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Mountain Bike Rides that Feel Fast but are Actually Slow!

If it looks fast or feels fast it is probably slow! How to go faster while riding safer and more efficiently.

Ever have that descent on your mountain bike where you felt like you were flat hauling?! At the bottom you were thinking (or telling a riding buddy), “wow, I nearly hit two trees, a big rock and that huge stump! I was flying!”. Believe it or not, despite feeling like you were right on the edge of your skill limits that was probably not near as fast as you could ride that descent (with your current skill).

I first stumbled upon this phenomenon as a snowboard racer. I had a super fast training run and asked my coach, “Nick did you see that run? What was my time, that was my fastest run yet!” Nick replied, “that was 30.2, your fastest run so far was a 29.1!” I was shocked and thought Nick was lying and trying make me mad to motivate me to go faster. A few runs later I had what felt like a technically perfect run but it felt kind of slow. “Nick, did you see that run? My hips, knees, and shoulders were perfect! I know it was slow but did you see my form?!” Nick’s reply, “slow?! That was a 28.3, you fastest run yet!”. I was really confused and didn’t really understand why the run that felt fast was slow and the run that felt slow was fast. It wasn’t until about 10 years later as mountain bike racer that I figured it out. It all had to do with vision and technique.

With good technique and looking as far ahead as you should riding will feel slow as you stay in you comfort zone and have plenty of time to pro-act to the trail. With poor technique and not looking far enough ahead you have to quickly react to the trail. This does a couple of things to you. First, it feels fast as heck as you are making one neck saving move after another (and probably pin-balling all over the trail, not exactly taking the most efficient line) all these reactions cause the body to go into the fight or flight mode which jacks up your adrenaline and tenses you up. This combined with not looking far enough ahead makes it feel like you are flying when in reality you are not going as fast you could be and not taking good lines down the trail. Ever look down at the dashed white lines when you are doing 75 miles an hour in your car? It feels like you are going 200! Then look up at a mountain a few miles away, it feels like you are crawling. Well the same thing happens on the trail! If you look at rock four feet in front on you, you are going to be there (at the rock) in a fraction of a second, if you see the rock when it is twenty-forty feet in front of you you have plenty of time to go around the rock and you stay calm and relaxed.

So, learn to look much further ahead down that trail! This will make riding much more fun, faster and safer!

This video reminded me of that. Notice how tense you get when the helmet cam is pointed down (you don’t know what the trail is going to do next) and how you almost breathe a sigh of relief when the rider looks further down the trail (and you know what the trail is going to throw at him).

 

 

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/

Mountain Bike Handlebars that Hurt Your Bike Handling!

Your handlebars greatly effect the feel of your bike and how your bike handles. Sometimes bars that are comfortable for long rides aren’t the best for bike handling.

Mountain Bike Handlebars with a lot of back sweep (back sweep is how the handlebars point slightly back towards you, all mtb handlebars have some back sweep but most are between 3 and 9 degrees, these bars are 11 to 37 degrees) hurt your bike handling! I dislike them and they don’t like you! I have seen these handle bars recently on a few students bikes and they are scary and dangerous. I suppose if you have a nagging wrist injury or ride for more than 8 hours at a time they may be comfortable (but they are uncomfortable for me as my wrists have to twist outward to hold them) but comfort at the cost of greatly reduced control and risk of injury?! That doesn’t sound like a good trade off.

Top to bottom: Origin8 Space Off Road II (37 degree bend), Salsa Bend 2 (23degree), Surly (by Nitto) 1×1 Torsion Bar(15 degree bend).

 

I got this photo from an interesting blog focused on bike as transportation and adventure (bike packing and long distance rides) check it out if you are into long rides:

http://www.pushingthepedals.com/2012/01/all-about-the-bend/ he likes the bars and for his purpose they are probably fine, he will be a little more twitchy but if they make him more comfortable that might make long rides more fun.

Have your ever ridden an old 3 speed with bars that bend straight back towards you? They are very twitchy. These new bars are similar. The more back sweep a bar has the more it moves your elbows in, towards your body. This puts you in an nonathletic position (elbows in) where you can not resist side to side bar movement nor can you move quickly or efficiently. This means when you hit a bump that causes the front wheel to swerve (which happens probably once a minute on a mountain bike) the input from the bars will be transferred to your body causing you to swerve. With a more straight bar and arms out from your side more you would; A. be able to resist the bars swerving and B. the movement of your arms would not be transferred to your body so the bump would not cause you to swerve. It is also hard to absorb shock and contour to the terrain as well with elbows in. So if your bike came with these bars switch them out asap! If you were thinking these type bars might be an upgrade, they are not! As we have stated before, look for a wide bar, 720mm to 810mm and a short stem, 30-70mm long and you will have much more control (assuming you understand and ride in proper body position).

Create you most in control ride yet!