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Is Mountain Biking Wrecking Your Health?

Is Mountain Biking Wrecking Your Health?

As you probably know, I love mountain biking but mountain biking can be bad for you. I am not talking about crashing (which is definitely bad for you) but simply riding mountain bikes. Mountain biking, like many sports can be PART of a very healthy lifestyle. I stress the word “part” because mountain biking should not be your only form of exercise.

The idea for this article came when I saw two very fit looking road cyclists get off their bike and then hobble to the door. They could barely walk! They were hunched over, stiff and very wobbly! Luckily, because we stand, absorb shock and are more dynamic than road cyclists (who often stay in the same hunched over position for hours) mountain biking isn’t as bad a road cycling but it still can lead to imbalances in our body. Few sports work all muscles, ligaments and tendons equally which is one of the reasons “cross training” is popular in most sports.

If you like to mountain bike as much as I do don’t forget to mix things up every week! The best thing I have discovered to help me stay fit, healthy and balanced is yoga. Yoga helps my posture, my breathing, my mobility and helps calm me. A structured weight training program with mobility exercises can also be a great compliment to mountain biking. Weight training and yoga are also great mental breaks from mountain biking (which do the concentration needed to ride single track is very mentally stressful).

I find the more yoga I do the better I ride (because I breathe better and have more effective strength and flexibility) and the more I enjoy and look forward to riding (my back doesn’t hurt, the day off from riding made me miss riding). The same goes for strength training. With warm weather here and great trails beckoning you to ride sometimes it is hard to take a break and do something else, but if you force yourself to be more balanced in how you exercise and recover you will have more fun in the long run.

In short, balance your riding with other athletic pursuits to be healthier, happier, faster and have more fun!

Yoga and weight training are my two favorite forms of exercise to balance with my riding, what others forms of exercise do you do to compliment your riding? What do you like about it and how does help you?

If you are as obsessed with mountain biking as I was for 15 years please read/re-read this article:

http://betterride.net/blog/2011/stop-riding-your-bike-so-much-mountain-road-bmx-dirt-jump/

Update On BetterRide Mountain Bike Students and Coaches

It has been an amazing year so far and I am feeling more fortunate than ever to have such great coaches working for BetterRide and to meet and help so many riders improve and reach their goals. Here is a quick update on life at BetterRide.

Coaches:

Checkout this thread: http://www.bikemojo.com/speak/showthread.php?92241-Betterride-net

I love what they are saying about our head coach Andy Winoradsky and Certified Coach Chris Skolnick!

A few highlights:

“I’ll write a more detailed review when I’m not exhausted, BUT, I will say that:

1) I am already a better rider after the clinic.

2) I expect with some practice of the skills I learned I will be MUCH better by mid-summer.

3) i only thought I knew how to ride a bike. Halfway through day 3 something clicked and everything felt new and better and totally awesome.”

Laura

“I attended the Better Ride clinic at Walnut last year and absolutely loved it. Some of the best $600 I’ve ever spent. I agree with the others – it totally opened my mind to a new and more effective / efficient way of riding (especially the cornering). It did more for my riding than any bike or component upgrade ever has!”

Jake

Coach Jacqueline Harmony just won the Pan American Championships for the second year in a row!

BetterRide Athlete and Coach Jackie Harmony Wins Pan Am Championships!

more here:

Students:

Student finds mountain biking nirvana:

“I wanted to let you know about my recent brush with mountain biking nirvana but first I need to ask you….
We’re home but not before a few days of riding in Tucson. I, like you, spent the last three weeks or so of March sick with a sinus and chest infection so my riding was limited. I felt pretty good when we hit Tucson so off we went to fantasy Island with the hope that my strength had returned. Turns out I was hitting on all cylinders and ripped it up. My main purpose was to look down the trail to where I was going not where I was. I took all the descents out of the saddle and at full throttle with a level of confidence I had yet to experience. My climbs were stong and done with spirit fingers, my cornering was best it’s ever been. I came close to that same place, that nirvana, I reach on those days surfing when the waves are big and glassy with great form and I’m on it. It was truly a brush with mountain biking nirvana and I am convinced that the only way to reach mtb nirvana is to look ahead and the rest will follow. It’s the same in surfing. Idon’t look at my feet or the water at the end of my board, I look at where I want to go and the rest, the balance the weight shifts the balance everything just follows.
Of course I have lots of work to do but to touch mtb nirvana for while was truly amazing. It is why I have surfed all my life and it’s what I want out of mtbing. I have never competed surfing, I am more of a soul surfer and I may not ever compete mtbing I am probably more of a soul biker.
I did a beautiful coaster wheelie over an 18″ drop at a local trail yesterday. It just keeps getting better.
Anyway, just wanted you to know how it’s going and thanks again for the clinic and I hope this wasn’t too new age for you.

All the best,
-Tom

More students reaching/exceeding their goals:

If you follow our facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/BetterRide) you know I recently did a Core Skills 2 camp with a select group of our students, two pro racers, Graeme Pitts and Trevor Trinkino, and three 16 year old juniors, Luca Cometti, Dylan Unger and Mckay Vezina. Well the three juniors raced the next weekend at the Fontana National and took 2nd, 3d and 5th in Jr. Ex! At the same race Betteriders swept the women’s pro podium with Jackie Harmony winning, Gabriela Williams second and Margaret Gregory earning the bronze medal!

Then Graeme Pitts won the Keysville Classic for the second year in a row! The only other student the Core Skills 2 Camp, Trevor Trinkino has yet to race this season as he is finishing up is second semester as CU Boulder. I expect to see similar results out of Trevor as he is one determined and focused young man.

On the XC side Erica Tingey won the Cactus Hugger and Jen Hanks earned a third place finish! Congratulations to both of you on a great start to the season!

Erica on her way to victory!

 

 

Have Your MTB Upgrades Made it Less Safe and Less Fun?

I am often amazed at the mountain bike setups I see! Great bikes, sometimes with great “upgrades” but the wrong upgrades for that rider or that rider’s purpose that day. Then when I ask why did you switch to those tires/bars/pedals etc. the answers I get crack me up! “Because Bob Bobaliny (the fastest local xc racer) was using these tires at 24  Hours in the Old Pueblo”, “I saw World Champ Greg Minnaar using these tires”, “my friend Scott said they are the best”, “I read on mtbr that these were the lightest bars made”, etc. MTB upgrades and components such as pedals, shoes, handlebars, tires, stem and wheel set can have a huge positive or negative effect on your riding! Choose the components and equipment for you, the conditions and your purpose that day.

Would you use this slick, Hookworm tire in loose conditions?

 

Maxxis Hookworm MTB Tire

Why can copying the World Champion’s setup sometimes do more harm than good? The World Champ had those tires on for a specific purpose (in Greg Minnaar’s case winning a downhill race with the conditions the way they are that hour of race day. The mud spike Greg used in the slick conditions at a rainy wold cup in France would be outright dangerous even in the pouring rain at a rocky hard packed place like Bootleg Canyon (in the Nevada desert). Listening to or mimicking other “experts” (in quotes because they are often not experts) can also have a negative effect on your riding and safety. One, because they might not be experts and two, because their purpose is different than yours. On a technically easy trail like the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo course a racer will be concerned more about rolling resistance than control so she runs a semi-slick tire front and rear. The same racer on a more technical course would likely run a knobbier tire that rolled a little slower but gave her more control.

Some things to look out for:

1. Light weight components, light bars, light wheel sets, light tires, light cranks etc.. Our obsession with shaving weight off our bikes needs to end. Yes, given the exact same performance I would rather have a 22 pound bike than a 32 pound bike, but right now that doesn’t exist.

First, what is your purpose? Do want a bike that handles all conditions you may encounter really well or the lightest bike on the market? Often, the two end up being at odds with each other (the lightest bars are narrow, the lightest tires are narrow and have weak sidewalls, light weight seat-posts are not height adjustable on the fly, all compromising control). If you are simply a passionate rider who wants to ride your best, focus on ride quality and control. If you are a cross county or endurance racer you need to really weigh the benefits of weight shaving vs. control, which often means different equipment for different race courses. The more technically challenging the race the more likely you would want to add a dropper post and better tires for more confidence and control. The less technical the course the more you would favor light weight and semi-slick tires.

2. Pedals. Clipless pedals are not an upgrade (see our blog posts on this topic:   http://betterride.net/blog/2010/clipped-in-vs-flat-pedals/ ,  http://betterride.net/blog/2010/interesting-info-on-pedal-stroke-efficiency/) they are simply another way of pedaling. If they cause you to lose ANY confidence on the trail, how can they be an upgrade?!

Clipless shoes, there are two main different styles of clipped in shoes, softer and wider soled shoes for wide clipless pedals (platform pedals with clipless) and super stiff and light xc racing shoes. If you are an xc racer a carbon soled shoe provides amazing power and light weight, tough to beat. If you like to explore when you ride, ride technically challenging trails and want more support and comfort for your foot the softer soled 5.10 type shoe with the platform clip-in is a better bet. For more on each of these pedal types and shoes see Andy’s post: http://betterride.net/blog/2011/betterride-mtb-skills-head-coach-andys-summary-on-pedals-shoes/

3. Seatposts. A light weight non-adjustable seatpost will definitely save a little weight but it isn’t worth it! A  “dropper post” will give you more control and allow you to descend with much more confidence, control and help you to descend faster! You CANNOT get into proper descending body position with your seat at full pedal height! So the 3-6 ounce weight penalty of a dropper post is worth it on trails that have steep descents, fast corners, drops, or technical sections! See my article on dropper posts: http://betterride.net/blog/2010/the-4th-thing-you-can-buy-that-will-instanty-improve-your-bike-handling/

My 6 year old Gravity Dropper

Tires, the sport is called mountain biking for a reason, we ride off-road! So I nice knobby tire will give you much more traction than a semi-slick or tire with minimal tread.

Nice tread for more control!

Figure out the goals for your mountain bike riding and then make sure you aren’t compromising them by using the wrong equipment for your goals! Of course the number one goal is, having fun!