Critique: Riding over a rock

I spend a lot of time analyzing other riders: helping them master the core skills, helping them get ever more dialed.

It’s my turn:

Photos by Cody Waite
Pro Xterra triathlete and honcho at He videoed me to compare with his own form during one of our skills sessions. Cody and I are working together all preseason.

Cody applies rock skill, which he learned on the pump track, to a drop. Braaap!

Terrain: Skills rock at Valmont Bike Park.

Bike: Mighty Specialized Stumpjumper 29 Carbon S-EVO with FOX 34 fork and full Shimano XTR love. The suspension is balanced. The shifting and brakes inspire full confidence.

First the video
Watch the head. If your head doesn’t feel the rock, the rock does not feel sketchy.

Then the sequence
Head stays level. It felt smooth. Pretty good.

There is no good without evil, no light without heavy.

Body is centered, but front end is heavily loaded — thanks to a powerful push from a stable core. FOX 34 fork is compressed 120 of 140 mm. Hmm, it doesn’t feel that violent.

Weight driving into the pedals. Arms rowing back HARD. Front wheel doesn’t touch the front of the rock.

The width of the Shimano PRO Atherton bar lets me pull my elbows back with my massive lats, rather than my puny biceps. Bike setup is crucial to executing this move powerfully and smoothly. More on that in an upcoming book.

As low and centered as possible.

I’m a bit too far forward. See the cranks rolled forward and the butt on the seat?

I think that’s from pulling the bars toward me, and possibly from the rear wheel clipping the front of the rock. I’d rather be perfectly centered. Gotta work on that.

Drive the front wheel down the backside. Head and torso don’t move. Get some pump. Braaap!

I will work on staying more balanced across the top. What else can I improve?


Know more. Have more fun!

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12 replies
  1. Chris Q says:

    Your big wheels are lulling you into a false sense of security.

    26″ Lee would have hopped over a square front side like that!

  2. leelikesbikes says:

    Chris: Yeah … clipped in … big wheels … lazy! At least at this mellow speed. I’ll have to charge at this rock full blast and see what happens.

    JimV, my technique and teaching is much refined since writing MMBSii. Now I’m operating from a much more balanced, centered place (on the bike and in life, I hope). Everything I teach is getting simpler. I teach fewer skills, but they are more universal.

    The book Teaching Mountain Bike Skills has a lot of the new kung fu.

  3. zach says:

    Don’t over think the technique. Lazy works as your body will naturally adapt to the environment that way. As for the style I would say the same thing, Lazy don’t over think it, it will look and feel much better:) I might have a few extra pink wrist bands as well (ha ha)…..

  4. Guthrie Gillings says:

    Lee, Your video looks pretty smooth to me…

    So, when you say you got lazy and let your back wheel clip the front, how would you do that differently or what would you do that to prevent it?

    I lurk here quite often and try to pick up a few things here and there. I really like the MMBSII and am probably going to get TMBS.

    I suck… and this question is coming from someone with under average intelligence, so keep that in mind..

  5. Joshua says:

    I’ve been doing this kind of analysis a lot ever since our clinic at rainbow. Seeing myself riding the pump track was shocking, and instantly helped me improve.

    So, as a generally lousy rider who read your teaching mountain bike skills book several times… I agree that the top is the only frame that is imperfect. Maybe you’re actually anticipating the backside and moving forward to give a massive push?

    One thing I noticed that you didn’t mention is that your heels also raise on the top, which you would definitely avoid if you were still on flats. That might help keep you balanced.

    Also, THANK YOU for the photos. Your arms are working perfectly, and mine suck. Now I have something to work on!

  6. Feldy says:

    I agree with Zach. It looks like you’re trying too hard. You already mentioned that you’re too far forward, I’d also say you’re too low when on top and leaning back too far one the way off the rock for the size of the drop. If you really need to be that low to get up on top, then you might need to be further back over the rear wheel to give yourself extra space should you need to suck up any higher. I think this relates to what JimV is saying. I might be over thinking this point because I’m really starting to think about a big, trials-like up. How low you look could be exacerbated because you’re on a 29er and you’re not particularly tall. And how low you are on top might make it seem like you’re lower than you need to be on the way back down.

    When I started writing this I was thinking about how I’m probably better at climbing technical stuff _relative_ to everything else. I.e. take someone whom I’m evenly matched with on downhill or cornering or whatever and on average I’ll probably be better than them at climbing. So I sorta think I know what I’m talking about. OTOH, I’ve never seen a film of me going up stuff so I have no idea what I’d look like when doing something like this.

  7. Mike says:

    If I was being picky Lee, I would say that in the first shot, you could get your hips forward more, which will move your weight forward slightly, helping unweight the rear more to stop the rear wheel clipping.
    On top your knees are slightly off-plane, which suggest a lack of balance whilst low and at slow speed. That left foot rotating slightly forward is also indicative of this.
    At trials speeds, it is difficult to link each move if you don’t have excellent balance. At trail speed, this doesn’t matter so much, as momentum provides the stability required to keep everything in line and allows the body to relax a little as Zach alluded to.
    That is being really picky though, and looking at this with my trials rider eyes and not with my trail rider eyes. (At Mach 3, this could be ridden by bunnyhopping the front side and squashing the crap out of the back side. But you already knew that!)
    I would prescribe some track stand practice as part of your warm up routine. 1 minute on the flat. 1 minute with your front wheel on top of the skills rock. And if you get really good, 1 minute with your back wheel on the skills rock, front wheel on the ground. This is a great core work out too!


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