I haven’t ridden my mountain bike for 13 days, which is almost without precedent. We went for an 8 day holiday in south west England and although I’d intended to get a lot of riding done in the week before we went I was thwarted by the weather. I only managed one bike ride and two trips in my pedal powered dinghy in the week so after arriving home yesterday I was anxious to ride today. Mountain biking is far from the only thing in my life but today still felt like I was getting back to life!
We weren’t idle whilst we were away. My wife, Ali, and I are not the sort of people who sit around sun bathing or sitting in bars for hours on end. Instead we enjoyed the nature of the Mendip plateau, which has Britain’s biggest gorge, and the beautiful cities of Wells and Bath. Bath is featured in the novels of Jane Austen, particularly in Persuasion so we had to see the Royal Crescent and quote lines from the story whilst there. Who knew that holidaying could be so tiring? We’d clambered up the limestone of Ebbor Gorge and been on our feet for far longer each day than we’re accustomed to. I’d wondered if this period off the bike would have affected my fitness but, since I still feel as if I’m recovering from last week, I decided to take it relatively easy today and ride three laps of our local hill, Healey Nab.
I’d been reminded by a fellow blogger, Jim, of “bgddyjm, Fit Recovery” (https://fitrecovery.wordpress.com/2021/08/08/10-years-of-cycling-without-injury-well-kinda/), of the importance of bike fit so thought that I might make some changes during today’s ride. I fancied raising the handlebars by moving the spacers on the stem but thought that is would be too time consuming so I’ll do it at home before my next ride. Instead I did something else which I’d promised myself I’d do and session a particular section of trail. By repeating the same section I’d be able to improve my technique since I’d been having a bit of difficulty.
A new piece of trail was created earlier this year which gives a much faster approach to the lumpy, rocky section in question. I was finding that at a higher speed the bike was leaving the ground over bumps to land awkwardly on the following bump. I could easily have lost contact with the bike and have had a couple of scary moments, so resolved to do something about it. The problem isn’t really the bumps, it’s the dips. If I’m leaving the ground over a bump and hitting the next bump there are 2 possible solutions. One would be to jump higher from the first bump to clear the second but on this section you’re not going to clear the whole distance so might put yourself in more danger. The other way would be to push the bike down into the dip which follows the bump and allow the bike to rise over the next bump, then push down into the next dip.
This sounds easy enough but to accomplish it you need to start with the right body position. I started the section with my arms and legs well flexed and my body almost horizontal, close to the bike. I still had enough space to absorb the first bump and then had enough extension to push the bike into the dip. If I hadn’t been sufficiently low my wheels would have skipped across the dip and banged into the following up slope, which is exactly what was happening on my early attempts on previous rides. By giving it enough thought, and enough flex, I was keeping the wheels in contact and following the contours of the trail. 3 laps and no hairy moments. This has been a useful reminder of the correct technique. It’s always good to be well flexed in the arms and legs on any unfamiliar terrain because you’re far more likely to be able to keep those wheels in contact with the ground, which will make it appear much smoother and easier to cope with. I must acknowledge the magazine MBR, which recently covered this topic and helped me to resolve a tricky section of trail. I felt quite tired during the ride but I think this is because I started off feeling tired, rather than because of a loss of fitness. We are due some drier weather from now on. I can’t wait.