Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Audio/Visual Mountain Biker

The terms MP3 and DVD have become pretty common in the past few years and having this sort of technology at our fingertips can give great advantages to a mountain biker. Here's how:

Music To Make You Faster
Before your next ride/race, whether your driving to the trails or before you scoot out the back door, play some tunes with strong beats and plenty of energy (hard rock, metal, techno etc.). This sort of music gets your heart pumping and makes you psyched for the trails, leading to that extra confidence and speed you want. You may even want to ride with an MP3 player to keep the music pumping throughout the ride.
One day riding at Mt. Stromlo, I had the song "Snakeskin" by the Australian band "Gyroscope" stuck in my head for the duration of the ride. That was one of the best rides I have ever had as my skills were flawless and I felt no pain when climbing or going hard. The song in my head was giving me enough energy and confidence to make me ride better that ever before.
You can get small MP3 players today for $50-$60 that are pretty suitable for your back pack or jersey pocket and will hold more than enough songs to get you through a ride or race. MP3 players are also really useful to keep you entertained through long sessions on the indoor trainer or on lonely commuting rides.

Some Of My Favourites

  • Snakeskin - Gyroscope

  • My Enemy - Cog

  • My Way - Limp Bizkit

  • Set It Off - POD

  • My People - The Presets

  • Voodoo People - The Prodigy


Movies To Make You Faster

Watching mountain bike movies are a great way to gain some extra confidence, inspiration and skill which are three vital ingredients in creating a fast mountain biker. Seeing riders rip through gnarly lines and pulling off big tricks will make you attack sections of trail with a lot more confidence. This is because you have just seen it done on a rougher trail at higher speed with a pumping soundtrack in the background. If you are going through a motivation slump, watching a mountain bike movie is a great way to get you back out on your bike tearing up the trails. You can treat a mountain bike movie marathon as a theory lesson for your riding; look at how these fantastic bike handlers rail through corners, float through rocks and land big airs. Analyse there technique and put it into practice on your next ride.
The movies you are looking for are downhill/free ride films. I wouldn't recommend dirt jumping films as they aren't exactly relevant to off road mountain biking. If you know of a good XC film that could also be useful but they aren't too common in my experience. I would not recommend a stack movie where there is nothing but people eating dirt as they may be funny but will have a negative effect on your confidence.

Some Of My Favorites

  • Earthed 2

  • Roam (any in the series)

  • New World Disorder (any in the series)

  • Rise


Become The Ultimate Audio/Visual Mountain Biker

Track down the soundtrack to your favorite mountain bike movie and play it when you go riding. You will visualise the riders in the film while you are hammering through the single track faster and smoother than ever before! Trust me, this one works!

Here's where you can find the soundtrack of your Favourite mountain bike film

Image courtesy of Mingret

Monday, May 26, 2008

Ultimate Mountian Bike VIDEO BAR!

Check out the side bar of this page where I've added a new video bar! Watch short, mountain bike related films right here to get some riding inspiration and even pick up some new skills. I often watch mountain bike films because even though I'm not dropping 40 foot cliffs, observing these fantastically skilled riders has a "rub off" effect which improves my skills as well. You can hover your mouse over the clip to get the title and length. I recommend the clips from the film "Roam", they're just awesome!

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Power Of Play - How To Gain Wicked Skills

In my hometown Canberra, some of the best XC riders are downhillers, especially when it comes to short-track racing. I put this down to not only their aggression, but the skills they gain from "playing" on their bikes. In Canberra you will always find downhillers hitting up the jump park, carving up the urban terrain and basically just fooling around on their bikes. This is not only fun but it improves their skills by improving their balance, improving their bicycle awareness and overall, increasing their ability to handle their bike. How do I know this? I used to be a downhiller/free rider and I used to do all of these things. I used to spend hours on the road out the front of my house working on flatland tricks and just playing. When I made the transition from DH to XC, the skills I had were extremely useful and were applied immediately to make me fast through the single track.
In the higher divisions of XC racing in Canberra, there are three types of riders: those with fantastic fitness and above average skills, those with above average fitness and fantastic skills and those who have fantastic fitness and fantastic skills. The first two riders described are usually pretty even but guess who wins the race? the rider with the lot. I believe that in the sport of mountain biking, skills are just as important as fitness.

Improve your skills now
Now I'm not saying you need to go out and buy a DH bike or Jump rig. It's probably better that you play on your own bike anyway so you can get to know it more intimately. Do what I do and get on a flat surface and start practicing tricks. Wheelies, nose stands/endoes, track stands and bunny hops are a few to get you started. when one skill becomes too easy, take off one hand/foot for a greater challenge. Get creative! When you start to get creative on flat terrain, you will use your creativity more on the trail when it comes to line selections or getting yourself out of trouble.
Find (or build) a little table-top jump to practice getting air. I have found that confidence in the air breeds confidence when on the ground. Confidence is one of the key ingredients when it comes to going faster. Having the ability to get air with confidence is great for clearing obstacles, jumping over rock gardens and taking faster lines.

Bike setup
Changing your bike setup for playing isn't crucial because after all, it's just playing. The only things I may suggest is lowering your seat to give your rear end more clearance and switching to flat pedals (I don't usually bother but if you are new to clip less pedals or have poor balance, it may be a good idea).

When to play
I'd aim to play on your bike at least once a week of you can. you can incorporate it into your training as active recovery or even dedicate it as a skills session. It's always fun if you do it with some friends and riding with other riders will always push your skills!

Related Articles
BMX track riding for supreme single track skills
ride slow to ride fast

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Weight Training Basics For Mountain Bikers

There are plenty of myths surrounding strength training today, especially in the field of cycling. Myself along with thousands of other mountain bikers believe strength training can be very advantageous in improving your ride.

Why Should You Hit The Gym?
Appropriate weight/resistance training will make you a stronger, faster and more efficient rider. You will improve your control over the bike, increase your power when climbing or sprinting and make your muscles work more effectively. After having a couple of strength training sessions under your belt, your muscles start to employ motor units which increase the efficiency of the muscle, making your stronger and faster as a result.

Body Weight
One of the major reasons why a cyclist may be reluctant to do strength work is the fear on getting heavier. Unless you really start packing on extra meals, your weight gains will be insignificant compared to you strength and ability to use it.

Getting Started
The most important thing to keep in mind when starting a strength program is to include all major muscle groups. One mistake that riders make is to concentrate entirely on their legs which is bad because your leg muscles will become too heavy and your body will be imbalanced. Besides, mountain biking is an activity that involves the whole body where leg muscles are needed to pedal and upper body is needed to provide leverage and control the bike.

If you haven't done weights before or haven't done strength training for a long time, I would recommend you get an instructor to run you through a basic program. If you think instructors are lame and you want to get started now, start on machine weights (as opposed to free weights) and do 2 sets of 12 reps on:

  • machine bench press (chest)

  • shoulder press (shoulders)

  • lat pull down (lats/back)

  • seated row (back)

  • leg press (quads, glutes, hams)

  • hamstring curl (hamstring)

This is a very basic program which is perfect for anyone looking to start weight training but as said earlier, I recommend you consult an instructor. As you improve you may wish to change your program to involve more free weights. Remember to follow the progressive overload principle by gradually increasing weight. You will know if the weight is too heavy if you have poor form resulting in a short range of movement. You will get better results by lifting a lighter weight and having a full range of movement than lifting heavier with a shortened range of movement.

When you start weight training it becomes even more important to stretch before and after working out.

Added benefits of weight training

  • Cycling is a non weight bearing activity so resistance training can help to prevent conditions like osteoporosis

  • improved posture

  • improved injury resistance

  • makes you look HOT!

image by Christopher Rayan

Friday, May 2, 2008

Workshop Tip

When your working on your bike, how often do you finish with grease all over your hands? Almost every time I bet. The grease and oil that paints itself onto your hands is not only ugly and hard to clean off, but can be harmful when absorbed into your skin. An easy way to prevent penetration of harmful oils and chemicals is to wear thin rubber gloves when doing repairs. Wearing rubber gloves when working in the workshop not only prevents grease damaging your skin but also prevents the need for strong and dangerous detergents to clean your hands. Rubber gloves are usually pretty cheap and are easily accessible from your local supermarket.