Posted by: Stu | June 26, 2010

Importance of bike skills. (hoppy skippy kind)

Me, heading off down the black descent at Golspie.

road trip 022, originally uploaded by StoooPotter.

After a relatively tech heavy ride and much good chat with my good pal Kenny, of <a href=”Wellbeing Solutions, today has me thinking about general trail riding skills and how folk (me included) go about trying to improve on that.

Many people ride the same trails week in week out… so in effect practising the same sections on a regular basis. Compare that to other folk who ride different stuff all the time and so are always coming up on tricky techy bits they’ve not ridden before and attempting to ride it cold. Now, both of these options has an element of practice and improvement. Riding the same trail over and over again should help you get quicker and more confident on that trail, but it doesn’t help with making you prepared for the unexpected the same way that varying your routes does.

It’s that “prepared for the unexpected” bit that really makes for a good trail rider… along with the ability to spot interesting lines quickly. Sometimes these lines may not be the fastest, they may just be the most fun. It can be really useful to sessions wee sections of trail over and over, and I mean wee sections – like a single corner, drop or root. This can be great for spotting alternative lines and familiarising yourself with something that always feels nervy, even if it’s familiar. Sometimes you can ride the same trail loads and there can always be a bit that doesn’t feel too smooth, but often you don’t take the time to stop and go over it a few times.

Something very few xc/trail riders do though is general larking about on their bike… around in the street, at freeride areas at bike parks, on little sections of hill down the local woods…

Essentially, it’s this hoppy skippy nonesense that is home to a trials rider, on their odd looking bikes, with no saddle and an absurdly fat rear tyre. I’ve always loved watching them and been impressed with the creativity involved in messing about in the street on steps and walls. Getting good at that required lots of practice and too much time away from the trails and hills for me.

It’s been a while since I’ve ridden with Craig, an old kiting buddy, who was always great at the hoppy skippy stuff with his BMX background. Great at tricks and wheelies, but rubbish at cycling up hills. However, it’s only when you ride downhill with that kind of rider that you really see how these skills transfer to a trail bike. Craig could pick some amazingly creative lines down a hill and hop over or onto all sorts of rocks and logs. Very little phased him. He could even pull a mean 360 out of a half pipe on his light(ish) XC full suss bike… though you don’t come across many skate parks out in the hills 😉

Anyway, the conclusion to all this is that we all should spend more time just arsing about on our bikes… it’s useful, improves your bike handling…. and generally good fun.

If you’re not inspired yet, watch of this video of Chris Akrigg, a very talented trials rider from yorkshire, out on his local trails in the dales on your average full suss trail bike… I must have watched this a dozen times and find it incredibly inspiring. Some of the best mountain bike riding I’ve seen in a long time. Enjoy:

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