Finding out that the Earth wasn’t flat may have come as a shock to people in the Middle Ages, but even the greenest mountain biker will soon realise that very few trails are tilt-free. Here, Mr Shandro shows you how to negotiate a tricky off-camber section without sliding away.
Camber here refers to the cross-section of a trail and is an important factor in determining how much grip you can extract from the terrain. An off-camber (aka negative camber) trail slopes away from the direction of travel, making it difficult to hold your line or complete a turn.
Conversely, a positive cambered trail holds you into the trail. Examples of a positive camber include a bermed or banked corner.
The main advice when it comes to off-camber riding is stay high. If that’s the only thing you remember next time you come steaming into an off-camber section, it should be enough to get you through on the right line. Keeping high is important as you will naturally drift down the camber as you traverse it. With grip in short supply, you’ll feel the tyres working hard, and it’s an automatic reaction to loosen the reins and let the bike straighten up. Inevitably, this will drop you down the slope where all sorts of nasty surprises can lie in store. A high line into the section will often buy you enough space to prevent the inevitable slide down the hill.
If you combine the above advice with the correct body position, you should find you can actually hold your line through an off-camber section. The trick is in an aggressive cornering position (as explained in the Nov issue). Lean the bike into the slope and let your outside pedal drop. Tuck your outside knee against the top tube and force your weight through the outside pedal. Imagine a vertical line going upwards from the contact point of the tyres, this is where you should be trying to centre your body weight.
Keep your arms and legs bent and allow the bike to move around underneath you. Stay light on the bike, especially if there are roots, and focus on the point where you want to exit the section. Finally, use your brakes extremely sparingly. Dragging them can bring the bike upright and pull you off-line, while a sudden application could easily lock the wheels.
1 In this example we found a lovely piece of exposed rock somewhere along the Laggan Wolftrax trail. As you can see, the trail enters the section high and exits low, leaving you with a couple of options for getting across it. The first — and judging by the telltale brown smear — the most popular, is to turn hard left after reaching the rock and drop steeply straight down to the trail below. This may be a straightforward route, but it involves too much hard braking and steering to make it smooth and fast. Instead, by carrying your momentum straight up and onto the rock, then gradually dropping down to the trail below as your speed drops and gravity takes over, you can take a much straighter, faster line through the whole section with little or no need to touch your brakes.
2 As Andrew approaches the rock, he modulates his speed so that he’ll have enough momentum to carry him up and across to the top left-hand corner of the rock. He stays focussed on that spot as it is where he will do most of his turning, and his body is preloading the bike so that he can stay light as he rolls up the rock.
3 He is now on the rock and unweighting the bike. His arms and knees are bent in readiness for any unsuspecting bump or loss of traction.
4 As he reaches the end of the rock and his momentum slows, he begins to make the turn taking the straightest line possible to the trail below. Letting the front wheel drop down the slope a little compensates for the loss of speed and prevents the bike from stalling at the top of the rock.
5 Now on the steepest part of the rock, Andrew compresses his body, bending his arms and legs, pushing the bike down the slope. This accelerates the bike, maximises grip and preloads the bike ready to lift the front wheel for the final drop onto the trail.
6 As he moves his weight back and straightens his arms, he pulls back on the bars to lift the front wheel and manual onto the trail. This avoids a hard frontal impact, which could affect control, and lets Andrew keep his exit speed high.
Your pilot on this voyage of discovery is former DH pro and freeride legend Andrew Shandro. Originally one of the world’s top DH racers and X-Games gold medallist, Shandro was one of the first downhillers on the freeride scene. He has appeared in the seminal films The Collective and Roam, and spends his summer coaching kids at Whistler’s Summer Gravity Camps. www.summergravitycamps.com