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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.

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!

What Is It With Some Mountain Bike Riders Today?!

What is it with some mountain bikers these days? In the early days of mountain bike riding only intrepid people who were self-reliant and had a sense of adventure got into mountain biking. Now people full of fear are entering the sport (and we are trying helping them overcome those fears) and after a year or so of riding they are changing the sport. They are trying to make the trails easier to ride, “All trails should be able to be ridden by all riders.”, was posted on one of our facebook posts this spring. Another rider wrote, “if the trail has advanced features (like roots and rocks) it should be signed and have a “squirrel catcher (mtb speak for a tough move that only someone skilled enough to ride the trail can do, keeping the “squirrels” from venturing further) ” on all entrances to the trail so only experts ride it.” He went on to say, “in reality all trails should have easier go-around options on the tough sections”. What on earth makes someone feel this way?!  Many of these trails are 20-50 years old and they are way out in the woods. Who exactly is going to spend their days fixing these trails that aren’t broken? How do you make a go-around when there if a cliff going up on one side of you and cliff going down on the other?  You know what we called those trails in 1993 while riding on our fully rigid mountain bikes? “Trails”, we didn’t call them beginner, intermediate or expert, we just called them trails. You know what we did if we got to a section we could not ride? We tried it once or twice and if we failed to clear it we simply walked over it and then continued our ride. We called these sections “challenges” or “hike a bikes” they were simply part of being out on a narrow trail 10-500 miles from town. We didn’t get angry at the trail when we couldn’t make something, we didn’t call our local trail sanitizers and say, “please come make a go-around for the rock on Seven Bridges trail” and have them come out and take every “challenge” out of the trail. We laughed, yelled or screamed but we were smart enough to get off and walk before putting ourselves in danger (and sometimes our egos were bigger than our skills and we got hurt, mountain biking can be dangerous when you exceed your skill level!) we used “common sense”. Sometimes we even turned around, “that trail is too tough!” was heard more than once. Then a friend would ride it and tell us how great it was and we would give it another try.

Again, we love helping riders improve and some of our students are much better riders and racers than we are and some aren’t as good, who cares, it isn’t a contest, it is mountain biking. Doesn’t “mountain biking” make you think of nature while “road biking” conjures up images of pavement? Is nature safe and manicured or is nature harsh and rough?  Believe me famous mountain biking destinations like, Moab, Bootleg Canyon, Durango, Sedona, Squamish and Whistler are harsh and rough in places.  Doesn’t “mountain biking” sound tougher than “road biking”? Are mountains smooth and soft or jagged and gnarly? Don’t get me wrong, I love the sweet beginner trails that are being built. Many of them flow so well even “expert riders” enjoy them. Keep building sweet beginner trails, they help grow the sport and get more people riding “mountain bikes”. Even people who formerly thought mountain biking was dangerous and not for them are starting to ride. This is great, except, mountain biking is dangerous, it involves riding a bike in the mountains (remember, mountain are jagged and gnarly)! Many trails, especially older and harder to reach trails are not manicured, they are wild. All mountain bikers can ride these trails just the less skilled are going to walk many sections. At that point they can choose to not ride that trail again or challenge themselves to improve, not dumb down the trail! I would love to be able to score a goal playing ice hockey but they are not going to make the hockey goals as big as soccer goals so I can do it! They are going to make me earn my goal scoring skills, the same way they did, with good coaching and lots of deliberate practice! Heck, I might even feel good about myself. I might feel like I faced a challenge and overcame it! Aren’t growth, learning and pushing your personal limits things that make you feel good? Ski racers didn’t dumb down the slopes, they educated themselves, trained hard and they actually ice down their race courses to make them harder! There are still beginner trails for their fans, foes, friends and family but there are trails them too!

When did we get so soft? We meaning the “US”, have you ever ridden in Canada? In Quebec and British Colombia the local trails are so hard many pro cross country racers from the US could not ride them. You know what they call these super hard trails in Canada, “trails”. They rode some of these trails 20 years ago on hardtails and they ride them now on their full-suspension bikes. Some trails were built more recently and are even harder, designed to challenge riders on their “cheater” 4-6” travel bikes.  In Canada (like in the US in the early 1990s) they know some sections are harder than others so they walk the hard sections until they learn to ride them. That is part of mountain biking.

Get out and ride and challenge yourself to improve!

 

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.