I’ve been wanting to ride the Boner Log at Valmont Bike Park for a while. This involves more and steeper air than I’m used to, and I’ve been taking the go-around.
I rode it yesterday! This is not the biggest thing in the world, but it felt awesome, and I hope my process will help some of you master your next challenges (safely).
The next thing
This summer I’ve taught and ridden at Valmont Bike Park at least several days a week. I’ve ridden the xc trails, pump tracks, slalom course and large slopestyle hundreds of times. I feel like I’m getting decent at the lines I ride, but I, like you, always want to ride better, faster and — I suppose — bigger.
For the past month, I’ve been eyeing the Boner Log.
The Boner Log (so named because it sticks straight out and it’s made of wood) juts out of the right side of the large slopestyle and serves you into a couple fun-looking biggish lines. Unlike a constant-radius jump lip, the Boner is flat. It does not pop you upward. It simply sends you outward on a parabolic arc to a landing that seems to be in the right place but, if you look at it too long, seems pretty far away.
Ideally, you ride in a state of comfortable flow. Your skills match the task, you have a clear goal and you feel the right amount of stress: not so little you’re not focused, not so much you’re freaking out.
Whenever you push past the freak-out threshold — either because of internal factors (putting too mush pressure on yourself) or external factors (a freaking huge jump!) or both — bad things are more likely to happen.
You see, we are creatures of habit. A skill is just a habit that happens to help you rip. Most of us have bad habits born of instinct, terrible experiences and just plain sucking. The best of us override those bad habits with good ones: getting low, looking forward, staying balanced. If you practice good habits long and often enough, they will become your default action.
The bummer about old patterns is they never go away. When we get stressed past a certain point, the old habits take over. You tighten up, look at your front wheel, push your head away from danger, and basically go back to sucking. Crashes — and injuries — become way more likely.
For myself and the people I train, I advise not going into the freak-out zone. Instead operate in a safe place where you can think and act clearly. Your ceiling will grow naturally (and safely) from there.
But we are mountain bikers, and stepping it up is an important part of Riding (and Life).
Why are you doing this?
We feel compelled to go bigger for a variety of reasons: getting paid, destroying fools, feeling good about ourselves, mastering our crafts and just having fun.
The more urgent your compulsions, the more likely you’re going to step into the void. This is probably why racers are way more likely to get hurt than non racers. (See Danger: that aggro little voice.) When I was a racer, I needed to win so badly that I was willing to sacrifice pretty much anything. I often hucked my carcass into the blackness. Sometimes it worked out, sometimes it didn’t.
Feeling the Nervous, but still executing perfectly at Left Hand Canyon.
Stepping it up
I’m getting pretty smooth on the left side of the large line. Dude, a hundred runs better do that. A few times I’ve glanced at the Boner — nope! — then retreated to my old line. It just didn’t feel right. Yeah, I know how to ride a bike, and I know the build is perfect, and I’ve seen dozens of people ride it fine (even with glaring technique errors). My brain and body know what to do. They just weren’t ready.
I make a big part of my living on the bike, and getting hurt is not OK. As a perfectionist, sloppy riding isn’t OK either. In the past I’d get on the big bike, armor up, take a stab at it, case or crash then work things out from there.
At this point in my riding life, there is no upside for going bigger other than feeling stoked. I’m already stoked. If a new, bigger line feels good, great. If I can see myself riding it, perfect. If it makes sense in the moment, I’ll rock it. Otherwise, I can wait.
But I’m a mountain biker like you, and I know that fun happens at the intersection of skill and challenge. To keep having fun, we must create new challenges: finer balance, faster cornering, smoother pump, the possibilities are infinite. Sometimes the challenge comes from riding a new line. Sometimes that line is bigger than you’re used to.
Yesterday felt like the day. I warmed up on the slalom track and took a few large slopestyle runs, which felt … normal. OK dude, you’re not getting anywhere. On the next run I eyeballed the Boner, rolled toward it, felt the exclamation mark pop out of my head (a clear sign I was approaching the freak-out zone) and decided to abort. But I didn’t take my old line. Instead, I pumped a little roller around the Boner, flat-landed past the Boner landing, took a few pedals then rocked a couple big hips I’ve never even looked at.
OK, that was cool. I rode this option a couple more times. The overshoot-to-metal-on-metal-bottom-out was so freaking violent, I knew the Boner was becoming the responsible choice. On the next pass, my eyes scanned the Boner, decided it looked OK then spotted my go-around. That moment of quietly engaging the target was all I needed: I was ready.
On the next run I spotted the Boner and … just let it roll. Heavy feet, light hands … pressure up the ramp then … nothing. Sailing through the air, extending for the landing. Big pump and rip the next two jumps. Perfect.
Buttering the Boner on the Stumpy 29 Carbon S-EVO.
I did a half dozen more then taught a road racer how to Ride.
Have fun out there,
Know more. Have more fun!
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