It’s All About the Balance
Some cool stuff going on, right here…
Maga (in the video below) is a previous student who was the classic example of an animal on the road bike and smooth XC stuff, but, fairly new to mountain bikes, she was very timid anytime the trail got even the least bit technical. One of her biggest problems was that she didn’t have the ability to ride the bike slowly and retain balance, even on smooth flat surfaces (this is common to most riders). Anytime things got a little dicey and technical, she instantly put a foot down.
Here she is practicing one of the drills we do in camps (on her town bike on her lunch break–love it!).
This is one of many drills that I show riders to help improve balance on the bike. But it’s also a great drill to help a rider get an awareness of where the rear wheel is at in regards to the trail’s surface. For beginners, understanding where the rear will track, exactly when it will contact an obstacle, etc., becomes very important when the terrain gets tough. For advanced riders, knowing exactly when they may need to lift the rear wheel; where it’s at when manipulating it from side to side; when, and at point, it will leave the ground; become critical–one of the the best ways to land under control is to leave the ground under control, and if you’re not sure how your rear wheel will be affected when it leaves the ground, sooner or later bad things are gonna happen…
Wanna Get Good? Learn to Go Slow
Being able to ride slowly, with confidence, and under control, is one of the most important mountain bike skills. Especially for advanced riders in gnarly terrain: Look at the photo below.
In order to ride this drop, it is crucial that the rider enter it very under control, very slowly, and that means–literally– the speed of a controlled track stand (literally a controlled stop, with both feet on the pedals).
If you can’t do this in the parking lot, you won’t be able to do it on the side of a cliff.
Sorry, Ain’t No Switchback Magic
The same can be said for switchbacks. I get emails at least once a week where dudes state (it’s always dudes) that they are “very good riders” so they don’t need a full camp, but they just want to skip to “swichbacks and riding steep stuff…maybe some jumping…you know, just the advanced stuff…”
Sorry, Bud. The reason you’re having problems with the “advanced stuff” is cause you don’t have the basics down very well at all. Almost without fail, these riders aren’t even aware of what the mandatory basics even are…
I use a ton of drills and exercises in the camps to show riders how to work on, and improve, their balance on the bike. These aren’t only for beginner riders. Think of where high level training is these days: it’s all about proper movements, core stability, BALANCE, etc… The same muscle movements, position, weight placement, etc., that a beginner needs just to feel comfortable in order to ride slowly without having to put a foot down are the same movements (if not the foundation and base) the high level riders need to to use in the nasty stuff. It’s all about the human body working optimally on a bicycle… And, I don’t care how “good” you are; there is always room for improvement.
Sign up for a DirtSmart MTB Skills camp. Stay outta the hospital! Get fast!