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Slept great last night; Good cornering practice sesh yesterday.

Thursday, July 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


For being pretty tired, I had one heck of a productive day yesterday! I had an excellent ride at Mt. Dora (more on that below), got a bunch of mini-projects at work done and I even managed to fix those broken pipes I mentioned in yesterday’s blog. Not surprisingly, I slept incredibly well last night. πŸ™‚

I practiced on this bermed corner, and others, over and over this week.

I practiced on this bermed corner, and others, over and over this week.

So far this week I’ve ridden at the Mt. Dora MTB trails a couple of times. It’s amazing how far those trails have come since they first opened up. The trails are running really well right now, and they just keep getting better and better. I feel very fortunate to have these trails so close by, as there is some nice elevation change (for Florida), the trails flow nicely and there are lots and lots of well-constructed bermed corners. The trails are not just fun, they provide a nice place to practice various skills.

Cornering is something I’ve mentioned quite a few times in recent blogs, and that’s because lately I’ve been focused on improving my skills in that area.

Something I’ve always found helpful when it comes to improving a set of skills is to take video of myself performing that activity. For example, when I first started lifting weights I used to shoot video of myself doing lifts like squats and deadlifts so that I could evaluate my form and technique. It’s amazing how many mistakes are made, even when you think you’re doing everything right. Video helps uncover those mistakes, and makes you a better lifter/rider/whatever.

Practice makes perfect!

Practice makes perfect!

Even when I felt like I was railing the corners yesterday, after reviewing the footage I found that I was still making a number of mistakes. I’ve improved a lot over the past few weeks, so that is encouraging to see, but I have a long way to go before I’m hitting the corners the way I want to.

So why all the attention to cornering lately? Single track mountain biking trails twist and turn, and so corners are obviously everywhere. If you can’t corner properly you’ll not just lose tons of speed, you lose the flow of the trail. Flowing with a piece of single track (instead of merely riding over it) is a huge part of what makes mountain biking fun. Learning to flow takes a lot of practice, but it’s worth it. I only know this from small tastes, as I’m a long way from what I would consider a good mountain biker.

In Mastering Mountain Bike Skills (which I highly recommend), Lee McCormack writes:

1. You probably suck.
2. You suck more than you realize.
3. You suck because you’re too stiff and passive on the bike.

Sounds harsh, but I appreciate directness. Especially when the person being direct is absolutely right. One thing I’ve noticed in pretty much every piece of video I’ve ever shot of myself riding is I’m way too stiff. Even when I think I’m relaxed, I look tense and rigid compared to good riders. I’m getting better, but it’s still a problem. It’s natural to stiffen up when you’re flying around a corner because you know a wreck will really hurt (or worse). The trick is to get past that gut instinct and relax despite the danger.

Well heck, all this talk about mountain biking has me in the mood to ride again this morning. See ya! πŸ™‚

John Stone Fitness Comments

8 Responses to “Slept great last night; Good cornering practice sesh yesterday.”
  1. What you write is so true of Judo as well. It takes years to get relaxed enough to do Judo properly. You can’t throw people while you are stiff, you can’t manuever your body into the proper location to act as a fulcrum, you can’t off balance them effectively. And, like mountain biking, everything thinks they are less stiff/more relaxed than they actually are πŸ™‚

    I wonder if there is skill transfer between those two πŸ™‚

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    • I think the tendency to stiffen up is a natural human reaction when in a potentially dangerous situation. Sometimes that’s a good thing (which is probably why we evolved to do it), but in sports it’s almost never good.

      For a morbid example of just how beneficial it is to stay loose, look at how often drunks manage to walk away from horrible car accidents that kill everyone else involved.

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    • Yeah man, I spotted those problems plus quite a few more when I reviewed the video. I know in theory exactly what I’m supposed to do, but that’s no substitute for lots and lots of practice. It’s funny because when I’m actually out there I think I’m getting pretty close to what I learned, but when I watch the playback the mistakes make me cringe. Like I said above, I’ve really got to learn to loosen up out there, I think that’s my biggest problem.

      I really want to take one of those Better Ride MTB camps. I know having a good coach telling me in real time what I’m doing wrong (and right) would improve my riding a great deal.

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      • Hi John, I’m a relative n00b to mountain biking, having only begun riding in March of this year. Like you, I’m constantly reviewing videos recorded on my GoPro to see if I can spot anything I could have done better. Having mastered all the Blue trails at Santos, and then successfully completing my first Red trail, I was feeling confident enough to try an even bigger challenge: the infamous John Brown trail. Unfortunately that trail utterly defeated me, so last Saturday I spent the morning with Jeremy Keeler, an instructor from Traildogs 101. He was quickly able to identify the reasons I had such an impossible time climbing those incredibly steep, rock strewn sections of trail. Once I made the necessary corrections, followed by a couple of practice runs, I was elated to find that I could pedal through one of the worst uphill sections on the Ant Hill trail. It was by no means an easy task, but once you understand the principles involved, mastering the technique is only a matter of practice. He charges $60 for personal instruction (less for group instruction), which seemed quite reasonable to me for an all day class. If you’re interested, he can be reached at: 386-871-1752. I can’t recommend him highly enough!

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        • Hi Andrew, thanks for stopping by and posting. It sounds like you’re kicking serious butt–especially for only having a few months of dirt under your tires!

          John Brown destroyed me (I don’t know if you saw my first trip to Santos report, but it’s here if you want a good laugh: http://www.johnstonefitness.com/2011/10/31/back-from-vacation-in-more-or-less-one-piece/). Anthill also drew some blood. πŸ™‚

          Thanks very much for the information. That’s just what I’ve been looking for. I’ll contact Jeremy and book some time with him sometime soon. Did I understand you correctly, $60 for an all day class?!

          I assume you’re in Ocala? We should ride some time.

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          • Hi John,
            I spoke with Jeremy last night, but apparently you’d already been in contact with him. I wanted to clarify with him the price I’d quoted you. Apparently his fees vary according to both the kind and duration of the training; the $60 fee I paid was for the basic ‘introductory’ course. We had planned to make it an all day affair, but I was so exhausted after having spent the entire morning doing hill climbing drills that I reluctantly called it quits at noon. I barely had the strength to make it back to my car! LOL

            I live in Altamonte Springs. Soldiers Creek is about 20 minutes drive from me, and has become my ‘go-to’ trail when I need some practice time. When I started riding back in March, I didn’t know anyone else involved in the sport and was unaware of the location of any good trails. Fortunately I stumbled across your YouTube videos of the various places you’ve ridden, which is led me to Soldiers Creek, Chuck Lennon, the Mt. Dora trail, and the trails at Wekiva. By the way, I don’t know whether Jeremy mentioned it to you, but he’s actually one of the people who designed and built the trails at Chuck Lennon. Here’s a video of him riding it, filmed with my GoPro2 camera: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjMW9-DG7Ko

            Fortunately I didn’t crash on either Ant Hill or John Brown, but I would have preferred a bruise or two to the savage beating my ego took that day! In retrospect, it was probably for the best, because it made me realize that I couldn’t make much more progress without professional training. I’ve also resumed weight lifting after a long haitus due to a serious hip fracture I suffered last year (see my X-ray: http://aurelius.smugmug.com/Sports/Bicycling/i-HDrwv9k/1/M/scan0001-M.jpg). I wasn’t allowed to do any resistance training for several months, which left my legs quite weak. My last session at LA Fitness was encouraging, but I still have a long way to go to regain the strength I once had. That’s another reason I joined your forum.

            I don’t know how often you go mountain biking these days, but do let me know if you’re planning any rides on the weekends. My e-mail address is: aurelius@embarqmail.com



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            • No worries on the pricing, Flex gave me the lowdown and the prices are very reasonable. Can’t wait to book some time with him!

              He mentioned that he was one of the people who designed CL when I told him I’d been there a few times. That place is amazing!

              I’ll shoot you an email and we can pick it up from there.

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