Winter is in full swing now and you’re most likely finding that all of your local trails are becoming more difficult as the weather does its worst. The ground is soft, slippery roots and rocks are everywhere, and wear and tear on your body and bike is amplified. These all mean your technique and consequently your confidence suffers. What better opportunity to work on your technique? If you spend a little time now ironing out some bad habits, or working on deliberate techniques to make things easier, then, as the weather gets better in a few months you’ll be able to hit the dry trails with more confidence and control. Whether you are relatively new to the sport, or have been riding for years, this is how to improve in the off-season.
ADOPT THE DELIBERATE SHAPE
It’s called many things: your attack position; your ready position; your reset position. They all refer to the same confident stance that experienced riders make. Why does it work though? And how do you know if you’re making the correct shape while you are riding? One thing to remember here is that the shape is constantly moving in reaction to what’s happening on the trail, so everything that we mention is a starting position. It works because as soon as you need to react to something, the ability to do so is maximised. Once things calm down again though, you can make a quick assessment to gauge how you’ve come out the other side. Here’s a checklist of the key components to help you get it dialled.
Before joining Dirt School Andy liked to win things – races like the Scottish XC Champs and the Scottish Downhill Champs. Since 2009, though, he’s coached some of the world’s best riders with Dirt School and helped bring on the BASE MTB course at Borders College lege in the Tweed Valley. But what Andy really likes to do is communicate those pro techniques to everyday rider
Where you place your foot on the pedal is crucial to that feeling of having a solid stance. If you ride with the sole of your foot too far back, so that your toes are on the pedal, it will always feel like you are going to slip off. Try and place your foot so that all of your toes are hanging off the leading row of pins and that the ball of your foot is nudging up against the front of the pedal. If you are clipped in this might mean moving your cleats back so they are closer to your heels. The kids would call this ‘slamming your cleats’, but it’s popular for a reason. The feeling of riding ‘in’ your bike instead of ‘on’ it will start here, so it’s definitely worth doing.
Standing up on your bike works for a lot of different reasons. It separates you from your bike, gives you a much bigger range of motion, and it lowers your centre of gravity. This last one happens because once you’re standing on your feet, all of your weight is in contact with your bike down at your bottom bracket. Dropping your heels will not only exaggerate this further, but on choppy or rough ground it will allow you to stay secure and attached to flat pedals. You have a lot of flexibility in your ankles, so if your neutral passive position starts here, it means you have even more flexibility if you need it.
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