I read an article last week that claimed that rigid mountain bikes are the best bikes to learn on. I couldn’t disagree a more! While I agree that it is amusing to see riders who are struggling to ride sections of trail on their $10,000 carbon full suspension bikes with carbon wheel sets that cost $2,800 I don’t agree that a rigid bike some how “teaches” you to be a better rider. I bought my first mtb in 1989 and it was fully rigid and I had a blast on that bike! Unfortunately, a bike can’t teach you anything and just riding a bike (without the knowledge of correct skills and drills to practice those skills) tends to get you better at your instincts (which are old, hunter gather type instincts, mtbs have not been around long enough for us to be born with mtb instincts. Read more
Mountain Biking and coffee go together like mountain biking and beer!
Ever wonder how coffee (or any other caffeine filled stimulant, Redbull, Monster, various teas, etc) gives you energy? I have, being extremely caffeine sensitive I only use it a few times a month for the powerful drug that it is (it really helps me focus when I am trying to get stuff done!). Many of our coaches and students however can’t get through the day without a cup (or six of coffee), especially if they plan on mountain biking. I found an interesting article on how caffeine doesn’t actually give us energy (which makes sense, energy come from the right combination of exercise and recovery, how could something give you energy?) it is all in the mind! The article also talks about how mountain bikers second favorite beverage, beer affects us too.
Before I get to the article though a few reasons caffeine can be bad for mountain biking and some experiments you may want to try.
1. Caffeine can make you jittery and tense causing you to not ride as smooth and relaxed as you can without it, this often counters the extra energy effect as you are now less efficient and possibly even a little clumsy. With no caffeine in your system practice trackstands for a few minutes and note your longest, calmest trackstand. Then drink your caffeine of choice, wait 15 minutes and practice trackstands again. After the caffeine can your trackstand longer? Are you more or less twitchy on your bike after the caffeine?
2. Caffeine allows you work a little harder than your body really wants to work. This can be good by pushing you to new heights on your mountain bike but can also lead to feeling sluggish or worn out and next day and possibly even over training your body if you don’t manage your recovery. I once heard a trainer describe using caffeine as “borrowing energy from tomorrow”! After reading the following article I believe he may be right!
What has been your experience with caffeine and riding? Do you drink beer while or after riding?
A Quick Mountain Bike Tip to Improve Technical Climbing article by Gene Hamilton
Climbing is an often over looked skill in mountain biking, we often assume more power will do the job, which is not always true. This article is about picking a line that works! For physical climbing skills Andy Winohradsky wrote a great article on climbing skill here: http://betterride.net/?p=1426
One instinct, especially when not looking far enough ahead is to avoid obstacles. This often leads to “micro-managing the trail” and taking twisty paths that are much longer and often harder to ride than going over the obstacle. When turning, your rear wheel tracks inside of your front wheel so you can hang the rear wheel or derailleur up on a rock, you can lose traction as you try to cut across the fall line and then turn back up it, your pedal clips a rock as you apply power or your line itself has less traction causing you to stall. In the photo below it is actually easier, faster and more efficient to go straight up the rock (in this case the rock acts as a paved ramp, great traction!) than weave around it in the lose sand.
Have you ever made it part way through a rock garden by avoiding obstacle one and two and then get trapped behind obstacle three, or stall while trying to wiggle between obstacle two and three? This often happens because we are not looking far enough ahead and will instinctively avoid obstacles if there is a clear path to the right and/or left of the obstacle. Unfortunately this sets us up for failure, often if we tackle the first obstacle the rest of the rock garden will be easy! Check out my amazing drawing skills in this Paint document I created!
I see this all the time on Rustlers Loop in Fruita. Instead of going up the “gut” of a rock move riders avoid the rock (avoiding the rock is faster and easier for 7-10 feet) then they have to wheelie while turning over a bigger edge of the same rock (something that is nearly impossible to do). Going straight up the rock (which often looks tricky or rough) is faster and easier in the long run run. Both examples above require simple, core skills, nothing “special”, an effortless wheelie, correct weight placement and good vision skills.
Lastly, weaving takes our momentum across the fall line (the fall line is the path a ball would roll) instead of up it. Once our momentum is going sideways it is often really hard to getting it going straight up again, you can lose your balance, spin out or simply stall as you try to head up the hill again.
When climbing technical sections the fastest and easiest path is often the straightest! Avoid the temptation to weave as it usually ends poorly. Focus on the line with the fewest direction changes and the best traction.
Note: I use the word “often” in this how to mtb article because there are way too many variables in mountain biking to say, “always do …”, in this case, sometimes a weaving path is better, it all depends on the trail.
Two emails from one of our latest mountain bike camp taught by our newest BetterRide certified mountain bike coach, Andy Shabo.
“Tale of the broken gear and my better ride clinic
First thank you to Coach Andy Shabo. Great job teaching and helping each of us in the group understand what we were working on. We had a great time learning and riding. The skills training and the sessions on the trail were fantastic to tie the drills to the trails.
At the end of day two, I wanted to go ride a trail that I had not ridden to my satisfaction. I missed climbs, wasn’t smooth and didn’t accomplish what I wanted to on my first attempt (Before the clinic). Using my vision, I road the first / warm-up trail with confidence and smoother than I had ever ridden. Now I was ready for the redeem myself ride.
I entered the trail that I was going to redeem myself on, went a ways into the trail and bent my climbing gear. It was unusable as was the next hardest gear. I walked the bike to the bottom the hill, got the chain up to a granny gear and climbed the hill with “stuff” in it. An accomplishment for me. While I could have probably finished the trail in the granny gear, I decided to go to the first usable gear in the middle of the cassette. This was not a climbing gear for me and certainly not with technical elements.
Riding the trail with this new challenge, forced me to rely on my new skills. I simply had to use vision to ride the trail and stop micro managing elements that really didn’t matter. At the base of the next short climb, I became determined to ride the rest of the trail in this not a climbing gear. Using the skills from the morning, I was able to carry speed into corners and up the short burst climbs like never before. I was getting over the obstacles in the trail, even while climbing. The end of the trail came and I was able to reflect on how much I had really learned and was able to apply at the end of day 2. I completed the trail riding smoother, making all of the obstacle and climbs that I missed before the class, without the gear(s) that I thought I needed.
The rest of the clinic was excellent. I am looking forward to practicing these skills to make my trail riding more fun. While it really stunk to bend a gear, the experience really made me realize how valuable the skills and teaching really is. Andy was fantastic.
The attached picture is the gear bent in the cassette
Manchester clinic 9/6/2013 to 9/8/2013″
"I just wanted to drop a line about this past weekends class in New Hampshire. It has been a few
days since the class has ended and I have been able to get out and ride and do the drills. I have
noticed a huge improvement in my riding ability and my longevity on the bike. Give huge kudos to Andy Shabo for his patience and constant reminders about sexy elbows and vision. I wish I had taken this class 10 years ago.
I would like to thank Andy too as without his coaching and enthusiasm we would not be able to help as many determined riders improve! Thanks Andy!
- Brian on Can a Mountain Bike Stem Be Too Short? What About Frame Size?
- Gene on Why Are Mountain Bikers Discriminated Against?
- Janez on Can a Mountain Bike Stem Be Too Short? What About Frame Size?
- Fred on Why Are Mountain Bikers Discriminated Against?
- Joe on Mountain Bike Cockpit Setup For Better Handling, Bike Industry Slowly Catching On! (Lucky You!)
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