Tuesday, June 20, 2017

5 Things I Learned From Mountain Biking

Riding single track can teach you a lot of bike skills.
The innergoogles loves it when you post a title with a number in it, and marketers say that "list posts" are some of the most read posts. Whatever. I don't care. So, for no other sane reason than I just want to write about this, here we go with some things I've learned and valued along the way that came from my mountain biking experiences.

1: Look Where You Want To Go, Not Where You Don't: This sounds so simple it is crazy, but think about some crashes you have maybe had in your cycling. Many times that drop off, that rut, that bad pot hole, we look at it and we go right in to it. Bang! Crash!

The trick isn't to ignore things like that, but to identify them as hazards, and then look where you do want to go. Because if you keep an eye on that hazard, it will bite you. Look beyond the things you want to stay away from, focus on the good line. This is especially true for gravel road riding.

2: Arms & Legs Are Suspension Devices: Long ago all mountain bikes were rigid. Both ends. This meant that you either learned how to deal with trail irregularities or you crashed a lot and broke stuff regularly. This also meant that if you didn't want to crash and burn "you had ta get yer butt offa tha saddle and absorb them bumps wit da arms and tha legs". (Regards to the "Old Coot") Yes, arms were suspension and so were your legs.

Even today I lighten my pressure in the saddle whenever I see bumpy terrain by using my arms and my legs. You also use your core, but let's not get all technical here. You get the picture. I learned this from mountain biking on rigid mtbs in the early 90's. Still pays dividends today.

3: Go Low On The Air: Before there were fat bikes or tubeless tires, you had to learn how to play with air pressures as a mountain biker. Too high and you were washing out in corners, getting bucked and bumped all over the place, and rattling your eyeballs out. Too low and you were folding tires over in corners, pinch flatting on rocks, and denting rims. It was a delicate balancing act that, if you got it right, meant that your shred was stellar. Mountain biking taught me that tire pressures were never meant to be "as high as the tire sidewall said you could go". In fact, I almost always disregarded those recommendations. I still go as low as I can on gravel for the best ride quality, traction, and best rolling resistance characteristics.

Lessons learned from mountain biking. Here I am using really low pressures at the 2015 DK200. Arms and legs for suspension. Image by A Andonopoulous
 4: Check Your Fasteners Regularly: Having a rigid mountain bike taught me that things can and will vibrate loose over time. Important stuff like stem bolts, crank arm bolts, and rack or fender bolts all can work loose and if you do not check them regularly, you could be in for a big surprise someday. I find that gravel riding is actually worse than it ever was for mountain biking in this area.

5: Shift Early- Shift Often: This is one that I repeated to myself all during the "DK My Way" ride about a month ago. It is also one I violate the most because, well........single speeding! I gotta learn when to not think like a single speeder.Which is tough, but maybe that's just me. Anyway, shift a lot and do it before you get a ton of pressure on the pedals.

Back in the early days of mountain biking, before shift ramps and pins, and Di2, you had to have some serious shifting skills. That or you'd be in the wrong gear a lot. Because if you didn't "let up" a bit on the pedals, spin a decent cadence, and if you waited too long before you got into that hill, you were single speeding! That old 18 speed triple drive train wasn't going to shift! So, you learned to "shift early" and you shifted a lot, or you were wasting energy. That still holds true today. Shifting early means less pressure on the chain, less wear and tear, and less chances for breaking the chain. Which, if you hadn't noticed lately, has gotten a lot thinner than it used to be. Plus, shifting early and often takes less of a toll on your body. 

There is my list. I have learned more than this from mountain biking, but those are the things that came to mind first. So there!



Ari said...

I will never forget how well you descended on that setup. You just ate up those downhills while I picked my lines on my skinny 40mm tires. That was awesome. I am glad I dared taking that image single handed. Ari

Guitar Ted said...

@Ari- I am glad that you took it too, my friend! Thank you! That was a good day on the bike for me despite the difficult conditions.