MTB Safer, Stronger Every Ride Starting Now

MTB Safer, Stronger Every Ride (second article in a series on how mountain bike safer, first article here: http://wp.me/p49ApH-1nc )

This year I hit the ground really hard three times and surprised myself by walking away from all three crashes (at 51)! I am also putting way more power to the pedals! At the end of last summer I thought my riding days were coming to an end, the back pain that had been bugging for the last 15-17 years was getting worse and had tendinitis so bad I couldn’t ride for almost a month. Then in January I was simply getting out of my wetsuit and my back went out! I was pretty depressed.

I knew something had to be done and I had no idea the fix I found would make me feel 15 years younger, give me more energy bringing back my zest for life, the power to climb faster in much harder gears and protect me when I take the occasional slam! The photo above is from 51st birthday ride where I flatted at about 35 miles an hour and my wrapped around my seat stays tossing me on to a rock slab! All riders on that ride were amazed I was okay minus a skinned elbow. It was a long walk out but I was so happy to be walking and not being airlifted out!

What has made this transformation in my spirits, energy level and durability? Strengthening and stabilizing my “core” (what an over used and misunderstood word!). Your core is more than your “abs” and low back! Your core is like a girdle of muscles in your mid section, some of the most important actual stabilize your spine giving you a strong foundation for almost all body movements. I wrote about my final bike pain fix (that took me from a constant pain level of 3-4 and riding pain that quickly would go from 3-9 to a zero with the occasional 1-3 while riding) here: http://wp.me/p49ApH-1jw

The quickest and longest lasting physical improvement you can make for your riding is strengthening and stabilizing your core. In a week you will notice it in two weeks you will be blown away. By simply doing the exercises in the book “Foundation”, and other adding core exercises (I’m not a personal trainer and a highly recommend you have one teach you the correct exercises as doing them incorrectly can lead to injury) you will quickly see an improvement in your riding, less back pain, better posture and more energy! I add core exercises taught in yoga (plank and side plank), some taught by James Wilson (The all fours opposite arm & leg extension, and Kegel exercise (lying on back, knees bend with heels near buttocks and lifting mid section), leg lifts (performed vertically on “dip/leg lift apparatus”, or hanging), inverted crunches, and a bunch of Swiss ball ab exercises to the “Foundation” exercises.

I really hope you take action and strengthen that core! You will be highly rewarded on the trail!

Let us know about your core routine and how it has helped you. Feel free to share this article with anyone you think would benefit!

Mountain Bike Safer, Every Ride! Who Want’s to Ride until 85?!

Mountain Bike Safer, Every Ride!

Who wants to ride until 85 (or longer) like my former student Fredrick (Fred) Schmid? I do! Here is a quick series of articles to keep you safer on the trails and hopefully riding til 90!

The first thing you can do is simple, protect your knees! The last two times I’ve gone to the Moab Rec Center to workout there has been a nice man, probably 5-10 years older than me who just had a knee replacement and the new knee won’t bend! Nancy Harris, one of my students from way back in 2004 has had both her knees replaced and is still riding strong but, she went through a lot of main and expense to get there! Avoiding knee injury is high on my list, who wants to go through that amount of pain, expense and time off the bike?!

One, simple, easy way to protect your knees is to buy a nice set of knee pads! They aren’t expensive, you hardly notice they are on (even on hot days) and wow, they really work! I’m amazed by how many riders I see with bare knees! “But Gene, I’m not a downhiller!” Yes you are, unless your riders are totally flat every ride you go on you go downhill and, I fell over yesterday on a loose, technical climb and went straight to my knee! I love my knee pads, they are amazing. Not only do knee pads protect you, they also give you more confidence and focus because you will be less worried about falling when wearing them (because they work!).

No, they won’t protect your ACL, MCL or any other twisting injuries (more on protecting yourself from these injuries in my next article) but wow, they you from hard impacts.

So, go out and buy some knee pads! My favorite or made by POC, their VPD 2.0 (I have no relationship with POC, just great pads) as they stay up, do not affect my movement and protect both the front and side of my knees (twice last winter I forgot them, both times it was an easy ride so instead of driving 30 minutes home to get them I rode without them, both times my knee smacked the frame as I went into a corner, ouch!). Probably all companies (there must be at least 15 pad makers) make good pads though, invest in a set.

Although not quite as important a joint as your knees your elbows can easily be protected too! Elbow pads are nice, small enough to fit in your pack or back pocket (so you can put them on for your descents). I always where them when at a downhill resort and all the tougher descents in Moab and BC (both Bootleg Canyon and British Columbia).

Look for my next two/three articles on other ways to protect yourself on the trail (you can’t buy these protections but the work you put in will pay off in spades!).

Any experience with pads? Without pads? Let us know!

Enjoy Every Mountain Bike Ride More, Starting Today, for Free!

Enjoy Every Mountain Bike Ride More

As much as you love mountain biking you might not be enjoying it as much as you could be. All because of a simple little instinct all humans have. I won’t bore with the details but in short, we still have many “hunter-gatherer” instincts which GREATLY impact our lives. One of these instincts is to pay a lot of attention to mistakes and “bad” things/situations. I have read this is because mistakes and “bad” things as a hunter-gatherer often meant death (no hospitals and doctors back then plus many predators). Now, many if not most mistakes and “bad” things are not really that important nor serious but try telling that to our ingrained “survival instincts”.

How does this affect you as a mountain biker? Let me start with an example, 14 years ago or so, when BetterRide was five years old, my camps would run until 7pm some days! My thought was give my students a little something extra! I have since learned that quality is way more important than quantity and that we can only take in so much information in one day.

On one of those nine hour days in the hot sun of Fruita, Colorado a very interesting series of events happened to one of my students. Susan was having a great day, first she did her first ever wheelie! Then on Rustlers Loop trail that afternoon she managed to use that wheelie to go up a small rock obstacle (about 8″ high) that she had never made before! She was really excited and explained that she and her husband rode this trail quite a bit and she had always walked that rock! Then, about a quarter of mile further down the trail is managed to cleanly get over a tougher rock obstacle, she was ecstatic! Right before the final climb on Rustlers there is a decent sized rock ledge at a funny angle followed by a few more smaller ledges. This spot has given riders trouble for years and sadly every time I ride the trail it has grown wider with all kinds of attempts to make the obstacle easier. Well, we got to that spot, I demonstrated how to get over the ledges and explained it is just three simple, basic skills (a pedal wheelie and a weight shift while most importantly looking to victory) we learned in our school/drill session that morning in the parking lot. Low and behold, Susan cleared it on first attempt! She was literally jumping up and down with excitement and said, “wow, even my husband has never made that!”

Well, everyone seemed to be having fun so instead of heading back to the parking lot for a wrap up of the day after Rustlers Loop I decided to take the students out for more riding (it was already after 5 pm). Give the students a little something extra! It went fine for the first hour or so but by then everyone was starting to fatigue both mentally and physically. Learning and practicing new skills is mentally exhausting as is spending over eight hours in the hot sun, much of the time exercising. Realizing this I made a beeline for the parking lot but it was too late! On an easy section of singletrack Susan toppled over (at slow speed, she wasn’t hurt) it wasn’t a skill error, simply a lapse in attention. Well, for the next 10 minutes or so all I heard behind me was, “blah, blah, blah, then I fell …” coming from previously stoked Susan.

After 10 minutes of Susan’s whining I realized she was doing something I did all the time, focusing on the one negative thing that happened instead of all the very positive things that had happen that day. So we stopped and I asked Susan, “do you remember how excited you were about 6 hours ago when you did for first wheelie?” She smiled and nodded her head. Then I asked, “how about when you cleared that first rock ledge on the trail?” Now she was beaming, “yeah, that was cool!” she replied. “Then you cleared the second ledge, then the third ledge, the one your husband can’t clear!” I said. By now she was practically glowing, absolutely filled with the satisfaction of doing so many things she had never done in her life that day! “Yeah, that was really cool!” she exclaimed!

After refreshing her memory of all the huge accomplishments she had that day I said, “You know, you are choosing to focus on the one, minor little mistake you made today, mostly because your slave driver coach exhausted you, instead of the four or five huge victories you had today.” She smiled and said, “you’re right!” The rest of the ride back to the parking lot all I heard were positive statements from my students!

The good news is, we choose what we focus on! Unfortunately sometimes it isn’t a conscious decision. So, when those instincts get you focused on a negative thought, catch yourself. Take a deep breath and bring your focus back to the moment or, if you can’t stop thinking about the past at least think of positive things in the past.

Have you ever noticed this happening to you? Tell us about it! If you think this or any other blog article could help a friend or riding buddy feel free to share it.

Create your best ride yet,

Gene

Greg Minnaar’s Big Mistake In the Last World Cup, Learn From It

The bike world is abuzz with talk of Greg Minnaar’s big mistake in the last World Cup! He did something I and most riders have done but you wouldn’t expect it from one of the best MTB racers of all time!

His crash wasn’t his mistake, it was the cause of the crash that was his mistake! To bring you up to date, if you weren’t glued to your live feed on Saturday, Greg crashed and seriously hurt his chance of winning the World Cup Overall. Greg had a big points lead going into the race and with just two races left he was likely going to win the overall, now that is going to be a tough task.

So what did Greg do that caused his crash? The conditions were quite different for the final 25 qualifiers (of which Greg was the 3rd place qualifier) than for the first 55. With the wet, muddy conditions, poor visibility and a big points lead, Greg decided to take it easy and be safe!  In other words his goal was to “not crash”! Which is the worst state anyone can ride in! Mountain biking is an offensive sport! You cannot mountain bike defensively, it will lead to disaster! Either ride with confidence or get off your bike and walk. Greg chose to ride defensively while is main competitors, Aaron Gwin, Danny Hart, Jack Moir, Troy Brosnan and Loic Bruni all attacked the track with confidence. Heck, despite the rain Aaron Gwin rode the best race of his life and took the win while Greg crashed and was disqualified.

In every camp I coach I tell my students that the safest way to fall is to not fall! Let me explain, our brains don’t like the words no, not and don’t. There is a real simple reason for this, if we think “don’t crash” we have to think about crashing! “Oh, that last crash hurt! Man, don’t want to do that again …”. It completely shifts our focus from confident to not confident. This in turn affects our coordination! We become much less coordinated and lose our “athletic posture”. Not a safe way to ride.

Not only do we want to be confident, we want to ride confidently at 90-100% of our ability level. At less than 90% we lose focus at 101% we are riding over our skill level and will likely crash. If you can’t ride that section of trail confidently, get off you bike and walk it. Then, if you want to one day ride that section of trail figure what scares you about it and what skills you need to improve so it will no longer be scary!

Why 90-100% of our ability level? That is where the “flow state” is! In his book Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says that to reach the “flow state” we need a challenge but a challenge within reach. So, too big a challenge (riding at 101% or above) we will not reach the flow state and probably freak out and we crash. Not enough challenge (riding at less than 90% of our skill level) and our mind tends to wander and we crash.

By “trying to take it easy” Greg wasn’t riding at his usual level of confidence and “taking it easy” allowed Greg to lose focus for a split second and his run was over!

It was sad to see my friend, student and coach make this mistake but it is a great reminder to be on the offense or get off and walk! Riding defensively never ends well (as does riding above our skill level, you can always get off and walk!)!

I hope you have learned from Greg’s mistake and enjoyed this article. Feel free to share it with anyone you feel may benefit from it. Have something to say or ask? Please comment below.