Focus outside and start over again
I’m starting to understand that our current experiences are stacked on our previous experiences, and that the real stuff happens below consciousness. On one end, maybe you deeply believe that life is pain and, as a result, you suffer more than you should. On another end, maybe you’ve put a lot of work into developing a skill, and you’re enjoying the process of becoming great at it.
I work both ends of that spectrum. Today I enjoyed the fruits of the latter.
Sunday morning. Tired. Body hurting. It’s been a great bike week: Turned a big PR (both up and down) Thursday, rode a full day of DH Friday, taught half of Saturday. Trying to re-perceive my daily perceptions and forge new habits in my operating system. I’ve done OK in life, but I can do a lot better — for me, my family and the world. That’s the hardest work of all: It’s like I’m starting over, and the part of me that controls the process doesn’t want to do it.
It’s been a few years, but I felt like riding to the top of Sunshine Canyon: a steep paved road that tapers into a very steep dirt road. Today’s up felt achy, uncoordinated, crappy. I can blame the 2.6″ knobby tires on my Fuse, but I know better than that. Near the top I was like, Dude look where you are. Expand your awareness from the ache within to the majesty without.
The climb took an hour 15. Drink some drink, stretch some muscles, take it all in. I’m atop of this part of the world, with huge views in all directions. The kind of views people see on vacation, if they’re lucky, and I rode from home. This is awesome, and I’m feeling it.
On the way down I watch some very cool things happen:
While braking through some big bumps, I’m getting heavy to generate traction, and I notice my legs cycling up and down with the bumps to maintain pressure. I’m pumping the bumps and braking at the same time! No sketchiness. No skidding. No problem. Cool.
The dirt corners are steep, loose, off camber and, right now, very washboarded. I usually slow way down, set a traditional outside-foot-down edge, then pray for traction. If needed I pull my inside foot, moto style.
Since I’ve ridden this descent, scalloping has become deeply embedded in my riding. When you scallop, you break big turns into little turns, each with a ton of pressure, traction and propulsion. Scalloping intermingles cornering, pumping, hopping and jumping, and it’s the hallmark of a great rider. Check out these videos:
Today, without a thought, I carried more speed into the turns, kept my feet level and scalloped through them! The rewards were obvious: 1) incredible traction, 2) no skidding, 3) more, easier speed and, maybe best of all, 4) planing through the washboards instead of smashing into them. When the surface was smooth and packed, I cycled within my bike and body suspension. When the surface was loose and bumpy, I turned each scallop into a hop, which created even more heaviness and more traction. Super cool.
Then I realized the washboards are worse on the outsides of the turns, where cars have been accelerating and I where want to start my late-apex lines. So I try diving inside at full speed — and I need to slow down! — and I notice myself getting heavy, turning and braking; then hopping; then getting heavy, turning and braking again. I’m turning and braking at the same time! And, because I’m pressuring the bike into the ground, there’s plenty of traction. 1) No skidding. 2) No loss of control. 3) Great speed. 4) Fun flow.
Who knows how many corners I’ve done in my life. And how many times I thought to myself, “I’m really good at cornering; maybe it’s time to learn something else?” A lot. And yet, at around MTB Year 30, I’m perceiving a whole new level.
I know the process for learning riding skills, and I’m enjoying it. The operating system work is still very hard, but I have to hope that same process applies. Be diligent. Know when to focus on the work within. Know when to focus on the majesty without. Every time you think you’ve mastered it, start over again.
Be well and kick ass,
“While braking through some big bumps, I’m getting heavy to generate traction, and I notice my legs cycling up and down with the bumps to maintain pressure. I’m pumping the bumps and braking at the same time! No sketchiness. No skidding. No problem. Cool.”
Reminds me of Ben Cathro’s comments regarding braking on the Andorra steeps a few weeks ago. (5min in the below video). I’d never thought about pumping trail features for braking control – only gaining speed in a controlled manner. What is the exact timing of braking in this type of situation? Are you on the brakes as you are pumping the backside or do you wait for the bike to weight up at the bottom of the compression? Whenever I’ve ridden terrain like this I’ve been guilty of dragging the brakes and, while not skidding, don’t feel that i have optimal control and tend to lose power in both brakes and hand grip quicker than expected.
You want to brake when the bike is heaviest. If you’re pumping the bumps well, you’re heaviest on the backsides and in the troughs — you’re lightest (and off the brakes) on the front sides and on the tops.
I hope that helps,