MTB stage racing takes riders back to the roots of the sport. Expect big loops on the best trails in the area and be ready for an epic day on the bike! Self-support skills are mandatory: ability to fix a mechanical on the trail, route finding (courses are flagged, but they often get removed by […]
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?
Do you see it? No? Watch again.
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.
*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.