Like this I suppose. Best read it, think about it but don’t take it as gospel. I am a Sunday warrior, not a coach.
Many moons back I started playing golf and received lots of ‘helpful’ advice. So helpful in fact that I wasted a few months hacking away swathes of Surrey golf course turf and not making any progress. A few private lessons later sorted me out, removing all the elements of the advice I had been given and developing some semblance of proper technique.
Other sports are much the same and I want to share my experience with mountain biking. Again, wind back a few years and once I had worked out the basics and started tackling technical stuff like Abba Zabba, I was given lots of helpful advice, all of which very well-meant and almost exclusively revolved around “just get off the back of the bike”.
The theory behind comes from moving your centre of gravity rewards so qweight distribution is correct for the gradient you are tackling. Having watched other riders apply this, I added it to my ‘skills’ cabinet and started throwing myself down things. I also did a drops course at Swinley where they taught the same technique.
However, I found that when applying this, I’d sometimes struggle to get back over the seat or, in the most extreme positions, would almost end up giving myself some kind of rectal exfoliation with the knobblies on my Minions – ouch!
Also, on hitting the bottom of the descent, my front end would be all flappy and I’d have no grip or direction, as demonstrated by some very dodgy moments on runs down Blind Terror. I had known for some time I still had ‘issues’ but couldn’t work it out so I started to reign in what I’d tackle for fear of personal injury!
Wind back to the early summer and a conversation with Dave Dubbya, fresh from his ukbikeskills experience with Tony (aka Jedi). He commented that Tony’s training focussed much more on heels and wrists down, rather than this fixation with weight off the back. I also read an article in MBUK (I think) where Tony mentioned the same principles.
This made sense to me and applying it has almost completely resolved my issue. The way I see it is that by just moving your weight back, you are actually compensating for the fact that your heels are not in the correct position. My feet were wrong so I was getting much further back than I needed. This was enough to just-about ‘get by’ on the gradients but as soon as it flattened out, my weight distribution was utter cack, meaning my front end was completely unweighted and hence I felt out of control.
Applying the correct technique sees you still needing to get your weight back, but this should be a natural movement created as a by-product of getting your heels down. Heels down first, body movement second.
So I’m no longer hanging off the back like an orang-utan and feel much more in control both on the descent and the aftermath. I’ve worked a lot on this and the experience on Sunday’s ride motivated me to write this.
I rode Blind Terror for the first time this year and what a massive difference-I felt in complete control (unusually). I also watched one of our riders stuff it twice on the same drop and on both occasions, he approached with flat fleet and his arse rubbing the back tyre.
As above, I’m not a coach so don’t take my words as gospel. Try it and see. If you are really sceptical try this simple and safe test. Find a large root on a flat trail that is a big enough obstacle to stop you if you just roll into it. Approach it slowly with your pedals level and feet flat and just ride into it. You should notice that your weight will be thrown forward.
Now do the same again, same speed etc but this time, drop your heels and your wrists. You should find instead of stopping, the bike still wants to push forward when you hit the root and your weight doesn’t get thrown to the front.
So perhaps no more shouts off ‘get off the back’. When the paternal instinct kicks in for fellow riders, best shout ‘heels down’ if you’re compelled to offer help.
My next mtb investment will surely be a half day with Jedi to see what else I’m doing wrong. I’ve reflected it takes a brave man to try and give advice on technique as it will no doubt result in me landing on my arse next time out. However, the fact that I am now a FORMER Moles crash test dummy may not be a simple coincidence! If it works, why not share it?
Comments most welcome, particularly from those better qualified to preach. Jedi?