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.
Hand and Knuckle Pain Question:@Hawkinco asks in the Downhill Forum: This was my first year at the park and on a DH bike, and the bottom side of the base of my ring finger on each side was killing me, I haven’t ridden in 3 weeks and they still feel bruised! I bought thicker grips for my last 3 rides, always brake with one finger, try to be conscious of not gripping too tight. I’m was thinking of trying some Vibrocore bars and definitely upgrading from my Boxxer fork. Any other tips?
Your situation isn't isolated by any means. Almost everyone I know, myself included, has had some hand pain after riding in the bike park. After a bunch of runs often all you can do is make circles with your hands and hope you're still holding onto the bars when you land. How long does that take to get conditioned and will you ever be conditioned? It depends on the person, but sometimes it can take a couple weeks of consistent bike park riding, and even at that, some of the best riders will still say that their hands hurt after a long day of hitting rocks and brake bumps. However, there may be some things you can do to help.
Body position is a good place to start. If you're trying to ride in the perfect position, you may be focusing a lot on keeping your arms out, which is good but, your core could be falling down a little because you're loading your arms but not using your core. Doing some core strengthening may help you be able to ride with your body supporting you more rather than relying too much on your arms. This will take some weight off of your hands and provide some relief.
You also seem to be on the right track by trying out different grips but keep in mind that thicker grips may not be the answer. You need the correct size grips for your hands, that's more important than thicker padding. A lot of people seem to be enchanted by the Vibrocore handlebar set up and that could also be worth a try. If your bars are too stiff, they could be transmitting a lot of chatter from the trail into your hands. There's an interesting read on mountain biking and vibrations here.
Ensuring that your fork and shock are properly tuned is really important in managing trail noise. If you have too much or too little compression or rebound damping then you are just fighting your bike the whole run down, so ensure that your fork is properly set up, and if it is a coil set-up then it needs to be the appropriate weight spring for you.
The biggest thing that's helped me is that when my hands start to hurt, I get off of the flow trails and head to the singletrack. There seems to be less traffic and therefore fewer braking bumps and vibrations on technical trails in any bike park I've ever ridden. 14 runs on an A-Line style trail may be fun, but you're going to essentially jackhammer your hands apart by the end of the day. Plus, mixing it up makes you a well-rounded mountain biker, capable of riding more than perfectly groomed jump lips. Sometimes, it's all just pushing through. Do keep in mind that if you're having severe or unusual pain, numbness, or tingling, it's always worth checking in with a medical professional to make sure there are no other underlying issues causing your discomfort.
Riding the bike park isn't easy on your hands but there are some ways to make it more tolerable.
Clipless vs Flats Question:@shred14 asks in the All Mountain, Enduro, & Cross-Country Forum: I've been enduro racing for the past year and I have run flats for every race. They have saved me in wash-outs but in short flats and uphill sprints, I seem to be slowed down. I do have a fair bit of experience with clipless riding from XC to cyclocross but am debating whether to try it for enduro? What do you think about clipless or flat pedals for enduro?
This is one of the most timeless debates in our sport. It even outlasts the 27.5" vs 29" wheel argument (at least we can all finally agree that 29" is better now, right?). This is something that is going to be different for everyone and could vary from track to track.
While some people are going to be quick to say, "Flat pedals win medals" and point to Sam Hill's dominance on them, it's really important to remember that you're not Sam Hill. He's an anomaly in a number of ways, and there's just no translating what one of the best riders in the world is doing to what you're doing. You're playing a different sport. Connor Fearon rides flats but is convinced clipping in is better for most riders.
I think that if you have a lot of experience in riding clipless with XC, and especially cyclocross, you probably are proficient in getting in and out of the pedals. Chances are, you could pop out and save yourself from washing out in an enduro race clipped in as well. Clipless pedals offer the advantage of keeping your feet secured while you're in rough terrain and then you have a little more power when heading uphill. There are more styles of high-performance clipless shoes to choose from that will have stiffer soles than there are stiff flat pedal options. The stiffness will help transfer power to the pedals and you'll feel better in those sections of pedaling. Most clipless pedals that you would want to race enduro on will have a fairly substantial platform on them, compared to the bare-bones pedals you use for XC or CX so that you can easily clip in and out, and, if you miss clipping in and you're dropping into a technical section of trail you can still manage.
Most importantly, you just need to be comfortable riding whatever you are riding. I went through years where I rode clipless pedals almost exclusively, then I rode flats for several more before I started occasionally going back to clipping in on rugged terrain. At first, it was terrifying and I was uncomfortable. Now, I'm probably more at home clipped in on almost any terrain compared to flat pedals. Give yourself time to get comfortable while clipped in. If you end up sticking with flats, then that's fine too. Maybe look for a shoe that offers a little more support in that situation.
Connor Fearon rides flats but says clipless pedals are better...
How to Build a Wooden Jump Ramp
Question: @Chamacia asks in the Freeride & Slopestyle Forum: I would like to build a jump ramp out of wood and would like to know if there is a transition radius that's good? Want it to work for 26" and 27.5", not BMX. Any other input is welcome as well.
I'm going to make the assumption that you're building a ramp for a trick jump so let's talk about that.
Eric Porter (@portermtb) has been building and riding jumps for a long time and has more experience with it than almost anyone so I gave him a call to get the lowdown on what you want to do. We're going to talk in feet here, so apologies ahead of time if you need to convert things to metric.
For a 12-14' gap, a good place to start is a 10.5' radius with a 6' tall lip. If the gap is longer or shorter, you'll want to open or close the radius some. For instance, a 16-18' gap will have an 11-11.5' radius and an 8-10' gap will have a tighter radius. There's no perfect formula as things could change to account for speed and style. In the end, the speed you're hitting the jump with will help dictate your radius and that's something you will have to decide on yourself through a little trial and error.
There are countless ways that you can construct your jump but a few things to keep in mind to help it go smoothly. If you're riding the jump only on a MTB with some suspension, then you can build the ramp with slats for a nice MTB look and feel. Traditional construction would be using plywood sheeting. You'll want to use 3/4" plywood on the outside with 2x4' ribs up the center and a sheet of 3/8" plywood on the face that you can bend to match the transition. The MTB style with slats is easier to modify as you can just pull a slat off to shorten it without more involved disassembly as you would with plywood.
One big tip is to build the jump in your driveway or on another flat surface so that you can ensure everything is square. Put everything together with screws so you can take it apart or fine-tune things and keep in mind what your run-in looks like...you may need to start your transition a little differently to account for the terrain.
Wooden ramps are one of the best ways to learn tricks. Measure twice, cut once. Photo by: Ben van Avermaete