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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:  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.

 

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.

First BetterRide MTB Skills Camp in Indianapolis a Huge Success

Our First BetterRide MTB Skills Camp in Indianapolis was a huge success!

Five lucky students spend the weekend with Coach Chip, had a great time and came away much better riders.

 

Chip Coaching a Student In Our Switchback Drill

“Indianapolis was a great clinic with great people and a fun location. Probably one of the best statements I have ever heard in a clinic was a student that said the following when we stopped for a learning moment. She stated “this is the first time while riding my mountain bike, that I was thinking more about my technique instead of worrying about crashing my mountain bike”. I think that is a perfect testament to the Betterride Core Skills Clinic. In three days we can take a mountain biker and get them to start thinking about how they ride their bike instead of worrying about crashing their mountain bike.”

BetterRide certified coach Chip MacLaren

Happy mtb camp Students with coach Chip

 

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!

Shout Out To BetterRide Certified MTB Skills Coaches!

I am so proud of our coaches! Glowing reviews from our students keep pouring in on the BetterRide facebook page and email in box. It feels great to be helping so many riders greatly improve their riding and meet/exceed their riding goals.

As you may or may not know becoming a BetterRide certified mtb skills coach isn’t easy. It takes a lot more than decent riding skill and a two day certification camp to coach for us! Our coaches are well trained, patient and passionate about coaching, which is why they get reviews like these:

“Awesome skills camp in San Diego taught by Dylan Renn. Learned more in a weekend than I’ve learned in 15+ years of mountain biking. In fact, 1/2 of the techniques I learned from magazine articles turned out to be totally wrong. Had fun riding with a great group of fellow students. Why didn’t I do this earlier?”     Len Prokopets (from our facebook page)

 

Dylan getting some coaching from World Champ Greg Minnaar!

“Gene…. I’m STOKED…

I just had the best ride I’ve EVER had!

Mammoth from the top down to the village non stop. Hit every table top, every gap, railed every berm and turn.

Funny thing, Chip will laugh every turn if I even started to look down I would here Chips voice… “look at me” eye would go up and looking through the turn.

Not once did fear get me or did I feel out of control.

This is what I took away from both camps with Chip and put all the figure 8′s in the street for.

First time it all actually came together at once on the mountain.

Thanks to both you and Chip for what you do!!!”

Doug Williams

Chip coaching in Bend, Oregon.

“Hi Gene. I took the camp in Austin this past weekend and it was great! My confidence has gone to new heights. Coach Andy Schabo is awesome and very patient. After I get minor adjustments done to my bike,I will set up the cones and only get better from there ! My money and time was well spent. Thanks Gene for all that you do for us riders!!!!!”    Sandra Martinez

Coach Andy Shabo out for an epic adventure in Crested Butte, Colorado.

Why do our coaches get such great reviews?  Coaching is a skill that takes a lot of patience, a small ego, a great attitude and a fair amount of training and experience to do well. First our coaches must attend a three day skills progression with us then spend weeks/months doing their drills so they become very good at the skills we teach. Next they take a three day coaches camp to learn how to break down and explain the skills in our curriculum, deal with a wild range of personalities and learning styles  and get students to understand and do each skill we teach. Once they have completed their three day skills progression and three day coaches camp they are certified to assist me. Once they have assisted me at at least four camps and taught each part of curriculum under my supervision only then can they lead a BetterRide skills progression on their own.

Our coaches are simply the most passionate, patient and skilled coaches in the sport.