Whether you’re a new or experienced trail rider, what are your feelings about riding up hills? If you feel like you still have more to learn, then seasoned off-road instructor Bret Tkacs has just the video to kick-start your hill strategizing process. It’s both a rethink of some advice you may have seen in the past, as well as a demonstration that it’s OK to make mistakes while you’re learning.
If you’re a street rider, you try so hard not to dump your bike. Things are different off-road, though. Off the tarmac, it’s pretty much a given that your bike is going to go down every once in a while—and usually more than just the one time. Most of the time, due to both the physical properties and the speeds involved, dirt is a lot more forgiving than asphalt when you have small tip-overs and/or bike drops.
As Tkacs tells the story, the subject of hill climbing on a bike is often oversimplified. You’re just not going to get the best-case, good-traction, straightforward uphill climb situation every time, he argues. Even if you do, there’s a tendency to fixate so much on getting to the top of the hill that riders don’t think beyond that crest. Then, they lose momentum as they get up to the top, which can create a problem if you aren’t thinking about how to handle the next piece of riding in the puzzle.
Instead, concentrating on skills to handle less than ideal traction situations, bigger rocks, switchbacks, and trees—as well as strategizing each attempt to try to get through it all—is more important. For example, he says, common wisdom suggests that you should stand up and get your body weight over the front wheel when going up a hill, so you can both keep it down and also keep moving forward. With ideal traction, that can work—but if you have low traction situations, you’ll want to keep more weight over the back wheel in order to keep moving. You’ll also need excellent clutch control to maintain that fine balance between propelling yourself forward and also not spraying dirt and rocks everywhere.
Also, it’s important to understand and accept that you’re not going to get it perfect every time—and it’s OK to fail. Failure helps you learn, because you start analyzing where you went wrong. In Tkacs’ case, he has a few buddies along so they can all help each other out when they drop their bikes. Figuring out a good way to get up a tricky hill situation is fun, and definitely satisfying if you can manage to do it—but so is having some good friends you trust along for the ride.