Mountain Biking and Coffee, and Beer?

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

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:

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.


Ride over the rock, it is easier.


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!


Mountain Bike Rock Garden


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.

Mountain Bike Coach Reviews Keep Pouring In

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
Thank you
Rick Borden
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.
Andrew J.

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!

Mountain Biking is an Offensive Sport

A Key to Riding Your Best! By: BetterRide founder Gene Hamilton

A real key to mountain biking at your best is to always be on the offense. Defensive riding gets you hurt! When you are on the offense you are riding at the limit of your abilities which improves your focus, coordination and allows you to reach the “flow” state. On the other hand, when you are riding defensively (thoughts like, “oh, don’t crash here”, “wow, this looks slick, don’t slide out”, “whoa, this is scary and steep, just don’t crash”, etc.) you are much less coordinated and actually focused on what you don’t want to do, crash!

One way to always be on the offense is simply focus on what you DO want to do. Thoughts like, “get to the bottom of this fun rocky section as smooth as I can”, “rail this corner as fast as I can”, “stay balanced and in a neutral position on this loose decent”, “climb this loose rocky hill like a billy goat, in balance and looking past all the obstacles”. These type of thoughts lead to confidence and riding at your best.

What do you do when you can’t focus on what you want to do? The trail is too steep, too exposed, too loose or just plain too scary for your current skill set. Get off your bike and walk! Then figure out what scared you and take baby steps to improve your skill and/or confidence. 50 feet of exposure on a narrow trail scares you, walk it and then find a trail with six feet of exposure and get comfortable on it. Then work your way up to 50 feet of exposure using small steps. Taking a giant leap over your comfort zone never turns out well. If you make it you just feel lucky, no increase in confidence and if you crash your confidence will decrease.

Challenge leads to the “flow” or “zone” state. That state of being when you are in the moment and everything seems to happen with ease. Reaching the state of “flow” is a big reason we ride but it is often hard to attain. In his book “Flow” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains that one thing that must be present to reach the flow state is challenge. He explains that it must be a strong, but reachable challenge. Not enough of a challenge and your mind wanders, too much of a challenge and you get scared. Pick challenges within, but at the top of your skill set. The challenge can be to simply ride certain trails, be faster than before, smoother, use less brakes, etc. I have found that most of my crashes and mistakes have happened on an easy section of trail right after a hard section. I simply relaxed and lost focus when the trail got easy and suddenly was on the ground. Has this ever happened to you?

Here are a couple of examples from my own riding experiences:


Beginning of steep section on Horse Thief Bench (photo from

During the Fruita Fat Tire Festival I led a group of riders on Horse Thief Bench trail. The entrance to the bench is steep, rocky and has a couple of big ledges, most people hike their bikes down. At the bottom of the entrance shoot the trail is flat and easy for a few hundred feet. The group I was leading wanted to see me ride it so off I went down the entrance shoot. Having lived in Fruita for four years I knew this section well and floated down it. As I got to the bottom I saw about 20 riders cheering on my effort! On the flat and easy section, feeling proud of myself and patting myself on my back for such good riding I hit a rock and flipped over right in front of those 20 riders and my group behind me. Now they were in disbelief, looking at the rocky trail I had just rode and looking back at the beginner trail I had just endoed on. I think I said something like, “I am a professional, don’t try this at home”. The funny thing is similar wrecks and near wrecks have happened too many times as I have gone from offensive to not focused or defensive.

Endo on Horse Thief Bench, this was beyond his skill set. photo courtesy of Time Piece Films

Wow, those photos are great testimonials to the importance of dropper posts! Had Rob, above lowered his seat he might have pulled that off!

Years before my crash I was heading to a race in Brian Head Utah and I stopped in Moab to pick up my friend TJ to come race with me. I was feeling really confident after practice and knew if I rode my best I should win (which would make this the second win of my pro career). Well, my run was amazing and I remember thinking to myself, “that run was amazing, no one could beat that, just make it through these last to corners and you have won”. Well, TJ beat me by a tenth of a second, for his first pro win. Now, to get that point (two corners before the finish line) was I thinking “just make it through these corners” or was I thinking “smash these corners, crush this track, attack!”? Yes, I was thinking attack all the way down the course, until the last two corners. Did I make it through those corners? Yes, but I slowly made my way through those corners. Had I attacked those corners like the rest of the course I would have won for sure, but by backing off I cost myself the race. I have seen great racers loose focus and crash in the last corner so many times, they simply switched their focus from attack to, just make it without crashing and down they went.


When Greg Minnaar demonstrates cornering in our camps he attacks them!

Always focus on what you want to do and always ride on the offense! As a matter of fact, stop riding your mountain bike and start driving your mountain bike. The word “ride” is passive, we ride roller coasters and amusement park rides, the ride is in control. The word “drive” is active, we drive cars, trucks and go-karts, we are in control. Drive your bike with authority.