Ride on Rock Gardens: In the world of mountain biking, a rock garden is anything but a tranquil hideaway designed for meditation.
It’s a rocky gorge or plain filled with rocks large and small. Riding over this kind of terrain will either be exciting or downright terrifying depending on your experience level.
You will see them on the sides of mountains or lumped together deep in the woods.
But how do you safely get through these areas without getting hurt or damaging your bike? Use this guide to master rock gardens like a pro.
Table of Contents
1. Use the Proper Gear
You’ll need a durable mountain bike with quality suspension to get through rocky gaps.
The springs built into the frame absorb the turbulence to help you stay in control. If you try riding a street bike over rocks, the vibrations could easily knock you to the ground.
Make sure the brakes are in peak form and replace any worn-down pads to stop on a dime. Check the air pressure in your tires regularly.
The firmer the ground, the more they need to be inflated. Experts recommend adding a few PSI to the rear for better resistance to hard surfaces.
Rock riding increases the risk of slips and falls, so make sure you are using the best mountain biking gear to protect yourself from injury.
That means wearing a properly fitting helmet, MTB shoes and pads to absorb the impact in case you lose your balance.
Inspect your gear for rips, tears and cracks to avoid using damaged equipment. Check the fit of each item before and during the trip to maximize protection.
If you’re traveling in a group, communicate with each other to find the best way through the garden.
Use a bike helmet with Bluetooth to give each other tips on how to ride in real-time without taking your eyes off the road.
The device automatically reconnects when in range for seamless coordination.
2. Stay Low and Ready
Fear is the mind-killer. You may not be battling giant sandworms, but the mantra still applies.
The idea of riding over wild, twisty rocks might fill you with dread, causing your body to tense up, which is the last thing you want to do when navigating uneven ground.
Do your best to quell your fears on the approach to keep your body loose. The goal is to stay low and flexible, so you can respond quickly to sudden changes to your position.
If you lean too far to the right or left or your wheel lands in the wrong place, use your core to stay balanced without overcorrecting the handlebars.
Keep your hips back, elbows up and back flat to respond to anything that comes your way.
3. Steer Clear of Problem Areas
Not all stones are made equal. They might start to blur together after a tumultuous ride, but some can easily damage your bike.
Aim for large, flat or slightly round stones that won’t twist your wheels.
Anything with a square edge or sharp point should be avoided. Watch out for tall rocks and stones that are shorter than the wheelbase, which could snag the bottom frame.
Tight wedges and grooves can grab your wheels, bringing you to a sudden halt.
Do your best to approach each rock straight on and find surfaces that are moving in the same direction as your bike.
The wrong angle can throw off your momentum and geometry, sending you off course.
4. Follow the Leader
The formation of your group should reflect everyone’s experience level with the most skilled rider out front.
They should find the safest and easiest way through the garden with everyone else following from a safe distance. The leader will also set the speed.
The other riders should try to follow the leader’s path without getting too close to each other. Give yourself plenty of time to decelerate when going downhill.
You’ll need to shift your weight as you move from rock to rock. You may need to increase your speed when traveling uphill to get over the summit.
Avoid needlessly slowing down to keep the momentum going.
5. Play It Safe
Some rock gardens aren’t meant for biking. There’s no shame in walking or hiking your bike over thick stretches of rocks.
Rockslides and severe weather can cause the rocks to shift. Even if you’ve taken the path before, use your judgment and coordinate with the group to find the safest way through.
You should never ride your mountain bike through a rock garden in the rain or snow. The moisture makes it virtually impossible to get by without sliding.
Master Rock Garden Riding
Every boulder can be a challenge when you’re cruising over rocky terrain.
These areas are only for the most experienced riders, so avoid going over them unless you have the proper gear and know how to respond to unpredictable situations.