We teach hundreds of South African mountain bikers at our TREAD Skills Clinics each year. For many, confidence and speed are secondary to just trying to stay upright and avoid crashing or stopping at every obstacle. But there’s one simple thing that we teach that helps everyone go faster and with more confidence. It doesn’t seem to come naturally for most, but it’s really quite simple to do.
What’s that one simple thing? Looking ahead.
By Sean Badenhorst
In order to look ahead when riding your bike, you need to know that looking ahead, isn’t looking at the trail in front of your front wheel – or even AT your front wheel, as many do. Looking ahead is choosing your direction and looking UP – 10 metres ahead for every 10kph you are moving.
Looking ahead doesn’t come naturally for many, especially those that come from running or road cycling backgrounds. So it requires a conscious decision initially, with regular self-reminders. Eventually, if you do it every time you ride, it will become something you just do subconsciously. All good riders look ahead by default.
Of course in order to look ahead, choosing your direction, you need to stop constantly choosing your line. In order to do this, you need to trust technology. Trust that for the past 41 years, mountain bike builders and engineers have made it possible for your bike to handle just about any terrain or gradient. So you don’t actually have to worry about whether your bike will ‘get over’ or ‘go across’ stuff on the trail.
Your bike’s strong frame, absorbent suspension, sturdy wheels and burly, rugged tyres can handle a ridiculous amount of adversity. You have to trust this and not keep looking down at the trail, hoping the bike will manage, as is the case with most people.
Obey the laws of physics that apply to mountain biking (we cover these repeatedly in TREAD articles), trust the technology in your bike, look ahead and own the trail! It’s easier said than done, but it’s very possible and something you should be thinking about (constantly), especially if you are a nervous rider or lack confidence when the trail gets steeper, twisty or more rugged…
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