With winter firmly here to make life more interesting for cyclists how should you be modifying your bike?
Step 1: Fenders
The first step is also the most obvious one. Fenders. If you’ve never heard of them you must be living in a magical world where whenever you go through a muddy puddle, it doesn’t launch itself towards you. But seriously, fenders are important for two reasons. The first is it keeps mud off your clothes and face. The second is that it keeps mud off sensitive components of your bike. Even the most sealed components can get mud inside them and that causes all sorts of havoc. If I was to add a third reason, it would be to keep mud and water out of the face of the rider behind you. However, some of you may look at that as a reason to not add fenders.
The next step is to choose which fenders you want. There are the road bike style fenders that fit around the wheel and sit close to the tire or the mountain bike style fenders that flap around graciously as you wiz around your favorite trail.
Alternatively, there are also folding fenders. For those with road bikes that refuse to take the typical fenders I can strongly recommend the Crud Roadracer.
Step 2: Winter Tires
Part of your winter bike setup should be to fit winter tires. For city riders that means something with a little more width if your bike will take it. Also, ideally you’ll look for something with puncture protection such as the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. This will save you from stopping to fix a puncture in the rain and cold.
For mountain bikers or for those who predict they’ll be cycling through the snow then studded tires are a good addition.
Step 3: Bike lights
With shorter days this is the time to have a good set of bike lights. Recently, I’ve been a big fan of USB chargeable bike lights as this saves me the hassle of remembering to buy new batteries. Not to mention the cost of buying them and how quickly it adds up. Plus, Iím sure there’s some kind of a eco-friendly angle here that satisfies your inner “eco-warrior”.
Don’t be afraid to back up your standard two lights with a light that attaches to your helmet or bag.
Step 4: Lubrication
Winter is a time of the year when more water will be hitting your sensitive bike components. Therefore, staying on top of your cleaning and lubrication routine is important. Unfortunately, I see far too many riders go wrong here. They’ll either never lubricate or go overboard. They never seem to hit the perfect middle.
You should clean your bike thoroughly and then apply a small layer of bike specific lubricant. As this is winter a wet lube is probably the best option. Leave the lubricant to sink in and then wipe away any excess. This is crucial as mud will stick to the excess lubricant and grind away at your components.
Step 5: Maintenance
With longer stopping distances on the roads, winter is a time to be on top of your bike maintenance. Either take it down to your local shop or do it yourself, but make sure your brakes are ready for anything that unpredictable conditions can throw at them.
This is a guest post by Andreas of London Cyclist Blog where he has also written about a winter bike setup in London.
Being able to manual a mountain bike is an incredible tool to have on the trail. By lifting the front tire up and rolling forward, you are able to keep momentum and speed through sections while also gaining control when done correctly. Especially on rollers and downhill technical sections, you can actually make the trail smoother, faster and safer by applying this technique.
In this video, you get to hang out with Santa Cruz Syndicate World Cup Champion Steve Peat and dirt jumper Blake Samson as they take you through how to do a manual on your mountain bike. This is part of a new series of videos by Bike Riders United. To submit suggestions for skills you want covered, head over to the Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport Facebook page.
As mountain and road bikers, we do many things very well. We find excuses why we have to ride this weekend, we find justifications for why that new high end part will improve our skills and we even use riding as an excuse to eat more food.
But…one of the things I have found that bikers typically do not do enough of is stretching and core workouts (I am really guilty of this one). Cycling in general does a great job of working out the lower half of our bodies and keeping our hearts in great shape. It generally does nothing to improve your core strength or overall muscle health in regards to flexibility. These are secondary operations of your body while you are on the bike, so while they are essential to faster, safer riding, they are not worked out appropriately to actually see improvement over time.
James from The Ultimate MTB Workout (a great program if you are looking to get stronger on the bike), put together this video that outlines stretches you should be doing every week to compliment your riding. These stretches will keep your muscles healthy, but it also targets the muscles we use the most in our riding so you will actually see gains on the trail or road when you do these regularly.
What do you need to get started? A simple, cheap foam roller and you are set. I have put these into my regular routine due to some back and hip flexor pain I have been experiencing lately and it helps.
This past weekend, I got a glaring glimpse into a life I have left behind in mountain biking.
First, let me preface this article by saying the following…this is purely my opinion based off of how I chose to live my life and ride my bike. It does not and will not apply to everyone. It also does not mean that I believe this is the only right way to do things…it just happens to be right for me at this point in my life.
The ride last weekend was a simple one. A local bike shop in one of our favorite riding areas on north Georgia (Cartecay Bikes) puts on a ride they call the Drama Queen. With two routes available (34 and 57 I believe), it pulls out all of the endurance guys in the area that do not have a race that particular weekend. This ride is not a race…but it does bring in competitive personalities that creates a painful, fast ride in the mountains.
In the past, I have stayed away from this ride…but for some reason this year…I went. From the start, I was already at a disadvantage on a 30 pound 5.5″ bike amongst all of the hard tail 29ers in the group. This was ok…it was not the first time I have been in this situation nor will it be the last and I like riding the 5.Spot in the mountains. The series of events that started as I rode brought me to a place that I would rather not go anymore. The competitive edge started to kick in…and things went downhill.
I am not willing to do what it takes to be competitive anymore.
In my riding…for me to be competitive…I have to ride angry. There is a certain point for every rider as they look to be competitive at a race level that mind has to overcome matter. Your body wants to quit, but your mind pushes forward and you are able to go past limits that before you thought were never possible. For my body, I have to take my mind to an angry competitive state to push those limits.
Here inlies my major problem…
Today, I mountain bike as a release of stress instead of an added stressor. I do not want to get on the bike and have to pedal rides that I don’t want to just for training. I do not want to ride angry just to be at the top of my endurance level. For me to take it to that extreme, I have to take my mind to a place that I am supposed to be relieving through the sport that I choose to call home.
I enjoy the group rides with friends…solo rides to clear the head…and the challenge of making myself a better rider in technical terrain. I do not enjoy finishing second or adding stress in my life to be the best. Some riders can enjoy racing for the spirit in which it is intended. My brain will not let me be happy with second which creates a situation that is always stressful and negative as there will always be someone faster.
During the ride, I found myself starting to ride angry to get my level up to where I thought other people thought I should be riding. About 10 miles in, I was completely cooking myself and more worried about my place in line than being out in the mountains on the first sub 90 degree day we have had in a long time. I was getting more pissed off with each pedal stroke. When my mind finally saw the light, I headed back in and racked up the bike. This is not why I ride anymore and it was being destructive.
I have been there. Looking back on that section of my life where I thought racing was really what I wanted to do, I was not happy riding the bike. I was always stressing my mind and body to achieve higher levels only to find that there was still another level to go. It was a loop that was very hard for me to break. Now…I find different outlets for needing that challenge through riding technical trail. It fulfills that need within my mind to constantly improve without having to go to a place that is ultimately bad for my riding…and my head.
What I Love About Mountain Biking
The #1 thing I love about mountain biking is that there is no wrong way to ride a bike. Whether you are sitting on the podium on the weekend or just starting out trying to get a handle on your local trail, you are doing the kind of riding that is right for you as long as it makes you happy. It doesn’t matter what other riders consider “the right style”. It is up to you and your interpretation to find out what right style is for you.
Like my circumstances, there are times when that is going to change over time. That is ok too. Ex-racers have found there new way of riding in recreational and causal riders have found their home in racing.
I see a lot of encouragement throughout the mountain biking culture to get people to try a specific style of mountain biking that the person calls home. While I am all about trying new things in riding, sometimes we need to realize that the specific mountain biker already has the way they like to ride, so they do not need to try (or they already have) out your way of doing things. It is ok that they do not want to enjoy mountain biking the way you do.
Variety is key to the sport and that variety is why mountain biking is growing like it is today. With more options than we could have imagined back in the 80′s and 90′s, mountain biking has come a long way in making a lot of people enjoy the outdoors and trails in their way.
The important part…make sure your riding style feeds your soul as much as it feeds your need to challenge yourself.
We are in that time of year. July and August for mountain bikers equals heat, humidity and a sun that just doesn’t want to let you get nice cold air into your lungs that generates power. It is one of the hardest times of the year for mountain bikers as we struggle to hit the trail during times of increased daylight.
In the southeast US, you can multiply this effect with a humidity that makes you feel like you need to take a shower just by stepping out your front door.
So what do we do? Just stay off the bike while mother nature attempts to completely cook us? That really isn’t an option…
8 MTB Tips To Conquer The Summer Heat
In an attempt to make the best out of the situation, we have to make some adjustments to our riding style and mountain biking habits to conquer the heat and keep the wheels rolling through July and August.
Start Riding Earlier In The Morning – Weekends are for sleeping in right? Well if you want to beat the heat in the summer, you are going to have to get up a little bit earlier to start your rides. While I wish later in the afternoon was an option, it is often not any cooler at those times of the day other than the sun is not beating down on the top of your head. By starting earlier in the morning, you can beat some of the suns warming effect and get a good ride in before it becomes unbearable.
Drink More Water Than Usual - In high humidity, you get a glaring reminder that you need to drink more from the amount of sweat you see rolling off your body while on the trail. In drier climates, it takes more of a conscious effort to remember to rehydrate more than usual. As the heat index rises, so does your body’s need for more hydration. When riding in climbing temperatures, be sure to bring extra food and water over what you would usually pack. Your body will need it. Also, drink early and often. If you get dehydrated…you are already way behind the eight ball.
Ride The Road Bike – For those of you that are pure MTB junkies, it may be time to get the skinny tire bike out for some miles. While I will always pick dirt over road when given the option, in the hotter summer months it is easier to deal with the heat when you have the constant breeze from speed. When you are tucked in behind trees or out in the wide open with not enough forward movement to cause airflow, the heat can seem much worse than it really is. By getting on the road bike and averaging a higher speed, you can use the breeze from riding the bike to help cool you down. Road riding is better than not riding at all.
Increase Warm Up and Cool Down Times - If you are going to be riding longer rides during the summer, make sure you increase your warm up and cool down times. Your body will be able to assimilate to the change in temperature easier and you won’t blow up as fast. If you hit the trail clipped in and hammering, expect your body to give up even quicker when subjected to higher temperatures.
Decrease Heart Rate and Speed - This is pretty self explanatory…decrease the intensity and you decrease the load on your body. Do you remember that feeling of the first, crisp spring day? Well…the middle of summer is the opposite. Your body is not getting as much usable oxygen, so with less air to the carburetor…you need to keep the RPM’s down.
Think About Trail Selection - There are certain trails in our area that are hot even when there is snow on the ground. As you can imagine, those are not our top pick when the heat index is 108 degrees in our area. Proper trail selection can mean everything in really hot weather riding. You need to pick mountain biking trails that you know are not as brutal as others.
Take Advantage of Weather Fronts - After a nice summer thunderstorm moves through, the pressure drops and so does the humidity and heat. The two days following these storms are probably your best riding days with the better conditions and tacky soil. You have to be sure to take advantage of these when you can.
Plan Your MTB Clothing - Just as you plan your clothing before you head out for an afternoon that isn’t riding, you have to plan your clothing accordingly on the bike. By including items like sleeveless jerseys, lighter shorts and more vented, lighter helmets, you can do a lot to shed heat from your body on the ride.
Even when it is so muggy outside that you don’t even want to take the trash out, it is still possible to get out and ride. You just have to keep several things in mind as you hit the trail so the ride doesn’t turn into a diaster.
Are there any other tips you use to beat the dead heat of summer?
Awhile back, I wrote about not coming back too soon from injury or sickness. Making sure you are fulling recovered is essential to not making things a lot worse on your mind and body as it relates to your personal life and life on the trail.
But what about when you are all healed up and ready to get back out there?
That first ride back is tough. The amount of fitness you are used to your body producing is now gone. What you are left with is a shell of what you used to be as you struggle to claw and scratch your way back to your former glory. For every rider, this bar that has to be reached is different…but the process is the same struggle as you try to recoup the time lost spinning the cranks.
Getting Over The Fitness Hump
I wish I had some great insider secret that I could give that drastically reduced the pain and effort required to get back to that fitness level you are trying to achieve, but the reality is that there is no magic pill.
Coming off of my last sickness, I have been dealing with 2 months of being sick and not feeling good on the bike. This past holiday weekend, I decided to bite the bullet and get myself back to where I once was. I knew it was going to hurt…I knew I wasn’t going to like it…but I also knew if I didn’t do it I would keep on getting frustrated on the bike.
So what do you have to do?
You have to force yourself to be in pain a little bit.
This past weekend was planned with two rides. A long death march in the mountains on dirt Saturday (the group planned 30 miles) and then a 4th of July road ride we do every year the following Monday (a fast 52 mile route with some serious motors). Saturday was my day…the day I was going to finally get past the fitness hump that I have been battling ever since the sickness left my lungs.
The trick is simple. You have to take yourself to the point that your body wants to quit…and keep on riding.
The section of trail we hit is split into 3 sections (Pinhoti’s in north Georgia). After section 2, I could already tell the at my fitness level was starting to deteriorate. Section 3 is known for zapping the fitness straight out of fit riders, so it was going to be a struggle at best. Half way through, my body hit that limit. No cramps…no pain…just no power.
Instead of turning back and calling it a day, I pushed on. By focusing on pedal strokes and trying to keep things slow and smooth, I was able to keep the bike rolling forward through the mountains without too much un-comfort. This was slower than usual…but it was still moving and not giving up. While trying to keep my mental health in check (you know…that voice that says, “what the hell are you doing?!”), I tackled each 50 foot section of trail at a time and made sure I was managing water and nutrition correctly.
By the end of the 20 mile ride in the mountains, I was completely cooked, out of water and back at the car. It took much longer than it has in the past, but I was roughly 5 miles longer than my body really wanted to go without too much trouble. The soft spinning, power management and food intake worked even if I felt like I was moving at a rate that even trailside turtles could pass me.
So what happened on Monday after my slow but steady push on Saturday?
Power and endurance.
Monday felt incredible for the first time in months. The power was back in my legs, my lungs were using the oxygen provided and finally I felt like my old self (prior to getting sick) on the bike. The ride on Saturday combined with a day off in between brought my body back to where I am used to riding.
I don’t know why it works…It just does…
We all go through this at some point in time in our riding. It could be sickness, injury or just life getting in the way, but that period of time on the bike takes a little bit out of our fitness. Sometimes it is a lot…and other times it is a quick, small amount. I don’t have the specific reasons why pushing yourself slightly past the breaking point works, but…in my experience over the years…it just does.
If you are struggling to get back to a fitness level that you are used to and you are starting to get extremely frustrated, pick one ride and get it done. You will be surprised at the results. Just remember…don’t get on too early. Make sure you are physically ready before turning on mind over matter.
This past weekend, I did something that I have not done in a long time…brought out the rigid 29er single speed to the mountains.
Let me preface this by saying, I love suspension. The more the better. What modern day suspension designs have done for the sport of mountain biking is amazing. We are able to ride terrain with speed and control that just wasn’t possible in the early years. Fast, technical riding has been brought to a larger audience and this means more technical, fast trails for the rest of us as efficient suspension designs bring this riding to the mass market.
However, there is one glaring negative to suspension that no one thinks about…
Modern day dual suspension designs make you incredibly lazy and hide your mistakes amongst the travel. It’s true. How many times have you thought to yourself, “holy crap my bike pulled me out of that one”? Over time, you become completely reliant on the suspension of the bike completely forgetting about your most important suspension component…your body.
Your arms and legs are the most important suspension component in mountain biking that you could ever tune. With the built in crutch of increased travel on more climbable suspension mountain bikes, riders today are forgetting that all of their control, skill and ability to become a better mountain biker is actually controlled in their arms and legs…not the bike.
Back in the day, that is the only suspension we had anyway! Before the widespread adoption of suspension forks (and even a little while afterwards as the first runs didn’t work that well. The elastomers in my RockShox Quadra 21R didn’t even move in temps below about 50 degrees), riding a rigid mountain bike was our only option. If you wanted to ride technical, rocky, rooty terrain, you had to figure out how to get your body to soak up the hits to maintain speed…not just plow and go.
Ah…the golden days of getting beat to crap on a daily basis. So why would we want to sign up for that abuse again?!
Why you need to ride rigid every now and then…
So why do I think you need to get off the squish and onto a suspension-less rig from time to time? Let’s get into some bullet points on how riding a rigid mountain bike can help your riding.
No room for error – When I get back on the rigid bike after weeks of riding suspension, it is painfully obvious how lazy and sloppy I have gotten on the bike. The full suspension mountain bike covers up a lot of mistakes while you ride. I am a firm believer in increasing skill level and challenging yourself to become a better mountain biker, and when you get on a rigid mountain bike…you quickly realize the mistakes you have been making. There is no suspension to suck it up…you get instant feedback and have to make adjustments on the fly. When you get back on the suspension bike…you are much faster and smoother just from the experience
It makes old trails new – Are you getting bored of hitting your same local trail day in and day out? Sure you are…even the best local trail systems start to get boring after you already know where every single rock is placed. By jumping on a rigid bike, you are able to change the entire dynamic of the trail to the point it almost feels like something new!
Variety is a good thing – There is no “best mountain bike”. I will ride anything from 10 inches of suspension travel all the way to a rigid bike because there is more than one way to enjoy the sport. The more variety you bring to your riding, the better rider you will be in the long run and the more people you will meet. Do not limit yourself to one way of riding.
It is super cheap to get into – A steel 29er single speed rigid mountain bike is CHEAP (in mountain biking terms)! If you are looking to expand your quiver and need to do it on a budget, your second ride should be a steel SS (if you are really tight on budget) or geared mountain bike. You can find brand new examples for at a max of around 600 bucks…and many of those have front suspension if you really want it.
It is a challenge – When you strip away the gears and suspension, “easy” trails are made harder. By increasing the difficulty of the trail, you increase your abilities.
You learn how to use your most important suspension component correctly – If you have only ridden dual suspension bikes, you are not using your arms and legs correctly while riding. By going rigid, you will be forced to use the most important element of you body correctly…including weight distribution…and this will make you much faster and more controlled when you go back to riding suspension. Your technical abilities on any bike will increase dramatically.
My rigid SS 29er is my litmus test on how I am doing in my riding. If I get on the bike and feel like I have two left feet and 2 inch arms, I know I have let the suspension on my other bikes do too much of the work, so it was time for a refresher course. After putting in the miles on rocky terrain on the rigid bike, I am able to take the couch out for some of the fastest runs that are controlled that I can remember.
Open your possibilities and start becoming a better mountain biker by bringing mountain biking back to its routes…steel rigid…
There are certain things that you should just never do at any trailhead…especially your local one. In case you haven’t thought of some of these before…I have compiled my top 10 list. Any others that you think should be added? Hit up the comment section below and let us know.
Shake the hand of someone coming out of a porta potty that isn’t wearing gloves - This should be self explanatory.
Show off your skills – You are going to wreck…it is going to be in front of everyone and you will be the butt of all jokes until it happens to someone else.
Drive really fast through the parking lot – You look like a jackass and it if is gravel…you just leave behind a huge cloud. People will hate you.
Spend more time in the parking lot than on the trail – People notice…you are there to ride…not “be seen”.
Forget that your helmet is on top of your car (or any other biking accessory) - We have all done it. Drive off to find out your favorite shorts are now somewhere down the road.
Leave the trailhead without knowing exactly where your keys are – I once locked my keys in the truck at Dupont National Forest. There is no cell reception for 15 miles. That was a long day.
Leave your rack down while you are riding – I am just as guilty of this as the next guy, but you are asking someone to run into it if you leave it down.
Leave valuables in plain sight – Remote areas with expensive equipment can attract the wrong crowd. Keep your stuff locked up and away from thieving eyes.
Ride out like a bat out of hell – No one is impressed and you are just going to blow yourself up. When everyone that was watching passes you…you’ll feel like a jackass.
I was talking with some riding friends the other day about past biking experiences and what we “thought we knew” when we first started riding.
Like most mountain bikers, we did things like drool over rear derailleurs while forgetting about the rest of the bike, struggled to find the bike and riding style that fit us the best and had the “holy crap…I found the best thing ever!” look on our faces. Some things…like the holy crap look…never really go away, but over time…you start to realize what really matters in riding…the ride and the people.
As we get obsessed with parts and finding that perfect section of trail that keeps us begging for more, I think we sometimes forget about our old naive selves. You know, that guy that needed some suggestions, a helping hand and a friendly voice to get shown the ropes. No one ever jumps into the mountain biking scene knowing everything or knowing how to ride technical trail with ease. We all started somewhere.
A Disheartening Truth In Mountain Biking
I have a lot of frustration with mountain bikers who seem to forget that they were once in the shoes of the riders they try to ridicule. Luckily, in the mountain biking community I find these types of riders to be a smaller percentage than in others, but it is still prevalent at the local trail head.
You see riders that look down on others for not having as nice of a bike or ones that can’t ride as well or as fast as they can. In my opinion, that is sad. Instead, they should be helping instead of sitting on their high horse forgetting they are not the best thing in the world and there was a time they were in the same shoes.
If we want the sport to grow and attract more riders, leading by example is the only way to fly.
A Call To All Mountain Bikers
As a call to all mountain bikers, I challenge you to help a beginning rider out. Be the friendly face that takes the time to lend some knowledge much like those that did it before you.
Maybe…you are reading this and thinking “I am that beginning rider you are talking about”…and you can ride knowing that every rider has been exactly where you have been at some point in time. No rider is immune from the beginning ups and downs. Mountain biking is as much about community as it is riding, so find a group of riders that ride how you want to ride and introduce yourself.
In a community that was brought together in the early days as being the outsiders, we have now found a way to discriminate against ourselves. It is time to not worry about wheel size, riding ability or what kind of trails you prefer. It is time to come together as a community and realize that we all just like to put treat to dirt.
By appreciating the diversity and realizing that everyone has different abilities and preferences, we can continue to stretch the sport to new levels. The more we pay it forward…the more we will get in return.
Killer Photo Above by keithpyt <— Check out the rest of his work
This past weekend was a brutal one. With multiple weeks in succession of being out of town, I was itching for a ride in the worst way so there wasn’t anything that was going to keep me off the bike on Saturday and Sunday if I could help it. Sometimes you just need rides and this weekend was one of those weekends. This sequence of stories from the weekend does have a point as you will see by the wrap-up at the bottom so bear through my pain as we take something valuable out of this adventure!
The Blistering Cold Road Ride In The Rain
Saturday started off with a road ride with a couple of friends. While we knew the temps were going to be down in the 30′s, what we were not expecting was the rain that we woke up to. I swear one of these days I am just going to quit this whole online thing and become a weatherman because all they have to do is guess, be wrong and get paid really well for it. I had already laid out my riding clothes the evening before so I knew as long as I got my gear together, on and took a few pedal strokes, I would be on the bike at least so there was no turning back. I was right and started off down the road with cars kicking up 30 degree dirty water in my face. It was awesome.
Four of us headed out and got in about 45 miles before the rain and cold started to create that numb pain that you can only get on a bike. Ever get that feeling that you need to sit and defrost in your living room because a hot shower would just hurt too much? That was my experience on Saturday and after 20 minutes of sitting in dry clothes petting the dogs…I cleaned up and took stock of what we just accomplished. It is not everyday that you suit up for a rain ride for 45 miles in temps in the 30′s. That was a new one for me and it stretched my abilities even though the ride wasn’t that long. Conditions just take a toll after awhile…
The Mountain Bike Ride That Caused Me To See Things
To keep with the insanity for the weekend, another group of 4 of us decided it was a good idea to hit 30 miles of some of the hardest trail in Georgia on Sunday. Thinking it would be a good idea to put in a later start time with the hope that the temperature would rise some, we opted for 10am. We were wrong about the temperatures but that was probably a good thing as the ground was frozen instead of muddy. With about 50 layers of riding clothes on, we headed up the first climb ready (so we thought) for what was in store.
The trail of the day was Snake Creek. Known for its rock gardens, this trail is a ridge ride full of steep up and downs within some of the rockiest trail in Georgia. On tap for the day was an out and back on the hardest 15 miles of the trail. After picking our way through the first 15 miles of the day, we arrived to the radio towers half frozen when the reality of the situation set in (for me at least)…we are only 1/2 way through the day and we are already 2:45 in. It’s ok though…I had to go find my ego somewhere around mile 12 anyway. I dropped it.
Luckily, gravity played more of a roll coming back and many of the rock gardens that we had to climb got the added benefit of momentum on the way down which made the more technical side (the first miles coming back) a blast to run through for those of us that are really into technical riding. After we got past the wall that we had to climb walk up the last time through, there were several more sections of hike-a-bike that I remembered blasting down and thinking…this is going to be hell coming back. I was right and the calves started burning like crazy as we pushed bikes up some crazy terrain. On the second section of pushing, the wall hit and my fitness was spent. Since I had been on the road for several weeks traveling, my body was just not ready for two days of grueling pain. However, it was time to sack up and finish the ride because the only other option was laying on the side of the trail dead.
The earphones went in and I let the loud hard rock blaring into my ears help with the pedal strokes until finally we were at the last downhill of the day. Ironically, this is the same downhill that I had voiced I needed to be in front for the finish. I couldn’t find my ego…and it was time to take my place at the back as my vision was now getting blurry and my arms were so tired that it was going to take everything in me not to wreck…much less lead the charge down the hill. We finished up the ride with zero mechanicals and all body parts in place…and it was still sub 40 degrees outside.
Pushing The Limits Of What You Consider Normal
For many riders, the weekend I had could have been just another weekend on the road and out in the woods. For others…it could be almost unimaginable to put in over 70 miles in terrible conditions. Every rider has a baseline they work off of and that is what they consider normal riding.
In the metro Atlanta area, we hear a lot of complaining about trails being too hard…there being too many rocks…or just complaining about the conditions and not being able to ride. This past weekend, I took my baseline of what I considered normal and raised it a bit to increase my skills and ability to ride a bike. Did I increase my technical ability? Probably not…but I did increase my fitness and threshold for weather conditions. There will be other rides on other trails that test my riding abilities and each time I extend those (safely hopefully) I increase what I consider normal on the bike.
I do not believe that mountain biking, road biking or even urban biking should be as easy as riding a bike.
I do believe that trails should be constructed within an area that allows for progression within the sport. Just like at a ski resort, they should not all be double blacks or bunny slopes. It is up to the rider to ride within their limitations and test themselves to become a better rider over time. By testing ourselves and extending what we consider normal on the bike, we are able to continue to enjoy the sport of cycling. Just because you can’t do something today does not mean that you won’t be able to do it tomorrow.
If you want to get faster…ride with people that are faster than you are.
If you want to become a better technical rider…ride harder trails.
If you want to be able to ride longer distances…start riding longer rides.
Stretching your limits in life and on the bike is a good thing. Sometimes it takes pain and stress to figure out what you are really made of. If you make the decision to never stretch what you consider normal, you are making the decision to never get better at anything you do. Next time you are on your bike, look for that obstacle or feature that you want to be able to do. Find a way to either work up to that point or get the courage to try it. There is only one way to do it and that is to try…
This guest post was written by a great friend of Bike198, Kyle Glave. Not only is Kyle an avid mountain biker for over 19 years, part time endurance racer, lifelong outdoor adventurist, but we have ridden together for years. I thought this article on flow would be a great lead in to a weekend of riding.
I was recently speaking to a friend and they mentioned a local trail that didn’t have a lot of flow to it. I tend to agree with the statement about this trail as it is a very rocky and rooty trail and if you are not on it, it can bounce you all over the place. I rode this trail again a couple of weeks ago and realized that there is a lot of flow on that trail…it is just a matter of finding it.
It got me to thinking about flow in general. There are definitely a lot of great trails out there that have been built with tremendous flow to them. Basically, you just hop on your bike and go on auto pilot more or less cruising along on the trail as it flows and undulates along the contours of the land. No doubt these trails are a lot of fun and a blast to ride. But the flow I am talking about comes from within. Every avid mountain biker has experienced that moment where everything just clicks. Your breathing is rhythmic; you are always in the right gear at the right time, charging up the hills, staying off the brakes, railing the corners, floating through the rock gardens, etc. You and the bike feel as one. It is an extension of you. This is the type of flow that anyone can tap into and find on any trail regardless of how technical that trail is.
Finding flow for me is a matter of just relaxing and getting into a rhythm. Loosening your grip on the bars, focus on breathing instead of holding your breath in technical sections, focusing down the trail instead of right in front of your tire and the obstacles that are in front of you. Nice smooth pedal cadence instead of mashing the pedals. And literally a feel for the bike underneath you where your subtle weight shifts have you railing the turns, bombing the decent and hammering up the hill. Those moments are magical. If you can tap into that, you find you are expending a lot less energy overall and you end up coming away from the ride with a big grin on your face wanting more.
So the next time you are on a trail and its working you, stop for a moment, relax, clear the head and see if you can get into a rhythm with your bike. You might be surprised to find that all of a sudden you are floating over everything, hammering a bigger gear, clearing that climb, bombing that downhill, blasting the rock garden and railing the turns.
Guess what you just found Flow!
This guest post was written by Kyle Glave, an avid mountain biker for over 19 years, part time endurance racer, lifelong outdoor adventurist. If you would like to write an article, please contact us via the contact page and we will get things rolling.
This past weekend, I hung up the suspension bikes to get out on my 29er rigid singlespeed. It had been awhile since I had ridden the one gear bike and even longer since I had forgone suspension on the dirt. A group of us decided it was a good idea to make this ride a theme and I was joined by two other riders all looking to dust the cobwebs off the spokes of their SS sleds. The day ended up being a 24 mile hammer through the woods without a single click of a gear on a sunny and 70 afternoon in the southeast United States.
In contrast, last weekend we all grabbed the larger suspension mountain bikes and headed up to a trail to do some drops, jumps and rock tech…the exact opposite of the ride this past weekend all within a 7 day period…and that got me thinking…
There Is No “Right Way” To Mountain Bike
Mountain biking is about the only sport I can think of that offers this kind of diversity to such a wide range of people around the world. Anyone who knows how to ride a bike can find a segment of mountain biking and call it their own. Furthermore, there is no right or wrong way (from a style standpoint) to ride your bike.
The crew here at Bike198 is friends with riders across the globe that vary in preferences due to a number of factors. Much of your “right way” to ride is dependent upon your surrounding landscapes and availability of parts and bikes. For those that have an abundance of different landscapes like in California, you have the ability to choose which area of mountain biking you are going to call home.
Even if you decide to call suspension-less SS your ride of choice this year, that same rider might change their preferences over time and bring themselves over to the tech/drop side of riding. As abilities increase and technology continues to make different riding styles easier to accomplish on the trail, we are seeing riders that have ridden a certain type of mountain bikes and trails start to venture over to other disciplines as bikes allow riders to tackle varying terrain with greater ease. The emergence of the 5.5″, light trailbike and 4.5″ travel 29er has also brought more technical abilities to riders who never saw themselves on 33+ pound mountain bikes of years past. With very capable bikes in the sub 30 pound range, more riders are throwing their leg over a bike that can take technical riding and drops than ever before. Among our location in the southeast, I have seen riders jump back and forth between the DH/FR end to XC racing…enjoying the aspects of both equally…just different. In my opinion, the second best part of riding is the ability to change the story as you go along as there is no perfect solution for all riders over time.
As we look at the different styles and preferences, there is no “right way” to mountain bike. There are plenty of different preferences and tastes…but at the end of the day…we are all just mountain bikers. We might enjoy the sport in different ways with different equipment, but no matter whether you are riding a 10 inch travel downhill rig or a rigid singlespeed…you are still a mountain biker and that story can change and adapt with time as you absorb yourself into this culture that we call home.