Mountain bikers, why don’t you want to ride like a pro!

Are your goals the same as those of a professional runner?

Are you 20 or 30 years old? Professional cyclists are probably younger, stronger and more aggressive than you and their goal is to win races.

When I train professional runners like Mitch Ropelato and Cody Kelly, I realize that they are not the same as most runners. They are younger versions of me (and now much better versions of me) when I raced in the pro class.

Being stronger, more aggressive, and getting paid for doing well in races gives professional riders a different goal than most avid mountain bikers have. Different Goals require different methods.

I found quite a few situations where you might not want to ride like a pro and will share them with you in a series of articles. Some involve different teams, some different mindsets, and some completely different skills.

Situation one where you may not want to ride like a pro:

Don’t take Pro Lines when your goals are different.

Have you ever heard the saying, “don’t take the soft line fast, take the fast line smoothly”? I learned that from a teammate years ago. Everyone who aims to go as fast as possible needs to learn and live that. I have taught that to my students for years.

Taking the fast line smoothly often means going straight ahead and using various methods to float over the tough stuff. Bump jump, bunny hop, or just lose weight on anything that can slow you down. Then pump the rear of the landing to gain speed.

Doing this right has been my meditation for years. It keeps me focused, in the moment and gives me instant feedback. It rewards you by avoiding impacts and allowing you to accelerate along the way.

You also know immediately when you’re wrong when you “eat the handlebars” when the bike slows down and your body keeps going, causing you to do a full-strength push-up.

What is your goal? Is it to have fun, ride with more confidence and / or not get hurt?

Well, depending on your goals, you may want to take the smooth lines at medium speed. I am 54 years old, “taking the fast line without problems” can be exhausting now.

Floating over tough things often requires speed and explosive movements, two things I come across less and less as I get older.

I crashed hard on New Years Day 2020 and it woke me up. My priorities have changed, I can’t be broke and provide for my family and I can’t train when I’m broken.

Since the accident, I have regressed to 90-95% of my previous pace. Going at that rate, descending is different. I don’t have the drive to float over some of the tough stuff so sometimes I have to take the soft line quickly rather than take the fast line smoothly.

Taking the smooth line quickly is pretty fun though – you won’t win any races, but you will take less beating. It is very calm and you are not overloading your mind with hundreds of decisions in a fraction of a second per minute.

“Don’t take the soft line fast, take the fast line soft” is also a relative thing. Trust me, Aaron Gwin takes lines much faster than me because he is better and MUCH stronger than me.

Aaron’s lines scare the hell out of me! Anything as small or smaller than a Honda Civic that just goes through or over, its lines are insane.

Although they won’t scare Aaron, my lines might scare you. Depending on our goals, our fitness level, and our skill level, what we believe to be the fast line changes enormously.

Honestly, I never realized how exhausting it is to ride at the limit of your ability until I decided to back up a bit. The way I’ve descended over the last 30 years produces a massive surge, not just a surge of adrenaline and dopamine, but also a brain surge. It’s super intense, like a drug, hence my addiction.

Driving a little slower is a completely different sport, less intense and much more relaxing. Driving like this doesn’t wear me out as much as carrying.

A wise Buddhist once said that our goal is not joy, the goal is to remain calm. We can be too happy and when we are too happy we cannot keep it up and we will collapse later. When I was young, I found it defeating. I wanted the happiest of all time. As a middle-aged man, I have learned to appreciate Buddhist wisdom, apparently it even applies to mountain biking!

I also missed a lot of fun lines and isn’t mountain biking # 1 for fun? Following my “slower friends”, I have always found them more creative than me. They playfully look for little “bumps” to jump on as they zigzag down the trail. I used to go crazy! Now I enjoy following them, seeing and touching all the “fun lines” that I missed while looking for the fast lines.

I hope this article has been useful or at least entertaining. Stay tuned for my next article on how you might want to use different gear than the pros use.

Share this article with anyone you think might benefit, and feel free to call or email with any questions.



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Tales of Xillia

June 10, 2021