Are you pumping too hard?

Yeah har har.

Most riders are way too passive on their bikes. For most of you I say attack all backsides. Crush them!

If you’re already an aggressive pumper, especially on a suspended bike, consider this:

This week has been a pain sandwich. The bread is two Pump Up the Base trainer sessions. The meat is a heavy squat/deadlift session with Erin Carson at RallySport in Boulder. Holy cow, I am sore.

But all is good because this morning I had time to ride Valmont Bike Park.

Left Hand Canyon aggro XC setup with extra tire pressure: Stumpy 29 Carbon with Fox 34, Roval carbon wheels and full XTR. Standard fork and shock pressure. Middle ProPedal setting. 2.4 Purgatory front and 2.2 Purgatory rear at 38 and 40 psi.

A great tool for many jobs.

Standard 10-lap slalom climb/descend warmup. Slower than normal but a pleasant 20something minutes.

Roll laps on the upper pump track. I did not need a workout, so no 10-lap interval madness. I just wanted to be smooth and feel free.

I settled into one clockwise lap on the minute. You swimmers know what I’m talking about: Start the lap at :00, ride the lap, rest for however long, start again at the next :00.

My laps times were right around 30 seconds, which gave me time to rest, but not enough time to fully recover. I wound up in the high end of my aerobic zone, which is a great use of time. Sweet spot training!

At first I gave the bike a lot of power: snapping into turns, whipping out of turns, hopping over frontsides, that sort of thing. The laps felt quick, but I could feel myself blow through the ProPedal. There’s this nice firmness, then — whoosh — I dove into the suspension travel.

As my heart rate climbed from lap to lap, I wondered …

… what if I give it less power? Slow my movements, find a flow and push into — but not through — the ProPedal?

That felt really nice. Smooth. Clean. Easy.

And the lap times were … unchanged.

Ah hah! On this bike, on this sinuous track, does slamming through the ProPedal and crushing the travel deliver more pump, or does it just waste energy?

I think it does both.

Riding a 5-inch 29er on a technical pump track will never be super efficient, but working more gently with the suspension seems to make it more efficient.

And it makes me think:

• If you’re cruising down a trail with the goal of utmost speed, efficiency and endurance (as in, say, enduro racing), maybe you don’t need to be crushing the backsides. Work them for sure, but don’t crush them any harder than you have to. If you’re blowing through travel, where is your energy going?

This is a great time to connect with a pocket, but how hard is too hard? Left Hand Canyon XC last weekend.

• If you are good at absorbing frontsides, and you want to get max pump out of the backsides, stiffen your suspension. Every smart DHer already knows this.

• This reminds me of descending on my old Stumpy Pro Carbon or an Epic. These bikes have Brain shocks that offer very stiff, intelligent platforms. You can put a lot of power into these bikes! See Brains for braaap. I still think an Epic with an all-mountain build would be incredible.

• I’ll bet there’s a tighter correlation between power and speed on a stiffer bike and especially a hardtail. Time for some P3 laps on the minute.

Whatever you’re doing right now, give it!


Know more. Have more fun!

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3 replies
  1. Local says:

    Nice observation Lee,
    I think there is lot to discover from 29ers (even though I am a fanatic 26er I do not undrstimate 29ers). But I also think that the bike it self plays a very important role to unlock this potential. I have rode quite a few 29ers and believe me there is a huge difference in the geometry, suspension, weight (both actual and the feeling) and the feedback the bike gives to the rider.
    I come from the old school racing bmx and mtb xc and together with my mx training I always prefere a hard setup even on downhill. What you describe above is right and increases the choise a rider can have to develop his own riding style. Slamming and crusing for short courses, smoth and flow for long courses, always have fun, always keep it braaap.

  2. WAKi says:

    Great observation, thanks for sharing. I went to pumptrack with 29er for the first time, and comparing to 26er it feels much harder to pump with the hips. Also, on the trail it feels as if pumping with upper body and arms gave more effect on 29 than on 26. The obvious might be that the back wheel is bigger, but lately I was pointed by a FM coach that my back posture is “7-shaped” and I might not be activating hips and glutes well enough. So I might be pumping wrong – but that’s another story.

    Any comment on that Lee?

  3. Slim says:

    Hmmm, Epic AM for trail pump? I built my wife an Epic with 120 mm Reba, Reverb post and C guide chainguide, not quite AM, but definitely trail not race.

    Too bad she’s 5’7″ and I’m 6’5″, so I can’t try it on the trail, put the fork in lockout with blow-off set soft tp create a platform and pump it like a hardtail, then hit the Xloc release to open up the fork for traction in loose corners and let the Brain soak up the hits from the ground.


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