Monday, May 19, 2008

Skillz

I'll try Sport class in the next MTB race. My skills probably aren't up to it, but my W/kg shouldn't be in the Beginner class anymore--Sunday was embarrassing. We'll see how it goes next month at Elings Park.

Speaking of skills... You've probably heard it said about some road riders that they are "one with the bike", or that the bike is like "an extension of their body", meaning simply that the rider is supremely coordinated and an excellent bike handler. The best crit racers just have a knack for squeezing through holes barely wider than their handlebars ...while sprinting 35 mph out of the saddle!

Having now watched a number of really skilled mountain bikers, it seems their one'ness relationship extends beyond just the bike. The good riders are also one with the trail. By that I mean, they just know instinctively how the bike will react to all the crazy trail irregularities...bumps, rocks, roots,... the stuff that give fits to those of us less skilled. They waste no conscious thought on picking a trajectory as they hurtle down the side of a mountain, yet they get it right 99.99% of the time. Imagine how complex that subconscious mental processing is, with literally hundreds of tiny body-control decisions being made every second. Subtle weight shifts, feathering front and/or rear brakes, slight variations on pedal pressure, turning the bars a fraction of a degree... all of which allows the good riders to fly down bumpy twisty single track at 30 mph.

I will never get there.

They say that people who swam competitively as kids have a life-long advantage over those that take up swimming in adulthood. Something about the technique getting wired into a young brain. A one'ness with the water that you can't achieve if you start later.

I did ride in the dirt as a kid...
No, that's not me in the picture, but it may as well be. Same time frame, same age, hair and glasses... I probably had a shirt just like that. Groovy. We'd have wheelie contests. Build ramps and see who could jump the highest and farthest. Power slides in the dirt and long black skids on the sidewalks. Love those Bendix coaster-brake hubs!

As the beginning of the BMX era started, circa 1970-72, we'd remove the banana seats from our Schwinn Stingrays and replace them with ten-speed seats. (BTW, only people of a certain age will remember that "ten-speed" was synonymous for a road bike!) And we'd replace the bars with motorcycle-look-alike bars, such as:
...but our dirt tracks were usually smooth and flat (it was Stockton after all) and our biggest obstacles were each other. I didn't develop any skills that apply now to mountain biking.

But this kid will...

Reny Rocks!

7 comments:

Greg Knowles said...

Marco, you will do fine in sport. I can't say I'll miss you. ;o) I wish I had learned the art of bike handling at the age Reny is. Awesome stuff!

Anonymous said...

Reny is Da Man. Don't mess with Mr. T. ;-)

John

TnA said...

Marco,
I am by no means a stellar downhiller, but my experience in off-road riding is that at first it's a lot like learning to snow ski or water ski. You're worried about every small undulation and tensed up and reacting needlessly. Once you learn to relax and recognize that sometimes "speed is your friend" in getting through some of the tough stuff, things go a lot smoother. Unfortunately, like in both types of skiing, if you're not crashing, you're not learning :-)

We need to take you out on some of the more technical front country trails and have you work your way through them. Once you've got them wired, a typical MTB race course will seem like a walk in the park.

BTW, don't upgrade until you have to...we might need your results for the team points! ;-)

Don't let doofus's like me calling you a sandbagger ;-) pressure you into moving up to Sport. Take your time and get more comfortable with the racing and your downhilling...that's what the class is for, after all.

Oh yeah...I've got an AWESOME book called "Mountain Bike!" by William Nealy that is a hilarious and insightful handbook (the illustrations are CLASSIC!) that will go a long ways towards opening up the "world of dirt" for you. I'll drop it off on the way home.

Anonymous said...

Like father like son! Reny charges just like is "old man". Awesome!

Anonymous said...

Yeah RENNY ROCKS, AND RON ROLLS...

Anonymous said...

Hey Marco, long time reader, first time poster. Once you can ride the front side of SB, you can ride anything. I miss it dearly. I've since moved away and gone almost full road and can't believe the crap I used to ride there on my MTB. I even dream about it on the best of nights. Best of luck in sport and take advantage of the home turf!

Marco Fanelli said...

Yeah, I've heard it said that our trails in the front range are among the most technical around. I'm not really sure I want to master them when the price for a mistake while learning is a 100-foot drop off a cliff! Bwaaawk-bwaak-bwa-bwa-Bwaawk!! (That's supposed to be a chicken noise btw.)