Mastering New Skills and Conquering MTB Obstacles

This past Friday I was dying to go ride my bike. The night before my dreams were haunted by mountain bike trails and I woke every ten minutes with the thought, ‘Is it time to go ride yet?’ Every time I was disappointed to discover that it was never close. Eventually, Friday morning arrived and I was able to load up the bike and go visit the tested and true stomping grounds: Lake Crabtree.

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This cartoon I came across on 100% Downhill’s Facebook page captures exactly what I was dreaming about.

Since I am familiar with this course, I like to push my limits for speed and chase KOM’s on Strava (spoiler alert: I’ve never even been close to a KOM. I’m actually averagely slow on a bike). But, this time was a little different. This ride was about sessioning a few sections to work on my riding ability and capturing some great images for my brand new Instagram account! (I just joined Instagram and love the amazing pictures everyone is sharing. Follow me @george_vanden)

First, I started out by practicing my MTB Guru Stance which involves selecting a gorgeous backdrop and hoisting your MTB above your head. This stance is a perfect celebratory move to signify your accomplishment of riding an extremely technical trail section. It is also the stance being used by the MTB Guru app to promote their launch. MTB Guru is an app that will pair MTB guides (or gurus) with travelers who want a seasoned rider to show them around new trails. I believe the launch is planned sometime this July.

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This is the MTB Guru Stance. I’d give it a 7 out of 10. Form is good, backdrop is cool (would have been better if I had captured the lake), but it’s missing a smile. Where’s the excitement?!

In order to take this picture you either need a buddy or a camera with time lapse. Using the time lapse feature of my GoPro gives me several pictures that shows the bike set up, walk, and lift. Using these I can then use a photoshop software, such as GimpShop, to overlay the images and generate an action sequence.

An action sequence #MTBGuruStance looks pretty awesome! Besides, it was just as fun learning how to make this image as it was to hoist my bike for the shot!

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MTB Guru Stance action sequence!

But, my ride was about more than just creating cool pictures, it did involve some riding! Lake Crabtree has two different skill sections that are perfectly tailored for any beginner/intermediate rider (such as myself). The beginner section involves a rock garden, several small log walls, and a low level skinny. There are two skinnies in the intermediate section with both being about mid-shin height (for me anyways). The first skinny is a straight long ride, pretty easy but requires some balance.

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The first skinny.

But, the second skinny involves a little more skill to conquer. It is roughly the same height, but incorporates several small bends before ending in a roll off drop. The bends make this obstacle substantially more difficult to maneuver as your front wheel and back wheel travel different paths (this video by Phil Kemtz has an excellent explanation about wheel travel path at the 1:50 mark).

Ultimately, the back wheel travels a more direct path which means that when your front wheel follows the turn, your back wheel will go straight across the gap. This results in your back wheel sliding off the skinny and a crash. I have been struggling with this particular obstacle throughout the past year with multiple crashes and one bent rear derailleur hanger. However, last Friday I managed to successfully ride this skinny three different times! The secret I discovered was not to watch the front wheel (duh!), but to look forward and trust that physics would take care of the rest. This sounds like obvious advice, but sometimes it takes a while to figure these things out.

Naturally, after completing the obstacle the first time I had to pull out my GoPro and document this historical moment. When I made my second attempt I started to lose my balance, but managed to stick it out, but the third run through I had a new level of confidence and easily navigated the twisting boards. Check the video out below!

What do you think of the action sequence shot? Cool or not?

What MTB obstacles or skills have been challenging you lately? What tricks did you discover to master these skills or obstacles?

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Written in response:

Daily Prompt: Triumph

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