The way I see it, mountain biking is a bit like a swiss army knife.
You’ve got to use the right tool to get the job done, and if you use the wrong tool, or try to bodge it, then it’ll all end in tears.
Well if each little bit of technique you’ve learnt is a tool to use on the trail, then it has to be used at the right time if it’s going to be of any use, and the more tools you’ve got at your disposal, the more obstacles you can tackle. (You can always choose to ride around things though.)
So rather than say “How to ride drop off’s” I reckon the best thing to say is “These are useful techniques” and “use them when you need them”.
I’m also not going to try and claim a monopoly on giving trail advice, if you know a skill that helps you go better, then let’s not keep it to yourself, eh.
Anyway, one thing I’ve noticed is in all the rides I’ve done, being faster more often than not just involves looking where you’re going. Or more specifically, looking ahead. Quite often it isn’t the scary looking bit that’s the problem.
“I made the huge drop off, but hit the tree on the run out.”
Look ahead, see the big picture, and don’t get surprised so often.
Looking ahead is something that we should all do anyway, but when things get a bit squirrely “front wheel fixation” can develop, and because you’re not looking more than 3ft ahead you just end up bouncing off everything completely out of control.
Try looking further ahead, and concentrate on steering the best line, and choosing the best gear. (yeah man, nice.)
If you’re only concentrating on rocks as they pass under your wheels, you won’t have time to choose where you want to be. On the other hand, if you trust your equipment to help you over medium size rocks, you can look ahead and concentrate on avoiding the huge nasty rocks that have been painted red with the blood of the short sighted.
Going faster is then just much easier, you end up with more time to prepare for corners, roots, dogs, rocks, old biplanes, whatever your favourite trails are littered with.
If you get really good it also help loads with overtaking…
Say you’re hammering along twisty single track, inches from the person ahead. How do you gain enough of an advantage to get past?
If you’re looking further ahead, you’ll see which way the track goes, and can choose different lines, and prepare yourself for dodgy moves at the right time.
But you also have to anticipate your rival’s moves, so you have to look even further ahead…
Okay, so you’re looking 10 maybe even 20 feet ahead (depending on your speed) how the hell do you actually stay on your bike? Simple, you have confidence in yourself. You have to build confidence in your own ability to ride without staring at your front wheel. It is possible. Try it. Get out, and no matter what the terrain, look 2 feet further ahead than usual. Then try a bit further.
It is something you have to practice, lots, occasional glances down are still very useful, but it’s great when you can look far enough ahead to choose the rut that doesn’t end in a 1ft wide 2ft deep mud filled abyss.