I started riding back in the days when cantilever brakes were rad, suspension was something that squeaked on my old rust bucket car and handlebars were measured in feet. Back then, there were things you just didn’t do on a bike, like taking air – well at least not intentionally. As the ad says, “Baby, you’ve come a long way”. Nowadays brakes will stop you on a dime (too fast sometimes!), suspension is damn near measured in feet and the limits for what you can do on a bike is based more on YOUR abilities than the bike.
It’s amazing that after nearly 20 years of riding, mountain biking can still offer so many new and exciting things to learn, see and do. This sport has constantly evolved and changed so much that it keeps me coming back for more.
I’ve ridden in many amazing places – Moab, Fruita, Sedona, Rossland, Revelstoke, Golden, Fernie, California, Whistler, Squamish, New Zealand… and probably others that I can’t even think of right now. I’ve ridden cross country, all mountain and road (although you would never catch me admitting that to my roadie buddies). And yet, this year I discovered there is still a whole new world of riding out there to explore!
Revelation #1 – taking a course really CAN improve your riding!
I took the Dirt series late last year and realized that yes, Virginia, riding style has changed dramatically in response to the improvements in technology with bikes. By modifying how and where I position my body on the bike, how I brake and where I accelerate in a corner and a few tips and tricks for straight line riding I can do so much more than I ever thought possible. By changing the foundations of how I ride, it’s taken me to a whole new plateau and so many more opportunities for riding super fun stuff. And, because I liked it so much I took it again this spring to really hammer in those fundamentals and make sure they stick.
In the course they split you into groups according to your ability. From there they do workshops to break down the techniques of compression, extension, braking, balancing, etc so that you can more effectively do the things you want to do – high speed cornering, jumps, drops, riding wood, climbing, etc. After that you get to go play and practice what you’ve learned on trails.
Ok, so I learned some good skills in a course, so what? The cool thing is that I can see a huge difference in how I tackle the technical. I’m ripping up the corners and letting the bike do what it’s designed to do. I’m riding structures that I had always been nervous about trying. I’m taking on steep descents and cranking through rollovers, roots and jumps. But you want to know the even better part of that? I’m eyeing up stuff that I would never have considered before, which brings me to the next incredible revelation of the summer.
Revelation #2 – Downhilling is SUPER fun!
Ok, ok, so it’s been around for ages and most people already KNOW that, but being a mainly xc \ all mountain chick I just never got around to it because I actually DO love doing trails and climbs. But what I realized this summer is that, similar to skiing back country versus resort skiing, if you really want to improve your downhill technical skills, downhill seriously is THE way to do it.
After doing just a couple of downhill rides in Revelstoke and Squamish as well as a day at the Whistler bike park, I could feel the bike \ body separation far more than ever before and catching air doesn’t terrify me like it used to…ok, so I still need to work on that one. That’s next on the list. I’m actually starting to think about donning a full face helmet, some armor and checking out some of those wicked descents.
I think I’ll always be an all mountain girl at heart, but who knows…..you never know where life will take you….