technique to handle a deep gully

Forums Mountain Bike Forum technique to handle a deep gully



This topic contains 11 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Lindsay Beth Currier 5 years ago.

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  • #118629

    I’m a noob, but a long time road rider looking to try some MTB. Not the youngest guy out their either, and I’m leary of major crashes expecially since I bike alone. However there is a nice singletrack right by my front door that has some pretty technical parts, the main ones being a set of gully crossing over what must be old stream beds. they range is depth from about 4 feet to maybe 10 feet with steep V shaped sides and a U shaped bottom. The shallower ones I can handle, but the really deep one just has me intimitadeted and I don’t really know how to handle the transition at the bottom especially since I have to switch to climb mode instantly to get over the steep slope up the other side. The shallow one is OK mainly since my momentum will carry me over even if I am not spot on with the switchover. For added thrills there are some rocks & roots involved although there is a line to be taken if I wasn’t already stressed trying to think of all the other stuff I have to do.

    If I was younger and bolder I would just do it I suppose, but I do not want to plant myself at the bottom, or flip out trying to over correct up the climb…

  • #118630

    Creek and ditch crossings are fun, and about all the technical challenge we get around where I live. Thing is, they’re all unique and require a slightly different approach. So you have to adjust for each one. But, typically, the best approach is to keep your weight back while dropping in (so you don’t flip over the bars), and pump the transition at the bottom, and stay away from the brakes as much as possible. Carry as much momentum as possible, that way there’s less pedaling to do to get out the other side.

    But sometimes you can’t carry much (or any!) momentum, so you just have to power up the other side, and balance that fine line of traction and keeping the front wheel down.

    Best thing you can do: watch someone else ride it, then do what they do.

    And sometimes, you just have to walk them.

  • #118631

    To add to what dgaddis said, also make sure you’re in a low enough gear before the transition. Once you hit the rise on the other side, it’s usually too late to be able to shift.

    Once you’ve been riding a while, you’ll have the technique down, but you’ll still occasionally forget to shift beforehand. Then all your riding buddies will get a good laugh as you try to power up the back side in a huge gear. 😆

  • #118632

    I am sure that you have seen advanced riders hanging their rear past the seat on steep descents, and then going up step inclines sitting on the very front tip of their seat. You will also notice that on many turns, the bike is leaned over and the rider is not.

    I can simplify this whole thing for you:
    "Keep your weight over the bottom bracket (BB) regardless of what the bike is doing underneath you".

    On the technical stuff, you may need to get off the seat to get way back, or to the front, or to the side, etc to keep your weight centered over the BB. This also means that during transitions you get off the seat, put most of your weight on the pedals, and then maintain your weight directly over the BB during the shift of tilt of your bike.

    You should not be just sitting and "hanging on for dear life" either. You need to keep your body and grip relaxed so that you can use your elbows and knees as "suspensions". This is also done on full suspension bikes, not just hard tails and rigid frame bikes.

  • #118633

    Thanks for all the input. Rest assured my butt is indeed hanging off the back of my bike, I don’t have a problem with going downhill in general as long as the slope isn’t too extreme – in fact I really enjoy it although I’m sure I’m using the brakes to much. The issue here is that the transition at the "bottom" of the ditch/gully is real short barely longer than a single wheel rotation if that. So I guess I have to switch quickly from feet over the pedals hung of the back to a more leaning forward stance ready to start pedalling up the other slope. I agree it would be good to watch someone else do it – but no mountain bikers near me that I know.

  • #118634


    My first MTB ride 10 years ago I attempted a deep gully. I did not knwo what the heck I was doing. I did the exact opposite of all the adivice up there. Damn it hurt going over the handlebars landing on jagged rocks. Tore up more shoulder. Deep gullies still make me nervous to this day. 😆

  • #118635

    During the transition, think of your bottom bearing as the bike’s pivot point, while you keep your weight vertically stationary centered on top of your pedals. It also helps to pump the transition to maintain momentum. Do no slow down too much and loose all your momentum, because it makes it more difficult to stay on the bike.

    Look up "pump track tutorial" videos for a more detailed explanation. You can also practice by doing one of the smaller transition over and over again. Before you know it, you will be able to do the larger transitions without any problems.

  • #118636

    I’m not as experienced as most who commented here, but Still would like to add one more idea as an addition to already posted. Find a pump-track and practice there. Try to roll as long as you can without spinning your pedals. This also help to master cornering as well.

  • #118637
    "stumpyfsr" wrote

    I’m not as experienced as most who commented here, but Still would like to add one more idea as an addition to already posted. Find a pump-track and practice there. Try to roll as long as you can without spinning your pedals. This also help to master cornering as well.

    +1 .. this is a great idea

  • #118638

    I agree with what the other guys said, but I think the best way to approach it would be to be in the right gear to go up the incline. If you have enough space, you could get the extra momentum going downhill to make it back up. Sometimes you just have to go ahead and do it, to break your fear of the obstacle. Riding with a friend helps.

  • #118639

    Can you ride the transition at angle giving you more time to get the shift?
    Shift prep is a skill that sometimes has a horrid curve. After you get tired of pushing your bike up those gullies you`ll eventually figure it out. You might also try stopping at the edge and mentally riding the gully then go back up the trail, turn around and ride it.
    It has worked for me a time or two on techie sections. At least I don’t end up on my back looking at the sky wondering how I got there.

  • #118640

    Invest in a skills clinic to learn proper techniques that would improve all of your riding, not just in the gully, keep you safe, and enable you to have more fun time. Here is why you need to have skills coaching: [url:2l3a21h8][/url:2l3a21h8]

    1. IF you don’t have a nice dropper post, then drop your seat a little to give yourself more room to move independently of your bike. Sure this will make the climb on the other side more challenging, but hey, it will help keep you safe.
    2. Be sure to have a great setup before entering the gully. Ready or attack position, whatever you’d like to call it. Stand up, off the seat, with knees bent outward (not gripping your bike!) Keep your elbow out, back flat, and bend from the hips, with your eyes scanning ahead.Be sure to think ahead, you know, to put that dropper post back up and shift into a lower gear for the abrupt climb.
    3. While descending you will adjust your weight back a bit to maintain balance between the front and rear tire. Be sure to keep a slight bend in your arms, and only get back as far as necessary for the slop e of the hill. You also, and should, drop the heel of your forward foot to brace yourself should you need to brake, or hit a bump that brakes for you.
    4. On your way up the other side, quickly transition your weight forward in the bottom of the gully. Try pumping this area to gain speed. If you don’t know how to pump, there are skills clinics for that too. Keep your weight low and elbows out as you spin up the other side.

    You can download a FREE sheet with tips about FUNdamental Skills here: [url:2l3a21h8][/url:2l3a21h8]


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