Want To Improve Your Mountain Bike Skills?

One of the skills that some teams overlook when training for Spirited Women is their mountain biking skills. Being able to ride steep uphill and downhill sections as well as over rough ground can save your team valuable minutes and sometimes hours. The key thing here is that all of your teammates must be capable not just one or two. Are you up to speed for your team? If not you still have time to work on your skills. Here are a few tips to help…

1. Ride With Better Riders

Not only will this help you to push yourself harder, but it will help you learn some of the skills of people who have been doing it longer. Watch how they position their bodies when going up or downhill. Watch how they handle rough, rocky or rooty sections. These valuable skills can easily be picked up when riding with other riders. Check with local bike stores or clubs to find group rides in your area.

2. Focus on Where You Want to Go

When you are on the track, look where you want to go, especially on tracks with roots and rocks. If you look at the rock or tree that you are trying to avoid, you will probably hit it, focus on the line that you want to take.  Always look ahead and find the line least resistance, and you will ride smoother and safer.

3. Relax Into It

Whether you are riding a hard tail bike or a full suspension, the best suspension you have is your arms and legs. Stand up, relax and allow them to absorb the bumps and ruts on the trail or downhill. Once you learn to let the bike move beneath you, you will be able to float over most obstacles.  It also helps to relax your grip a bit on the handlebars. Be sure to hang on firmly but not too tightly. A white-knuckle grip will cause your forearms and hands to fatigue sooner and then make it tougher to be in control.

4. Spin your legs

Your cadence, or the rotation of your pedals, is very important. If you pedal with jerky downward strokes, you are actually throwing yourself off balance and working harder. Spinning is not only more efficient, but it helps keep traction on loose track conditions.

Good cadence means pedaling in circles and being in the right gear. If you’re geared too high, it will be difficult to power over things, and if you are geared too low, you’ll spin out and jerk the bike around. If you change gears to keep the same pedaling cadence (around 70 to 100), you’ll find that it is much easier to climb and pedal through rough sections.

5. Learn To Wheelie Like Your Kids!

Wheelies and nose wheelies (having the back wheel off the ground) are fun little tricks, and they are quite useful skills.

You can pull a little wheelie to get your front wheel up and over an object, and then shift to a nose wheelie so your back wheel doesn’t hit the object. Even if you can’t get either wheel off of the ground, knowing how to take your weight off them will make some sections of track smoother. These are easier to do with clip-in pedals, but less intimidating to learn with flat pedals.

Starting with one pedal up and one down, a basic wheelie is a combination of pulling up on the handlebars, shifting your weight over the back wheel and pushing down on the up pedal. You can just do it for half of a pedal rotation, or try to maintain the wheelie and keep pedaling. Either way, keep your hand ready to pull the rear brake if you are going too far back; grabbing it will get your front wheel down.

6. Take a Brake

Better braking will allow for better bike control. Many new riders think they only have two brake settings, locked and not in use. You’ve actually got less control with the brakes locked, much like a car.

Learn how to use both brakes effectively. Most of your braking power comes from the front brake. But be careful not to use it too much if you are going downhill or cornering. You’ll either get tossed over the handlebars, or your front wheel will slide out. It is all about moderation and modulation.

When cornering, practice braking before the turn, rather than in the middle of it. You’ll soon be able to carry more speed through the turns. When descending, learn to feather the brakes so that they don’t lock up. If they do lock up, ease up a bit. You’ll not only have more control, but you’ll save the tracks from ruts and erosion.

7. Ride Everywhere

Once you’ve mastered your local trails, venture out and explore new ones. New trails and challenges will make it more exciting to be riding, and they’ll help sharpen your skills. This is the key to becoming a well-rounded rider.

The more time you spend on your bike, the better you will get. Ride to the mailbox, to work, to the coffee shop etc. This will help to reinforce your riding skills as you ride up and down curbs, dodge potholes and bunny hop over small obstacles. Once you can easily ride down two or three stairs, you can approach trail obstacles with a little more confidence.

You can read about biking as much as you want, but nothing replaces saddle time. So with that in mind, put this down, gear up and get out and ride like a girl!

Kym is a mum of 3 boys, 5, 8 and 10 yrs, trains and races in multisport and adventure racing events (currently as part of Team Tiger Adventure NZ) and is very passionate about nutrition and wellness. She is the co-creator and retreat leader at NZ Adventure Retreats and is part of the team that has won the Spirited Women Adventure Race long course for the past 4 years.

Kym along with Rach Smith from Navigation North and Nic Leary (elite mountain biker and physio) will be running a specific Womens Adventure Race Skills weekend in Tauranga November 2nd and 3rd and Hawkes Bay Feb 29th and March 1st to help with up-skilling in different aspects of the race and helping you become a more confident and competent adventure racer. Contact kym@nzadventureretreats.com or 0272500435.