Monday, January 24, 2011

"Ratcheting the Pedals" Mountain Bike Skill: Exclusive Diagram

Photo Credit: Greg Rides Trails
Ratcheting the pedals is a useful mountain bike skill that every serious rider should have in their arsenal. If you don't already know how to do this, you're in luck because I'm going to share the secret with you, right here, right now!

When Would You Need to Ratchet?

First, when would you need to use this skill? It can be useful when you are going through a rock garden with rocks high enough that a full pedal stroke would strike the rocks and send you off your balance and off your bike, if you are fording a stream and are trying not to get your feet wet, or if there is some other obstacle that you are trying to avoid.

How to "Ratchet"

  1. As you approach the obstacle in question, choose your line and the amount of speed you want to take in (if you have a choice).
  2. Note any rocks you might particularly want to avoid, or note the depth of the water.
  3. Get the cranks to 10 and 4. (Locations on the clock.)
  4. When you reach the gnarly section (or water), make about a quarter of a pedal stroke without pushing all the way around. The cranks should end at about 9 and 3 or 8 and 2.
  5. As you make each stroke, quickly back pedal to your previous position, and make the partial-stroke again.
  6. Repeat as needed.
Here is the technique, graphically presented for you:

Photo Credit: Greg Rides Trails
Using these partial pedal strokes will keep your cranks from descending all the way and will allow you to maximize your ground clearance for particularly high obstacles near your pedals. This technique is especially effective when you have a short section of high rocks on both sides of your bike and you don't have enough momentum to coast through them.

Just so you don't forget, this technique is referred to as "ratcheting the pedals" because it utilizes the same repeated partial-stroke motion that a ratchet strap does:

Ratchet Strap
Photo Credit.
Your Turn: If you are a beginner, do you have any more questions about how to ratchet the pedals? If you are an advanced rider, how often do you use this technique?

Want to learn more skills? Check out the rest of the skills series!


AJ Heil January 24, 2011 at 11:49 PM  

Never thought of pedaling this way before - But I can definitely think of specific instances (and even locations) where this would definitley come in handy!

AJ Heil January 24, 2011 at 11:51 PM  

Thanks for the tip btw - Great post! Too the point, and very descriptive and effective for the amount of words you used. Like the graphic as well! Next step, a flash-gif image showing the repeated motion. :D

Daniel January 25, 2011 at 1:51 AM  

This is one of them techniques that once you begin to use it and get comfortable with it, you will utilize it more and more. Ive used it cutting across very steep slopes where the trail wasn’t wide enough for full crank revolutions and it also comes in handy for up & over logs, etc.

Greg Heil January 25, 2011 at 7:44 AM  

@AJ, Glad I could help you out!

I don't know about the GIF, it took me long enough to design this! :-D

@Daniel, I agree, once you become comfortable with it it becomes second nature!

eastwood,  January 25, 2011 at 9:55 AM  

This is a great post, very useful information. For me, this was a technique I kinda stumbled upon by accident - but has proven very useful especially in rock gardens and tight turns over roots.
For those starting out, or looking to up their game, your write-up will certainly give them that advantage to look for situations to use it, and use it effectively.

Greg Heil January 25, 2011 at 8:22 PM  

Thanks eastwood, that's what I'm trying to do: create a good resource for beginners to use.


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