Conquer Any Rock Garden
Sail across rugged singletrack with this advice from Downieville Classic Champ Carl Decker.
2012 Downieville Classic
All-Mountain Champ’s long career and consistent results show, it obviously works—Decker rarely crashes. But cruising through boulder fields requires more than relaxing, right? We caught up with the Giant Factory Off-Road Team
racer during a mid-winter break to find out what else
it takes to crush the rocks.
See the future:
Focus on where you’re going to be, not where you are. “To ride rocks fast, you have to be able to see the line well in advance,” Decker says. “You want to look for wedges to use as take-offs or landings, and smooth areas to brake or turn or get in a pedal stroke.” All this takes practice. “It's easy to look down the trail when it’s less challenging, but to look forward in the gnarly stuff requires more discipline.” Decker suggests spending some time on a long-travel bike at a bike park to practice the technique. The extra suspension softens the blow, and the lifts allow you to repeat runs again and again.
Make friends with Big Mo:
“Slow-speed trials moves might get you through a particularly nasty section on your local singletrack, but they are often less effective than harnessing momentum. “Let go of the brakes for a moment, or sprint into an uphill crux,” Decker explains. The extra speed can help carry you up ledgy climbs, or skip over the gaps in rocks on a descent. “Mo is your friend. And I'm not talking about my moustache.”
Before you reach the rock garden, Decker recommends getting into attack position: cranks level, elbows and knees bent, head up, bike at the proper speed, and saddle dropped (for longer descents, or anytime if you have a dropper post like the RockShox Reverb). From there, get ready to move. “Novice riders tend to ride in a static position,” Decker says, “great riders move their bodies around on the bike. You want to weight and unweight each wheel to ride the rocks.”
Need to pedal through that rock garden? Give yourself something to push against. “I like a gear that’s a couple harder than my most efficient gear for a given speed,” Decker explains. “This makes it easier to time your pedals to avoid pedal-rock strikes, and keeps more weight on the pedals instead of the saddle so that you don’t get bucked by the terrain as much.”
Think of 38 Special:
Last step? It’s back to Decker’s original “relax” mantra. Keep your fingers, arms, legs, and shoulders loose. Don’t hold your breath. “I think the band 38 Special said it best,” Decker says. “’Just hold on loosely, but don't let go. If you cling too tightly, you're gonna lose control.” Those are words to live by.’
Use your momentum to float across the top of rocks. (Photo: Jake Orness)
Relax. That’s what Carl Decker tells himself when he comes flying into a rock garden. As the