Words: Jared Rando

Photos: Nick Waygood

Riding short and steep chutes is a great way to begin to develop your confidence on steep terrain. Riding the longer variety of chutes where speed control is paramount is a different kettle of fish but there is no shortage of trails here in Australia which feature short and sharp steep sections.

It’s certainly something which is intimidating for newbies to the sport and for good reason – get it wrong and 9 times out of 10 it will result in a trip over the bars with a long way between you and the ground so it really is important to ease your way into it. Don’t tackle anything off the bat that you feel uncomfortable with and progress your skills on mellow inclines and learn the basics before you tackle the steep stuff.

Gaining confidence to let the brakes off to roll over obstacles is also really important – the easiest way to get it wrong is to be on the brakes too hard and get hooked up on an obstacle on your way down. Here’s some tips to help build your confidence and what to look out for.

Step 1 – Have a really, really, really good look at the roll in

It’s important to have a really good look before you drop in. Start off by having a look without the bike, and pick the exact line you want to ride. Look for small key markers to keep you in the right spot and anything which you could hook up on. Once you have a look on foot, have a look on your bike slowly riding up to the edge and focusing on your line and visualising what you need to do. Do this as many times as it takes and remember you can always come back another day if it doesn’t feel right. Once you drop over the edge you need to be committed and know exactly where you are going and what you need to do to because on the steep stuff there’s no bailing out.

Step 2 – Look up and over

As you drop in, look up and over the edge so you can focus on what’s ahead as soon as possible. This will give you that little bit of extra time to relax and react to what’s coming up. Here I have spotted and picked my line and focusing on exactly where I need to go before I’m over the edge. On this particular line there is a rock about half way down I want to make sure I have the momentum to roll over so I’m paying particular attention to that as well.

Step 3 – Get your weight back

This might seem like common sense and it is! The problem is that when riders are tense they can tend to forget this crucial step and freeze on the bike as they go over the edge. Think about placing your stomach on your seat and your butt on the back wheel.  You can exaggerate the position when practicing on mellow lines to get used to it – this is something I can’t recommend enough.

Being able to get back as far as you can and also low on the bike not only stops you going over the bars but also gives you extra braking traction on the rear wheel. Braking at this point is all about focusing on the rear brake and being gentle on the front – you want to use very little front brake for obvious reasons!

Step 4 – Easy on the brakes

On the steep lines once you are going, you are going. There’s no stopping so it’s all about managing your braking. One of the hardest elements of chutes is when there is an unavoidable obstacle thrown in – a slick rock or root is a great example. The hardest part here is that you’ll actually need to let the brakes off a little and be light on the bike to maintain traction and not slip out and also not to get bucked.

Think about riding over a small log at speed on flat ground – do it with no brakes and you’ll roll right over it but if you do it at speed when you are braking hard, as soon as you hit it you’ll go over the bars. That’s exaggerated even more on the steep stuff so it’s really important to build this element of confidence on more gentle slopes first. Here as I’m rolling over the rock I’m letting off the brakes to keep rolling through as I know after that the run out is clean and I can afford to let them off.

Step 5 – Look up as you roll out

Focusing ahead as you roll out is really important – especially on tight trail type chutes. Quite often people get so excited and focus so hard on the steep part they get off line at the bottom and crash. Remember it isn’t finished until you have complete control over your braking and speed so keep looking up until you have everything under control again!

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