lower angled terrain that is uneven and rocky. Here there aren’t any significant drops, and it’s much more of a brute leg strength and slow-speed balance drill, where you’re putting down quick bursts to power over stuff, back pressuring on the backside of rocks to limit speed, and often still standing for very short intervals to maybe get straightened out or to put in a mini hop to get steadied up, line something up or to get your cranks just so. Tractoring blasts your legs and leaves you gasping after 100 yards. The challenge is to see how far you can go without halting the “roll” and stepping off for a breather. In our group this technique evolved through the attempt to clean entire stretches of some of the trails.
The other kind of rolling is tackling the steep stuff, the stuff I used to try and side hop down. This is intimidating, and you can get hurt. It’s different than tractoring because you’re often slightly airborn (as Maestro pointed out) and have to negotiate drops and obstacles (with no roll outs, just more rocks) with your cranks in all kinds of goofy positions. Gravity is shoving you down faster than you want to go and backpressuring is the only way to stay in control. If you can’t launch and land with either foot back, you won’t make it very far. If it’s steep and smooth and you have a brake, steep rolling isn’t too bad. But we don’t use brakes and it’s never smooth.
In SB I feel we’re only starting to scratch the surface of what’s possible with technical rolling, mainly because we’ve only started consistently trying to roll the steepest sections. Should be interesting to see where everyone’s at a year from now. If we’ve learned anything it’s that you can roll stuff that absolutely blows your mind. The trick is to keep from getting too beat up while we work the kinks out of learning how to do this with more control and consistency.