Monday, July 16, 2012

How to Descend Faster and Smoother

Everybody wants to ride faster, smoother and more efficiently. Here’s a few tips on ironing out your descending skills which will make you a faster and smoother rider.

The tendency for many riders is to tense up while riding rough terrain which results in a bumpy ride which is slow, can damage components and can make you fall off the bike. When descending or riding at speed, you want to keep your arms and legs relaxed to soak up all the bumps. No matter how much suspension travel you bike has, you have much more in your arms and legs. Your arms/legs/bike should be fairly active beneath you while your torso remains relatively still and balanced. Riding relaxed is also more efficient and will save you energy. 

If you’re picking up too much speed, instead of riding the brake, try to scrub speed by braking at intervals. You want to brake early so you can roll through a technical section instead of entering the section too fast and skidding through it. This is a much better way to regulate your speed while making it easier to ride smoothly – it is hard to be smooth when you’re on the brakes.

Line selection is especially important when descending. Instead of blindly ploughing through rough sections, you should aim for the smoothest line. As your skills improve, you will be able to smoothly ride rougher and more technical lines and you will find yourself being more creative in your line selection. You also want to consider lines that set you up nicely for corners, jumps, obstacles etc. so it is important that you are always looking further up the trail to see what’s coming.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How To Pass the MTB Learning Curve

This will be the first post in a series that will help you pass the mountain bike learning curve. I will begin with some posts on improving your skills, then I'll move to tips on keeping your bike running smoothly, then we'll be looking at how improving your physical conditioning will improve your riding.

When you first get hooked on mountain biking, it is easy to become impatient with your progress as you strive to catch up with your fellow riders. Mountain biking is such a great sport because it has so much to offer at so many levels. As a beginner we find ourselves in a new world of awesome dirt while we learn about how fun and rewarding the sport can be. As we improve, we’ve found ourselves developing a new level of fitness and skill that allows us to ride faster and enjoy ourselves even more. The advanced riders among us find pleasure in mastering difficult techniques, riding highly technical terrain and being able to ride at high speeds thanks to a solid foundation of skill and fitness. In my experience that is shared with many others, the deeper you get into the sport of mountain biking and the more you develop as a rider, the more enjoyable it becomes. So if you’ve recently gotten into this great pastime I’ve got some tips that should help you get through that initial learning curve and have you riding faster and smoother in no time. I’ve also got a few pointers regarding care for your bike that will hopefully allow you to prevent learning things the hard way and reduce unnecessary financial costs.

The main issue riders have when getting started is handling the technical nature of the single track so I thought I’d better start with some mountain bike skills that will open up a whole lot of terrain for you.

A while ago I did a post that explains how playing around on your bike can be valuable in improving your off road skills. I love playing on my bike and still do it a lot. Messing around on your bike in a car park, you backyard or wherever will improve the way you balance, transfer weight and manuver the bike in obscure situations which really is the foundation of mountain bike skills. When playing on your bike try and work on a few of the things listed below:

  • ·         The trackstand – balancing on your bike without moving. Improving your trackstand will directly improve the way you handle technical rock sections, narrow lines and technical climbs. The secret to a trackstand is to gently rock the bike backwards and forwards; you’re not actually completely still in a trackstand. Start out facing up a bit of a gradient and stand up on the pedals while gently applying and removing pressure on the front pedal. This will let you rock gently and help you keep your balance. As you improve, move to a flatter area and try to minimize the amount of backwards and forwards movement. When you think you’ve mastered that, take off one arm or leg.
  • ·         The wheelie – I’m not saying you need to be able to pop a massive wheelie to be considered a good mountain biker, but the ability for you to lift your front wheel on top of or over obstacles will open up a lot of terrain for you. Practice throwing your weight backwards while making a strong pedal stroke to lift up the front wheel. Be careful that you don’t flip backwards – grass is a good place to practice. You also want to practice pulling your front wheel up without peddling which requires you to throw your weight backwards and pull up on the handlebars. Work on climbing up a curb or ledge by lifting your front wheel on top and letting your back wheel gently roll over. If you can get yourself to a point where you can start getting some distance with your wheelies that’s awesome. Try to use the rear brake to stop you from flipping backwards – this will be good for developing brake control.
  • ·         Endoes – aka. Nose stands, front wheelies etc. This is a great exercise in brake control and improving your weight and balance on the bike. To pull an endo you need to slowly roll forward and apply the front brake to lift the front wheel. As you improve, you will be able to pull an endo at higher speeds and travel some distance on your front wheel.
  • ·         Lifting the back wheel – this is useful for climbing or passing over obstacles like logs or big rocks smoothly. You can use lines on the ground to begin practicing this. Work on lifting your front wheel over a line and then lift your rear wheel over by preloading on the pedals and springing up/forward while rolling your handlebars forward and maintaining contact with the pedals. Many riders cheat by tapping the front brake to lift the wheel over and obstacle or relying on their clipless pedals to pull the bike up. The problem with the front break technique is that it is slower and you run the risk of face planting if you jam the break or if your wheel gets stuck on something. The problem with relying on pulling on clipless pedals is when your shoes unexpectedly snap out of the pedals you might find yourself leapfrogging the handlebars.
These are just a few skills that will improve your singletrack riding when practiced regularly. Stay tuned for more posts on improving more MTB skills coming very soon.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Danny MacAskill Video

Man I love trials riding. Here's a clip of one of my favorite riders Danny MacAskill.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cheap Recovery Drink

So last post I let you in on how to make cheap energy drinks. After a ride, race or workout it is important to start replenishing your body with things that will help you recover. Like energy drinks, there are heaps of expensive protein powders and additives that claim to make you recover faster and better. Many of these products are great, but there are some drawbacks you should look out for. Many protein powders are made in the same factories that banned substances are manufactured so if you are a competitive racer, you may have traces of a banned substance in your system which will get you into trouble. Also, your body can only consume so much protein - excess protein in your diet wont be absorbed into your muscles, you just piss it out which seems like a waste of time. Another drawback is that these protein supplements are often expensive but if you're on a budget, there is an alternative.

Many athletes around the world use full milk as their post workout drink. Milk has a good amount of protein, fat, carbohydrates and sodium which makes it a solid recovery drink. Chocolate milk is also good as it has more sugar than regular milk and will replenish more of your calories. It is important that you have a well rounded diet that provides you with all your daily nutritional needs, but if you feel like your protein intake is lacking, you can mix milk powder with milk to give you a cheap recovery drink with a bit more protein and other nutrients.

Friday, June 29, 2012

DIY Energy

We all want to ride faster and harder for longer. Many competitive bikers resort to expensive energy drink powders and jells but you can get the same effect without the hefty price tag. For rides or races over one hour in duration you should be consuming something to keep your sugars up to prevent bonking - a drop in your sugar levels that impact performance. Drinks and gels are ideal for riding/racing because they are absorbed quickly and wont sit in your stomach like solid food.

One of the easiest recipes is to mix some cordial and add some salt. You may also like to add some table sugar if you think you need a stronger energy kick. The water in the drink will rehydrate you, the sugar in the cordial will raise your energy levels and the salt will help you retain water and replace some of the salts that are lost in through sweat.

Another option is to drink flat Coke for an energy boost. The drink is loaded with sugar and the caffeine will give you that extra kick.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Build Strength and Endurance - Goblet Squats

Hi all. The goblet squat is an awesome exercise for building strength and endurance for a cyclist. This is a kinetic chain exercise that requires you to engage your entire core by linking static strength from your upper body with dynamic strength in your legs. This is very beneficial for cyclists who want to increase their peddling power and efficiency while improving posture and preventing lower back fatigue while riding. All you need is a dumbbell or kettlebell(s). Lift the weight so it sits comfortably under your chin, stand with feet slightly beyond shoulder width, and squat down until your knees reach a 90 degree bend. Then repeat. Its super important that your back stays straight throughout the entire movement and your knees stay behind your toes. You should feel this exercise engage your core muscles more as you get deeper into the squat. To build endurance, aim for 15 to 20 reps/set and for power aim for 6 to 10 explosive reps/set.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Best Way To Train

Hey everybody.

There is so much debate on the best types of exercises and workouts for athletes to achieve their performance goals. Some athletes/coaches swear by weights intensive training programs, others rely purely on riding volume, some rely heavily on dry land workouts and so on. If your browsing articles on fitness I guarantee you'll find a whole range of opinions on the best way to do things. So what's the answer? How should we train?

The answer is everybody is different - we all have different body geometries, lung capacities, muscle densities, natural levels of fast/slow twitch muscle fiber, lactic acid thresholds and a whole heap of other stuff. Because we are all built so differently, what works for one athlete may not work for the next. Its a matter of being in the game for long enough to learn and experience different training methods to find what works for you.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

How To Win The Holeshot

Hi everybody. Been a while since my last post so I thought I'd give you something that you can start incorporating in your training immediately to improve your race starts and help you win you the holeshot. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, the rider who wins the holeshot in a mountain bike race is the one who is the first to enter the singletrack after the start gun. This is an advantageous position to be in as you can control the tempo of the race and you can make ground on the riders who are stuck in the log jam. This is especially useful for short track racers where positioning is everything.

The power step up is an exercise that you can incorporate into your gym workout that develops explosive power through your legs and hips which will transfer into your pedals. All you need is a bench/box/ledge to perform this exercise. The video below explains the power step up well. Make sure you are keeping you knees behind your toes to prevent stress on your patella tendon.