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This Email from a BetterRide MTB Skills Student may Make You Mad!

A warning to you, if you have a big ego you might not want to read this. I heard from many people the Whiskey Off-road had super technical sections and half the field or more walked a lot of the course. Well Elaine and many of my students rode right by the walkers. They weren’t more daring, just simply in balance and in control, way to go Elaine!
Elaine’s email:
Hi Gene,

My husband, Zac, and I took your DH camp at Bootleg back in March and wanted to give you an update. I had been working on the skills on my local XC trails (Fantasy Island and Starr Pass). I figured otherwise if I only practiced on DH runs I’d hardly get any practice in.

Earlier this year I did the Whiskey off-road in Prescott. I was doing the 25 miler for fun, as I had never done it before. Took my camera along to take pics during the ride and everything. At the pre-race meeting they said we would have 2 really long downhills to ride in amongst all the climbing. So I was really looking forward to that! The trail was super crowded and I stood in line on the climbs for about 15 min before the stream of people got going again. Good thing I was only doing the event for fun and wasn’t racing and worried about a time.
I got to the first downhill and it was awesome! This was the first time I had to practice the new body position I learned in camp. No more stretching out over the rear tire. I had the elbows out, back flat, chest down and even though it felt a little strange because I was still getting used to it, I told myself to trust it and stay in that position. The trail was very loose with scree, but my rear tire was planted. Everyone in front of me was steering around the water bars and I was going straight over, passing when I could. I was watching the XC riders in front of me and it was scary. They were twitchy and all over the place and I just stayed in my body position, at some points at almost a track stand while I waited for them to get over an obstacle.

At one point the trail opened up onto a ridge down the mountain. Everyone in front of me was walking but I stuck to my guns and started down the hill. I called out to those down below “rider up” and they moved off the line as I rode down. Everyone was standing with their bikes as they hiked down and I rode by, and it felt like I was in my own personal World Cup and they were spectators on the side of the trail. It was awesome! I totally cleaned the DH and felt like a rockstar as the other riders watched.

Anyways, that has been my highlight moment so far. We have a couple of trips planned this year up to Sunrise and a week at AngelFire, so I’ll be practicing more skills.

Hope all is well with you!

Take care,

Elaine

If you want to ride like Elaine or simply improve your mountain bike riding, invest in yourself instead of your bike and sign up for a camp today.

BetterRide MTB Head Coach Andy Get’s Tech on Clipless Pedals & Shoes

Recently, on this site, I’ve been writing about pedals – both “flat” or “platform” pedals (BMX style), and “clipless” pedals (which, oddly enough, are the kind your shoe actually clips into).

I’ve explained some of the technical points of FLAT pedals and shoes, and how to get the most out of this type of set-up. I’ve gone over some of the not-so-obvious advantages and disadvantages of each type of pedal and shoe combination. Now I’ll talk about the technical side of CLIPLESS pedals, a few different types of pedal and shoe combinations within the clipless genre, and a couple tricks to get the best performance out of your clipless shoe/pedal interface.

Again, and as I stated previously, there is no “better” choice when it comes to clipless vs flat pedals. Both have advantages and disadvantages with more overlap then most riders are aware of (especially if that rider has never taken the time to learn to ride the other system). If you learn to ride both types of pedal systems, it will benefit you greatly! (Look to previous posts for further explanations of this.)

So, we have MAINLY two different types of clipless pedals. The first has spring loaded bars that spread apart when under pressure from the cleat on the bottom of our shoe, and then the cleat snaps in between these bars. The bars then hold the cleat in place, and we’re “clipped-in”. Some pedal companies that use this system are Time and Crank Brothers. Some benefits of this system over the other is that its great for clearing mud and debris, therefore it functions well even in nasty weather conditions. It also takes up a bit less space (then the other system) and, thus, provides more ground clearance from obstacles on the trail. I believe this system also holds the title as the lightest system available. Some of the disadvantages of this system (depending on who you talk to) is that the bars can bend fairly easily when they come into contact with rocks, etc, on the trail. When this happens, its difficult to get into and out of the pedal, and chances are, its time for some new pedals. Another disadvantage is these pedals are either non-adjustable as far as spring tension is concerned, or have limited adjustability (I’m almost positive on this point – I may be wrong). Most riders that ride this system don’t mind the limited adjustability, saying that it feels just right anyway, and swear by it. As always, try them out before you by a pair. I’ve ridden this set-up in the past, and really enjoyed it.

CrankBros EggBeater pedal

 

The other type of system is essentially a Shimano SPD system. In my experience, I feel that they have more adjustability in spring tension and a different “feel” in terms of “float” (how far you can twist your foot before the cleat disengages with the pedal) and entry. Shimano also has different cleats: single release and multi-release as well as at least one wild-card cleat that was designed for a very limited type of pedal and is nearly impossible to use with any of their other pedals. I’m not exactly positive what Shimano’s story is on their cleat/pedal recommendations, so all I’ll say on the subject is do your research and try before you buy. But, obviously, they’re a great set-up when you get it right. The SPD’s can get finicky in a hurry in bad weather conditions. Any little bit of mud or debris can ball up the system pretty quickly and make it nearly impossible to get into and out of the pedals. To help alleviate this, start out with a clean pedal. Pay special attention to cleaning those babies out when you wash your bike. Also, the correct amount and type of lubricant will do wonders for SPD pedal performance: a very light, “dry” lubricant is great in dry and dusty conditions, and use something heavier when its wet (removing it, of course, before your next ride in the dust). Riders and mechanics have been know to spray their pedals and cleats with silicone spray (along with the rest of the bike – keep it off the brakes and brake pads!!!), when they know they will encounter wet conditions to help the systems shed the mud.

Shimano 424 w_platform pedal

At one end of the spectrum of clipless pedals, we have a pedal that has very little material and is extremely light in weight, such as the Crank Brothers Eggbeater shown in the photo. When this type of pedal is used with an extremely stiff and light – nearly XC specific – shoe, it makes for an extremely light and efficient shoe/pedal combination. If I were to race an XC race that wasn’t technically difficult; where power, light weight, and efficiency were way more important then bike handling skills (say, Leadville 100), I would prefer this type of set-up.

I ride with a DH-type clipless set-up, however. The difference in the pedals is that the DH set-up has a platform that surrounds the pedal (see photo), and the DH oriented shoe – though, quite a bit heavier (and more protective) – flexes substantially more then the XC set-up. This allows the shoe to flex enough to come into contact with the platform – while still being clipped-in – allowing for added pedal pressure and leverage to control the bicycle. PEDAL PRESSURE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING WHEN IT COMES TO APPLING POWER, BALANCE, AND CONTROL TO THE BIKE. I actually wear-out the soles of my shoes on the inside and outside of the cleat where my shoe flexes and the sole contacts the pedal platform.

5.10 Shoes, Minnaar Rubber Sole

Another great thing about the DH set-up is the large amount of rubber on the sole of the shoe compared to the XC’s hard plastic. This is great because things don’t always go as planned when riding in technically challenging conditions and every once in a while, we have to clip out, put a foot down, and then still have to ride the bike – whether we want to or not! (maybe down a steep, rocky drop) – without having the time to clip back in. With the flexible DH shoe and its rubber-y sole, combined with the large plastic platform of the pedal, I still have pretty good control with my foot on the pedal even if I’m not clipped-in (though, I would very much prefer to be …). Try this with the hard plastic-on-metal of the XC set-up, and you may as well be on a skating rink!

Great for xc racing but not much else

Also, often, we may have to suddenly clip-out and put a foot down on whatever is immediately available, say, a rock or a log – and, often, we only have one chance and not much time to do this right! If we miss our footing – say our shoe can’t get traction because its sole is made of hard plastic – which doesn’t stick very well to slick rocks or wood – we may end up tumbling down the mountain! That’s one more good reason to have some rubber on the bottom of your shoe!

 

And, sometimes riding mountain bikes requires not only riding the bike – but carrying the bike! Sometimes up rocky cliffs – for hundreds of feet! Or through dense forests … or rivers … in the dark! (Ever had a ride like that?!?)

Having a good rubber sole on your MTB shoes on “rides” like that is also nice.

So if your priority is power and efficiency, go with a light stiff shoe and a light, minimal, pedal. If you’re riding in gnarlier conditions, you may want something that gives you as much control and peace of mind as possible – even when your not clipped in – such as the DH-type set-up.

(The subject of cleat placement is often associated with the cause or prevention of pain or injury due to repetitious pedaling. I’m not a specialist in this area, so I’ll say: if it hurts, investigate why, change if necessary, use your brain … don’t change your cleat angle, injure yourself with an over-use/wrong cleat angle injury and then blame the guy who told you to do so on the website … ). Common sense …

Anyway – disclaimers aside – as far as you cleats are concerned, the angle that you mount you cleat on your shoe at determines how much you have to twist your foot to get it to disengage from the pedal. Play around with different angles and see what works for you. I prefer an angle that gets me out pretty quick, with a minimal twist. The fore and aft of the cleat on the shoe is also adjustable. There’s a standard formula for this if you’re riding on the road or maybe long XC rides or endurance races. This may become very important in these type of events in order to prevent injury because of the extended time in the saddle and high amounts of pedal reps. With more technical riding this becomes less of an issue because riders are moving around a lot more on their bicycles (not remaining in the same position and pedaling over extended periods of time). I’ve known some of the top DH’ers in the world to actually cut sections out of their shoes so they can move the cleat farther back (toward the heal) in order to be able to absorb the larger impacts with more of a squat (weight-lifting squat) as opposed to having to use more ankle. I was a little skeptical of this, however, when I jacked up my ankle pretty bad earlier this year, this cleat placement (way back) was the only way I could ride the bike (and teach camps!)

Once you find your preferred cleat position, LOCK-TITE your cleat bolts (use BLUE lock-tite, medium strength. DON’T use red, high strength, or you’ll never get the bolt off, ever again!). As you can imagine, a loose and twisting cleat – making it impossible to disengage from the pedal – at the wrong time could spell disaster! Also, keep an extra cleat bolt in your Camelback … you never know …

A couple more things: trimming the rubber or plastic on the bottom of your shoe with a carpenters knife (or whatever) is a great way to get more clearance for the cleat and easier entry and exit from the clip. This will also minimize the chances of debris collecting next to the cleat and the sole of the shoe.

And, stay away from the “clipless on one side and flat on the other side” pedals unless they live on your commuter or bar-bike. Fumbling around on the trail for the correct side of the pedal to clip into is inefficient and dangerous … so is riding the clip side with regular (non-clip) shoes. One or the other please – you won’t see any tops riders riding these pedals!!!

Happy pedaling!

Updates from BetterRide students w/photos!

First two emails from a students with some great photos and then some updates from all over the world!

Gene,

Here’s a couple of pictures that I mentioned I would send from Joe and my trip to Moab two weeks after our Palo Alto camp.  The first one, hopefully, is demonstrating the uphill body position, and the second one shows me looking way ahead.

Cymantha centered on her bike and looking ahead!

And here’s a link to a short video that was taken on the Sovereign Trail.  Notice how I do a little pedal wheelie on the second rise of the rock!
http://youtu.be/lHFPQ7pKuvc

Thanks again for the camp.  I recently road a local trail in Auburn that I
hadn’t yet ridden since the camp and I rode the downhill sections faster and
in more control than ever!  Pretty cool.

Cymantha Fredrickson

 

Hey Gene,
Saw the pic you posted from NJ. Looks like a great turn out. Matt and I finished 24 hours in the canyon at Amarillo TX. Yesterday  We won first place in the 2 man 24 hr Category. I think we finished out with 21 laps.  My ride went well need more time with night riding. That 3am lap was tough to get started. It was a blast met some great guys from Austin. Next race in two weeks in the Enchanted Forest near Gallup. Never been out there but the guys from bike works say it’s great riding. Talk with you later take care. Rick  (Rick is 6’8″ and just started mtbing this winter! He decided to master the basics first my taking 4 camps this winter and it seems to be paying off as he now rides many sections of trails much more experienced riders can’t and he is winning races against much more experienced riders (and being 6’8″ and over 240lbs he isn’t winning on fitness alone!)

Mitch Ropelato won the US Open GS, earned 11th in the downhill and then went to the World Cup in Scotland and took 47th in the DH! Not bad for a 19 year old!

At the same races Pan American Champion Jackie Harmony took 3rd in the GS and 4th in the Downhill!

Meanwhile at the Chile Challenge in Angelfire, NM BetterRides also did quite well.

Gene,

Just thought I would let you know I won my Cat 2 age group at the Angel Fire XC today.  Half the course was downhill and I am sure that your instruction last week helped get me down the mountain in first place . . . I kept saying “look” to myself to remember to look through the corners.

thanks for the help.

Philip Hantel

In the Downhill, BetterRiders were all over the top 20! Joey Schusler took 3rd, Brian Buell was 5th, Trevor Trinkino was 7th, Naish Ulmer 9th, Andy Proctor 14th, Jon Widen 16th and Sam Stevens 17th

Congratulations to all the Betteriders out there exceeding their goals!

BetterRide MTB Skills Coaches Earning High Praise from Students

It really feels great when students thank me for creating the BetterRide skills progression and training great coaches to teach our curriculum. When expanding to more coaches  leading camps I was really concerned about keeping the high standard that has made our camps so sought after. This has meant slower growth than many students would of liked (we can’t always meet the demand for camps in their area) but it has paid off with our certified coaches getting enough training (in our camps and then our certification school) and experience (assisting me and Andy) to become confident, inspirational coaches.  Here are a few of many recent emails:

Hello Gene,
I wanted to personally tell you what a great job Andy did with me and the rest of the group.  We all came in as experienced riders that knew we still had much to learn and your teaching methods along with Andy’s top notch  demonstration and presentation skills open us up to what we really can achieve.
The real key for me was how  very inspirational Andy is!  For someone with that much humble talent to be able to teach at such a high level with passion really brought the camp’s and my goals together for me and my fellow riders!  I will be practicing (hopefully) with some of that same exuberance to continue to improve my skills.  It was the best money I have ever spent on biking!
Hope to see you gents soon and good luck in spreading the BetterRide Word!  You and Andy really make a great Team!
Best regards,

Ken Gauthier, May 16, 2011

Hi Gabe (Gabe is BetterRide’s Operations Director),

I had a great experience at the Camp this past weekend with Dylan and my fellow students.  Your curriculum made some problem areas that I’ve always struggled with (e.g. cornering) seem much less confusing/intimidating.  I now feel like I have the tools (i.e. the drills Dylan taught us) to go out and work on my weaker skills in a structured and safe way as opposed to just “riding it” and hoping for the best.

Dylan was a great teacher, he made sure everyone felt comfortable and explained the concepts in a sensible, friendly manner.  Could I get his email address for any follow-up questions I have about the class and topics we covered?

I also look forward to receiving any follow-up materials or tips to remember that you send to participants after the class.

Thanks Gabe.

Alan Ting May 23, 2011

Gene,

The Bend two day camp this weekend exceeded my expectations.  We had a group with a very wide range of ability and riding experience.  Jeff was perfectly patient and framed the information in language that we could all understand.
The techniques we learned truly were counter intuitive and many of them would have taken me years to figure out on my own if I ever discovered them at all.
Once again, thank you for offering the clinic and give my regards to Jeff.

Terry Keele May 23, 2011

Terry riping some Bend, OR Singletrack