What needs work?
I was reading posts in the women’s lounge on mtbr, and I came across the following question:
What skill do you want to improve this spring? Do you have something in particular you want to conquer?
This definitely got me thinking about what specifically I needed to work on to become a better technical rider. Much to my surprise, as I read through comments posted by fellow women mountain bikers, I felt a boost of confidence. I found that many of these women shared my same struggles and fears.
So after reading the entire thread, I felt it was time for me to document my answer to the question. I realize I probably should have thought about this at the beginning of the year and wrote down my answers, but it’s still early enough that I feel I can benefit from this exercise.
1)Dismount (and remount) from the right side. Currently, on both the road and in the woods, I am not able to put my right foot down first or push off of my left. This is only somewhat dangerous on the road, as my weight is into traffic instead of away at a stop light, etc, but in the woods its a whole different matter. On a mountain bike there are sections where you must mount from a particular side bc if you don’t you risk falling off a steep cliff. I’ve run into numerous occasions where I have either been forced to walk my bike or have narrowly missed seriously injuring myself, simply because of my left only problem.
I think the easiest way to fix this problem, is to use flat pedals and practice somewhere soft and flat. I think a lot of this is just a matter of many repetitions to reprogram my brain. After doing something hundreds or thousands of times one way, it can be tough to switch your thinking. I am confident that this is something I will be able to tackle if I put in the time.
2)Logs. I finally got the hang of popping my front tire, however, I still need to work on my timing. I am at the point now where I can consistently hop smaller logs (ones that I used to bulldoze over), however, its the medium logs that I now struggle with. Sometimes I do them fine and then other times I chicken myself out and don’t even try. Basically my goal here is to become more consistent and go over all logs in the size range that I realistically can do. Again, I think the key for me with this one is repetition. It can be hard on the trail where you may only see 1 or 2 logs over an hour period to get that consistency that is needed to gain confidence. I need to continue to go over the logs in the yard regularly because once I have the timing dialed in, I think I will have the confidence to tackle logs along the trail regularly.
3)Water Crossings/Bridges. Don’t ask me why, but I have a huge problem with both of these things. I could understand my fear of these if I was someone who never learned to swim and was afraid of water, but clearly that is not my problem. Take any section that I ride no problem with confidence and add water to it, and suddenly I freeze up and cant do it. This is really frustrating on a number of levels, but ultimately it ruins my flow and shoots my confidence whenever it happens. Similarly, I have never been a fan of bridges whether it is walking, driving or now biking over them. I assume this stems at the deepest level from my fear of heights, but who knows. This is one of the tougher things I want to tackle, as there is no “easy” way to practice these issues. I can’t simply do a 100 reps and expect things to be better. Ultimately, this is a mental problem I need to tackle. Essentially, I need to just shut out my fears and just do these things, otherwise I will continue to struggle and walk them. All I can hope for is after I am able to do one, I will realize it’s not so bad and then be able to do 2 and so on.
4)Another issue I’d like to tackle is one of using my brakes too much. Rich is constantly yelling “no brakes” at me, yet I still continue to squeeze them. This is especially true on downhill sections, but it also applies to other aspects of mountain biking, such as cornering. I feel that I have made a baby step improvement in this area so far this year, but I would really like to take a big step forward. In terms of racing, I think this is one area that could easily knock minutes off my time. This ultimately comes down to confidence, and I think it’s just a matter of trusting myself (and the bike) more.
5)Last but not least is right hand turning. I forget how I initially figured out I had a problem with this, but since then I have noticed it more and more. For some reason, I am able to make fairly tight left handed turns without a problem, but my right hand turns are always taken very wide and many times I still don’t make them. This caused me a lot of issues during cyclocross, as most of these races involve tight turns in both directions. I’m really working on looking through the turns, but I still don’t think that has made a big difference. This is the one area where I really am not sure how to correct things, as ultimately I don’t know what is causing the problem. Anyone have any suggestions for good drills or ideas on ways to fix this? I’ll gladly try your suggestions!
So there it is, the five things that I am committing myself to working on for the remainder of the year. As I mentioned, some will be easier than others, and some will always be a work in progress, but I will spend time on all of them. Hopefully, this will not only make me faster, but will make rides more enjoyable and give me more confidence moving forward. So what do YOU need to work on this year? Whether it be in mountain biking or life, I’d love to hear it.