Most riders would be surprised at what they can ride their adventure bike up. That near-vertical face you’re staring at out on the trail is easier to conquer than you think. You just need to believe it
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY SHANE BOOTH
CHOOSE YOUR LINE
Experienced riders will attack a steep face without too much thought — they’ll pick a line on their approach and just commit to it. If you aren’t quite at that confidence level yet, stop at the base and have a good look at the different line options you have. You want to find a line that’s as smooth as possible and doesn’t have any big edges halfway up that will cause your wheels to leave the ground.
Building momentum on the approach to the face is important but it’s not about hitting it as fast as you can. If you approach too quickly, the bike will G-out hard when you hit the face and can actually almost preload you backwards, causing your wheels to leave the ground and all momentum to be lost. You need enough speed to help you up the face but not so much it causes you problems; 99 per cent of the time you’ll be in first gear on an adventure bike for this type of obstacle. If you’re in too high a gear it will be very easy to stall the bike, especially at the top of the incline.
This is the key. The incorrect body position will cause the front wheel to rise and possibly flip you over onto your back. This is all about adjusting your body position as the bike changes angle to keep your weight distribution central. You can see that the rider allows the bike to move towards them as they ride up the face; the handlebars are in near their waist. Take note of the angle their upper body is at compared to level ground: it’s almost perpendicular, or 90 degrees to flat ground. If you don’t let the bike come towards you as it changes angle, your upper body would be about 45 degrees further back than it is in the photo. If that was the case you can imagine how much weight would be leveraging out over the rear of the bike — the front wheel would lift over backwards in no time.
KEEP IT SMOOTH
Once you’re on the face, maintaining traction is almost totally up to your throttle and clutch control. If it’s a shorter face, this isn’t as critical as your momentum will get you the majority of the way up there. On longer climbs, you’ll need to maintain that momentum and that requires some sharp skills with your controls. You should have one or two fingers over the clutch lever and be using it to smooth out any throttle application you need. If you simply rely on turning the throttle and you need to apply power, there’s a very good chance it will result in wheel spin when the bike is on this angle.