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New XC speed PR; Cornering; Building a small backyard mtb skills area?

Friday, September 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

Bike on a Trail for September 15, 2011.

Bike on a Trail for September 15, 2011.

The other day I posted a photograph taken from my truck looking into the trails, so for yesterday’s Bike on a Trail photograph I took a photo from the trail looking out at that same spot on the road. This part of the trail is about 10 miles from the trailhead, and it’s not even really part of the trail system. This particular area is pretty overgrown, and I’ve never seen anyone (even hikers) out there. The only reason I ride this section is because it’s right near the lake and I almost always see a lot of cool wildlife. So, if you’re ever driving on Welsh road and see a guy on a mountain bike emerge from the woods, give me a beep!

These wild turkeys seemed to be having some sort of spat.

These wild turkeys seemed to be having some sort of spat.

One of the things I’ve been doing lately is challenging myself to ride the first leg of my journey as fast and as hard as possible. This little personal challenge developed organically: the reason I initially stopped for a break at this particular spot is because it used to take me about 45 minutes to reach it–a perfect time to replenish lost electrolytes with a packet of Sport Beans. After I replaced my old Trek 4300 hardtail bike with a lighter full suspension bike (the Trek Fuel EX 8) and began using clipless pedals, I was surprised to find that I reached my first rest stop in just 33 minutes on my first ride using the new kit. Since that day, I’ve continued to conscientiously attempt to improve my time each time I ride there…

So this past Saturday I shattered my old personal best time of 28 minutes with a 26m23s run. The trails were wet that day, and I was able to plow through the sections of sugar sand much more efficiently than I can when the trails are dry. Yesterday the trails were very dry, and the sugar sand was really loose; I knew if I was going to break my personal record that I was going to have to ride all-out for 26 minutes straight. I took off like a bat out of hell, and rode as hard as I could until I reached the big fishbowl in the ground that marks the end of the challenge. Sweating heavily and completely out of breath, I looked down at my Timex Ironman split: 25m47s with an average heart rate of 184 BPM!

A beautiful baby doe and I study one another.

A beautiful baby doe and I study one another.

With the trails as dry as they were yesterday I was especially pleased with my huge time improvement. I’ve always been a pretty good spinner (my indoor recumbent bikes have all have toe clips), but I’m becoming more and more efficient and confident with my clipless pedals out on the trails.

Another skill I’ve really been working on is cornering. I sometimes shoot video of myself riding and then I go back and study it (this is really helpful). One thing I found by studying this footage is that my cornering left a lot to be desired. In my mind I always felt like I was corning pretty well, but when I looked at my video footage I couldn’t believe how stiff I looked. The problem was clear: I was primarily using my handlebars to steer the bike instead of leaning the bike and keeping my body loose and mobile in the “cockpit”. Fast corning is a skill that takes a lot of practice, but I’m getting better at it all the time. I think my improved corning speed is big part of the reason for yesterday’s personal record.

Mom deer, and her baby doe in the background.

Mom deer, and her baby doe in the background.

I am thinking about building a small mtb skills area in my backyard. Not a permanent structure, but something I can set up and tear down in 5 minutes or so. I was thinking that a skinny ramp, maybe 1-2 feet high, 2-4 inches wide and ~12 feet long, with a drop to flat at the end. This would allow me to work on my balance and also work on hucking (riding off drops). As I improve I could raise the height of the skinnys and add turns and stuff. I think I could build something like this for just a few bucks using a few boards and a handful of nails. Have any of you built something like this? Suggestions?

OK, no riding today. Work, followed by my back and biceps workout. Actually I’m no longer directly working my biceps, so it’s mostly a compound exercise back workout with some indirect biceps recruitment.

Happy Friday!

John Stone Fitness Comments

2 Responses to “New XC speed PR; Cornering; Building a small backyard mtb skills area?”
  1. Regarding general mtb skills, the number one this is to get off the seat. Also, as you ride progressively more technical trails you will want your seat progressively lower and lower for better body position. Around where I live, pretty much everyone has a gravity dropper seat post:


    These are expensive (and there are other options such as hydraulic posts, but there is too much dust where I live and they get destroyed so everyone uses the gravity dropper with the spring return here) but dramatically improve your ability to ride very technical trails. Also, from a safety stand point, the extra 2-4 inches frequently make the difference between going over the bars or not. To all newer riders this is my number one equipment recommendation.

    A skills park is a great idea. I bet there is one in your area, but if you do decide to build one, check out this video:


    In the last little bit of the video it shows the skills park we built at one of my buddy’s house. We build the jump so that we could keep raising the lip as we got progressively better at controlling our body position through the air. This really helped our progression.

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    • I’m off the seat and in attack position just about anytime I’m hitting anything technical. This is something I learned about a year or so ago, I guess, and I’d say that developing that one skill has made the single biggest difference in my riding.

      I’ve probably read Mastering Mountain Biking Skills (Lopes/McCormack) at least 30 times now. It’s a fantastic book, and it’s helped me immensely.

      Craig and a few other friends have suggested the remote seatpost, too. I’ll definitely pick one up when I have the budget for it. My first priority was get the safety equipment for some of the new stuff I’m going to learn (more on that in tomorrow’s blog), and between that equipment, the new bike itself and my repair workshop my biking budget is destroyed for now.

      Believe it or not there really is no place near me to practice a lot of this stuff. No place with tabletops, no pump tracks, no practice skinnies and no beginner hucks. There’s a mtb park that supposed to open in Orlando, but it’s been delayed for months and months. They’ve already built a nice pump track there, and I’m really looking forward to riding it.

      That trail in the video and the skills area are sick!

      Thanks much for your comments. 🙂

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