Few motions on a mountain bike evoke a more powerful feeling of flow than winding through the trees.
Santa Cruz redwoods, Crested Butte aspens, Phoenix saguaros (hey, cacti count); it doesn't matter. Trees spur a sinuous rhythm that's as sweet as powder skiing–but they sure hurt when you smash into them! Here are some tips to help you shred through the trees.
1. Learn to Turn
Duh. The better your fundamental cornering skills, the more easily and automatically you'll be able to change direction. The basic, universal tips are:
- Balance on your feet
- Hinge low so your shoulders are close to your bars
- Lean the bike to initiate the turn. Don't steer
- Load the outside foot for maximum edging hold. (Feet level for maximum pumping power)
- Drive your head and torso where you want to go.
2. Two Words: Late Apex
3. Look Through Trees, Not at Them
If you look at a big tree that you're afraid to run into, what happens? You run into it!
Scan as far ahead as you can and look for the next turn. More specifically, find your next turn initiation point: that moist, loamy bank where you plan to lean, load and drive. As soon as you commit to that patch of sweetness, find the next one, and the next one.
4. Learn How to Pump Corners
When you pump a corner, you actively generate traction and speed, and you can change direction much more quickly and precisely than when you wait for geometry to turn your bike.
Check out these drills. When you can execute like this on flat ground, you will absolutely rip on woodsy singletrack.
5. Dial in Your Handlebar Width
Everyone who's punched a tree knows that wide bars aren't so great in tightly spaced woods. When I teach at Farmington Reservoir in Peoria, Ill., there are a few tree gates that my bars simply won't fit through. Don't ask how I know this.
We can agree narrower tends to be better when tight trees are involved, but how wide is optimal from a cornering and handling standpoint? Well, I've devised an equation and an online calculator.