Ask Pinkbike: Trail Bike Upgrades, Regaining Confidence, and Timing Systems

Dec 30, 2014
by Pinkbike Staff  
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Here at Pinkbike we get inundated with all kinds of questions, ranging from the basic "Can I have stickers" to more in-depth, soul searching types of queries like if you should pop the question or what to name your first child. Ask Pinkbike is an occasional column where we'll be hand picking and answering questions that have been keeping readers up at night, although we'll likely steer clear of those last two and keep it more tech oriented.



RZ 120 Upgrades

Question: Pinkbike user tastyz asked this question in the All-Mountain, Enduro and Cross-Country forum: I bought a Cannondale RZ 120 3 last year and have now fallen in love with the sport. I use my bike on our local trails and have progressed to riding some of the more gnarly descents that we have around here, and now I'm hoping to get your advice on how I could turn my RZ 120 into more of an all-mountain bike. I do love the bike, but I feel like I'm on edge and getting bounced around on rough descents much more than my friends do, and I'm also bottoming the rear shock quite often on jumps and flat landings. What should I change?


bigquotesI've spent a bit of time on an RZ 120 and found it to be a great bike, but you're correct in assuming that the spec on yours isn't ideal for having fun on rough, rowdy trails. The very first change that I would make, which is also one of the least expensive, is to ditch the bike's stock stem and handlebar for a shorter and wider setup. It looks like you have a 90 or 100mm stem on there, so try out a 60 or 70mm to start with, although be aware that this will make your front end tend to wander more on steep climbs - it's always a trade-off. The next thing to do would be a dropper seat post, which is going to cost you a lot more than the bar and stem, but it will add major shred-ability to your steed. More aggressive and larger volume tires wouldn't be a terrible idea, either.

You're likely also considering replacing your 120mm travel fork with something longer, which wouldn't be a bad idea, but don't go overboard here: choosing one with more than 140mm of travel is going to have your RZ feeling unbalanced and awkward. If it were me, I'd ride the bike for a while after installing the new cockpit and dropper post before running out to buy an expensive new fork. Suspension setup is key, as a;ways, and you may just need to run more air pressure, and therefore more rebound damping, in order to be in more control. Remember that skill, not travel, is the important thing here. As for bottoming out the shock on flat landings, you should be using all your travel at some points of the ride, so long as it's not too hard and too often, and flat landings are never a good thing, anyways. Measure your sag and maybe run the shock a bit firmer, with anywhere between 20 and 30% being acceptable figures.
- Mike Levy

Cannondale

The RZ 120 is a fine trail bike, but it needs a few changes in order to maximize your fun when things get rough.






Restoring Confidence

Question: Matisko states in the All-Mountain and Cross-Country Forum: I got myself a YT Capra Pro, before that I had a Santa Cruz Nomad. Although I feel myself going quicker, I still think I'm holding back unintentionally downhill. I find myself grabbing the brakes and constantly scrubbing speed off. Planning on doing a few enduro races in 2015, so how do I move on?

bigquotesMost riders go through stages when we lack the confidence to carry speed or hit stunts that may have seemed easy at an earlier moment. Coming off an injury can require a lengthy period to regain one's confidence, as I recently discovered. I would suggest riding with a small group of friends who possess better skills and who are supportive to the point where you can be frank with your situation, so you won't be uselessly worried about your image while you fight your demons. Following more competent riders will ease you back up to speed and make technical features seem more do-able.

Sessioning troublesome sections is something that Pro DH riders do at every track and it is an invaluable tool for every rider who needs to tame a section of trail. Another technique I often use, which was mentioned in the thread, is to get a big bike and hit a bike park for a couple of days to 'tune up." Most flow features can be hit at various speeds and degrees of skill without consequence and aboard a more capable DH bike, you will quickly adapt to watching the scenery go by at mach speed.

A trick that I learned from motorcycle racing was to "talk my way around a lap." After crashing in practice, or during a race, I would verbally go through the steps as I entered and exited the turns and features - a ritual that quickly got my rhythm back. I still use that technique today: "Get a few pedals in ...Don't get too far off the back ...Pull up right here ...Keep an eye on the landing." It's a cheap trick, but it gets me out of the passive and into the active riding mode.

Finally, consider enrolling in an advanced skills course where there are no expectations except for improvement. You can eradicate some of your bad habits while you are at it, and you may exit the course a far better rider than you were in the prime of your previous riding. The key to regaining confidence is to accept where you are at the moment, and start your comeback with a plan. - RC


Whistler Bike Park Coaches Camp

Session high-speed or technical trail segments to learn the better line choices and gain confidence to flow through the parts where you may have jumped on the brakes. Confidence comes from knowledge and understanding. Break down your demons into smaller, digestible pieces and then sew them back together with a final speed run. - Whistler Peak Leader Training photo




A Matter of Time?


Question: Pinkbike user Pukkasilvia asked this question in the Downhill Forum: I was wondering what timing poles/equipment are out there. I would like to be able to use them on my local trails, something that's a good value?


bigquotesThe only real system I know of is the Freelap system. If you buy the stopwatch, which has the option of countdown beeps to get you started, then you can use only one pole at the end of your track to trigger the watch. Most people use one pole at top and bottom, but this nearly doubles your startup cost - maybe talk a friend into getting a watch and a pole too, then you can have a start pole, or even better a split time and the added challenge of racing your mates. The Freelap system seems to be reliable and isn't affected by the weather or trees like using a GPS systems or phone app. A big advantage of the Freelap system is that more and more bike parks are starting to have them installed permanently so if you have your own watch you can use their poles without the hassle of setting them up yourself or forgetting about them and leaving them in the woods. All of that being said, at $499 for a MTB Junior Starter kit, which includes one watch, a handlebar mount and two poles this might not be the kind of 'value' you were looking for. - Paul Aston

<i>Freelap systems may not be cheap, but could help you iron out your weaknesses and get faster over time.</i>

Freelap systems may not be cheap, but could help you iron out your weaknesses and get faster over time.





Have some unresolved tech questions? Jump in the Pinkbike Forum and we'll look to answer it for next time.


92 Comments

  • 42 0
 i would say I think the best way to gain confidence is to be 19 years old.... but I know plenty of 40+ years old that can and do kick my ass on the decentsFrown
  • 53 1
 Don't underestimate the power of beer. Being 21 helps too.
  • 10 1
 and when the beer is not enough try whiskey
  • 22 3
 and when whiskey is not enough try crack.
  • 12 1
 What about all three at once?
  • 8 1
 When none of that works try visualizing yourself clearing a section of trail in the manner you want to several times before attempting it.
  • 3 0
 Sound like a solid piece of advice, just be aware of your location and who is around!! Time is an ally, but dont rush through the trails and injure yourself to the point that riding a bike will be impossible.
  • 3 0
 Count to 3 and just go for it, dont over think it just do and instinct will kick in, follow a mate in if you're worried about having the right speed.
  • 29 1
 44 years old here.

Glad I didn't have rampage and crankworx to live up to when I was 19 years old.

Not sure to what extent PB posts about hitting trail features reflect the actual hitting of trail features. Hopefully there is still room in the sport for those who get an adrenaline rush from the rythm and flow of riding, and the sights and sounds of nature without launching ourselves into low orbit or dropping several stories.

I've had guilty chuckles watching "fail" videos, but I certainly feel fortunate that I have not sustained a serious injury. Mountain biking is a recreational activity. Unless you're on Redbull's payroll and ride every day for a living, self-preservation and the potential long-term consequences of a serious injury should prevail over peer pressure and the general trend towards the extreme in everything we do, especially if you're young and have most of your life and career ahead of you.

If you've lost confidence, that's basically your brain telling you to take it easy for a while. Also, at some point, no matter how much you session or prepare mentally, the demands of a particular feature may outstrip what you bring to the party. Not everyone can be a concert pianist and not everyone can hit trail features like Semenuk.

Do what is fun for you.
  • 8 0
 So true, as much as I love going big with my hommies, my favorite moments usually are on some roudy single track after a long ass climb.
  • 5 0
 As someone who has battled several sidelining injuries, regaining confidence is very difficult. I find riding a moto on trails really helps for regaining cornering confidence. Bike parks are always a great way to get "up to speed". Road riding and fitness play a huge roll in my confidence as well. If you can pass cars on a road descent, ripping at mach turduckin feels normal. I completely agree with eggsandb. The best piece of advice I ever received was at the Bromont bike park getting myself stoked to ride the big line a guy i was riding with said "Mountain biking is about having fun and being able to do it forever, i can't wait to teach my kids to ride!" it put everything in perspective.
  • 2 0
 Cocaine is a helluva drug.
  • 28 0
 I think gaining confidence and going faster just builds over time. The more u ride the more confidence you have, just like anything else it takes time.
  • 11 0
 Very true. Put in as many laps as you can. A good place to do this is a bike park. You'd be amazed at what one day at a bike park can do.
  • 9 1
 Correct technique can also make a huge difference. Not having a neutral body position, and not taking turns correctly can make trails seem much harder.
  • 4 0
 Confidence is truly the addition of many details, but feeling good and secure on the bike is the most important thing IMO, I see too many guys on the bikerpark with weerdly diving forks, an odd cockpit or an harsh shock.
  • 2 0
 I agree, and pushing the envelope also helps you realize what you are capable of and gives you a huge booster.
  • 2 0
 Also I broke my wrist and it took me months until I was comfortable with hitting jumps and even then I didn't go WFO like I usually did. And now just a year later I am feeling as confident and loving it, but trying to preview features before riding them.
  • 2 0
 when i had my accident last year, i lost most of my confidence especially in wet or muddy trails. ever since that, I made sure to equip my bike with the tires that would suit such condition. sporting maxxis dhf tires, and a dropper post help me considerably and i'm faster now but still not totally confident and i see myself scrubbing speed often just to be safe. I rode with a downhiller before who is well known here in our place to top all races be it enduro or dh. I asked him how can you just let go of the brakes in each and every camber with ease. he said you just have to be confident and practice good technique. plus, following him around sure help me with my speed as i try to keep up with him absorbing all the line choices he makes so i can do the same.
  • 7 0
 Confidence is about inner peace too. Is the rider comfortable with the other aspects of his life which are not Mtb?
life balance has somehow weight in sport performance
Just my opinion
  • 3 0
 Good point Narro2. Riding t relieve stress has its place, but I've found the best rides are the ones where everything is squared away, there is no rush, and you can relax.
  • 30 2
 Strava bro. KOM or die tryin. #skidinyourshortsnotinthecorners
  • 9 1
 Not gonna lie had to read your hashtag about 4 times for it to make sense...
  • 2 0
 That has to be the cheapest route, though I'm not sure how accurate Strava is especially on a smart phone. I will be putzing around in the woods, look at my Strava and see I got 7th overall where I wasn't even pedaling. Either I pulled a Neko or something is not recorded accurately. I'm leaning towards the latter.
  • 1 0
 I agree with all that and have had the same happen to me. I haven't tried anything else. For doing laps though it is an easy and cheap way to see if your average speed on a track gets faster. Get rid of the ones that seem way out there. I also use it to track how many miles and hours are put on the bikes to keep track of service intervals and such.
  • 1 0
 Honestly, the phone's GPS is garbage. Phones will get you by for a while, but a dedicated GPS is really the only way to go. The good ones have barometric altimeters built in for higher elevation accuracy. Besides, running a GPS unit doesn't waste your cell phone's battery. I bring my phone for emergencies only.
  • 2 0
 If you have a gopro etc, just film the run you want to time. Very accurate, but no instant gratification because you have to upload it ..
  • 1 0
 Strava is not accurate to the second, not even to 10's of seconds most of the time. Not even counting shitty phone GPS...
  • 19 1
 Instead of talking to myself, I make dirt bike noises. The result is usually me getting distracted while shifting imaginary gears and flipping over a root, though...
  • 6 1
 Haha i thought i was the only weird guy that does that.
  • 4 0
 Funny, I always think "pedal pedal pedal" when I throttle up on my motorbike.
Seriously though, why not just ride a dirt bike? I hate to think of MTB as a wannabe MX sport.
What if I yelled "hyah hyah gettyup" when railing a turn?

I like riding motorcycles. I have an old late 70's xr500 Honda. The thing is a blast, but MTB is life. No need to pretend to be something else.
  • 5 0
 I started making dirt bike noises on bicycles when I was three. I mountain bike because I'm a kid at heart, so the childhood habit just never died.
  • 5 0
 I always "brap" when taking off lips. MX roots so... ya. Smile
  • 9 1
 I find the real answers to these questions is. .. for Cannondale dude.... sell your bike and get something enduro. Pinkbike will back this up and even send you a fanny pack. For the dude needing to gain confidence. Dude IPA. don't listen to R.C. he is wrong. Drink some Sierra Nevada torpedo s before a descent and you will Sam hill it. At least in your mind you will. And if you wreck you wont feel it. As for the timing thing. I dunno I didn't read it. Sounded boring. Just do strava.
  • 7 0
 Confidence is weird, there are certain elements that I don't think twice about hitting, hard and fast. I'll roll right down that 15 ft rock face with a questionable transition on a hardtail no questions asked, but that 2ft (maybe) drop, that'll take some working up to on my full sus.
  • 2 0
 I can relate to this. I'll hit a 20' drop with a big gap to the landing before I'll hit like a 10' double... I figure falling is easier than hitting a lip...
  • 11 0
 My wife has babies, but is afraid to endo. Makes no sense.
  • 10 0
 @taletotell Weird, I'm not afraid to endo but deathly afraid of having kids...
  • 3 0
 As someone with knee issues that loves to get rowdy on descents but has to have my saddle in proper position for climbing or extended periods in the saddle, I simply cannot say enough good things about my dropper post! Not having to get off before a feature to lower my seat then stop to raise it back up makes my rides much more enjoyable!
  • 3 0
 To the cannondale guy, you really should get a whole new bike. You've simply outgrown yours. It happens. I outgrew 2 bikes before getting a DH bike. Now I ride an Enduro. I recommend you go for something like an Enduro. You'll have climbing ability, but those things descend almost like a DH rig.
  • 3 0
 Riding fast is about increasing the ability of the coding and processing systems, both of which are enhanced by a safe environment and repetition. Boozing it up may mimic a safe situation, but riding fully armored with a group of friends over the same trail in rapid repetition (lift/shuttle) will make you able to quickly read terrain and anticipate your bikes response, skills transferable anywhere. This is the culture that makes WC racers so fast.
  • 2 0
 Drinking alcohol to get rid of your fears is the stupidest thing someone can do. You loose control, don't read your lines as well, your whole riding gets worse, while your speed gets faster. On top of that if you fall you won't be able to respond as fast and as well, so if you fall chances of injuring yourself are much higher. You're basically turning yourself into a braindamaged monkey riding down the trails. Just man up and work on your skills so you can go faster safely and with control. Use your brain, not alcohol. Keep alcohol for AFTER the rides.
  • 4 0
 Fit an angle reducing headset and/or offset bushes to the Cannondale as well as the dropper and shorter stem/wider bars. A friend did this to his and it's great fun now
  • 1 0
 What headset did your mate use, please? I love my RZ and already have a wide/short cockpit, but could use a slacker head angle to increase the fun factor even more.
  • 1 0
 check rwc. enduroforkseals.com and i know cane creek makes anglesets as well.
  • 1 0
 Much appreciated.
  • 2 0
 It would have been a Works components headset I believe, I'll try to find out for sure. Another friend has a -2 in his Prophet MX frame (and runs it in the slickest setting) running 1 1/8th 160mm Lyrics and that thing absolutely rips.
  • 3 0
 I'm trying to regain confidence after two damaging falls this year. Now it's frustrating to feel nervous on small features when I know I've hit much larger stuff for years. It's nice to know it will hopefully get better.
  • 2 0
 I Broke my wrist the day before my nomad c arrived! Gutted doesn't even come close to how I felt. Plus my private life was pretty sh*t(ex misses) but as soon as my cast came off I waited and waited till the strength came back to ride, then five minutes into the ride all my troubles faded away (if only when riding). Confidence comes from riding as much as possible at your local trails and with some of your riding buddy's. Just go and enjoy life and it will reflect in your riding. Live to ride
  • 3 1
 I have never ridden the YT and so cannot speak to that, but having ridden a nomad, both aluminum and carbon, they do wonders for the confidence. Has anyone also ridden both and found a big difference in DH confidence?
  • 1 0
 I ride my RZ 120 with a Fox Float 140mm with a bit lower air pressure to have a bit more sag to give better trail response. I also run 250psi in the rear shock with no bottom out. The biggest improvement I made was putting Conti Mountain King II 2.4. HUGE!!!!!!!!!!!!! The frame has enough clearance. A dropper post is on my wish list for certain.
  • 1 0
 250psi?! Was that a typo macbike7937 ? I run my RZ120 at 150psi max.
  • 1 0
 Yes that was a typo. It is 150psi. I weigh 165lbs.
  • 1 0
 That rz120 needed only to shorten the stem for 20mm and move the seat back (it looks stupid pushed forwards as it is now) and probably a seat post with some offset (instead of no offset)... Dropper seat post is nonsense on such bike ... Add some good tires and off you go.. With some protectors on you get more speed then spending 100s to modify old bike
  • 1 0
 Mix it up too get a cheap 2nd hand BMX bike practice at a local track racing helps too, for DH find or buy a cheap moto nothing gets u more used to speed and big jumps like a dirtbike. Dont do full runs lractice sections at a time before linking seection by section into full runs, even fast juniors can learn lots to go faster doing this.
  • 3 0
 I talk myself through a run frequently. Scary, sketchy sections I talk out load. My buddy has now adopted this technique.
  • 1 0
 you know as soon as you put up some of those spiffy timing poles you're going to have lollygaggers stopping to tie their shoes on the trail or walk their dogs up the trail or do something to get in your way and slow you down
  • 2 1
 guy with cannondale: get a 65mm or less stem, slide that seat back a bit, and try riding some with the tire pressure "lower"
(think of a grippier tire for the front in 2.3+ wide range)
  • 1 0
 I'd get rid of those tyres and see what is more suitable for aggressive riding on your trails. And I'd also consider getting your suspension custom tuned to suit your bike, your weight and the riding you intend to do with it. When you get your forks/shock serviced, it isn't a lot more to get them tuned as well.
  • 3 0
 I feel like there should be an easier way to time yourself.
  • 37 0
 @wisconsin-freerider

one-mississippi

two-mississippi

three-mississippi.....
  • 8 0
 3 Mississippis?! You're fast!
  • 2 0
 i use a steerer tube mounted timer that has a push button that mounts next to your grip. Its made by a moto x company but is available with a bracket for mtb mounting.

Price is 150$nz.

I have photos of it in my profile if any are interested. I keep a record book with all my times recorded so i can see my progression. i have about 25 local tracks that i keep records of my times on.
  • 4 0
 GPS-based things like Strava or something?
  • 2 0
 if all you want is timing, plenty of $30 dollar Casio sports watches with a stopwatch button on the front. mount it on your bars, good to go.

You want split-second timing, you pay for it.
  • 3 0
 Gps based devices aren't accurate enough for downhill timing. Maybe 10 or 20% of time Strava is close to my timer. most of the time its 15+ (or - )seconds out.
People will tell you that gamin type devices are more accurate and while there is some truth to this the fact is it's still not close to being accurate like a stopwatch.
  • 4 0
 I knew a bunch of guys that took stop watches and wired a button next to the grip to start/stop it. Just have to be a little creative.
  • 1 0
 strava right?
  • 2 0
 I've tried this application:

www.xnotestopwatch.com

and just jury-rigged a system together with a spreadsheet and a couple of laptops that just subtracts start and arrival times to get the course time. Not perfect, but it works for our needs.
  • 1 0
 ^^thats the ticket
  • 2 0
 Pinkbike. What can I do for 2 months other than ride considering I just broke my collar bone and thumb today?
  • 2 0
 Pay $.99 for the shred phone app! It's not bad...lol
  • 3 0
 Just wait like those of us in the snow.
  • 1 0
 Well i cant always go balls out as i cant afford to get hurt and be of commission . So i go some what easy. Big jumps and drops scare me too :-)
  • 1 0
 Throwing a plastic shim in the air can of that xc bike's rear shock (something cut from a milk jug maybe) will make it more progressive, which might reduce the bottoming.
  • 2 0
 To boost confidence before a technical section, just pretend you are Fabien Barrel for a few seconds.
  • 2 0
 You have outgrown your bike cannondale man.
  • 2 0
 Yep, sell your bike and buy this:
www.canyon.com/en/mountainbikes/bike.html?b=3560
It's got every upgrade you could want, and you'll probably end up spending the same amount of money on the Cannondale, factoring in the amount you will spend on general servicing in the next year.
  • 1 0
 Does anyone know where u can buy free lap timers in the UK?
Can't find them anywhere?
  • 1 0
 'Everything you want is on the other side of fear'
  • 1 0
 No Falls, No Balls.
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