Who isn't short on time these days?
Most people grab their bike and shoot out for a quick ride. They accomplish the goal of getting a ride in, but they never spend any time working on improving their actually riding ability. The ride is exactly the same as the last and they may have to hike over logs, walk down rocks, or ride around all of the fun trail features. Time is the most precious commodity these days and making sure you set some aside to work on your riding is the only way you’re going to improve it. If you’re serious about improving your bike handling then you’re going to need to devote time to it. This means that instead of doing your normal ride, you go out with the goal of working on a weakness. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide to learn how to manual. (manual- riding without pedaling on only the rear wheel). I learned how to manual while in college. Every day when I rode anywhere I would practice. Most times I could only do it a few feet, if even that. At night I would go out to the local food store and practice in the parking lot. It was just me, my bike, and if I was lucky a friend or two. I put more hours into learning that than any other skill I’ve ever worked on. It takes time, patience, and a willingness to practice whether you’re improving or not.
An easy way to start working on a skill is to decide what you want to work on before you ride. This will take your mind off of riding for a particular time or distance and place the importance on improving your abilities. Once on the trail you will want to do what we call sessioning. Sessioning is the act of repeating a section of trail or obstacle over and over. Keep in mind to stay within your abilities. A good way to know if you’re starting on something that’s over your head is to roll up to (log, jump, obstacle) and see how you feel. Do this a couple of times and if you don’t feel slightly more comfortable each time then you may be pushing your luck. Another tip that works in many situations is to get off of your bike and walk over or through the section of trail that you’re focusing on. This lets your mind, and eyes experience it without being on the bike. As silly as this may sound I’ll walk through a section holding an imaginary handlebar. This adds a sense of what the section may feel like, it also helps me establish speed, line choice, body weight, and the entire trail surroundings. By getting up close and personal with the trail it helps lower perceived fear, and prepares you for what you’re going to experience. If you’re riding with others then I suggest watching them a few times before attempting. Take not of their body weight, hand, arm and leg positioning, and if they do any braking or accelerating. All of these are pieces to the art of successful riding. I hope this helps, and as usual feel free to email or message me if you have any questions or concerns. Keep the rubber side down. -JonnyG