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A Simple Way to Go Faster On Your MTB While Using Less Energy!

A simple mountain biking technique to go faster while saving energy!

Often there is not enough detail in mtb advice or it is flat out wrong. This is an example of not quite enough detail. When I first started riding I was taught to rest on the descents (by coasting) to save energy for the climbs. This is partially true but it leaves out a Huge speed adding and energy saving technique. Won’t you like to complete your ride in less time while using less energy?!

The technique is simple, pedal some downhills and rest on the uphills! How is this possible? On sections of trail that are rolling (short downhill into short uphill, possibly repeated multiple times)as you crest the hill continue pedaling over the top and down the downhill then coast the uphill and repeat! It takes way less energy to accelerate from four miles an hour to 15-20 mph than it does to maintain ten mph uphill.

One reason I quit racing cross country years ago was it was frustrating being held by riders who were fitter than me but seemed to lack this seemingly common sense skill as well as riding skills. On one rolling section of trail at the Iron Horse Classic in 1994 I was able to maintain what felt like 20 miles an hour over a section of 12-15 rollers without pedaling (after the first downhill) in practice. In the race a physically stronger but less skilled rider was in front of me in this section and we managed about 10 miles an hour while working our tails off!  Frustrating to say the least! The ride in front of me was only looking about 10 feet in front of him (aka looking down) so he braked on the descents and then pedaled the uphills and repeated! In practice I simply pedaled down the first downhill and pumped the rollers to maintain 20 and have a lot of fun! Unskilled riders in race kill fun (and waste a lot of energy).

If you aren’t clear on how this work I will break it down for you. Let’s say you and fellow rider both crest the first hill (in the series of rollers) a little out of breath at four miles an hour. You decide to rest the dowhhill by coasting as soon as possible while your riding buddy sneaks in a few pedals. The hill makes you accelerate from four mph to eight, you have doubled your speed! Meanwhile, your buddy accelerated from four to 16 or 20, pretty easy to do with a few pedal strokes on a downhill. Now, yes, at the bottom of the hill he is still a little out of breath and you have recovered but, he is going more than twice your speed! (and he is already quite a ways in front of you). Now for the uphill, you attack it (because you have recovered) and manage to maintain eight miles an hour. Your riding buddy (being still out of breath) coasts up the hill and slows from 16 to 11, reaching the top of the second hill recovered, ahead of you and going much faster into the next descent (where he will just pedal once or twice down to double your speed again.

In short,when possible Pedal the Downhills and Coast the Uphills! (on certain uphills, obviously this doesn’t work on 1,000 foot climbs, although it still will be faster for the length of the descent and the first part of the climb).

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 mtbr.com)

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.

BetterRiders Excel at NV Mountain Bike Championships!

Mountain Bike Racing article by BetterRide founder Gene Hamilton

Wow, what a week! On Thursday and Friday (Jan. 17-18) I did a private skills camp the AFD Racing team who had driven all the way down from Canada and on Saturday and Sunday I videoed and did some race coaching with students from previous camps. Our students had a great weekend with a lot of state championships, podium finishes and personal bests!

Saturday was the Super D race The first race the weekend was the Super D down Boy Scout to Girl Scout, one of my favorite trail combos (a combo he use a lot in our downhill camps, including the one Merrick took from us last year). Merrick Golz was racing in his first super D so they forced him to race in the category 2 division and he crushed it! Merrick not only won category 2 but he had the fastest time of the day of all categories beating the fastest pro time by 7.5 seconds! The Pro was division was won by BetterRide alumnus Joy Martin with BetterRide coach and camp alumnus Jackie Harmony in second.

The downhill race was down Snake Back with the pros and experts doing Poop Chute and the rest of the field doing the go around. The first class to go down the course  was Jr. Men 14 and under and it was won by  Kendall Mclean of  AFD RACING from that week’s camp!  The last race of the day was the chainless race and it was won by BetterRide camp alumnus Cody Kelly (who also took third in the Pro race, his first pro race ever!).  There were a lot of podiums finishes and victories for our students in the races in between too (see results below)!

Again, wow! Feels great to see so many of our students working hard and reaching their mountain biking goals!

BetterRiders results at the Nevada State Championship Gravity race:

Sat. Super D

Cat 2 Men 19-29

1. Merrick Golz in his first Super D race where they forced him to race Cat 2 (beat the fastest pro man by 7.5 seconds!)

Pro Women:

1 Joy Martin
2. Jackie Harmony Pivot Cycles

Pro men

9. Dante Harmony, Pivot Cycles

Downhill
Pro women:
1. Jackie Harmony, Pivot Cycles
3. Adrienne Schneider
4. Joy Martin

 

Pro Women's Podium

Pro men
3. Cody Kelly (first pro race!) Specialized Gravity
7. Jonny Widen TLD/5.10
11. Chris Higgerson
15. Riley Mueller
16. Christian Wright  Specialized Gravity
20 Lucas Cowan

 

Pro Men DH Podium

Jr. Men 14 and under
1. Kendall Mclean AFD RACING from weekends camp

Cat 2 women 15-18
1. Kirby McleAN  AFD racing from camp

Cat 2 men 15-18
4. Matthew Mclean, AFD Racing
7. Tom Breadmore, AFD Racing

10. Carter Paschinski, AFD Racing
Cat 1 men 15-16
1. Tyler Krenek,  SuperCross Fly racing

Cat 1 Men 17-18
1 Mckay Vezina (won by 15 seconds, would of been 3rd in pro!)
3. Matt Branney
5. Galen Carter, Transition Bikes
7 Tanner Hart,  Lake Town Bikes

Open men

3 Mike Fucci, All Mtn Cyclery
9 Syd Jacklin, AFD racing

Cat 1 men 30-39
3. Aaron Polly,  Gnar Gnar Tours.com
12 Joe Dodds,  Neverrest

Chainless DH

Open Women
1. Jackie Harmony, Pivot Cycles

Open men
1. Cody Kelly
2 Graeme Pitts
4 Jon Widen
6 Dante Harmony, Pivot Cycles
8 Riley Mueller

 

Chainless Downhill Podium

The $1.99 Investment That Will Greatly Improve Your Mountain Biking!

The $1.99 Investment That Will Greatly Improve Your Mountain Biking!

By: BetterRide Coach Andy Winohradsky

Most of us spend thousands of dollars on our bikes, equipment, fitness, nutrition, you name it, in order to have fun riding bikes and becoming better at it.  Let’s face it, whether you’re a competitive athlete, a weekend warrior or you just want to start living a bit more healthy lifestyle and figure MTB’ing would be a good way to help do it, being able to improve your skill on the bike makes the whole deal a lot more enjoyable. Whether you’re trying to get faster or simply trying to not-crash as much.

Arguably, all of the above-mentioned stuff does help us to have a good time on our mountain bikes as well as aid our ability to ride.  (Hey, I like nice bikes and gear and good food just as much as the next guy!)  But there are a lot of things out there that very few riders do that will drastically elevate their riding levels.  Some are big undertakings, some are tiny and simple.  I believe that one thing riders need to do if they’re serious about learning is to take some formal instruction, obviously.  Another thing?  Start using the following piece of equipment: its super inexpensive; extremely accessible; user friendly; portable; durable; and not only important, but I’m going to say MANDATORY, if you want to really improve your riding…

Ready?!?!  (drum roll)…

Start keeping a Riding Log.

A riding log, riding journal, whatever you want to call it…  For $1.99 at your local Walgreen’s, you can pick up one of the greatest pieces of mountain bike gear/equipment known to man.

What?!?!  Read on…

In pretty much every endeavor in life that people are half-way serious about, they keep a written record of what’s going on: business; fitness training; expenses; heck, many of us keep “diaries” of our extremely interesting and dramatic personal lives.

If you’re reading this, you’re fairly serious about improving your MTB skills, so why wouldn’t use this incredibly useful tool in this important area of your life?  And, yes, it is important.  Physical and mental health are paramount to life-happiness. (and a MTB is way cheaper then therapy…)

And, who can benefit from this?  EVERYBODY!  Whether you are brand new to riding or a pro racer, you need to do this if really want to improve on the bike.

So how do we go about doing this riding log thing and WHY?

Let’s talk about the “WHY”, first.  When I work with people on fitness training, the first thing that I have them do is to start keeping a food journal (you’re not serious about fitness unless you’re also adequately addressing nutrition).  Everything that passes their lips, for at least three days, has to be written down.  Am I interested in their diet and eating habits? Of course I am.  But, invariably, what happens is that people will alter their eating habits when they have to write everything down, and they admit this.  How many calories did you take in while doing laps of the free samples at Whole Foods after your ride?  Oh, never used to count those, huh?  Or, when you cooked dinner, and you “tested” every dish…repeatedly…  And, those seven pieces of your kid’s Halloween candy you snatched throughout the day?  A handful of chips…or three?  A post-ride beer…or three?

In this case, educating clients on nutrition is important, but more importantly and what I find extremely useful with the food journal is that clients become AWARE of what they are actually doing.  Around 800 -1000 extra (and “empty”) calories a day can happen real quick if you’re just unconsciously shoving crap in your face all day long.  The same holds true for riding bikes: by having to sit down and think about what happened on your ride; by having to PROCESS things and write (or type) them down, you become far more engaged in what actually happened out there on the trail.  You become consciously AWARE of your riding.

Most of us aren’t very aware of our riding, it happens on the trail and then it’s gone!  Out there on the trail, during our ride, we win some, we lose some, we scare ourselves a bit…and then we’re in the car, driving home, on the phone asking about what we need to pick up for dinner or speeding through traffic to try to squeeze in a shower and rush off to meet with a client or grabbing the kids from practice or whatever…

Then, on our next ride we go out and make the same exact mistakes again!  I’ve hit the same exact bad line, then hit the same exact rock and crashed in the same exact place on a few occasions – lots of this comes from learning the hard way… And, maybe worse, any “victories” that we may have had on the previous ride—opportunities to learn and improve—were lost because we never took the time to commit these things to memory; to process the techniques that worked; to understand WHY we succeeded.

Keeping a riding log will SLOW YOU DOWN and force you to become much more AWARE and CONSCIOUS of you’re riding – this is how you will learn most effectively.

What if you really don’t know squat about riding technique?  (Well, take a camp!) But, what if you’re brand new to the whole thing? You don’t understand terms, techniques…Nada!  In that case, your riding log will probably start to accumulate a lot of questions, but these questions will become more and more specific.  You’ll understand that certain types of trail conditions give you more problems then others, you’ll notice certain things you feel pretty comfortable on.  You’ll start to be able to create similarities with other sports and other activities in life.  Often, new students will describe certain things that give them problems, certain types of crashes they’ve had as well as areas where they feel confident, and without ever seeing them ride, or seeing the specific trail feature that they’re talking about, I have a pretty good idea where their issues lie and how to remedy them.  Sometimes students say, “I don’t know, I suck everywhere…”  Well, don’t worry, I can help you, too.  The previous student is a lot further along with their awareness of their riding then the latter, and thus, a lot nearer to improvement.  Become the previous student.

In my camps, I stress the riding log HUGE with my students.  If you’ve just received instruction, you now have a whole new bag of tricks!  These are tools that you are not entirely familiar with yet, so the opportunities for learning in the riding immediately following (and not so immediate) the instruction will be immense!  Process it!  Write it down!

What if you’ve been at the game forever?  Say you’ve been riding for 35+ years, racing professionally for 15 of those (kinda semi-retired), you’ve worked as a factory race team mechanic, years of bike shop experience, built trails for a living, shot photos and written articles for magazines and have been a professional MTB instructor and coach for the past 5 years?  What could a person like that (me) possibly learn by keeping a riding log?  Hasn’t the ship already sailed?  Haven’t I probably done it all and seen it all? There isn’t much else that I’m going to learn at this point?  Isn’t it time for me to let the riding regress and take up golf?  Haven’t I hit my head enough times that it doesn’t really retain much anymore, anyway?   The answer:

Not even close.  I learn something or at least confirm something new EVERY TIME I RIDE!  I’ve recently started keeping riding logs again and it has helped my riding tremendously!  Even at this point in my riding life!  During my serious racing years, I had volumes upon volumes of riding/racing records and logs.  Admittedly, for a bunch of years I slacked on the riding logs  (the semi-retired racer guy decided he didn’t need them anymore).  I could go into detail about my last month of riding and the awesome stuff that I’ve come up with, but I’ll just say that I pick up on something new every time I’m out. By breaking it down, I come up with the real reasons why something either worked or didn’t, as opposed to saying, “Ah, I’m just a little rusty…” or “…haven’t ridden there in a long time…” and on the other side, crediting successes to, “…just felt good today…” or “…traction was perfect, could do no wrong…”

Keeping logs again has helped my MTB, my motocross, my dirt jumping, my coaching and instructing.  It’s helped me make advances in the types of off the bike training that are really relevant to riding. My bike riding logs will probably even help my snowboarding…if it ever snows!

So what the heck should you write down in your log, specifically?  Well, that’s up to you.  An entry doesn’t have to be super detailed or ten pages long.  Don’t make it such a stressful hassle that you give it up because you dread it so much that it ruins your day.  Definitely write down your “victories”, the positive learning experiences.  When you have success on the trail, break it down: why were you successful, what techniques did you use (providing that they were proper techniques)?  If that’s all you enter, good enough!  Just by processing that event and recording it, you’ll “re-live” it a bunch of times.  Repetition is a huge part of learning.   Now, you are also conscious of why you had success.  BAM!  You just quite thoroughly learned something!  Focus on the positive.

As far as dealing with negative experiences (crashes, riding like crap) turn them into steps that you can take to move into a positive direction.  Know why that crash happened: what did you do wrong?  What should you have done?  You may come up with more questions then answers if you are new to riding (or even not-so-new), but at least you are being proactive, and the answers to the questions are out there.

In my racing days, my logs were incredibly detailed: nutrition, training, how I practiced at races, how I traveled, equipment settings…  Lately, not so much; mainly focusing on one prominent issue per ride.  Sometimes super crazy detailed bike-dork stuff like suspension settings in relation to body position, line choice and riding style.  Sometimes simply noting that I felt tight and didn’t warm up and “feel it” until an hour into the ride.  This reminded me that I hadn’t been stretching and hitting the foam roller enough… and now I am!  But if I wouldn’t have sat down to write and “taken note” on how old I felt at the start of my rides… I would have mentally been on to something else as soon as I got off the bike instead of making it a point to take care of myself.  Awareness…

So, like anything else, start simple, start slow, but make this a habit!  I guarantee it will pay off, big-time!