BettyGoHard is well into our biking season and it has been so much fun to be out with the ladies. It is amazing to see the improvements of the groups from week one to week four. The biggest improvement that I see is the increase in confidence in themselves and their new found skills that the girls get with each new achievement. Mountain biking is as much about keeping the mind quiet as it is about negotiating the trail skillfully. You can have all the skills but if you keep telling yourself that you can’t do it you probably won’t.
I once read that our brain cannot distinguish between the messages that it receives from you (the owner of the brain) and someone else, which is why affirmations and mantras are so effective. I have borrowed my favorite climbing mantra from Thomas the tank engine ‘I think I can, I think I can, I know I can, I know I can, I am, I am – yeeha!! I made it. I have found focusing the brain on the task at hand with a mantra – ‘look, lean, exit’ or focus on your body position; tighten the abs, lift your hips, cowboy legs, look ahead etc.
There are many different skills to mountain biking and the ones that we have been working on a lot have been bike body separation, climbing and switchbacks. So over the next few weeks I thought I would share a few thoughts on these skills. Let’s start with climbing:
Don't be in a hurry. When starting a climb, settle down and relax, breathe deeply, get into a rhythm and focus on the trail ahead and your line. Do not try to keep up with other riders. You have your own climbing pace, don’t try and compete just stick to it and you will make it. Don't be looking way up ahead and thinking "yikes!" and "aargh!" Getting flustered or panicky is counterproductive: it wastes energy and induces negative physiological reactions. Stay in the moment. Look around and enjoy the view. Smile. You will get up there and beyond, one pedal stroke at a time. You will find that as the minutes pass, you will feel better and stronger, as your system adapts to the effort.
Think about your gears and change them whenever you need to, just remember if you are going uphill don’t crank on them or you could break something. Don't spin madly in a tiny gear and go nowhere fast--you'll just tire yourself out in short order. Use a ratio that gives some resistance.
Scan your body frequently to ensure correct position as we get tired we tend to slump, just keep adjusting. Don't tense your upper body; keep your shoulders down, elbows bent and in, head up and looking ahead, picking your line. Your upper body should be straight and quiet; only your legs should be moving. Ensure that you have even weight over the front and back of the bike; if you find that the front wheel is lifting think about bringing your chest to your handlebars but remember to keep your bum back on the seat to keep the weight on the rear tire or you will find it spinning. Another common issue is the front wheel moving from side to side, keep it solid by tightening your core and looking up.
Dismounting. Sometimes the slope gets too steep or we don’t quite make it around the switchback – it happens and its ok but we do need to ensure that we can dismount safely. This will enable you to try things safely without the risk of going backwards downhill upside down.
The technique: while going uphill grab both brakes and put your inside foot on the ground leaving the outside foot on the pedal forming a tripod. From here either bring your outside leg over the bike or take the pedal to the top of the stroke and try to restart – always holding both brakes. Use the same technique when going downhill.