Compromises in the face of reality

We all have these visions of how things are going to be. In downhill, they don’t always go that way.

But all is not lost.


When we were new parents, we found ourselves compromising our plans quickly when confronted by real babies with real needs. For instance “they’ll never watch TV” becomes “If I set them in front of Baby Einsten, I have 23 minutes to make dinner.” I just had the same experience on my first real time on big bikes on lift-serviced trails. (I’m not going to push the metaphor any farther)

A friend and I (both long time trail riders) recently got interested in downhill. We bought big bikes and this weekend we went out for the opening day at Plattekill, one of the first places to open in the northeast. I had 2 goals for myself: 1) To be aware of light hands, heavy feet all day – no using the arms to support my weight; and 2) to have the brakes either on or off – no dragging the brakes..

For goal 1, I had the opposite problem – it was very hard for me to put any weight on my hands at all – I was pulling back on the bars all day, regardless of how steep the hill. Have you seen this in your coaching?

For goal 2, I found that terrifying. The acceleration when I let go of the brakes was breathtaking and quickly took me into the red zone. So I dragged the brakes much of the day. Given that my goal is to increase my speed safely, should I really be full on / full off? Even if I go full on every few seconds?

Thanks for your help,

Hey Jim,

Luckily, I have very few expectations where my Fatherhood Kung Fu is concerned. I just want to be a good dad. And create two billionaire/MTB world champions who are loved by all — including themselves. That isn’t too much to ask, is it? 🙂

Pulling with the hands
Yep, I see this all the time.

Most riders spend most of the time too far forward, with too much weight on their bars. When they get scared, they lean back too far, and they end up pulling on the bars.

Not that you were scared. Let’s just say you were riding defensively.

Breathtaking acceleration
Steep terrain means rapid acceleration. That’s all there is to it.

If you’re too far back, you’ll feel even more terrified; the rearward position pulls you into every drop, and it lets your unweighted front tire wander aimlessly.

That’s a recipe for stress. And once the stress response hits you, it’s over. Your body and bike become uncontrollable, and any speed seems excessive.

The above issues are related. I suggest:

– Find your feet. Too far back is almost as bad as too far forward. Learn to balance on your feet and keep your hands neutral. Always.

– Learn your new bike on tamer terrain. Riding a big bike is a different experience — it’s vague and disconnected unless you pump hard and really engage with the ground. I hope that makes sense; that’s another post.

– And make sure that bike is dialed. The more travel you have, the more dialed it must be.

– Brake as much as you need to. Spend as much time as possible rolling and flowing; it’s safer and more fun. If the trail requires you to brake hard every few seconds, so be it.

– Absolutely avoid that stress response. You might dial back your expectations as far as trails/speed are concerned. I believe firmly that it’s more fun (and better for your skills) to braaap a trail you trust than to apologize your way down a trail you fear. Plattekill is the real deal — rip the blues before you step up to black.

Dude, it sounds like you’re successfully raising kids. That makes you my hero.

Dropping in …

— Lee

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