As a gravity rider or any mountain bike rider for that matter, progression is the key. We need to keep expanding our comfort zone, pushing ourselves further and enhancing our skills. The only way to do this is to chase the gnar, to tackle the formidable, take our balls in our hands and have a good hard go……
Whether it is hitting wall rides, drop offs, tabletops or gap jumps, there is always a skill that we are pushing to improve. For many of us it might just be tackling the first small drop of our mountain biking career or learning to rail a berm without chickening out or touching the coward bars (brakes). Heck we have all been guilty of hitting the eject button before the feature and going full Kentucky fried chicken as we scoot down the B line with our mottled pride in tow. But how do the elite guys really do it? How do they hit the features each and every time without fail? The answer is more simple than you would expect, it didn’t happen over night and they were once in your position.
Whilst it might seem easy and simple to say build your confidence, it can actually be harder than you might expect. For most of us we want to hit it now, to show our mates we can do it or just have the ignorance to believe we can do it without putting any real work into it. The consequence of this attitude is absolute loss of confidence as we hit the dirt shattering our pride, ripping our skin and maybe busting our bike. The key is to do things slowly and session the features.
Build up to that epic cannon log or the four-foot drop to flat, you need to start small and aim to improve your skills and comfort zone bit by bit. As you start to hit the one foot drop each and every time with correct technique, you will in turn be able to hit the two foot drop, then three and so the story goes. This method leads to building and fostering confidence…..an essential ingredient to send any feature.
Skills and Bike Handling
If you have heard it once, you have heard it a million times, it won’t happen over night. But it does happen with a bit of work, common sense and review of how you are doing the skills. Some people ride their whole lives without being able to do a manual or wheelie, but these people don’t normally ride gravity trails. Knowing how to do a manual or wheelie is not only cool as shit, but it also teaches you bike handling. Bike handling is crucial to being able to control your weight distribution over the bike and feel your bike move with the suppleness and flow needed to tackle trails fast.
One thing I like to do is to have one day a week when I am riding that I focus on skills and features, instead of just pinning it down the trail. This gives me a chance to enhance my skills, tune my bike handling and improve my flow. Remember, slow is smooth, smooth is fast, and we all want to be smooth.
God damn it now my bike is asking me for commitment?
That’s right, committing to the feature is probably the most important aspect of tackling any obstacle on the trail. This means with one hundred percent certainty, you hit the jump or drop off, you rail the berm, you hit the wall ride or you just send the chute. How do you do this? Well blind faith is the main thing, making sure you have the skills and confidence to hit the feature and then believing you can do it without bailing on it. You need to commit to the fact that whatever happens you are going to hit the feature, this only can happen if you have nailed your confidence and built up to it. Commitment without skills and confidence is a recipe for disaster…..
So with all this knowledge in hand, how to we go about improving?
Mountain biking is about chasing your next challenge, for some people, that might be a two foot drop on an intermediate trail at the local, for others it might be crab apple hits at whistler. Each and every one of us are at different levels chasing different things, it doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or compete in the elite category at the local races, as long as you are growing as a mountain biker, and you are having fun.
For me the biggest learning curves came when I started chasing more challenging terrain, the park I started riding at was no longer a challenge for me and it wasn’t until I headed to different areas with more gnarly trails that I really started to grow and improve. The easiest way to keep improving is to shred the gnar……