Rule #1 Still Holds True, No Matter How “Pro” You Are

I was recently in Southern Utah, escaping winter and mountain biking the fun technical trails in the area.  Taking the easy return to work a technical feature I was dumbfounded when I had to put a foot down.  I was nailing big lines all day, and this spot was green terrain.  What happened?  I broke rule #1 for riding ANY obstacle.  Can you see what I did?

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Do you see it? No? Watch again.

Now?

 

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Here I Am, Breaking Rule #1

 

Rule # 1: Look where you want to go, not at where you don’t.

When I teach skill clinics or work one-on-one with mountain bikers I preach that following this rule will-

  • get you out of most “bad” situations
  • get you riding obstacles you are getting stuck in the middle of
  • make your air time comfortable
  • let you carry speed with confidence
  • (just to name a few)

I have found that this one “trick” is the first thing to try when a rider is not having success with almost any mtb skill.  I regularly run ahead on a line, wave my arms, and yell, “look at me” to help riders keep their gaze ahead.  When riding into something unexpected or too fast; looking for the clean exit ups the odds to getting through.  If you can do more, that’s great; but in a pinch this is the most bang for your buck trick.

Why does this work?

  • Your body will follow your focus; driving your bike to that destination.
    • Look at that stump/boulder/cliff/etc. = ride directly into it
    • Look at the ideal exit = bike will move under you, not into that scary thing (usually)
  • When you look down your center of gravity moves over your front wheel.  Being heavy on the front tire encourages it to:
    • get buried in divots
    • stop when it drops in a divot or on the backside of a rock
    • slide out on corners or loose terrain
    • slow down more than expected (touching the brakes = endo*)
  • Looking at the exit of an obstacle or a corner, and scanning ahead for the trail keeps your center of gravity over the bottom bracket (place where the pedal crank-arms attach to the frame).  This allows you to:
    • drive the bike forward – avoiding face-plants, maintaining traction and carrying speed out of corners
    • stay light on your handlebars so you can maneuver your bike if it starts to stray
    • lets you put power to your pedal if you need to get over a rock/root/snake/etc.
    • roll over and away from drops

Breaking rule #1 happens to the best of us.  Adherence will advance your riding and give a higher probability of a good outcome when you make a mistake. Breaking it may be the cause for mishaps on the trail and diminishing confidence.  Being aware of how this played into your, “I can’t believe I just rode that” or, “oomph, that didn’t go as planned” is a big part of progressing.  But, be gentle on yourself; we all break the rules now and then.

KLC 2
Looking Where I Want To Go Gets Me Through This Tricky Obstacle

endo*Endo: a sudden stopping of the front tire of a bicycle resulting in the rider face-planting in front of the bike as the rear wheel flies into the air.

Endo photo by Nicole Stacey.  Originally published at singletracks.com

 

 

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