Writing on Riding

Writing on Riding

Get a bicycle. You will not regret it. If you live. – Mark Twain

How Do You Build Your Skills?

But, on that surface, there was not much slowing down. And as soon as I looked at the trees just off my left elbow I started going toward them…

I recently read an excellent column on why learning proper technique is vital. It includes a great real-world narrative by a student who came out of a tricky situation unscathed, thanks to skills learned in a class.

I never have taken a formal lesson, but in a year and a half of mountain biking I have learned a LOT just by participating in casual, no-drop rides as often as my schedule allows. There’s nothing like watching experienced riders clear obstacles or negotiate tight, steep switchbacks, and then trying the same without any pressure. Those skills have allowed me to venture out with my brother on trails new to both of us. We know our limits, but also have the confidence to push them just enough to handle the trail as it unfolds before us.

My brother, Charles, (front) and Keith negotiate an alternate line at Blowing Springs.

My brother, Charles, (front) and Keith negotiate an alternate line at Blowing Springs. (click to enlarge)

I won’t speak for my brother, but I learned most of what I know from Mojo Cycling’s POD (picture of the day) rides. Shop owner David Neal brings more than 20 years of mountain biking experience, including about 10 years on our local trails, and funnels it into patient but encouraging guidance. We stop often at obstacles, or alternate technical lines, for anyone to take a crack at it. Rode it fine going down? Now try it going up.

One goal is to keep the rider on the bike as much as possible. The less you have to get off the bike and walk, the more fun you’ll have, or the better time you’ll record.

Other experienced riders also provide valuable tips and live demonstrations during these rides. Watch someone else do it, then if you feel comfortable, give it a try. If you don’t, wait until you do. It isn’t a competition, so the only pressure to perform is what you bring on yourself.

No matter what group you choose, make sure that you are still learning. It will increase your skills and your confidence. To get started the way I did, drop by Mojo Cycling at 2104 S. Walton Blvd #1, in Bentonville. They will add you to their e-mail list that announces the location of each ride and includes a few Pictures of the Day related to cycling. The times and days don’t usually change from Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 PM and Saturday mornings at 8 AM.

Update 4/26/2016:

My brother and I leaned heavily on the skills we have learned when we rode the Buffalo Headwaters trails, just a few days after I wrote this. The long, fast descent on Fire Tower Trail; the very steep, tricky descent on Trail of the Ancients; and the fun, very technical downhill Wildcat Hollow all demanded we combine our skills not just to run it clean, but to have fun.

Inspiration (and to read the rest of what happened to the rider I quoted above):

Links to Mojo Cycling:
On Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Mojo-Cycling-112323148829043/
On the Web – http://www.mojocycling.com/

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