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MTB, What I Have Learned from Working with Greg Minnaar That Can Help You, Part 1

MTB, What I Have Learned from Working with Greg Minnaar That Can Help You

I have been fortunate to do a number of skills camps with three time World Champion Greg Minnaar over the last 12 years and I have learned a lot from him. You can benefit greatly by doing some of the things he does and by not doing some of the things he does.

What? Not do what Greg does. Isn’t he arguably the best rider in the World? Yes, and you are not the best rider in the world so what works for Greg might work for you because he has way more skill than you do! In the following example, do what Greg does!

Lesson 1: Body Position and Cornering

One thing I have always stressed in my camps is being in balance. Greg really doubled down on this point in my camps and this really showed in this camp! I was explaining to the students that if you normally ride clipped in it is a good idea to also practice with flat pedals. Flat pedals let you know when you aren’t being smooth and force you to bump jump and bunny hop correctly. (Greg agrees with this)

Then I said, “it is also good to be confident riding flat pedals for when it is muddy” and Greg, said emphatically, “NO, even if I am using flat pedals for a race, if it gets muddy I always switch to clips.”

He went on to explain that when riding flat pedals in the mud he has the urge to put his foot down and “whenever you put your foot down you are out of position”. In other words, you are not doing what Greg and I teach, being centered over the bottom bracket. See Greg in great form below.

Notice how his hips are above his bike. Bike leaned to the left, body not leaned near as much keeping his center of mass (think belly button) over his bb and weight on the tires! Look how far ahead he looking too, this is cornering done really well!

When putting your foot down, your weight goes from above your bike to “below” your bike, taking the weight off your tires, causing you to slide towards the unweighted side. See a rare photo of Greg in terrible form below.

MTB, What I learned from Greg Minnaar

I have never seen Greg this out of position, in addition to being leaned in with his foot out he is looking down too! Even the best aren’t perfect!

A great example of this is Danny Hart’s world championship winning run in 2011. Watch the video below even though Danny is riding flat pedals he is cornering like he is clipped in  (both feet on the pedals, dropping his outside foot (to put more weight on his tires) and keeping his center of mass over his bb). In one little corner, he takes his inside foot off and puts it down. Then his rear wheel slides out and he nearly throws away that amazing run!

Watch at 1:11 into this video as Danny almost throws away a World Championship by leaning into one corner!

Long story short, don’t put your foot down in corners! Learn to keep your center of mass (think bellybutton or crack of your butt) over your bb while riding to stay in balance!). Sure, when you make a mistake and are leaned in, but your foot down but, remember that you were out of position which caused your foot to go down.

Another great example of this is Aaron Gwin’s winning run at Mont Sainte Anne last year. He rides it like it is dry!

Yes, I know Sam Hill put his foot down a lot in the last EWS. You aren’t Sam Hill, he is an exception to the rule. Sam rolls the dice a lot while cornering. As a matter of fact, he did throw away a world championship in 2008 by leaning in and sliding out in the last corner (see video below at 2:39 into the video he leans in starts to slide out) he still just missed winning by .53 of a second!

Sam Hill crashing while way up at the World Championships in 2008

Watch Minnaar, Hart, and Gwin in the mud, they ride like it is dry! You should too if you want to stay upright! Stay in balance and above your bike!

I hope this has helped you understand this vital part of body position. Feel free to comment or ask any questions below.

If you know anyone who could benefit from this feel free to share it!

Tune in next week to find out a few things Greg does and did in the past that you shouldn’t do!

 

 

MTB Rock Roll

Mountain Bike Steep Rock Rolls, Video Tutorial

Mountain Bike Steep Rolls and Rocks, Video Tutorial

Smooth equals fast and smooth equals efficient, here is how to roll down a steep face smoothly!

Riding steeps and steep rolls is perhaps the most misunderstood skill in mountain biking. The LAST thing you want to do is start with your weight way back! No matter what anyone says, this is a scary position and unsafe position. You are starting at the end of your range of motion. With your weight back will be yanked down the steep roll and likely endo.

You want to do it smoothly and in balance, as I explain in the following video. For a more detailed break down please read and check out my photo sequence breakdown below after watching the video.

Mountain biking well requires being in balance, in control and being as smooth as possible. When descending that means we always start with our weight centered on our pedals and in a neutral position where we can proact or at least react to anything the trail throws at us. For a video tutorial of this starting position please read/watch this: http://betterride.net/blog/2018/mountain-bike-body-position-the-fundamental-movement-video-tutorial/

As you approach a roll in this position you will alter your position in relation to the height of the roll in. If the roll is equal in height or taller than the length of your arms you want hinge so you are practically brushing your chest on your handlebars and your knees are bent close to your chest.

MTB Rock roll

MTB Rock Roll starting position

Then as your front wheel starts down the descent you will extend your arms at about the same rate the wheel is dropping away from you. As your rear wheel starts to descend you will straighten out your legs about the same rate as your rear wheel is descending.

MTB Rock Roll

Starting to extend arms

 

Fully Extended Arms at impact, knees bent (notice, I’m only in this position for a millisecond as my front wheel goes from steep to flat, never ride in this position! Use it then return to centered and neutral) 

Already re-centering by bending arms and starting to straighten legs

Arms bent, centered, legs nearly straight ready to absorb rear wheel impact

Back to flat as smooth as possible (looks at that rear tire, still a fair amount of impact but smooth enough not to flat with 18 psi)

Example: If the roll is the exact length of my arm extension I will start with my chest practically on the bars and finish extending my arms at almost the exact same time my front wheel is hitting the ground (same with my legs and rear wheel). On a roll the length of your arm extension or less your head and chest should not move at all as you do this. If the roll is taller than arm extension I will extend my arms a little slower than my front wheel is descending with the goal of reaching full arm extension at the same time my front wheel is hitting the ground, then do the same with my legs.

For a short roll or drop such as a curb simply stay hinged and gently push down with your arms as the front wheel drops then do the same with your legs as your rear wheel drops.

The bonus of this is that in addition to being safer and much smoother is also faster and more efficient!

Often, when it comes to being smooth and efficient we want to look at mountain biking as being a game of momentum. The better you can maintain your momentum the less effort you will need. Momentum likes slack angles, if you are coasting downhill into a steep uphill you will slow down quickly, if you coast into a mellow uphill you will maintain speed longer. The same with downhills, a steep downhill with a sudden transition to flat ground (a steep approach angle) will cause your momentum to slam into the ground, not propel you forward. A less steep downhill with a lesser approach angle will be smoother and not slow you as much as you transition from the hill to flat ground.

While in almost any body position the approach angle of our bike remains the same, we can greatly change the approach angle of our momentum. By simply starting hinged and low and extending your arms and legs as you descend your hips and upper body take a much slacker approach to the ground. This makes you smoother as you have less impact and allows you to carry more speed.

This is easy to test, find a short, steep descent or a set of stairs and roll down with weight way back, you feel a big impact when the rear wheel slams into the ground. Now repeat the same descent, starting at the same speed as before but this time get centered and low and extend your arms and legs as you go down. You will find it is much smoother (less impact) and you carry more speed after the descent.

Have you had trouble with steep rock rolls like this? Have a particularly challenging roll on your favorite trail? Tell us about it below.

Want to go up a wall like this? Check out my next 2-minute tip and breakdown!

If you know anyone who could benefit from this please feel free to share it.

 

MTB Foot Position, Video Tutorial

Mountain bike foot placement is a skill that will make you smoother and give you better balance. Check out my video below and then read my deeper break down of this important skill.

I can’t stress enough how important this is! Greg Minnaar and Aaron Gwin have their cleats mounted like mine (well, I copied them actually) for the optimum combination of power, balance, and smoothness on the bike. Please do the jumping drill and realize how bad it is to ride flat footed! Again, I like both pedal types for more on flat pedals vs. clips read this: https://wp.me/p49ApH-1ci

I took a balance class from Jim Klopman and Janet Miller (authors of a great book on balance, Balance is Power and owners of SlackBow, a balance training facility in Park City, UT) and I learned a lot (like my balance is decent but can get much. much better with practice, more on that in a future blog article) and a few things that I knew were reinforced. Both Jim and Janet really stressed that a big component of balance is being on the ball of your foot. I specifically asked if that was important on your bike’s pedals and they said something to the effect of, “if you want to be in balance it does!”

Famous motocross coach Gary Baily stresses being on the balls of your feet to be smooth on a dirt bike with 12″ of suspension travel! The jumping drill sums it up well. I have tested this on my bike many times and honestly, you lose ALL of your smoothness when you are standing on your arch. At places as rough as Bootleg Canyon or South Mountain, it makes riding downhill on rough trails nearly impossible.

Some riders tend to ride with their toes angled out a bit and others with their toes in. I think this is more about how your body is built and doesn’t affect performance.

When coasting you want the pedals relatively level and in the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock position. Often, on flat pedals, riders will drop the heel of their front foot a bit and raise the heel of their trailing foot creating a “cradle” to help keep their feet from sliding on the pedals. Of course, some good, 5.10 shoes and a good pair of flat pedals like the Canfield Brothers Crampons really help! Many, many great riders have told me that they drop their heels, other than dropping the heal on their front foot sometimes I rarely see them doing this, I think it feels that way to them (and we certainly don’t want our front heel up!)

Spend some time on mellow descents, or better yet, paved mellow descents focusing on keeping your weight on the balls of your feet! Your body, rims, and shocks will thank you!

Now, go out and practice! Let us know how this has affected your riding by posting below. Feel free to share this article with anyone you feel could benefit from it.

MTB Body Position

Mountain Bike Body Position, The Fundamental Movement Video Tutorial

Mountain Bike Body Position, The Fundamental Movement

Body position is your riding foundation, and it requires a fair amount of effort and a strong and stable “core” (your core is more than just abdominal muscles, it also includes your lower back muscles, oblique muscles, and hip flexors). Every physical part of riding starts from proper body position and it protects your body.

That brings us to the proper Hip Hinge, something I didn’t learn about until 1999 (5 years into my pro career and 10 years after purchasing my first mtb!). Whether standing and descending or sitting and climbing I have always had a habit of bending at the belly button and rounding my back. Probably the only time I didn’t round my back was when standing and climbing.

Bending at the belly button is a weak, not athletic position that causes us to ride poorly and leads to massive back pain. The Hinge is your power center, it helps you stay centered and neutral and it protects your back.

How to practice the hinge:

  • First practice off the bike, find your hip crease, push slightly back on the crease and lower your chest by hinging.
  • Shoulders back and down, belly button pulled toward your spine, back flat
  • Hold that position, feel it in your hamstrings (if you can’t hinge so your torso is parallel to the ground your hamstrings are really tight! Stretch and roll them out!), feel it in your lower back, it should feel comfortable but require effort.
  • Now, bend at your belly button and compare how that feels, probably weak and painful.
  • Notice that the further you hinge the further forward your chest and head go and the further back your hips go, this is crucial to staying centered! When you bend at the belly, not only does it strain your back and make you weak but it doesn’t automatically keep you centered either.
    mountain bike body position, video tutorial
  • Once you have practiced it and felt it off your bike, find a mellow hill, preferably off trail, on a paved section ideally (whenever you are on a trail you tend to lose focus on what you are practicing as you are now more concerned with staying on the trail!) and practice this both seated and climbing and standing and descending.
  • Focus on exaggerating all the pieces of this like I am in the video. Notice my elbows are even more forward than they need to be and my chest while climbing is much lower than it needs to be for the grade I’m climbing. Exaggeration is a great learning tool, you will usually end up halfway between your old way and the new way, so if you don’t exaggerate you will end halfway on the trail.
  • Once you feel like you have created a “circuit” for your body to follow, take this to a mellow trail and practice. Check out this post on how we learn physical skills: https://wp.me/p49ApH-19s
  • Then take it to increasingly steep hills and notice it gets harder to do as you start becoming more concerned about the trail than what you are practicing.
  • You will find that without a lot of deliberate practice the second you relax and stop thinking about this you will bend from the belly! It takes work.

Go work on this crucial body position piece and have fun.

Please feel free to post any questions are comments and share this with anyone you think could benefit from it.