Downhill Mountain Bikes – The 29er

The “29er” is a large diameter bicycle wheel gaining popularity and used on some downhill mountain bikes. It is approximately 29 inches across (hence “29er”), in constrast to the more traditional “26er”, or 26 inch diameter wheel. It was first attempted by Gary Fisher around the early 1980’s when the first specialized downhill mountain bikes were produced.

The 29er is claimed by many to have much better traction on sandy surfaces, like beaches, with the larger size providing additional suspension. Detractors say it adds to the overall weight of the bike and slows it down, but that objection was put to rest as racers, including Lance Armstrong, won events with it. There is a different rhythm to the pedaling, and a different feel when rounding corners. It is said to be easier to use for those inexperienced on bicycles.

Early on, supply constraints slowed down adoption due to the lack of not only tires, but of rims, suspension forks, inner tubes, and frames adapted to this unique tire size. In addition, there were no standards on tire sizes themselves. Each country had their own way of doing things, so two tires, each designated with a the same number, could really mean a slightly different diameter and width, making them incompatible. Furthermore, companies would distort dimensions and weights for marketing purposes. This situation persisted until the early 80’s when ISO standards were introduced.

The market for 29ers came into being slowly, as the infrastructure to support them was gradually built up. There were a few false starts, where 29ers were introduced but failed to find a sufficient market. This included the Project bikes in 1992 and the Nanoraptor in 1999. In the mid 2000’s, success was finally acheived when Gary Fisher introduced the Rig, and other manufacturers followed suit. Variations have been produced, such as the “69er” where the front wheel is 29″ while the back is 26″, and the “96er”, with opposite wheel sizes.

29erTree Downhill Mountain Bikes   The 29erSo do 29er’s grow on trees?

Video: Banshee Prime 29er Prototype – Sick Lines – mountain bike … – Banshee had a prototype 29er they’re calling the Prime at Sea Otter this year. Check out the video with Keith Scott talking about how its different from other 29er’s out there currently. Video: …

Big Wheels or Small Wheels? – I must ‘fess up to the selfish excitement I felt when I first heard about 29-inch wheels. Being a tall rider never completely comfortable with feeling a bit gangly riding with others, a tall bike with normal-sized wheels looks out of proportion and, well, gangly. …

96er, How it Works – Bigger where it counts, 29 inch front wheel, 26 inch rear wheel. Our first production bicycle is the 96’er, incorperating three basic theories, Roll It, Rip It and Punch It. Here is how it works. …

Main MTB News: TWENTY NINER – Like most of you I’ve been curious, to say the least, to test out a 29er. The hype has been that they outperform 26” wheel bikes. Most people who have made the switch say they will never go …

singletracks: 1×9 and Feeling Fine – Like most mountain bikers I started out riding a 27-speed mountain bike with 3 crank rings and 9 gears on the rear cassette. When I bought my 29er a couple years ago I made the switch to a 9-speed, 1×9 …

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Downhill Mountain Bikes – Protection

When enjoying the downhill mountain bikes experience while minimizing the risk and severity of injury, one has the option of selecting from a wide range of protective gear. Due to the nature of going downhill, solid protection is needed to mitigate the odds and severity of injury. This is because as the bicycle and rider go faster and faster, the odds and severity of a mishap increase, especially on a rocky and tenuous surface. Though the use of hydraulic brakes and a sturdy frame help to reduce the odds of equipment failure, the risk is an ever present one.

The use of a regular bike helmet, while suitable for commuting, will not do for downhill. No, no, no. A full helmet, protecting the jawline, is what you need. It is a requirement in all downhill races. This helps minimize the possibility of concussion, a very serious injury that can have long lasting effects. Reading about this is no fun.

commuter bike helmet 300x238 Downhill Mountain Bikes   Protection
full bike helmet 300x199 Downhill Mountain Bikes   Protection
Commuter Bike Helmet
Full Bike Helment

Though the helmet is basic, shin pads are also recommended, lest one get hit by a rotating pedal. When suffering any mishap, the hands are the first part to come into play, so they should be protected by gloves. Knee pads can protect against scapes and trail rash. In addition, the use of bicycle shorts can reduce scraping should one find themselves in that unfortunate situation.

Finally, don’t add insult to injury by not only suffering a spill, but sliding into a thicket of poison ivy or poison oak. Consider where they may be located along the trail.

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Vital MTB » Product Spotlight: iXS Gravity Gloves – Features – For mountain bikers, full finger gloves serve a number of purposes. Of course they are there to protect the rider’s hands in case of a crash, but there’s more to gloves. They add to the riding comfort …

SingleTracks » Mountain Biking: Full Restriction – So I got a bit of bad news from my health insurance company today: I’m officially banned from riding my mountain bike. Apparently all the claims mudhunny and I have made over the past few years – stitches, broken bones, pulled muscles – have cost the company a fortune. …

Julbo Pipeline Sunglasses for Mountain Biking – Here’s a new pair of eyewear from Julbo that was designed with the mountain biker in mind. The Pipeline is offered with four lens choices but for trails I say stick with the Zebra lens. With a lens shape that’s similar to the …

Mountain biker on Guisborough Woods crash – A MOUNTAIN biker has today told how his helmet saved his life after he hit a tree at speed in a horrific crash …

Giro Xar MTB Helmet Review – Behold the Xar! I bet right now you’re imagining some big burly guy with tons of power and wealth overseeing his Slavic minions. Actually that would be a Czar. Even so, when you strap on …

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Downhill Mountain Bikes – Stems

The handlebar stem on downhill mountain bikes both keeps the handlebar in place and determines the height of the handlebars. Often they are made of aluminum alloy, with the higher end ones consisting of 7075 aluminum. 7075 aluminum uses zinc as the primary alloying agent, giving it the strength of steel, but with a lighter weight. It is also used to make lacrosse shafts and rock climbing equipment.

Classic road quill stem 300x200 Downhill Mountain Bikes   Stems
Threadless stem with hole for front brake cable Downhill Mountain Bikes   Stems
Threaded “Quill” Stem
Threadless Stem

There are two types of stem, threaded, or “quill”, primarily used on older bikes, and threadless, which is in common use today, particularly on mountain bikes. Threadless systems require less labor. Some stems serve to raise the level of the handlebars slightly, but others may lower it. Lowering the handlebars allows the rider to make closer contact with the bike, which is useful for downhill applications. Numerous types of stems are available, with costs ranging from $10 to $100 (USD).

When selecting a stem consider the handlebar diameter. 25.4mm (1″) and 26mm are common sizes, but on downhill mountain bikes oversized 31.8mm handlebars are taking over due to their greater strength. Shims may be used to accomodate a smaller handlebar diameter.

DIRTYDOG REAPERSTEM Downhill Mountain Bikes   StemsDirty Dog Reaper Mountain Bike Stem

Singletracks » Kore Cockpit: Torsion Bar and Gripster Grips – “What is this big brown thing in front of my door? NO WAY! It’s a box full of gear from Singletracks to review!” …

Singletracks » 2011 Answer -ONE Drop Stem 50mm 55mm – For 2011 Answer came out with a new direct mount stem. It provides the rider with a lower drop than typical direct mount stems. This new stem from Answer is called -One aka “Minus One” …

Singletracks » Syncros FRIC FR/DH Stem Review – Every so often, someone in the bike industry comes up with something really unique… something truly revolutionary… something that’s just FRIC’n cool! Tom Ritchey and the folks at Syncros / Ritchey …

Image Credits: Threaded and Threadless Bicycle Stems, Andrew Dressel

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Subzero Cycling

When the temperature drops below zero (degrees Fahrenheit), many would never even consider hopping atop a manual two-wheeler. But what if one needs to get to work and the options are:

(1) Waiting outside to hop aboard a crowded, slow train which will take twice as long as bicycling, when it is not broken. What if there’s a measles outbreak “…and the infected woman had taken the T while contagious and sought treatment at a busy Roxbury community health center…

(2) Sitting in one’s car waiting for long, slow traffic, for which it would just as long as bicycling, if not longer.

Why give up the peace and solitude of bicycling just because of a little cold? Welcome to the realm of the die-hard, young grasshopper. When one is dressed property, it’s not really so die hard after all.

When biking below room temperature, every twenty degree drop necessitates a change in clothing. At 60 degrees, a light jacket will suffice. At 40, a heavy jacket, hat, and light gloves are needed. At 20, add a clava and maybe some glove liners or thick gloves. At zero, add ski pants and a ski mask to the mix. If its snowing, a ski mask is a must as bicycling into snow is no fun. Darth Vader will have nothing over you. And don’t forget warm boots. I have found wearing two long sleeve layers to work great.

One positive thing about cold weather is the lack of standing water. That’s right, no puddles, and if it’s cold enough no slush either. This means not having to worry about water proof boots, should one need to navigate puddles later in the day. At first, I thought ice would be a problem, but it didn’t turn out to be that much of a factor. My bicycle, being made of cheap, common steel, weighs 50 lbs. It also has mountain bike tires, the same tires the bike shop uses for rental. So it can’t go that fast. In case you were curious about bicycling over ice, check out this extreme video:

Glaciers, Bikes, and Airplanes from Blue Ice Aviation on Vimeo.

If you have bicycle lights, consider taking them inside, as batteries tend to get sluggish in the cold. Other factors come into play in subzero weather, factors one wouldn’t expect. My fingertips got cold, even in gloves. I figured it was because I was holding the brakes, which were cold, but later on in my ride they got mysteriously warm again. I attribute this to blood circulation warming me up, quite literally.

Things one would take casually in warmer weather turn into operations when it gets cold, such as the “parking the bicycle at a rack and locking it up” operation. This required my hand be exposed to cold weather but for a short time it wasn’t so bad. Then came removing the lights which had to be taken inside. This all took time and would not have been necessary if was a bit warmer. Things also break more easily. The plastic tab holding down my bicycle lock decided to snap off, so I had to buy a new one.

Overall, the trip was pleasant and in the sun, but the snow covered walkway was like a trail and would have been better on a mountain bike with full suspension, but the mountain bike tires helped. On the way back my fingers didn’t get so cold even though they were into the wind. Automobile traffic was insane, making it easy to pedal around and through the gridlock.

10 Factors To Go For A Winter Bike Ride – Of course this is easier said than done especially when your sat at home with the fire blazing, the last thing in your mind is “you know what? I wanna go freeze my ass off at the local trail” but there are a great deal of reasons and advantages to taking your trusty steed out for a blast. …

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Downhill Mountain Bikes – Electric

Electric downhill mountain bikes have recently been introduced, allowing one to easily traverse hills and eliminating the need for a separate vehicle to ferry them to the top. Through battery powered bicycles are a recent phenomenon, power assisted bikes have been with us for over a hundred years, the first one being developed in 1895. They ran on gasoline, but it wasn’t until the invention of modern torque sensors, power controllers, and battery technology in the 1990′s that today’s power assisted electric bicycles became possible. In China, an industry which began in its infancy in the late 1990′s has exploded to the point where ten years later, electric bikes outnumber automobiles four to one.

The preferred battery technology today is lithium-ion, which is able to deliver power from a more compact package than its predecessor, the lead acid battery. This brings the weight of some electric downhill mountain bikes down to 50 pounds. Lithium ion batteries typically give 25 miles per charge. The battery is usually stowed on a platform behind the rear wheel, but can also be hidden in a backpack or mounted onto the frame.

Electric bikes running on lead acid batteries start at $350, but full suspension downhill mountain bikes running on lithium-ion batteries can run over $2000. Most are rear wheel drive, but an all wheel drive is available for about $4000. They are power assisted, meaning power is applied in response to the rider’s pedaling force, with pedaling being the main driver. Conversion kits to retrofit existing bikes are available.

Some electric downhill mountain bikes can achieve speeds of 40mph. The top speed determines whether it is street legal, which varies by local or regional jurisdiction. Licensing requirements vary as well. In the United States, if their top speed is less than 20mph, they are considered bicycles.

EGO-Kits give downhill mountain bikes a boost – Continue Reading EGO-Kits give downhill mountain bikes a boost. Tags: Bicycles, Cycling, Electric Bicycle, Mountain, Pedaling. Related Articles: Part dirt bike, part mountain bike, all Mountain Moto; KTM eGnition brings electricity to …

Pedago Electric Bikes Blog – Purchasing an electric bike is an important decision. There are many factors when considering which E-Bike to pick. Here are our top 5 picks on what you should look for before purchasing an electric bike. …

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Bike » dhRENO * downhill, freeride … – The Optibike does most of that right now. Makes more sense to have batteries charged by solar or wind, or have a fuel cell @ home that powers your car, house, bike, etc. Still, moving in the right direction. … » Hanebrink snow bike – first (and maybe the only..) Hanebrink electric bike in the UK. We spent 4 hours putting this bad boy together…damn its heavy but actually easy to pedal and goes like stink once you stop pedalling and twist that throttle! …

AB-Bike: Blade Electro – GRUBER Assist is an ultra-light drive for mountain bikes. The drive is invisible Gruber cleverly designed built into the bicycle frame and scores especially through its light weight (900gr). Pressing …

OHM XS 750 Review » Mountain Bike Review – I have been riding the OHM XS 750 Electric bike, through most of the Winter, doing short commutes into work, and riding with the family on singletrack, and sundry trails. The XS 750 is quite a high tech piece of engineering, with excellent features and component selection, …

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Downhill Mountain Bikes – Tires

The thickest and most durable tires can be found on downhill mountain bikes, where traction and resistance to puncture are paramount. The thicknesses range from 2.2 to 2.8 inches, and they come with reinforced sidewalls. The rubber is soft and casing thick, with large treads for easy gripping. What makes them ideal for downhill biking makes them impractical for other uses, as they are difficult to pedal on.

Around 2005, the use of tubeless tires became widespread. They can be more reliable, provide a more supple ride, and run at a lower pressure for increased traction. If they puncture, they can be more difficult to fix, but backup tubes can be used in a pinch. The use of an internal sealant can prevent loss of pressure, but the rim and tires must be compatible.

fat tire Downhill Mountain Bikes   TiresDo it yourself fat tire bicycle

Bikerumor » New Road and Mountain Bicycle Tires from Continental – Michelin has just unveiled three new tires for the XC through Freeride crowd. The three models, the Grip’R, the Race’R and the Rock’R carry over the same names as the tires they introduced at Sea Otter Classic last year but get some updates. …

Singletracks » Tubeless Mountain Biking Guide – We get a lot of questions about tubeless mountain bike tires here on Singletracks, so I thought it was time to put together a tubeless guide. I’m not going to get into specific brands and … » Bicycle Tires and Tubes – Manufacturers mix different additives with the rubber to achieve desired traction/wear characteristics. Generally, a softer formulation will give better traction, but at the expense of more rapid wear. Rubber is normally a sort of tan color, but most tires are black. …

SingleTracks » The Best Tires for Mountain Biking the Southwest & Rockies – Here in the Rocky Mountains we don’t really have mud to deal with and serious roots exist only on some specific, high altitude trails. Most of our trails are rocky, sandy, hardpack, or all of the above. Almost any brand name mountain bike tire …

Tech How-To: Ghetto Tubeless for Mountain Bikes – A little while ago I posted an article on Tubeless MTB tires. In it, I briefly mentioned a DIY method for going tubeless: the ‘ghetto’ method. As it turns out, there are two different ghetto methods people seem to be …

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Downhill Mountain Bikes – Suspension

Downhill mountain bikes are specialized full suspension bicycles, meaning they have suspensions in both the front and rear. The suspension system acts as a counterforce to smooth out sudden changes in elevation like those found on downhill trails. It maintains contact with the ground which results in better traction. Not only does this add to high speed stability, but it makes handling much easier over rough terrain, providing an enjoyable rider experience.

Full suspension bicycles first appeared in the early 90′s and have evolved since then with improvements in weight, travel, and feel. The front suspension, or fork, is composed to two stanchions, typically each containing a shock, but one sided designs have been produced. The rear suspension is composed of a single shock. There are two types of suspensions, coil systems and air systems. Air is typical, but downhill mountain bikes generally use coil systems. Usually suspensions must be tuned to both the rider and application.

The travel, or range of motion, is governed by application. Short travel bikes are used in cross country applications, and have 1-4 inches of travel. Generalized mountain bikes are medium travel, with 4-6 inches of range. Long travel bikes are reserved for downhill mountain bikes, with 7-12 inches of travel. The high slack helps to maintain stability on downhill trails, but can make it difficult to bicycle uphill.

Air ride bicycle suspension Downhill Mountain Bikes   Suspension
Air ride bicycle suspension

Bikerumor » 2010 Marzocchi Mountain Bike Suspension Forks – marzocchi 888 rc3 evo ti downhill mountain bike suspension fork dual crown air compression adjust curve. For full on downhill, the 888 RC3 Evo Ti is Marzocchi’s premiere bump eater. It uses a Ti spring, Nickel coated tapered …

singletracks » Fox DHX RC4 Mountain Bike Shock Review – For gravity-oriented mountain bikers, the Fox DHX RC4 should already be familiar. But if you’re just starting to get serious about DH mountain biking, read on to learn about this essential upgrade. …

SOLSTICE MOUNTAIN BIKES: INVERTED 4 BAR SUSPENSION BIKES “MADE TO RIDE IT ALL” – Solstice Bikes is a relatively new company out of Colorado, they’ve been around for about a year, building inverted 4-Bar suspension bikes developed by industry vet Chuck Dunlap. That’s right I said “inverted.” This design is said to be the first of its kind. …

singletracks » MTB Review: Fox F29 Terralogic Fork – Back in March I post an On Test article where I covered the technology packed inside the 100mm Fox F29 Terralogic suspension fork. Now that I’ve put a bunch of miles in I’m ready to post my final review. …

singletracks » Hardtail vs Full Suspension Mountain Bikes – Hardtail or full suspension? This question comes up all the time on the Singletracks Forums so hopefully this quick list of the pros and cons of each of mountain bike style will help you decide which one will work better for you. …

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Downhill Mountain Bikes – Brakes

Downhill mountain bikes generally have disc brakes, which have many advantages and a few disadvantages over rim brakes.

The main advantage with disc brakes is their distance to the ground.  Sitting close to the axle, they are less susceptible to picking up dirt, mud, and other debris.  These particles can lodge themselves in between the pads and braking surface, decreasing braking power.  The disc itself contains many holes, allowing debris to escape which provides a cleaner contact with the pad.  With a rim brake, the wheel serves a dual purpose, to hold the tire in place and provide a braking surface.  A disc brake, serving a single purpose, which is to stop the bike, can be made with a harder material than would otherwise be possible.

disc brake Downhill Mountain Bikes   Brakes rim brakes Downhill Mountain Bikes   Brakes
disc brakes rim brakes

Disadvantages are that disc brakes are heavier than their rim counterparts, and the breaking force transmitted from the disc to the rim travels through the wheel spokes.  This adds stress to the wheel assembly.

boneburner350 Downhill Mountain Bikes   Brakes
The “Bone Burner” bicycle rotor

Singletracks » MTB Review: 2011 Avid X0 Hydraulic Disc Brakes – The brake pads on the X0 brakes are top-loading which means you don’t have to remove the wheel to replace the pads. This might seem like a minor detail but it could come in handy during a race like last year’s Fools Gold 100 where competitors burned through multiple sets of brake pads due to gritty and wet conditions. …

Dirty Dog MTB Brake Rotor Review – Josh rolls into the trailhead parking lot, five minutes early for the weekly group ride. Almost everyone else is already there, putting bikes together and doing standard pre-ride maintenance. Matt is already pedaling around …

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Downhill Mountain Bikes – Frame Materials

Downhill mountain bikes have frames typically made of steel, aluminum alloys, or carbon fiber polymers. Overall the frame must be durable (have a high fatigue limit), stiff, and have high yield strength (the force needed to deform) and elongation (the amount of deformity a material can take before cracking). Yield strength and elongation determine crash worthiness.

Steel, alloyed with carbon to produce mild steel, is used in cheaper bikes and is very common. Steel tubing, the workhorse of the industry, is cheap to produce and exhibits satisfactory strength and weight characteristics for most applications. Alloying with chromium and molybdenum, producing chromoly, gives steel greater strength, resulting in thinner walls and lighter frames.

long bike frame Downhill Mountain Bikes   Frame Materials

For higher performance, aluminum is often selected. This element is lighter than steel, but not as strong and susceptible to fatigue. The addition of other metals, such as copper and silicon, overcome these limitations. Often, the ends are butted, that is, the ends are made of thicker material than the center section. This preserves strength while reducing weight.

Aluminum frames typically come in two varieties, 6061 and 7005. These numbers distinguish the type of processing the metal has undergone and their resulting properties, such as fatigue and strength. 6061 aluminum is used in many common applications such as automotive, boating, and scuba tanks. For better performance, 7005 is used. This is aerospace grade, and is typically 5-10% stronger than 6061. It is often double butted.

metals Downhill Mountain Bikes   Frame Materials
Steel, Aluminum, and Titaniam

Where speed is concerned, a carbon fiber polymer may be used. This is a composite material fortified with thin carbon fibers, and is exceptionally strong, light, and corrosion resistant. It also features interesting properties, such as being sturdy in one direction and flexible in another. It may be formed into any desired shape, making fully aerodynamic forms possible. The drawback is this material is often very expensive. It is typically used in racing bikes.

For still higher performance in metal, there is titanium, which has an even greater strength to weight ratio. It is also corrosion resistant, and is often used in jewelry. Though the ninth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, it is difficult to find in economic quantities. Processing is intricate, causing the price to be high. A new refinement process has recently been developed which could greatly lower the price in the future. Currently a titanium frame retails for about $2000 US.

Watch a titanium frame being fabricated at this plant in Tennessee:

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Downhill Mountain Bikes

The selection of one of a many different brands of downhill mountain bikes on the market today is important due to the nature of this inherently dangerous, but exhilarating sport. Downhill mountain biking places unique demands on both the riders and their equipment. As the riders are often far from civilization, the risk associated with equipment failure is compounded. This requires a degree of self sufficiency on the trail, which can be achieved by:

* bringing along a backpack, which will contain:
– extra snacks
– tools and spare parts for in-field repair
– a first aid kit
* wearing protective clothing including body armor
* riding with more than one person

It goes without saying that one’s bike must be able to handle a fair amount of abuse, and this is what downhill mountain bikes are designed for. They have a very developed suspension and are made of light and durable materials. They will typically be more expensive than other types of bicycles, but one can still participate without breaking the bank. The weight will typically be a little under 40 lbs, contrasting with a department store bike which will weigh around 50 lbs, or a road bike, which will weigh about 25 lbs. Many will feature disc brakes for better performance.

Though durable, these bikes must be maintained frequently. Brakes must be replaced often and the bike inspected before each session.

Some recent innovations in downhill mountain bikes include the development of the electric bike, which will permit riders to climb terrain alone, and the development of an alternate gear shifting mechanism to reduct the problems associated with shifting.

From pillar to post, watch how a major bicycle supplier delivers downhill mountain bikes to their customers:

Mountain Bike Tips – Which Type of Mountain Bike Do You Want? – DH Downhill Mountain Bikes. For the more experienced mountain biker the attraction of a downhill mountain bike is great. These well built bikes will almost always have heavy duty front and rear suspensions and full-on disc brakes. …

Downhill Mountain Bike Racing – Downhill racing is a true test of nerve, and one’s ability to control their bike under extreme conditions. The concept is to get down the mountain as fast as possible. Downhill races are held in steep, downhill terrain.

singletracks » Discovering Mountain Biking @ Age 65 – “I’m just glad to be out here instead of sitting at home on the couch eating ice cream and watching TV.” This is what a 60+ year old told me on the Left Loop at the Tsali bike trail in Western North Carolina.

singletracks » Kuat Sherpa Hitch Rack: A Silver Platter for Your MTB – I’ve been mountain biking ever since I could drive a car and over the last 17 years I’ve wrestled with finding the best way to get my bike to the trailhead and back. In the beginning I’m pretty sure I just shoved …

singletracks » Top 3 Core Training Exercises for XC/ Trail Riders – For a mountain biker, building a strong, high performance core for the demands of riding for hours on grueling trails requires a smart, multi-pronged attack. You want a core that is able to connect the upper body and lower body …

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