This is a repost. Oh back when I was getting sick, I woke up in the middle of the night and flopped down at the computer. For some strange reason, I ended up deleting three blog posts. Don’t ask – IDK, either. I guess I was tired, sick and delirious from being tired. While the other two posts weren’t thrilling, I did want to repost this one – if nothing else than for my own desire to log/note my own progress.
Originally Written Feb 18 2011 at 445am
As I lay in bed tonight unable to get back to sleep after my youngest woke up (twice) from bad dreams, I started musing about how much I’ve improved since I started mountain biking a couple months ago. I know the mind forgets little details easily. So, I figured I’d better write about it. So a year from now, I can read my old post(s) and realize just how far I’ve come.
If you’ve never ridden a mountain bike, it’s quite a bit different than road riding, that is, if you’re on a technical trail system. Let’s see if I can give this a shot to quickly describe some of those things.
(A) Brakes. On a mtb, the brakes are much stronger and grab quicker. So heaven forbid you grab the wrong side and squeeze too tightly, you’ll do an end-over. Thankfully, I never put my hand on my left brake and only use my right. I’ve also learned to feather and temper my squeezes. So, I don’t get tossed from my horse thanks to momentum in my body. (After all, the brakes are on the bike, not my body.)
(B) Coordination. Nuances of letting my bike swing side to side underneath me as I roll between tight tree squeezes and roots at the same time. On my road bike, I do very little leaning. On my mountain bike, I do quite a bit as I go through curves. I think some of that bravery came from staying on flat pedals. So if I lose my balance, all I have to do is put my foot down. I can’t begin to count the number of times being on flat pedals has saved me from dumping my bike. At the same time, I do notice the loss in power transfer. However, that’s a loss I’m willing to let go. If you read my previous blog, I get enough color as it is. I don’t need anymore.
More on coordination: There’s also times when I go over obstacles that pitch me unexpectedly in any number of directions. I’ve learned to compensate quickly and keep pedaling. Certain curves and climbs have bearish roots. It takes a mix of proper speed, feathering with the brakes, lean/coordination and bravery to keep from having those things catapult me off the bike.
And…argh…big rocks. There’s a few places where there are rock gardens. I actually cracked my pedals on these things during my first rides – wait, not the pedals themselves, but the reflectors cracked and fell off. One of the rock gardens (when it is clockwise day) is still my nemesis. This one is on the far side of a curve, coupled with a short climb and a tree plus its roots just above them. The rocks come out of the ground at an angle, and they take up almost the entire path. One small spot has a respite but hit it wrong and you screw up your wheel. I still walk this part on clockwise days but rumble across them on counter-clockwise days. (It’s so much easier to handle those things on a downhill.)
(C) Working with the front shocks. I know there’s another level to this with rear shocks, but I’ve got a hard tail. So, I can’t comment on that. It wasn’t until about my 10th ride that I figured out how the front shocks were affecting my ride. I guess I was so focused on all the technical aspects of my riding that one more piece of input was too much for my brain to handle. Then, it happened. I was on a different trail and coming down a hill when I noticed feedback from the shock. After that, I started playing with the adjustment (where I can have it fully open to absorb hits, locked out, or find a sweet spot somewhere in between). I’ve learned that while having the shock all the way open is helpful for certain descents, it can hamper my climbing.
I’ve been playing with the setting to see how I like it on my favorite trail. B/c this trail has so much up and down and a wild variation of aspects, I’m starting to wish I had a set-up like my husband does – where the adjustment is up on the handlebars, and changes can be made by flicking a finger. Me, I have to reach down on the fork in order to spin the mechanism to open it up more or lock it out. I think I would use my shock adjustments more if it were on the handlebars, and it would make my ride both easier, smoother and faster.
(D) Strength and Big Kahunas. The first time I did the intermediate trail, it took me just under an hour to complete it. I walked in LOTS of places, at least in 10 spots. Now, I’m able to hunker down and make it up most of the climbs and over most of the obstacles. My best time so far on this trail is down to 33 minutes. I only have to walk in 2-3 places, depending on which direction I’m going…and 4 if I’m tired and not fully recuperated.
I’ve even managed to scale 3 out of the 4 log piles in place on the trail. That’s an accomplishment I reached just this past Tuesday! (I really thought it would take me much longer to get the hang of this. However, I have yet to try those 3 going in the other direction since acquiring the knowledge and chutzpah to do them. They seemed bigger coming from the other direction. I think that is the case b/c I’m going slightly uphill on two of those.) The 4th log pile is MASSIVE, though. My husband has been giving me tips on how to scale it. I still think it will be a while before I conquer that one. Who knows though…maybe I’ll try it when I get my knee pads and shin guards.
One last word on strength, flat pedals and climbing. In my early rides, my feet easily slipped off the flat pedals, and that’s how I got some of my first tings of color on my legs. Now, my feet rarely come out of place. (Okay so, this is coordination, too.) I’m balancing/distributing my weight over my bike and between my pedals, much more smoothly. Plus, the way I grip the handlebars in this situation makes a huge difference on the climb, too. So all these aspects (in addition to my increase in strength) has lead to being able to make it up most climbs on that trail. I’ll even get to the point on a climb where I’m nearly at a stand-still. Yet, I manage to keep my balance in place and grunt out one more pedal revolution to get me over the top without having a foot drop to the ground for balance. That’s a nice feeling to know those spots no longer dominate me. I am dominating it!
After all this improvement, it’s easy to wonder how on earth I can improve more and when it will happen. With our societal mindset of always needing to be better, show more improvement, it’s easy to forget how far one has come. It is easy to dismiss all that work or downgrade its importance in my mind and memories.
Now, I can look back on this (and other blog posts) and realize what tremendous things I’ve accomplished these past couple of months, and I’m excited to see what the future brings!