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Choosing Your Line
#1
Subjectively put I feel you probably could put  the main skills of navigating a mountain bike trail into four main categories. These to me are
1) Speed. Handling your bike at speed. Being able to make those essential choices whilst hurtling down a hill or controlling your bike whilst slow or even stationary.  
2) Balance. In general staying on whilst at speed (fast or slow) and keeping control whatever the terrain throws at you.
3) Power. Having the ability to manage your energy and keep going through endurance and mental training. Finally
4) Line choice. Always looking ahead a good rider plans their route and anticipates. Being  able to choose the right line at speed, whilst tired, on crazy changing terrain that requires honed balance is to me the core of all the four biking skills.... OK let's break it down


In line choice anticipation is key. Think ahead, look ahead (even study the map first). Key to line choice which gets easier with experience is knowing how your bike will react to different types of terrain. Terrain differs based on many factors i.e. the type of soil, the vegetation, the hill  slope and even how well the land is drained. Terrain in a short distance can change dramatically. One moment your trail is smooth and flowing the next it is technical, rocky and steep, maybe even muddy and slippy. Each type fo terrain requires a line decision. Your line decision needs to be based on the fundamentals of knowing how your bike would react differently to each of those different conditions.
  
To get through a section well and at speed you need to find the best line. Before we look at each terrain type in turn the best piece of advice i have been given is to visualize your line in your mind. Try to keep to it. Even stop before the line tricky section and ponder your line choice for a while. Pick out your line and build your mental map. Look where you want to go. Your bike was built to follow. Follow that line. Whatever you do, do not look where you do not want to go!!. If you do that is exactly where you will go.
  
So to each terrain situation  in turn:
  
  • Rocks and Roots.

Keep your line as straight as you can and it doesnt always follow you should turn to avoid a rock. Stand and let the bike bounce  under you. It's what it is build for. USe your judgement but trust yourbike. Your legs will act as shock absorbers. Tree roots need to be approached as close to 90% as possible and don't brake when slippery.

  • Mud  
Love it or more likely hate it, unlikely you can avoid i. Keep your weight back. Stay light and keep pedalling smoothly. If you stop try heaving the bike forward by throwing your weight forward. Main thing. Keep moving and your weight back.
  
  • Water

Keep your speed low. It is slippery - yes Sherlock it is a fact. Try not to turn or brake. Watch out for what water may conceal underneath. Could be a ditch or a rock. Be a cub scout or a brownie. Just be prepared.  
  • Sand
Hard to navigate and steer on and can really zap your energy.  Take it with speed generally and take care re... steering is tough here.
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