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Just go with the flow or analyse the hell out of it?

murphy

Chimp
Jun 8, 2010
48
0
Planet earth
I was recently reading this technique article:

http://www.imbikemag.com/issue6/?page=73 (REALLY in depth and interesting)

Which reminded me of this bike radar article i read a while ago:

http://www.bikeradar.com/fitness/article/technique-go-with-the-flow-17812

It got me thinking..
that I'm probably not mindful enough of my fundamental riding techniques, i think once you have been doing something (like MTBing) for a fair old while..it is pretty easy to 'autopilot' some of the more basic yet i guess quite important elements..such as body position and cornering technique.

Do you all find you tend to 'go with it' a lot like i seem to or am i missing out and do most of you keep a watchful eye on how you approach corners, trails and your general riding style at all times? :D
 

TheTruth

Turbo Monkey
Jun 15, 2009
3,893
1
I'm waving. Can you see me now?
Technique is something that I did not pay attention to until this year. I started racing xc a year and a half ago which really helped me work on my flow and line choice. It is really easy to get a flat tire if you make a ****ty line choice in the new jersey rocks. Another thing I did was got really good at riding skatepark brakeless, that just helped me learn how to approach things with no brakes. I also go with my friend to the track to drift his nissan 240. That also helped me figure out the limits of tires and how hard you can actually push it. It also made me more comfortable with drifting.

Just going with the flow is literally the best thing to do though. You can't fight it by taking weird lines or braking in turns. You just need to start doing other things to help you get more bike control so you can flow with the trail and push the speed to its limit. (Which means brakes are not needed.)
 

Pslide

Turbo Monkey
I went with the flow for 10 years, then realized I was doing it wrong.

If you wanna get faster, especially for downhill racing, you gotta have good technique, especially in the corners. My technique was developed over many years of aggressive XC riding before I got into DH. I still struggle to get my weight forward on my DH bike because of it. I've had to unlearn a lot, but I've seen progress since I've started unlearning and re-learning, and that's the best part.
 

davec113

Monkey
May 24, 2009
419
0
I agree with pslide, dh technique isn't always intuitive, people get into bad riding habits, and that stuff can really hold your progression back.

I have been too poor to take a class, but analyzing riding vids and watching teaching vids like Fluidride "Like a Pro" can also teach you a lot.

But when you're riding, it's time to STOP thinking about it or you may cause hesitation and do even worse or hurt yourself. Only think about technique when you're OFF the bike.
 

Kanye West

220# bag of hacktastic
Aug 31, 2006
3,746
478
DH is easy to get into without any formal instruction on proper form. It pays a LOT to break bad habits and practice fundamentals. Having an observer or coach of some kind helps, even if it's a friend telling you when you look good/bad on the bike.
 

S.K.C.

Turbo Monkey
Feb 28, 2005
4,096
25
Pa. / North Jersey
I was recently reading this technique article:

http://www.imbikemag.com/issue6/?page=73 (REALLY in depth and interesting)

Which reminded me of this bike radar article i read a while ago:

http://www.bikeradar.com/fitness/article/technique-go-with-the-flow-17812

It got me thinking..
that I'm probably not mindful enough of my fundamental riding techniques, i think once you have been doing something (like MTBing) for a fair old while..it is pretty easy to 'autopilot' some of the more basic yet i guess quite important elements..such as body position and cornering technique.

Do you all find you tend to 'go with it' a lot like i seem to or am i missing out and do most of you keep a watchful eye on how you approach corners, trails and your general riding style at all times? :D
Like most anything, when you start out your main objective is to absorb and learn as much as possible. Practice corners over and over and over, and then over again. I wrote a repsonse to someone asking for advice about how to break through a speed plateau, and one way to do this is by really communing with your bike and knowing what it feels like under a myriad of different conditions and circumstances. In other words ride DH as much as possible, BUT practice proper technique.

The repetitive nature of performing a task over and over the PROPER way is how you build neural pathways in your brain for doing said task. In the teams and other military branches, this type of repetitive training leads to what is called "muscle memory". Once an act becomes hardwired into that noggin of yours it becomes second nature - almost instinctual. There is a great line regarding this spoken by Bruce Lee in "Enter The Dragon"... he says: "...and when the time comes... I do not hit (raises fist) it hits ALL by itself..." What Bruce Lee is really talking about here is muscle memory - through repetitive training, the mind and body seem to act as one.

So, for example, if you practice making left hand flat turns in loam (with a particular bike set up) with the proper technique (the goal of maintaing maximum speed/traction through the turn, and depending on the corner - squaring it off) at first you are trying to figure it out and the internal monologue in your brain goes something like this: "Should I lean more?... "Should I brake harder before the corner?"... "Should I get more over the front or the back of the bike?"... "Do I need more speed?"... as you practice and experiment with that same turn again and again, your brain goes through a process of elimination as to what works and what doesn't. Eventually you are hitting the corner at speed and maintaining it while remaining balanced on the bike. You feel in control, and you gain confidence.

Now, when you are out on the race course, and you encounter a flat turn in loam, (with the same or similar bike set up you had while practicing) your thought processes don't flood your brain with a million questions as to how to navigate the terrain ahead - you already know what to do because you have drilled it into your head - the neural paths are there... and suddenly, ZANG! Without really contemplating it, your hands, feet, torso, legs, and head move. You apply brake, lean, lower your body and RAIL the corner.

When this discussion about "letting go" of oneself and "overthinking" gets into a more deeper sense - then we are talking about the near spiritual side of riding. Surfers talk about it... snowboarders talk about it... musicians... artists... and athletes. You can call it "Being in the Zone", or "Focused" but it's more than that. Matti Lehikoinen alluded to this state of mind during the Schladming section of F1RST... he said when he is out on the race course, "...It's like your memory isn't working... I don't know how to describe it really... when I'm having a really good race run it feels like I'm going (in) slow (motion), but I'm actually going pretty fast..." What Matti is unknowingly referring to is the (Ch'an) Zen state of the mind. Without getting too trippy/dude/brah here, the main thing this means in the context of sports is... Yep - Muscle Memory. Now the REALLY cool thing about muscle memory is that it allows your brain to react EXTREMELY quickly without taking up a lot of its "processing" power. In other words your mind isn't distracted by questions - it already knows what to do, and therefore your body already knows what to do. When this happens, as a racer your mind is then free to focus on the "feel" of the course, or more commonly, the "Flow". You aren't worrying about little things - your are experiencing the race course and the mountain on a large scale - you are seeing the whole course as one continuous piece of terrain... You are pumping the terrain, effortlessly holding speed, and in essence - being one with the bike and the mountain... Zen.

Guys and gals who race World Cup have SO much saddle time in practicing what they do that the actions they perform while racing are nearly instantaneous - no thought, no questioning of the self. From repetition they KNOW how fast they need to be going to clear that double... They KNOW how hard they can rip that berm... They KNOW how much to brake before that steep section... because they have the Muscle Memory to accomplish these tasks, they have confidence. In other words Practice gives rise to Muscle Memory and Confidence. Those last 2 exist hand in hand - one with the other.

Now of course, even for them - it doesn't always work out this way. While the muscle memory is there for piloting their bikes, they STILL have to be able to read the course, find the best line for themselves, and not make mistakes doing ANY of the above... which is of course VERY difficult.

In Zen, there is a mantra of being "empty" when performing a task. This doesn't mean that you are flatlining your brain activity - it means that you are not thinking about HOW to do what you are doing - you are simply doing it (because you have practiced it). Without any distraction, without hesitation.


"No Mind" grasshopper. :)

Practice proper technique through repetition.
Build those neural pathways.
THEN
Muscle Memory kicks in.

To learn proper technique check out the Fluidride "Ride Like a Pro" series of DVD's AND "Fundamentals" by DIRT tv.
 
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spocomptonrider

sportin' the CROCS
Nov 30, 2007
1,412
118
spokanistan
I tend to just go with it a lot of the time, but when it feels like I didn't hit a corner as well as I should have I always do a mental breakdown of what went wrong, if I'm practicing a race course I'll sometimes go so far as to stop and hike back up to do it again before moving on down the track. Personally I'm of the opinion that since each corner is different each requires a slightly different technique to get the highest exit speed (the end goal right?) some techniques such as rider position, when and where you do your braking and even elbow position all affect the exit speed. It's a lot to think about which is why the best riders have the ability to not think. I've noticed also that flatter lower front ends help people break the habit of riding off the back of the bike in "passenger mode" so much of the time, as it naturally puts you over the front wheel a bit more.

-edit- I think I pretty much said what S.K.C said but in a much more concise clif notes manner rather than the convoluted pulitzer prize piece above lol (no offense skc but that made my brain hurt trying to comprehend.)
 
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S.K.C.

Turbo Monkey
Feb 28, 2005
4,096
25
Pa. / North Jersey
LoL - that WAS a long post, wasn't it? I think that writing has become a bit of a lost art on the internets, so I try to avoid using shorthand and sentence fragments when I can.

Convoluted? Hmm... I was trying not to be through the use of examples. Murphy raises some complex questions and observations regarding the mental aspects of riding DH:

I was recently reading this technique article:

http://www.imbikemag.com/issue6/?page=73 (REALLY in depth and interesting)

It got me thinking... that I'm probably not mindful enough of my fundamental riding techniques, i think once you have been doing something (like MTBing) for a fair old while..it is pretty easy to 'autopilot' some of the more basic yet i guess quite important elements..such as body position and cornering technique.

Do you all find you tend to 'go with it' a lot like i seem to or am i missing out and do most of you keep a watchful eye on how you approach corners, trails and your general riding style at all times? :D
...this is a HUGE topic, and definitely not a very easy one to quantify. That last part is a VERY interesting question with TONS of implications. Hopefully some of what I wrote was helpful to Murphy in some way.

Skate - Aggreed! ...and thanks man! Glad I could help! :)
 
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murphy

Chimp
Jun 8, 2010
48
0
Planet earth
I went with the flow for 10 years, then realized I was doing it wrong.

If you wanna get faster, especially for downhill racing, you gotta have good technique, especially in the corners. My technique was developed over many years of aggressive XC riding before I got into DH. I still struggle to get my weight forward on my DH bike because of it. I've had to unlearn a lot, but I've seen progress since I've started unlearning and re-learning, and that's the best part.
great responses guys, thanks! got me really thinking..

sp what did you guys find to be the best way to 'unlearn' and relearn..? i guess articles like the one i posted and maybe dvds and going to events too? or did you look into actual instruction and coaching..? seems extreme unless you want to majorly compete or am i wrong?

Yesterday i tried some tips out of (the article i originally posted ) and even just the pedal position during cornering has boosted my confidence and speed a LOT. which was suprising and welcome :)
 

murphy

Chimp
Jun 8, 2010
48
0
Planet earth
LoL - that WAS a long post, wasn't it? I think that writing has become a bit of a lost art on the internets, so I try to avoid using shorthand and sentence fragments when I can.

Convoluted? Hmm... I was trying not to be through the use of examples. Murphy raises some complex questions and observations regarding the mental aspects of riding DH:



...this is a HUGE topic, and definitely not a very easy one to quantify. That last part is a VERY interesting question with TONS of implications. Hopefully some of what I wrote was helpful to Murphy in some way.

Skate - Aggreed! ...and thanks man! Glad I could help! :)
100% helpful, thanks so much for taking the time to write the post :) half the battle is getting me thinking and when someone can impart some experience and food for thought the cogs begin to turn !! :)
 

Pslide

Turbo Monkey
Unlearning and relearning has not been easy. I think it does help to have a look at your technique and critique it, by someone who knows what they're doing and who is not a hack, or perhaps a video of yourself. I have done some instruction and it is helpful for that reason.

Also, finding someone faster than you with a good style you want to emulate, then ride with him as much as possible!

However, you've got to keep in mind that when you start making these changes - like getting over your front wheel more, you will probably feel uncomfortable and may get slower before you get faster. It took me some time to get used to it (I'm still only 50% there), but my bad habits were really ingrained. But just keep going for it man, and as SKC says, get out there and ride!
 

skatetokil

Turbo Monkey
Jan 2, 2005
2,383
-1
DC/Bluemont VA
Yeah, my experience with learning DH has been repeated cycles of awkward experimentation and tedious practice until one run it just clicks and I feel how it's supposed to feel. You get that "eureka" moment where you find the flow and suddenly go way faster than you've ever gone before. Then after a while, that speed becomes the new normal and you're back to the drawing board.

The trick is to not get discouraged when you're on one of those plateaus and it seems like you're not making any progress. That's where the analysis and the thinking come in because you have to pinpoint the area of your riding that is holding you back and practice the hell out of it until you can let it fly again.
 

Kevin

Turbo Monkey
I dont know what your level of riding is but the Dirt Fundamentals dvd has some pretty solid advice on the basic stuff.
The best way to learn is to ride with people that are faster then you, try and look at what they are doing and ask them how they do it :)
 

murphy

Chimp
Jun 8, 2010
48
0
Planet earth
Thought this might be interesting for you all, the mag that did the cornering article just did one on climbing, another weak area for me..prefer the joy of getting down again..haha. but its a handy read on getting an easy ride to the top!!

Check it out here

Thanks for the tip Kevin, ill check it out!