by Robynne Stastny

Struggling when it comes to riding roots? Check out these top tips for tackling the slippery stuff.

The sight of wet tree roots can be enough to bring any rider out in a cold sweat. They’re supremely slippery and pretty unpredictable – one second you’re up, the next you’re down on the ground wondering what happened. We’ve all been there and have the bruises to prove it, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Read on for our top tips to guide you through dealing with roots.

1. Square off the roots
Perhaps the most valuable tip when tackling roots is the ability to square off the hits. This means if the roots are running directly across the trail, you want to hit them as straight on as possible. Obviously this won’t always be possible and you might have to adjust your line accordingly. The important part to remember is that the most direct line mightn’t be fastest, or crucially the grippiest, so squaring is the best way to maximise your grip, control and speed in one swoop.

2. Get that tyre pressure right
Tyre pressure comes up in just about every mountain bike technique –from descending to climbing – and roots are no different. If your tyres are too hard, the undamped tyre carcass will have you pinging off those roots and losing control. Too soft and you’ll increase the risk of a pinch puncture, thus ruining all the fun. There’s no Goldilocks pressure for tackling roots, but it’s probably lower than how you usually have your tyres, so get out there with a pressure gauge and experiment. Pros can often feel half a psi difference in their tyres, so this tip can’t be underestimated.

3. Unweight the bike
If the rooty section is short and you want to carry maximum speed, then unweighting the bike as you hit the roots will make a huge difference. This means momentarily springing and shifting your body weight upwards to make the bike go lighter over the hits, a bit like a bunnyhop. It’s quite subtle, so doesn’t require a huge hop, but it will help you to skip over the roots, instead of bashing through them. Check out any pro downhill race run to see this technique in full flow – they’re the masters of unweighting the bike for maximum speed.

4. Hone your technique
Riding roots well, especially wet roots, needs a light touch. This means going easy on the brakes and avoiding sudden changes of direction, as these can lead to crashes. Loosen that white-knuckle death grip too, which will allow the bike to move around more underneath you. As with any mountain bike technique, this takes practice, so find a section that you can hit over and over again to work on hone your technique.

5. Keep things level
When things get wet and slippery, it’s all about keeping your weight centred on the bike. If you’re leaning to one side, or have one pedal down, the chances of slipping will increase. Next time you’re coming up to a rooty section, think about keeping those pedals level with an even weight on your contact points on the bars and pedals. This will give you more grip and control – and who doesn’t want that?

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