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I completed my first mountain bike race in about an hour and twenty minutes
Seven years later I was able to complete the same course in about 30 minutes.
I attribute part of this to my fitness level, but a big portion of the time difference was due to picking better lines. During that first race I had two crashes and had to walk a few sections. One was a large rock garden and the other a technical uphill switchback. At the time I thought no one could ride through the rock garden section. Baby-heads and tombstones littered the area for as far as you could see. The line that I was able to see at that time was all the stuff that I wanted to avoid. I focused on that and stalled my front wheel on the first available large rock. This had me walking the rest of the section. With experience, practice, and riding with people who picked better lines I was able to clear the rock garden by the following season. It is easier because the line I am choosing is the path of least resistance. What follows are some tips to help you pick better lines, clear difficult sections, and keep on rolling (rubber side down).
1) Look where you want to go – I can’t overstate the importance of this one enough. Your bike will go where you look. The tendency is to stare at what you do not want to hit. The result is that you ride right into an object or loose your line. Instead continually scan ahead and pick where you want to go. Make a mental note of obstacles and then focus back on your line. Shift you line of sight from out about 20-30 feet depending on your speed and then back to 5-10. Do not stare down at the ground five feet in front of you this will result in you not having enough time to prepare and react to the trail.
2) Pick the right gear – This one can be tricky. Go into a section in too hard a gear and you will stall. Go in with too easy a gear and you are less stable, bounce around a bit on your seat, and have a better chance of catching a pedal since your cadence is higher in order to generate the same power you would in a higher gear. You want to create a stable platform where you can float above the seat but don’t need to mash down to turn the cranks. You can shift gears in the rear without much difficulty, but make sure that your front derailleur is in the correct gear otherwise if you need to downshift you make get chain-suck.
3) Enter with the correct speed – Speed and momentum can be your friend helping you to clear ruff stuff. The idea here is similar to a speed boat skimming across choppy water.
Of course if you enter a section too fast with no real plan you will more than likely end up over the bars (ouch). Suspension can definitely help here but your technique should be able to get you through most sections. Use suspension as an aid not a crutch.
4) Learn how to weight and un-weight your wheels – When going through a rock garden, over a log, or clearing other rough terrain un-weight the front wheel then the rear. This is a common weight shift that will get you over most obstacles. This weight shift can be practiced right outside your house using any street curb (always practice slow and easy. gradually increase speed and difficulty) Roll up to the curb before your wheel comes in contact lean back and pull back on the bars while performing a downward pedal stroke.
If you are not comfortable with this try performing it on flat ground over a line drawn on the ground once you get the timing down move onto a low curb. Once you are able to clear the front wheel the next step is to un-weight the rear wheel you do this by rolling the bars and shifting your weight forward. If you are clipped in this is easier but you should be able to perform the rear wheel un-weight unclipped as well (when you can do this with flat pedals you have this technique down) If you have ever seen trials ride Jeff Lenosky he does it all unclipped.
Hopefully the above tips will provide you with some food for thought and help you to enjoy the trail more
Good luck and remember to practice progressively and enjoy the process of learning a new skill.
See you on the trails
Find a State of Flow
Start by Lifting the front wheel. Pull up on the bars and Lean Back. Slightly feather the rear brake to prevent yourself from going over backwards pedal and lean back to keep the front wheel from coming down.
1. Sitting and Pedaling Wheelie You’re climbing a nice singletrack with excellent traction. A three-inch root crosses the trail. Bashing into it will slow you down or knock you off line. If you can get your front wheel over it and keep pedaling, your rear tire will crawl right over it.
Start in a neutral position.
Crouch down and forward, with your bum on the saddle. Your power pedal should be at around 2 o’clock.
Explosively push your torso upward and backward with your arms. At the same time, uncork a powerful pedal stroke. If you get it right, your front wheel will pop up.
Keep your arms straight and your weight back. Keep pedaling. KEEP IT THERE Pedaling around with your wheel in the air isn’t very useful on the trail, but it looks cool. Learn to balance sitting wheelies before you move up to coaster wheelies.Keep lifting your front wheel until you find the balancing point. The magic spot will feel weightless, like you are neither working to keep the wheel up nor falling on your bum. It’s all about getting comfortable with the balance. Here are some tricks to help you stay on top:Find the balance. Once you get to the magic spot, keep pedaling nice and easy. If you feel yourself falling forward, pedal harder. If you feel yourself falling backward, brake a little. If you start falling to one side, lean to the other side.Choose the right gear. A really low gear gives you a fast pop but short loft time. A higher gear gives you less pop but longer loft. Find your happy medium. When your kung fu is good, you’ll use your normal, low climbing gear. You can get it spinning very easily, for great explosion, and you keep it spinning to maintain lift. Pedal all the way up to it. It’s easiest to approach your wheelie point already pedaling and then give it some extra juice when the time is right. After you get the hang of this, you can try jabbing the pedals from a coast.
Never stop pedaling. Keep turning the pedals after you pop your wheel up. It’s easier to give a little more or less gas if your foot’s already on the pedal.Light brakes. If you jab your rear brake, your front wheel will slam to the ground so fast you won’t be able to stop it. All you need is a tiny bit of lever pressure. If you find you keep giving it too much brake at once, try lightly dragging the brake as you ride. This is like your constant pedaling: It’s easier to give a bit more or less when you’re already giving some.Stay loose. We can’t say this enough. Sit lightly on the saddle so you can slide forward or back, right or left. Feel free to sway your knees in and out. If you’re using flat pedals, you can tilt your foot to the side or even hang it out like an outrigger.
Start in a neutral position, arms and legs slightly bent, weight centered.
Crouch down and forward. Bring your chest close to your handlebars.
All of a sudden, with great vigor, push your torso upward and backward. Straighten your arms all the way. Straighten your legs a bit and push your hips backward and your pedals forward. Imagine your body rotating back over the contact patch of your rear tire.
Let your body continue to rotate up and back. When your arms straighten, your body’s momentum will pull the front end up. (This way, you lift the bike with the mass of your body rather than your arms.) The farther back you go, the closer your center of gravity gets to your rear tire’s contact patch, and the longer you can keep your wheel up. Don’t go too far, though, or you’ll “loop out,” which means “fall on your bum.”If you can get your front wheel onto a sidewalk, you can let your rear wheel bash right over the curb. Go slow and stay loose, and soon you’ll experience real freedom.KEEP IT THERE Because you can’t use your pedals to cheat your front end upward, you have to maintain balance with perfect body position and sharp reflexes. Expert -manualers can balance forever over all sorts of terrain, from rocks to bumps to stream crossings.Here are some tips to help you find some balance in your life:
Straighten your arms and lean all the way back to the balance point.
If you need to raise your front wheel, push your hips backward or pedals forward.
If you need to lower your front wheel, pull yourself forward.
It’s all in the hips. Leave your arms pretty much straight.MANUAL TIPS Preload. When you go from your neutral position to your crouch, drop your weight quickly and then immediately push back upward. The rebound of your bike’s tires, frame, and suspension will add to your explosion.Timing. You want your wheel to be highest when it reaches the obstacle. Lift too soon and you hit on the upswing. Too late and you hit on the downfall. Perfect timing depends on your speed, the height of the obstacle, and how fast you lift your wheel. Pop lots of wheelies, and perfect timing will come.Learn on a hardtail. On a full-suspension bike, you not only have to maintain your balance over the rear wheel, you also have to compensate for the moving suspension.Manual a Double It’s easier to manual across a pair of humps than to manual on flat ground. The first hump helps lift your front wheel, and the second hump gives you a target to aim for. This little trick gives you a feel for manual balance, plus it’s a fast way to get over the humps.
Let the first hump lift your front wheel. Shift your weight backward to keep the front end up.
Bend your legs as your wheel rolls up the hump.
Push your rear wheel down the backside. This gives you some free speed and helps hold the front end up.
Set the front tire onto the backside of the second hump.
Absorb the hump with your legs.
Straighten your legs and pump down the backside.As your skills improve, manual all the way over the second hump. This will give you a better pump and elevate you one step closer to manualing greatness. The front side of a tabletop makes a nice manualing aid, as well.Wheelie Sideways An hour into your singletrack climb, you enter a super-tight switchback. You know your bike won’t track through the deep rut carving through the apex, so you ride past it, pick your wheel up, swing your bike around, and set your wheel down at the top of the turn.
Look and lean into the turn like normal.
Explode with power and pick up the front end. Burst forward out of your saddle. Push with your legs and pull with your arms. Keep leaning into the turn!
Set it back down and enjoy the rest of your ride.
Getting Ready for Winter Riding….The Ride Inside Part II
Let’s face it if you live in the Northeast you have few riding options either endure some nasty weather(Snow, Wind, Sleet, Cold Rain) or ride inside.
Sure every once in a while the cycling gods smile upon us giving is a sunny, calm day above 40 degress, but a regular ride schedule cannot be planned based on this and fitness will suffer.
Even if you are hearty enough to brave the elements on most days there are going to be times that you may not be able to get out for a ride especially because the days are shorter.
I personally do not mind spinning inside (or as it tends to be for me active movie watching) I have done 4 hour sessions watching some epic movies, series, or Other Movies plus their sequals. Sometimes I will watch a movie and then do a CTS training video. I also find that doing a structured workout makes the time go faster. This is also a great time to work on pedaling efficiency and mechanics
Having a good space to ride is helpful as well. Although my space is not great it serves it’s purpose and takes up only about 12 Square feet.
I try to have everything right where I need it I am a horrible Procrastinator and don’t need any reason to put off getting on the bike. I also keep a list of Heart Rate ranges handy.
My Television is small it only has a 12″ screen but It’s bigger than the screen on my ipod
I have a small fan right in front of the bike to help keep me cool.
I also have a picture of Lance on my wall riding in the tour during some very nasty weather to remind me that I should get outside a little more often, lest my bike handling skills will go to pot but that is another article.
Short List of Movies
Most Tour Videos – Any climbing stage will Do
Band of Brothers
Start Wars (All of them)
Find a State of Flow*
From Mastering Mountain Bike Skills by Brian Lopes, Lee McCormack
Mountain biking satisfies so many desires. It transforms a gunnysack full of kittens into a ripped, hard body. It carries you through stunning places with exceptional people. Its sites, sounds, smells, and sensations block out all your inner demons. And, of course, the speed and magnitude of it all excite you like nothing else.
You can go for half a dozen rides and enjoy them for half a dozen reasons. Your lunchtime loop keeps you fit, Moab’s Porcupine Rim Trail enthralls you, a twisty singletrack whips you like a roller coaster, a huge jump scares the heck out of you.
These are all fantastic ways to enjoy our fine sport, but the ultimate experience happens when your thoughts crawl into your CamelBak and your body flows along the trail without effort or voice. Time changes. Tension disappears. You’re focused but not forced. Controlling your bike becomes effortless. You’ve entered the magical state of “flow.”
Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes the feeling of flow in his groundbreaking book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience:“. . . Concentration is so intense that there is no attention left over to think about anything irrelevant, or to worry about problems. Self-consciousness disappears, and the sense of time becomes distorted. An activity that produces such experiences is so gratifying that people are willing to do it for its own sake, with little concern for what they will get out of it, even when it is difficult, or dangerous.”
Does that sound familiar?
Flow only happens when the demands of the situation intersect with your abilities. The trail isn’t so hard it scares you, nor is it so easy it bores you. The further the demands lay above your perceived abilities, the bigger the rush. Savor a peaceful cruise down a local trail, enjoy a thrill behind a faster rider down a new path, or transcend all you thought possible by pinning it for an entire cross-country race. You might vomit at the end, but it feels so good, doesn’t it?
We say “perceived” abilities because that’s what counts. Most of us can climb harder, corner faster, and fly farther than we usually do. When you can let go of your inner mother and flow along in this zone, you’ll have max fun and improve your riding.
Unfortunately, we can’t just put on a Flow-Tron 2000 helmet and instantly feel that ecstasy. (If we could, we’d never do anything else.) According to the book Good Stress, Bad Stress by Barry Lenson, flow is a precise psychological state that requires these elements:
Adequate skills. You don’t learn to flow. You learn to ride your bike. When you can corner, hop, and jump without thinking, then you can flow. You might achieve ecstasy in the soft Santa Cruz woods but flounder amid the raspy Phoenix boulders. When you worry about surviving the ride, you do not flow.
Goals. If you ride around–la la la–with no mission, you miss the rewards of accomplishing your goals. Set a goal. Spin smoothly, rail corners, stay on your buddy’s wheel, or just stay on your bike for a change. If you need a ready-made structure, compete in a race. You have to know you’re doing a good job.
Excitement. Too little stress and your mind wanders. Too much stress and you freak out. Go ahead and let some butterflies flutter in your tummy. They tell you you’re being pushed, and that a huge stoke awaits.
The good news is, achieving flow is neither random nor extremely difficult. Here are some tips to help you achieve flow more consistently and in crazier situations.
Break ’em down. Break big tasks into small components. If you’re an intermediate jumper and you try to nail a technical 10-pack all at once, you’ll end up more broken than satisfied. Instead, try to get a perfect takeoff on the first double, then master the landing. When you get that down, add jumps number two, number three, and so on.
Practice. Don’t just go out and ride, either. Pay close attention to what you’re doing. Systematically build the skills you need to rip. Focus your mind on pedaling perfect circles. Then do a million of them.
Hang with the right crowd. Ride with people at or above your skill level. You will rise or fall to the level of your peers. Beware: If you feel inadequate around superior riders, or if they take you places you aren’t ready for, you’ll find it difficult to have a good time.
Pick the right tool for the job. You should not be worrying about your bike tracking correctly or holding together. You heard it here first: Go forth and buy!
Conquer your obstacles. Pay attention to the things that prevent or interrupt your flow. Maybe you tense up every time you encounter baby head rocks. Either stay away from them or learn to ride them.
Don’t pay attention to yourself. As soon as you realize you’re ripping, the ripping pretty much stops. Remember that scene in Empire Strikes Back when Luke stood on one hand with his eyes closed, with Yoda and a bunch of stuff balanced on his feet, and he started to levitate his X-wing fighter? He was definitely ripping. As soon as he opened his eyes and thought, “Yes! I’m a Jedi Master!” it all came crashing down. Don’t be self-conscious like Luke. Be confident like Han.
To get this Book goto: https://www.humankinetics.com/products/showproduct.cfm?isbn=9780736056243