Watch the whole beginner playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL5S7V5NhM8JQoi8vhELX-9aYHmRtmCveT
So the beginner skills workshop went well. The plan was to meet a bunch of beginners at the trailhead, have them ride some little obstacles, and give them advice on how to improve. These rows of logs were already in place as a sort of practice course.
The smaller logs were easy for most people. The bigger ones were more of a challenge.
Like you would expect, most people rode into the logs and held on for dear life, letting their suspension take the impact. That was sort of the topic of the workshop—that is getting out of that habit. To ride big bumps smoothly, you need to stand up and shift your weight around.
The first thing to hit an obstacle is your front wheel, so it’s going to take the brunt of the impact. To soften the blow, you should get as much of your body weight off the front wheel as possible.
To get your front wheel up bring your chest to your handlebars and pop upwards. This should be timed so that you cooperate with your suspension, just like the motion of hopping around on a pogo stick, or jumping off a diving board.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of this part, you’ll still have your rear wheel slamming into things. So, you’ll need to lurch forwards to get the weight off of it.
This needs to be timed just right, but all it takes is practice.
The thing is most people don’t practice. They go out on the trails, ride over stuff sloppily, and keep moving. The key to getting better is to go back and clean things. To clean something is to ride over it smoothly and confidently, without putting a foot down or losing your balance.
Here’s a real mountain bike trail, and here’s a real mountain biker. He won’t go home without cleaning this rocky transfer.
Whether you’re riding rocks on the side of a mountain, or riding logs in a parking lot, you’re a badass if you keep trying.
Out on the trail you’ll be hitting obstacles one after the other, so I challenged the participants to ride both of these in a row. To set up for a feature it takes a few seconds, but sometimes you don’t have a few seconds. Exercises like these teach you how to set up quickly for consecutive obstacles.
It was great to see so many people make so much progress. They all had the bruises to prove it too.
As for Lisa, she was still getting comfortable with the idea of standing on a bike. Many of us take this for granted, having ridden bikes for most of our lives. You stand up to climb a hill, or just because your butt is sore. Lisa’s cycling experience consisted of riding her hybrid around the neighborhood, so standing was a new and scary concept. At the beginners workshop she finally got the hang of it, but never ventured on to the bigger logs. It would be a few weeks before I met with Lisa again, since the holidays were approaching.
During that time, she was making trips to Jonathan Dickinson Park by herself. Despite there being many closer parks, she kept making the 1.5 hour drive at every opportunity she had. Lisa found her favorite trail, and she was addicted. Having ridden JD before I can see why. It’s flowy, and easy to go fast on. It’s not technical or challenging, but it makes you happy to be on a bike. It may have been just what she needed.
Last weekend I met Lisa at Oleta River State park to practice.
This little patch of roots is situated between two trees. Immediately after the trees are more roots, and a wooden ramp. For some reason, it was sketching Lisa out. We kept trying it over, and over, and over. Lisa kept putting on the brakes before the ramp. Then I noticed she wasn’t the only one getting sketched out.
To be fair he didn’t sign up for mountain bike boot camp that day, but why give up after coming so close?
Lisa had defeated the sketchy tree ramp, and consequently the blurry quitter. She made quick work of the rest of the trail. In overcoming her fear, Lisa had made a breakthrough.
During this series I’ve been holding my handlebars with one hand and filming Lisa with the other. Today marks the last time I can do that. Just the other month, Lisa wouldn’t go down this mound. She didn’t even want to walk down it. It’ll be satisfying to see her make quick work of this trail the next time we’re at Virginia Key.
Next time, we’re going to take a short break from riding and talk about maintenance, cleaning, and basic mountain bike troubleshooting.