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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 Bikes = Passion, Adventure and Challenge!

Here’s to the passionate ones! Those of you like Jackie and Dante Harmony who gladly live out of a van and occasional hotel room for half the year so you can challenge yourself and chase your dreams of World Cup glory. Whether you are a surfer chasing good swells around the world, a snowboarder living on ramen noodles and caffeine as you chase your dream of making the US Team, a climber living down by the river in your Subaru wagon so you can wake up and scale a tougher wall or a parent (also a lawyer/ and volunteer soccer coach) who still sleeps in a tent on non-soccer weekends so you can ride one more day in Moab you are a friend of mine.

 

Challenge, like crossing a raging creek in January!

As I agonize over which house to buy in Tempe (the really cool little zen like house that is going to stretch my budget or the nice but boring house that is a great deal) I have to laugh at all the energy, time and stress I am spending worrying about something that really doesn’t matter! My house doesn’t bring me joy nor does it define me, it is simply a place to rest, recover, store my stuff (that is a whole ‘nother rant) and prepare for my next adventure in. I grew up in a 1,200 square foot house with only 1.5 baths! While four people using the same shower every morning was a struggle we managed to get by just fine. Of the thousands of great memories I have from growing up none of them were limited by that house and none could have been enhanced if we had grown up in a 7,000 square foot custom home (although skateboarding through a 7,000 sqf home at 12 would have been fun!).

 

A whole crew of dirt bags riding the best trail in Moab

Life is so much better with passion and challenge than simply trying to get by. We (mountain bikers) are fortunate to have found something that we love so much that we will give up the “necessities” that so many people can’t do without to chase our passion. Next to spending quality time with my family and loved ones the happiest, most rewarding and most fun times of my life have been spent out there, often on the edge, not in front of a TV set.

A big thank you to all the dirt bag* mountain bikers, skiers, snowboarders, surfers, river rats, skaters and climbers that I have met along the way! It is easy to get caught up in our culture of more, bigger, better, NOW when it is constantly in your face. Thankfully, when my priorities get a little askew, it seems like there is always a soul brother or sister there to remind me that life isn’t about “things”. For those I have met along the way thanks for living the dream and helping me keep perspective.

In short, go for a ride, or hike, or climb, get out and enjoy yourself. Spend less time worrying and more time living!

*”Dirt Bag” is an affectionate term used by my friends

What a weekend for BetterRide MTB Students!

What a rewarding weekend! While I was busy coaching a downhill camp (with a healthy mix of pro racers, Cat 1 racers and advanced beginners) I received three emails from stoked students conquering their on trail nemesis’s and BetterRide athletes made to xc race podiums!

Sarah Kaufman on her way to 2nd place!

Congratulations to these BetterRiders on sweeping the pro women’s podium! In 3rd Erica Knight Tingey, in 2nd Sarah Kaufmann, on top of the box Lynda Wallenfels! Interesting that they finished in the order that they have taken skills camps with me! Could be a fluke but seems to show what many books on learning are pointing out, more deliberate practice equals better skill. Check out this article on the race: Desert Rampage, St. George, UT, http://www.mtbracenews.com/view_article.jsp?id=251

Also on the podium was Darren Casden Taking 3rd Place at the Black Mountain Winter Series Final and taking home 1st place overall in the series.

One of the great emails from a student:

Gene,

Wanted to thank you for all of you time an patience this last week in Phoenix, I do appreciate all of your effort. I really did not expect to be e-mailing you so soon about some of the skills that I apparently acquired in Phoenix, but I am. Had a chance to go out on a ride yesterday, not with the intent of testing the skills but to enjoy a ride. I quickly found myself reflecting back on the weekend and began working on looking ahead. I quickly realized that much of the trail that I was riding, very narrow single track and notorious for loosing momentum when you get off of trail was much smoother that I have ever remembered, occasionally when my eyes drifted back to where I was at and now where I was going I would like old, get off track. Within a very short period after starting my ride it was obvious that focusing on looking ahead and using the vision techniques you taught us to do the up close steering was working. In addition to looking ahead, there are a couple of difficult and loose uphill switchbacks that often cause me to dab. Remembering back on the Sunday drills, I focused on not getting impatient and watching my body position and balance and again, probably one of the smoothest runs on the switchbacks I have ever had. I also had the opportunity to work on the various wheelies and bump jumps and like the other techniques felt that they were enhancing my riding. I plan on going back out again today to work on more of the same.

Stay safe, and keep riding….

Jerry

That was from his first ride after the camp! He hadn’t even start to do the drills (that will commit these skills to his subconscious) yet. Wait to all the skills he learned in his camp are ingrained through drills and they just “happen” without thought to them!