Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Skill Session: Steep, Loose and Chunky

Took the mountain bike out to Brown Canyon to work on a section of the trail I usually avoid: the portion overlooking (SSW of) the old Barchas Ranch. Approaching from the trailhead, the trail divides into two paths that converge at the top, forming a squashed teardrop shape. Both are only medium-steep; it's the loose, rocky trail surface that makes them tough to climb. The usual full-suspension MTB technique would be to shift into a granny gear, stay on the seat and pedal smoothly. My D460 has neither suspension nor a granny ring, so that's out.

When I've previously attempted this kind of climb, I've usually stuck with my tried-and-true climbing method: middle gear, standing on the pedals. The problem is that even a momentary loss of traction kills my momentum and causes a stall. Once that happens, it's very difficult to get the bike moving again. I often just shrug and push it to the top.

Today, I experimented with lower gears and semi-seated pedaling. With the shifter at "1" (32T front, 33 rear) and a steady cadence I found I could clear the hill without much trouble. I experimented with various body positions and found a slightly out-of-the-seat crouch that suited me. Made about a dozen runs up the hill, tweaking my technique each time. After less than an hour, I felt I had gotten what I came for, so I quit while I was ahead--not tired, still improving. I'll return, maybe Sunday, for another round. If I can get really proficient at this, it'll cut considerable hike-a-bike off my longer explorations.

According to the GPX file, my practice hill was a 20% grade. I managed 4-6mph on the climbs. GPS Visualizer profile:

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