Monday, December 8, 2008

Injury Management

Injured? I've found this great article on ice therapy written by Sports Massage Therapist Laurel J. Freeman from the Road Runners Club of America:

Ice Therapy by Laurel J. Freeman

Ice, anyone? Ice isn't just for cold drinks. In the past eight to 10 years, many studies have shown the benefits of ice as therapy. Here are the answers to some common ice-related questions.

What does ice do?
Ice is one of the simplest, safest, and most effective self care techniques for injury, pain, or discomfort in muscles and joints. Ice will decrease muscle spasms, pain, and inflammation to bone and soft tissue. You can use ice initially at the site of discomfort, pain, or injury. You can also apply ice in later stages for rehabilitation of injuries or chronic (long-term) problems.
During an initial injury, tissue damage can cause uncontrolled swelling. This swelling can increase the damage of the initial injury and delay the healing time. If you use ice immediately, you will reduce the amount of swelling. Ice decreases all of these: swelling, tissue damage, blood clot formation, inflammation, muscle spasms, and pain. At the same time, the ice enhances the flow of nutrients into the area, aids in the removal of metabolites (waste products), increases strength, and promotes healing. This "ice effect" is not related to age, sex, or circumference of the injured area.

Four stages in ice therapy
There are four official stages to ice. The first stage is cold, the second is burning/pricking, the third stage is aching, which can sometimes hurt worse than the pain. The fourth and most important stage is numbness. As soon as this stage is achieved, remove the ice. Time duration depends upon body weight. Twenty to thirty minutes should be the maximum time per area. If it is necessary to reapply ice, let the skin go to normal temperature or go back to the third stage of aching.

How does ice therapy work?
Ice initially constricts local blood vessels and decreases tissue temperature. This constriction decreases blood flow and cell metabolism, which can limit hemorrhage and cell death in an acute traumatic injury. After approximately 20 minutes of ice, blood vessels in the injured area then dilate (open) slowly, increasing the tissue temperature, an effect which is termed "reactive vasodilation." A study reported in the Journal of Orthopedic Sports Physical Therapy, (Jul/Aug, 1994), found that, despite the reactive vasodilation, there was a significant sustained reduction in local blood volume after ice was applied.

What does this mean for me?
It can mean a lot, if you are injured or in discomfort! Ice therapy can help the area heal faster, and there will be a decrease in pain and swelling and an increase in lymphatic drainage.
Why ice after a workout?In the past 28 years, there have been many studies of ice as a therapy tool for injuries. Many of these studies have had conflicting conclusions, but improvements in technology are giving researchers new data. There is no doubt in the minds of many researchers and doctors that ice is the most widely used and efficient form of cryotherapy in medicine today. A 1994 study sited in The American Journal of Sports Medicine (Jul/Aug) showed ice affects not only the arterial and soft tissue blood flow, but also the metabolism of the bone, in a positive way. This is significant in the healing process of an injury to a joint.

When should I use ice?
For the greatest benefits, use ice after exercise and not before. In the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation (Feb/1994), a study on the ankle was conducted to see if ice should be used on an injury before exercise. The finding showed decreased temperature reduces the joint mechanoreceptor sensitivity and thereby alters joint position sense, exposing the joint to possible injury. In conclusion, cooling a body part prior to athletic performance is contraindicated, which is academic-speak for "probably a bad idea."
It was once believed the use of ice was only beneficial in the first 24 hours after an injury. Recent scientific studies have shown the benefits of ice over the long term. During the initial stage of an acute injury (within 24-48 hours), or during the chronic stage (after 48 hours) ice can be very beneficial in promoting wellness.

Can I ice as a precaution?
You can use ice immediately following any workout, discomfort, or injury. If the swelling or pain does not decrease within a reasonable time (24 to 48 hours), consult a physician.
Is ice safe?Ice therapy is very safe when used within the treatment time recommended. Don't use ice if you have the following conditions: rheumatoid arthritis, Raynaud's Syndrome, cold allergic conditions, paralysis, or areas of impaired sensation. Do not use ice directly over superficial nerve areas. In a study printed in the Archives of Physical Medical Rehabilitation (Jan/1994), the use of ice was tested on spinal cord-injured and able-bodied men. The results were that ice and cooling down the body temperature may evoke a vascular response to cold stimulus that may be mediated in part by the spinal cord and by supra-spinal centers causing a change in blood pressure.

How should ice be used in conjunction with exercise?Ice can be combined with movement. Once the fourth stage of icing has been achieved, numbness, gentle range of motion and isometric exercises can begin. These movements should be painless, stressing circular, spiral, and diagonal movements. Once the numbness has worn off, re-ice and exercise again. This can be done two or three times a day. Ice can cause changes in the collagen fibers of the muscle. Strenuous exercise is a bad idea during an ice treatment, as this can result in further damage to the injury.

How does Ice combine with other therapies?
In March of 1995, an interesting study was conducted on the use of ice and ultrasound. Ultrasound is an instrument used in assisting the healing process to damaged tissue. The study found if ultrasound was followed by a five-minute application of ice, the muscle significantly increased in size. When ice was applied first followed by ultrasound, there was little or no change in the muscle fibers. One of the important conclusions of this study is after exercising, take a shower first, before applying ice, to receive the maximum benefits.

What is R.I.C.E.?
When there is an injury or discomfort, a good rule to follow for first aid is the mnemonic RICE:

R - Rest the injury.
I - Ice the injury.
C - Compress the injury.
E - Elevate the injury above your heart.

Three Icing Techniques
Ice is the easiest tool to use in rehabilitation. It is inexpensive and very effective. The most widely used is the ice pack. To make an ice pack, put ice (crushed is great) in a plastic bag, push out all the air and fasten the bag.

If another bag is available, place the fastened one inside to help prevent leaking. Put a paper towel on the site of the injury or discomfort, and then place the ice pack over the paper towel. This will prevent freezer burn to the skin. If a regular towel is used, the ice pack will not get the skin cold enough to have the physiological effects occur. If the injury is in the neck, back, or shoulder, an ice pack can be put under a T-shirt or blouse. A person can then keep this on while working. Ice packs are also convenient when resting. Ice packs can be used on legs or arms. There are many types of ice packs on the market. If purchasing one, make sure it will get sufficiently cold to achieve the four stages of icing. The second most used method is ice massage or ice cups. Place water into a styrofoam/paper cup and freeze it. Place a towel under the area with discomfort or pain to catch drips. Holding onto the cup, tear the edge around the cup, exposing the ice. Use a gentle, continuous, circular motion and rub the ice directly over the skin at the site of injury or discomfort. This is good for areas on the extremities such as knees, legs, ankles, arms, wrists, hands, and so on. Ice cups penetrate deep into the muscle fibers. Because this is an active motion, it can sometimes be more effective than an ice pack. The desired effect is to go through the four stages of ice, as stated above, before moving to another area, approximately 5-10 minutes. There are some reusable plastic ice cups on the market, for the environmentally minded; however, paper or styrofoam cups work fine.

The third method is the ice bath. Find a bucket or container large enough to immerse the area in need. Place a towel under the bucket and add ice. Try to isolate the body part that needs to be iced. Immerse your foot for 5 to 10 minutes (20 minutes maximum). Do not immerse your whole body in ice - doing so can cause shock and/or possibly a heart attack. Laurel J. Freeman, B.A., a nationally certified sports massage therapist in Florida, has worked on many world-class athletes and has given numerous lectures in health related field. She developed, teaches, and practices Reprogramming Neuromuscular Responses @ (RNR). Laurel is a member of the Florida Track Club.

This article was found at

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mountain Biking Is The Healthiest Sport.

  1. It makes you fit. When you mountain bike you use and develop both aerobic and anaerobic systems. Regularly participating in mountain biking improves your physical endurance and increases your fat burning capabilities which will result in more energy both on and off the bike.
  2. Cycling strengthens your heart, making it more efficient resulting in improved physical performance in both sport, recreation and general living.
  3. Mountain biking is great for your lungs. Cycling in the wilderness around trees forces you to fill your lungs with clean, fresh and non-polluted oxygen which will flow through your bloodstream, clearing toxins and making you fell great.
  4. Mountain biking is a low impact sport. Mountain biking takes care of your joints by being a low impact sport. There is no pounding associated with peddling which is good for preventing injuries both acute and long term.
  5. Mountain biking builds your immune system. Just like when you were a kid, playing in the dirt helps to strengthen your immune system by exposing yourself to different kinds of bugs. A stronger immune system means you won't get sick as often and you will recover quicker from any illnesses you may get.
  6. Mountain biking develops your sense of balance. Having a better sense of balance helps to prevent injuries while also improving your general coordination.
  7. Mountain biking improves your reaction time. Flying down a trail at 40km/h and you come across a nasty rock section surrounded by trees, you need to pick you line FAST, otherwise you may be eating the dirt pretty soon. Other examples may include reacting to varying trail surfaces, that giant root sticking out at the end of the blind corner or reacting to the unpredictable actions of other riders.
  8. Mountain biking makes you smarter. Cycling circulates vital fluid around your body pumping it through your muscles and through your brain. Better circulation to your muscles = better muscles so better circulation to your brain = better brain.
  9. Mountain biking makes you better at mechanics. Repairing or tinkering with your bike improves your awareness of how things work like wheels, bearings, springs etc. The more exposure you've had with the parts on your bike, the handier your repair skills may become
  10. Mountain biking is a social sport. Cycling can also maintain your social health where you can easily link up with some of the friendly mountain bikers of the world.
  11. Mountain biking is fun! Any outdoor physical activity that you enjoy and want to do more of is the best thing to keep happy and healthy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Your Bike's Secret To Speed - Tyres

Forget those expensive titanium bolts or that carbon fiber head stem; if you want to dramatically increase your bike's speed there is a much cheaper and more beneficial way. Having a wiser tyre choice is guaranteed to increase both your rolling speed and handling when matched to the right terrain.

The rotating mass on your rims make the biggest difference when it comes to shedding your bike's weight. This matched with a cunning tread pattern and fast rubber compound poses a great increase in speed and efficiency.


As we've established, weight off your rims makes a great difference in speed. Heavier XC tyres weigh in at more that 700g (1.4kg a pair!) while lighter models can be as slim as 310g (620g a pair). That's a pretty massive saving on rotational weight. If you can find another way to save 780g at a cost of (give or take) $120 than I'd love to hear it!


Rubber tyre compounds vary from hard to soft. Harder compounds are more likely to reduce the rate of wear while softer compounds are usually offer more grip. XC tyres are commonly seen with a softer compound so traction isn't so reliant on the knobs.

Threads per inch (TPI) refers to the tyres casing construction. Higher Quality tyres have a higher count of TPI. The more threads per inch, the lighter the fabric and the more flexible (less rolling resistance) it is.


The sidewall of the tyre has the greatest influence on rolling resistance. When looking at tyres, inspect the sidewalls by folding/rolling them through your fingers. Tyres with more flexible sidewalls generally have less rolling resistance. A good test for comparing rolling resistance is to inflate a tyre on a rim and bounce it, tyres that bounce higher will have less rolling resistance.

Tread Patterns

The tread pattern on your tyres greatly influences how your bike handles in different conditions. Generally a tread with wider spaced knobs offer better grip on things like wet roots/rocks or on sandy/muddy surfaces. These tyres may grip well but on smoother surfaces you may find that their rolling resistance is much higher compared to a tyre with a hardpack specific tread. You will often see that tyres designed for hardpack surfaces will have a tread pattern with a closer and lower profile; they may even have a centre rolling ridge (e.g. Maxxis Crossmark) to reduce rolling resistance further. However, the problem with a centre rolling ridge (or hardpack tread pattern) is that they're generally not very responsive under breaking when riding on looser surfaces. The key to choosing the right tread pattern is to assess the terrain you mostly ride and how fast or grippy you'd like it to be.

Carcass shape (profile)

The carcass shape of your tire is pretty much down to personal preference. The shapes vary between tyre models from fairly square with an edge to more rounded profiles. In my experience, tyres with and edge-like profile offer a responsive bight into corners while rounded profiles tend to roll around the corners. Rounded tyres will slide/drift quite predictably whereas square profiles are more likely to give way under pressure.

Tyre Dimensions

There is no evidence to suggest that a bigger (e.g. 26x2.9 VS 26x2.1) tyre will have less rolling resistance but keep in mind that a bigger tyre may be heavier than a skinnier one. Bigger tyres have more contact area with the ground and can offer more grip than a skinnier model.

Tyre Pressure

It has been confirmed that at below 30psi the rolling resistance is rapidly increased while above 35psi the resistance rate drops off. It is,however important to set your tyre pressure according to your weight and the riding terrain. Lighter people can get away with lower pressures while heavier or faster people need higher pressures to prevent pinch-flats.

Tyres can be the cheapest performance boost or the slowest dead weights you can hook up on your rims so choose wisely!

Related articles

Image by Paweł Zawistowski

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mountain Bike Upper Body Strength Training

If you've ever ridden single track at pace, you will know that upper body strength is a crucial element in controlling the bike. This includes your forearms/grip, upper arms, back of the shoulder, upper/lower back, obliques an ultimately your entire core area. I have a sport-specific way to strengthen and condition these muscles without the need for a gym or boring chin-ups; all you need is a bike and a place to ride!

This is a pretty simple exercise, simply put your seat right down low and go for a ride. The aim here is to be climbing and peddling with your bum off the saddle, relying on the leverage provided by your upper body. Riding like this puts a greater demand on your "upper mountain bike muscles" instead of relaxing them on climbs and flats.

How Will This Make You Faster?
Improved upper body strength allows riders to have a much greater control over their bike when tackling rough or technical terrain. This exercise will also increase core strength, especially in the obliques, which when conditioned, will provide a lot of extra power to the peddles by improving your kinetic chain. If squats strengthen your legs, bench press strengthens your pecs and bicep curls strengthen your biceps, climbing out of the saddle strengthens your kinetic chain. Training in this way will give you stronger race starts, make you climb better, give you greater control over the bike and reduce fatigue induced by riding fast.

  • Hill starts, climbing out of the saddle are a good exercise if you don't want to spend your ride with your seat down.
  • find a hill that allows you to climb and then enter a descent immediately once passing the apex. go through this circuit a few times to build core/leverage strength when climbing and grip/handling strength when descending.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Find The Soundtrack Of Your Favourite Bike Film

Sorry for the lack of posting, I've been a bit busy of late. To keep you entertained, check out this link to a page I found with lists of the soundtracks of some popular bike vids:

"Hard training, easy combat; easy training, hard combat"
- Marshal Suvorov, famous Russian general

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Workshop Tip No. 2

When the the time comes where you need to replace one or more parts on your bike, be very clear on all of the sizes and dimensions you need before you scoot down to the local bike store (or log on to your favourite online shop). If you want something with the exact same dimensions as your existing part, it is easier for yourself and the shop staff if you bring the old part in and match it with the new stock.

Remember that there is practically no standard size for any part on your bike so be sure that you either carefully read/measure all of the dimensions of your old part or just bring it in for a match up.

image by Chili Head

Related articles:

Workshop Tip No. 1

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Training Plan For Long Term Perfomance

Unless you're a pro mountain biker, it is likely that you are fitting your riding/training around obligations like study, work and family time. If this sounds like you, developing a structured riding routine could be the first step towards greatly improving your mountain bike fitness and ability. A "routine" can often be easier to manage than a "programme" in that it is very flexible and easily tailored to your lifestyle, aside from the fact that it will get you to a new level of fitness.

Your Routine

Trail Riders
Whether you want to organise your week to get in more rides or you want to improve your XC lap times, you should start putting together your routine today. Using a some paper or even a calender (computer calenders work well) mark out all of your obligations and time constraints, leaving blank all of your spare time. Once this has been achieved, you can slot in the times that are convenient to ride or train. If you don't train and only ride trails, lock in a dedicated time slot for some/all days of the week where you want to ride and stick to it. For your routine to work, your 5:00pm (hypothetically speaking) evening ride should be as important a deadline as getting to work at 9:00am in the morning. Getting some trail buddies involved as well will increase enjoyment and keep you motivated and riding throughout the week.

Include a rest day or two to allow you to rebuild and recover. It is also a good idea that you include a week of recovery also about every 4 weeks. This can include gentle spinning, walking or even time off the bike if you wish

For the dedicated racers out there who aren't up for the rigidity of a strict program, plan your week with a certain training session each day. For example:

Sunday - single track ride

Monday - rest

Tuesday - indoor trainer intervals

Wednesday - long, steady distance ride

Thursday - Gym session, skills session

Friday - on the bike, long intervals

Saturday - long, steady distance ride

You may wish to consult with a coach, experienced racer or some book/web resources to get some good cycling workouts into your routine. Remember when putting together a routine, avoid having consecutive days with high intensity workouts to prevent "burnout". Alternate between high, and moderate to low intensity days with a rest day thrown in there somewhere.

If you are following the cycling fitness basics, you can easily tailor your training to the different stages of your season. For example, in the base phase, you may wish to increase duration on your endurance rides by 5 minutes each week; ultimately, follow the overload principle to keep improving your fitness. - If you are following the overload principle, it is important that you have a week of recovery every 3-4 weeks which includes backing the training load off a bit to allow your body to rebuild. Some recovery rides in your recovery heart zone are beneficial.

You should now have the tools to construct a tailored riding routine to fit into your week. Remember "If you don't have time, MAKE TIME!!"

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ultimate Recovery - Hot and Cold Showers

One thing that every athlete should know is that the only time you get fitter in your recovery. After your workout, your body needs to rebuild, regenerate and resupply it's energy stores which will result in stronger and fitter muscles. One method to speed recovery and improve the effect of your workout is through the use of hot and cold showers, otherwise known as hydrotherapy. This ancient healing method works by sending a blast of fresh blood (full of oxygen and nutrients) to rebuild and replenish your muscles while clearing out nasties like lactic acid, greatly speeding and improving recovery. The hot water dilates or expands your veins and the cold water constricts the veins, working by pumping fresh oxygen and nutrents through your body. Hot and cold treatment or hydrotherapy has also been successfully used in the cure of many illnesses and conditions as improved circulation is crucial for the cure of many physical problems.

Using Hot and Cold Showers
To get the best effect from hot and cold showers, aim for 20-60 second intervals of hot and cold water. In the cold interval, the colder, the better and for the hot part, you want the temperature hot without scalding the skin. I usually go back to a comfortable showering temperature to warm back up. For best results, you want to go through the cycle of hot and cold 3-4 times (6-8 total temperature changes), always finishing on hot so that your core temperature doesn't drop too low.

The order of your recovery after a workout/race should be as follows: Warm down, then put on some warm clothing, then do some stretching. Within about 30 minutes have some carbohydrates such as fruit, muesli bars etc. and also begin your re hydration with water and a sports drink if you want. Your hot and cold showers should be done after all of these things to create the best recovery effect.

Hot and Cold showers can also be used as a great pick-me-up if you are feeling flat before a ride or race. It's a much better wake up than your morning coffee!

Include hot and cold showers into your recovery routine and you will be recovering faster and better in no time!

Photo by Dan Shirley. gallery

Monday, June 16, 2008

Injury Prevention For the Mountain biker

Prevention is always better than a cure. We've heard this saying time and time again but it never seems to sink in until an incident happens. Mountain biking is a sport full of unpredictable situations where one wrong move can sometimes cause a disaster, and that's why we love it! When the time comes for a stack, injury or mechanical failure, there are usually measures that can be taken to prevent or reduce the effects of such incidents. This has been an interesting year for me as there have been a few problems where prevention has been overlooked due to it never happening to me before. For example, I am currently sidelined due to a grade 2 ligament tear to my right ankle. This isn't an injury derived from mountain biking but from basketball. I usually strap my ankles for injury prevention, despite not ever having any problems with my ankle. At a recent interstate tournament, I neglected to strap for one game and that was the game I went over. It is hard to persist with preventative measures when an incident has never occurred to you but trust me, prevention is always better than a cure.

injury prevention
  • Wear a helmet! If you are currently riding without one, you are an accident waiting to happen. prevent cracking your scull and inducing brain damage by strapping one on every time you ride, even if your just out the front of the house.

  • The cheapest and best injury prevention mechanism you can get is stretching. Better muscle flexibility greatly reduces the risk of a muscle tear/strain and is going to improve your body's performance at the same time. Try to include a couple of flexibility sessions each week.

  • Get a bike fit done. Prevent chronic injuries by getting your local bike shop to conduct a bike fit where they will set you up in your prime riding position.

  • Ensure your bike is in a trail-worthy state. There's nothing worse than landing a jump with your rear wheel crumpling under you because half of your spokes were broken or having your rims rip out of your tyre casing on a high speed corner because your tyres were too flat. Regularly check the condition of your wheels, tyre tread/tyre pressure and brakes/brake pads to prevent a serious stack.

  • Prevent serious eye damage from flying debris and UV radiation by wearing sunglasses; preferably ones with a UV filter.

  • Don't ride outside of your abilities. There is a fine line between pushing your limits to improve your riding and riding outside of your abilities. If you are feeling out-of-control at any stage of a ride, it's time to stop and settle for a bit.

Preventative Maintenance For Your Bike

  • Wash your bike. You can greatly reduce the wear and increase the life of your moving parts by keeping it clean. When washing, always be careful to not use high-pressure water as it can force past the water seals, causing damage. With that said, most modern mountain bikes these days have good seals that can handle low pressure water. More tips on washing your bike here.

  • Replace your chain on a regular basis. Prevent having to do an expensive drive train overhaul by replacing your chain on a regular basis. Buy a chain wear gauge to monitor the wear on your chain as the standard life for a chain is about 6 months (this will obviously vary between riding conditions and ride frequency).

  • Prevent flat tyres by ensuring that they are in good condition and they have adequate pressure. You may also look into a tubeless tyre system as the sealant inside prevents punctures while the lack of tubes eliminate pinch flats.

  • Learn how to true your wheels as this will enable you to easily prevent breaking spokes and maintain a durable, responsive wheel.

General Health

  • After a dusty or muddy ride, ensure you clean yourself thoroughly to prevent any illnesses or infections. Pay close attention to any cuts you may have received on the trail and be sure to use disinfectant.

  • Eat a nutritious and balanced diet to prevent any metabolic brake downs and to keep you at your physical best.

  • Get plenty of sleep to keep your concentration and body in proper working order. Normal adults should be aiming for at least 8-10 hours per night while normal adolescents should be sleeping at least 9-11 hours. If you train a lot, you aren't considered a "normal" person and will need to tack on another couple of hours to the recommended.

As you can see, there are a number of measures that can be taken in preventing bad things in and out of the single track. The more you ride, the greater your risk of having a problem so I'd recommend that you start looking at some of these points ASAP!

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Mountain Bike Anti Stack Training

Image courtesy of Alex Dalmau

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Audio/Visual Mountain Biker

The terms MP3 and DVD have become pretty common in the past few years and having this sort of technology at our fingertips can give great advantages to a mountain biker. Here's how:

Music To Make You Faster
Before your next ride/race, whether your driving to the trails or before you scoot out the back door, play some tunes with strong beats and plenty of energy (hard rock, metal, techno etc.). This sort of music gets your heart pumping and makes you psyched for the trails, leading to that extra confidence and speed you want. You may even want to ride with an MP3 player to keep the music pumping throughout the ride.
One day riding at Mt. Stromlo, I had the song "Snakeskin" by the Australian band "Gyroscope" stuck in my head for the duration of the ride. That was one of the best rides I have ever had as my skills were flawless and I felt no pain when climbing or going hard. The song in my head was giving me enough energy and confidence to make me ride better that ever before.
You can get small MP3 players today for $50-$60 that are pretty suitable for your back pack or jersey pocket and will hold more than enough songs to get you through a ride or race. MP3 players are also really useful to keep you entertained through long sessions on the indoor trainer or on lonely commuting rides.

Some Of My Favourites

  • Snakeskin - Gyroscope

  • My Enemy - Cog

  • My Way - Limp Bizkit

  • Set It Off - POD

  • My People - The Presets

  • Voodoo People - The Prodigy


Movies To Make You Faster

Watching mountain bike movies are a great way to gain some extra confidence, inspiration and skill which are three vital ingredients in creating a fast mountain biker. Seeing riders rip through gnarly lines and pulling off big tricks will make you attack sections of trail with a lot more confidence. This is because you have just seen it done on a rougher trail at higher speed with a pumping soundtrack in the background. If you are going through a motivation slump, watching a mountain bike movie is a great way to get you back out on your bike tearing up the trails. You can treat a mountain bike movie marathon as a theory lesson for your riding; look at how these fantastic bike handlers rail through corners, float through rocks and land big airs. Analyse there technique and put it into practice on your next ride.
The movies you are looking for are downhill/free ride films. I wouldn't recommend dirt jumping films as they aren't exactly relevant to off road mountain biking. If you know of a good XC film that could also be useful but they aren't too common in my experience. I would not recommend a stack movie where there is nothing but people eating dirt as they may be funny but will have a negative effect on your confidence.

Some Of My Favorites

  • Earthed 2

  • Roam (any in the series)

  • New World Disorder (any in the series)

  • Rise


Become The Ultimate Audio/Visual Mountain Biker

Track down the soundtrack to your favorite mountain bike movie and play it when you go riding. You will visualise the riders in the film while you are hammering through the single track faster and smoother than ever before! Trust me, this one works!

Here's where you can find the soundtrack of your Favourite mountain bike film

Image courtesy of Mingret

Monday, May 26, 2008

Ultimate Mountian Bike VIDEO BAR!

Check out the side bar of this page where I've added a new video bar! Watch short, mountain bike related films right here to get some riding inspiration and even pick up some new skills. I often watch mountain bike films because even though I'm not dropping 40 foot cliffs, observing these fantastically skilled riders has a "rub off" effect which improves my skills as well. You can hover your mouse over the clip to get the title and length. I recommend the clips from the film "Roam", they're just awesome!

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Power Of Play - How To Gain Wicked Skills

In my hometown Canberra, some of the best XC riders are downhillers, especially when it comes to short-track racing. I put this down to not only their aggression, but the skills they gain from "playing" on their bikes. In Canberra you will always find downhillers hitting up the jump park, carving up the urban terrain and basically just fooling around on their bikes. This is not only fun but it improves their skills by improving their balance, improving their bicycle awareness and overall, increasing their ability to handle their bike. How do I know this? I used to be a downhiller/free rider and I used to do all of these things. I used to spend hours on the road out the front of my house working on flatland tricks and just playing. When I made the transition from DH to XC, the skills I had were extremely useful and were applied immediately to make me fast through the single track.
In the higher divisions of XC racing in Canberra, there are three types of riders: those with fantastic fitness and above average skills, those with above average fitness and fantastic skills and those who have fantastic fitness and fantastic skills. The first two riders described are usually pretty even but guess who wins the race? the rider with the lot. I believe that in the sport of mountain biking, skills are just as important as fitness.

Improve your skills now
Now I'm not saying you need to go out and buy a DH bike or Jump rig. It's probably better that you play on your own bike anyway so you can get to know it more intimately. Do what I do and get on a flat surface and start practicing tricks. Wheelies, nose stands/endoes, track stands and bunny hops are a few to get you started. when one skill becomes too easy, take off one hand/foot for a greater challenge. Get creative! When you start to get creative on flat terrain, you will use your creativity more on the trail when it comes to line selections or getting yourself out of trouble.
Find (or build) a little table-top jump to practice getting air. I have found that confidence in the air breeds confidence when on the ground. Confidence is one of the key ingredients when it comes to going faster. Having the ability to get air with confidence is great for clearing obstacles, jumping over rock gardens and taking faster lines.

Bike setup
Changing your bike setup for playing isn't crucial because after all, it's just playing. The only things I may suggest is lowering your seat to give your rear end more clearance and switching to flat pedals (I don't usually bother but if you are new to clip less pedals or have poor balance, it may be a good idea).

When to play
I'd aim to play on your bike at least once a week of you can. you can incorporate it into your training as active recovery or even dedicate it as a skills session. It's always fun if you do it with some friends and riding with other riders will always push your skills!

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Weight Training Basics For Mountain Bikers

There are plenty of myths surrounding strength training today, especially in the field of cycling. Myself along with thousands of other mountain bikers believe strength training can be very advantageous in improving your ride.

Why Should You Hit The Gym?
Appropriate weight/resistance training will make you a stronger, faster and more efficient rider. You will improve your control over the bike, increase your power when climbing or sprinting and make your muscles work more effectively. After having a couple of strength training sessions under your belt, your muscles start to employ motor units which increase the efficiency of the muscle, making your stronger and faster as a result.

Body Weight
One of the major reasons why a cyclist may be reluctant to do strength work is the fear on getting heavier. Unless you really start packing on extra meals, your weight gains will be insignificant compared to you strength and ability to use it.

Getting Started
The most important thing to keep in mind when starting a strength program is to include all major muscle groups. One mistake that riders make is to concentrate entirely on their legs which is bad because your leg muscles will become too heavy and your body will be imbalanced. Besides, mountain biking is an activity that involves the whole body where leg muscles are needed to pedal and upper body is needed to provide leverage and control the bike.

If you haven't done weights before or haven't done strength training for a long time, I would recommend you get an instructor to run you through a basic program. If you think instructors are lame and you want to get started now, start on machine weights (as opposed to free weights) and do 2 sets of 12 reps on:

  • machine bench press (chest)

  • shoulder press (shoulders)

  • lat pull down (lats/back)

  • seated row (back)

  • leg press (quads, glutes, hams)

  • hamstring curl (hamstring)

This is a very basic program which is perfect for anyone looking to start weight training but as said earlier, I recommend you consult an instructor. As you improve you may wish to change your program to involve more free weights. Remember to follow the progressive overload principle by gradually increasing weight. You will know if the weight is too heavy if you have poor form resulting in a short range of movement. You will get better results by lifting a lighter weight and having a full range of movement than lifting heavier with a shortened range of movement.

When you start weight training it becomes even more important to stretch before and after working out.

Added benefits of weight training

  • Cycling is a non weight bearing activity so resistance training can help to prevent conditions like osteoporosis

  • improved posture

  • improved injury resistance

  • makes you look HOT!

image by Christopher Rayan

Friday, May 2, 2008

Workshop Tip

When your working on your bike, how often do you finish with grease all over your hands? Almost every time I bet. The grease and oil that paints itself onto your hands is not only ugly and hard to clean off, but can be harmful when absorbed into your skin. An easy way to prevent penetration of harmful oils and chemicals is to wear thin rubber gloves when doing repairs. Wearing rubber gloves when working in the workshop not only prevents grease damaging your skin but also prevents the need for strong and dangerous detergents to clean your hands. Rubber gloves are usually pretty cheap and are easily accessible from your local supermarket.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Alpine Road Trip

Thredbo Alpine Village is one of the few alpine destinations in Australia that is open year round. Snow in the winter and mountain bike trails in the summer makes it one of my favorite spots and is only a 2 hour drive from my home town. The mellow and relaxed village is kept alive throughout the summer with activities like mountain biking (XC/AM/DH/4X), hiking, alpine slide (bobsled), river fishing, access to the sports institute and people just chilling out.

The Trails

The XC/AM single tracks are multi-use trails shared with a few walkers. The single track is combined with some steep fire trail which provides a good physical challenge, especially at altitude. There are 3 main single tracks being the Pipeline Path, Bridal loop and the Meadows Single Track. The Pipeline is the tamest of the three single tracks but isn't necessarily a walk in the park either. It traverses across a hill and has a few tight corners along with some natural obstacles included. The Bridal Loop is a relatively slow and very technical at some points. The trail is narrow with moist dirt which offers plenty of traction. It is important to hold your line on the Bridal Loop as a short lapse in concentration can send you bumping through some large tufts of grass. The Meadows Single Track would have to be one of my favourite trails due to its height of technicality. To get to Meadows you need to ascend a bit of steep fire trail that is well worth the climb. The Meadows Single Track starts with a wooden bridge leading you across a river and into the dirt where a trail of non-stop rocks, roots, roll-overs and stairs await. I love this trail just because of how technical and rough it is; it is a great test of your balance and handling skills.

I think that Thredbo is set up with better facilities for the downhill market however. The top-top-bottom down hill trail is accessed by chairlift and has a combination of fast fire trail and specially built single track through the trees and meadow-like ski runs. This is a world class racing facility that is apart of the MTBA Australian Mountain Bike Series which shows that it is a high quality course.

The 4X track consists of dry, gravelly dirt with waist high berms and a set of jumps and stutter sections. It is a fun place to go after you take a lap of the mountain and is a great time to practice BMX track riding for supreme single track skills.

What You Need For Thredbo

To ride at Thredbo you can take your own equipment or you can hire everything from the local mountain bike centre rawNRG, including down hill equipment and lift tickets. There are guided tours on offer for both XC and DH trails, as well as a workshop there repairs can be done. Through the summer it can get pretty hot so take appropriate sun protection and plenty of water. The Village has plenty of restaurants/cafes for food and also has a small supermarket.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Take Your Riding To The Next Level - Core Strength

Your core is basically the trunk of your body consisting of the abdominals, obliques and back muscles. strengthening this area has exponential benefits to a mountain biker and after a few strengthening sessions riders will notice improvements.

How Will A Strong Core Help You Go Faster?

Mountain biking is a sport that requires your kinetic chain. The kinetic chain refers to the link of muscles starting from the neck, through the shoulders, back/ABS, legs and finishing at the feet. Just imagine you are climbing a steep hill; which muscles are you using? You are most likely pulling on the handlebars with your arms, shoulders and back muscles to provide leverage for your legs to push upon the pedals. Your core happens to be at the point that links the upper and lower parts of your body, allowing you to gain leverage from your arms. Without core strength, any efforts to increase leg or upper body strength are being wasted. Your core is also used as a platform that your legs push against, known as the peddling platform. With a stronger core and in turn, a stronger peddling platform, you will have a more powerful and more efficient pedal stroke.

Strengthening The Core

There are two primary ways to strengthen your core being both dynamic and static. Dynamic exercise refers to moving the muscles while as you can guess, static exercise refers to holding the muscle still. Dynamic exercises generally work major muscles while static exercises bring in secondary or supporting muscles which stabilise your body. It is important to incorporate both types of exercise although, you will get better results by focusing more on the static spectrum of things.

Dynamic Exercises
  • Sit ups/crunches for the front of your stomach (six pack)
  • Side crunches for your obliques
  • back hyper extensions/Superman's for your lower back

- Back hyper extensions can be done at the gym on a back extension machine

- If you don't have access to one, you can lie with your tummy on an exercise ball (or even the floor) and lift one arm at the same time as the opposite leg as one repetition. Switch arms/legs for each rep.

Static exercises

The prone hold is a fantastic core strengthening and stabilising exercise. To start the prone hold, lie on your tummy then prop yourself up on your forearms and your toes, similar to a push up position. You want your back to be relatively straight but you can allow yourself to have a slight bend, pointing your back side up towards the roof. Don't let your hips sag to the floor.

For a beginner, aim to hold for 30 seconds and for a bit more advanced aim for 60 seconds. try to incorporate sets of 3 or so to give your core a good workout. Do your prone hold after your dynamic exercises to really strengthen the core and aim to progressively overload (see definition of progressive overload in cycling fitness basics )by increasing duration per set by about 5 seconds each week.

If you can incorporate some of these exercises (especially the prone hold) each week I can insure vast improvements to your riding. Check back after a few more posts (when you have ripped ABS) for some advanced core exercises.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Flexibility - The Key To Your Athletic Potential

Cycling has a restricted range of movement, so why should we stretch? Stretching does more than just increasing your running stride, it is the cheapest performance enhancer and injury prevention you have access to.

The Effects Of Stretching
When you stretch, you are increasing the flow of vital fluid to your muscles which clears out lactic acid and brings with it nutrients to repair and rebuild. Stretching also improves the amount of vital fluid that can go to your muscles which greatly improves performance during exercise. Have you ever felt stiff and sore the day after an intense workout? This performance decreasing feeling can be made better through a regular stretching routine. Remember that even if you aren't working hard on the bike, it doesn't mean that you can't be improving performance.

When To Stretch
The best time to stretch is directly after exercise while, your muscles are still warm. Stretching after a workout greatly improves recovery, making you better, sooner. It is also great if you can include one or two flexibility sessions during the week as this will greatly improve your results. All you need to stretch is an open bit of floor, so it is easy to slot in a session when you are watching TV or surfing the web.

Which Muscles?
Stretch everything to gain maximum effect. Hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, glutes, back, triceps, shoulders, pectorals and anything you think I've missed. Aim to hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds and even repeat for a greater effect. If you don't know how to stretch a certain muscle or area please ask me by leaving a comment or by sending me an email to

Injury Prevention
By stretching your muscles, your joints also gain flexibility which will greatly reduce injury, both acute (happens in an instant eg, after a fall) and chronic (develops over time/overuse injury). Having flexible muscles also reduces the risk of a tear. Mountain biking is great in that it is low impact making it gentle on your joints, however as we all know, if you get on a bike, you will fall off at some stage. For an article on how to prevent falling and how to reduce injury check it out mountain bike anti-stack training.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Mountain Bike Anti-Stack Training - New Images!

Stacking is indisputably the hardest part of mountain biking and riding a bike in general. Having the ability to prevent falling off makes you a faster, safer and healthier rider. When we ride a bike, we slow down because we think we are at risk of having a fall, so being able to prevent this is going to allow you to hit the trail that much faster.

My Stack
Before I get into any anti-stack remedies I thought I'd run you through my latest accident. I was riding on some local fire trails, yes fire trails, when a 90 degree off camber corner got the best of me. Mid way through the corner my tyres slid out from underneath me, so I rotated my torso so that I was landing on my front, with the intent to brace myself with my arms on impact. Here, my first point of contact was my left knee, followed by my arms, chest and chin. My chin hit the ground with only low to medium impact but was enough to split the skin. In my landing plan, I took into account my direction, the ground surface and most importantly my speed. I was fortunately not going very fast so I had plenty of time to pick my landing technique. Please keep in mind that aiming to land on my front was appropriate for this crash and in most cases I would not recommend this form of landing.

How To Eat Dirt
A lot of the time you fall with very little time to think, but in order to land safely, you need to put some strategy into this. If you have enough time, run out of it before you hit the ground. If not, try to relax your body and roll when you land because if you are stiff, you are more likely to break something or get bad abrasions. Before you fall over, try to find a soft patch of pine needles, grass, leaves or at least somewhere without any rocks or sticks to land on. If you find yourself going over the handlebars in a superman position, instead of landing on your hands, risking injuring your arms and shoulders, try and perform a commando roll to minimise impact.

Stack Training
Improve your reaction time. There are plenty of exercises out there to help in improving your reaction time so run an internet search to give you some ideas. Having a quicker reaction time will give you more time to plan your landing, reducing risk of injury.

Strengthen your shoulders. Cyclists are prone to shoulder injuries due to shoulders often being the first contact point in a fall. Be sure to include upper body and shoulder strengthening exercises in your training regimen to reduce potential injury and to give yourself a bit of extra body armour.

Practice your commando rolls. Get on some soft grass or foam mats and practice rolling. Start with your hands and knees on the ground and push yourself to give you a smooth, controlled roll. Progress to rolling at speed or from a leap and even from different angles so you are rolling sideways or pulling out of obscure positions. This will improve your ability to cancel impact shock in the event of a crash

Practise the track stand. Having good balance from practising the track stand will make you more stable when riding at speed and through tight technical sections, greatly reducing the risk of having a fall. I have done an article on the track stand here.

Wear appropriate armour. If you have a pretty hardcore riding style or find yourself crashing a lot, look at investing in some knee/shin and arm/elbow protection. You can get neoprene styles which may be more comfortable when peddling, or you can opt for big hitting free ride protection.

If you get on a bike, you are going to fall of at some stage. By following the precautionary steps listed, you can minimise the impact of hitting the dirt and maximise your on the bike time.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

coming soon... my latest stack!

Yes that's right, the other day I had a stack. There was split skin, vital fluid and a bump in the old ego. I've got some ripper images to share and will provide info on where I crashed, how I crashed and how you can avoid doing the same so stay tuned.

p.s I just wrote an article on how to get faster now!

ultimate mountain bike update

hi viewers,

As you can probably see this is a reletively new blog. I am interested to know what you all think of it so far and what I can do to make it better. Is there anything you would like me to write about or is there anything you would like to see more of? If you have any suggestions, questions or comments please let me know by either dropping a comment or by sending me an email to

Thanks for checking out my site and I hope to hear from some of you soon!

Get Faster Now!

Do you want to know how to get pretty fast, pretty quick? The answer comes down to interval training. Interval training is basically about raising and dropping your heart rate with the intention to improve the speed in which you recover. In mountain bike racing, your effort levels and corresponding heart rate are generally pretty high and you have little time to rest on the odd descent. The quicker you can drop your heart rate after an effort, the fitter you are and the faster you can potentially be. Your body adapts to interval training relatively quickly allowing you to see improved results sooner. When performing intervals, try to do them somewhere uninterrupted like a field, fire trail loop, on road or on an indoor trainer/stationary bike etc.

Basic Interval Workout
Here is a basic interval workout to get you started:

1o min warm up - light spinning, gradually increasing speed
5-8 sets of 3 min at about 70% effort
2 minutes recovery in between each set
10 min warm down

total 45-60 min

Keep in mind:
- When you start writing your own programs, keep in mind that the shorter the effort, the higher the intensity and vise versa. Longer efforts will help to develop your ability to sustain your lactic threshold while shorter efforts develop speed and power. If you are planning a long term program, do the longer intervals (3-5 min intensity) first and shorter (10-30 sec) intervals later in the season.
- do intervals a maximum of 2 times per week to prevent overloading your body as intervals are very taxing.
- consult a health professional of you have a heart condition or have a history of heart conditions before performing intervals
- The recovery in between efforts is as important as the effort itself so remember to back the intensity right off in the allocated recovery time.
- your recovery consists of gentle spinning and it is important that you don't stop to rest (unless you are feeling ill, feel an injury developing, having a heart attack etc.)
- intervals are meant to be hard work so STOP BLUDGING!

stay tuned for an article on using your heart rate monitor for intervals.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Wheel Truing, it's easier than you think!

After a hard ride or race, you may find that your wheels aren't running as straight as they used to. As long as there isn't any rim damage, this is an easy fix and is a really handy skill to have under your belt. This article is for lateral (wobbling side to side) truing and doesn't cover radial truing or centering the rim over the hub.

Anatomy of the wheel

Understanding the anatomy of the wheel makes wheel repairs easy. The wheel consists of the hub (central moving part), rim (the outer ring), spokes (the straight, wire-like parts that hold the wheel up) and the nipples (small threaded part used to connect the spokes to the rim). The spokes hook onto the hubs and are laced in a certain pattern onto the rim. There are spokes on the left and right hand sides of the wheel which need to be balanced in tension to ensure a true wheel. The spoke tips are put through the holes in the rim and the nipples screw on top to create spoke tension. If a wheel is out of true, the spoke tension on either side is uneven, pulling it out of alignment.

Tools Of The Trade:

  • spoke key (use one that fits your spoke nipples properly. It should be the smallest size that fits on the nipple)
  • matchsticks and blue tack (or a truing stand if you can get your hands on one)
  • tyre leavers

DIY truing stand

To true a wheel you need to see exactly how far the wheel is moving side to side. You can buy a truing stand or you can improvise by blue tacking match sticks to your fork legs or frame tubing next to the rim.

Get Started!

It isn't completely necessary but I find it easier to true the wheel with the tyre off. Put the wheel in the frame/fork ready to be trued.

With your DIY truing stand, move the matchsticks close to the rim on both sides so that one of them touches it at the peak of a wobble. You then need to find the central point of each wobble as they usually cover a couple of inches each.

Once you've found the central point, there should be a corresponding spoke on the other side. If the wheel wobbles to the right, tighten the central spoke that is on the left side as this will pull the rim back into alignment. Keep in mind that one spoke will pull across the value of about six. Always work out the biggest wobble first and then progress to the minor problems.

To tighten, put the spoke key on the nipple and and turn clockwise (when viwed from above) about one third of the way. The direction you turn the nipple on each spoke is the same regardless on whether it is a left or right hand spoke. How much you tighten each spoke depends on how severe the wobble is, as the smaller the movement, the less you will need to tighten.

Continue to spin the wheel to find and correct any wobbles remembering to work on both sides. The wheel is true when it moves no more than one milimeter. Sometimes when putting the tyre back on, the bead doesn't sit perfectly making it look out of true; this is why I take the tyre off when truing so I can get a more accurate alignment.

Your wheel should now be straighter, stronger and more responsive than ever before!

Monday, March 31, 2008

cross training for mountain biking

Many athletes involved in various sporting activities today use alternative training methods to improve their performance. Due to the cardiovascular fitness and dynamic nature of mountain biking, there are many cross training methods that can be used to enhance your ride. having an alternate sport also helps you to keep your mind fresh, reducing "burnout". Cross training is especially useful if you live in an area where mountain biking has an off season due to the weather because it keeps you fit and will give you a leg up on the competition come spring time! I have created a list of activities that correspond well to mountain biking:

- road cycling. I thought I might put forward the most obvious cross training method first. Road cycling is a great way to build your endurance and condition cycling specific muscles. It is less taxing on your body than mountain biking so it can be a good form of recovery as well. Many professional mountain bikers actually spend about 70% of their training time on their road bikes.
- rowing. rowing is a great exercise for strengthening your arms, back and legs which are three important areas for mountain bikers. Rowers actually have one of the largest lung capacities in the sporting world which demonstrates the cardiovascular advantages you can gain from the sport, on top of the muscle development.
- running. running is fantastic for improving your cardiovascular fitness and increasing your max Vo2. The impact nature of running strengthens your legs and joints as well. Trail running is even more advantageous because the dirt is easier on your joints and obstacles gives you an added level of conditioning and joint stability.
- basketball. if you find running by yourself boring, you can get involved in a sport like basketball where running is fun! You can get the same effect with other sports like hockey or soccer (indoor or outdoor), just so long as your running and working hard.
- swimming. swimming strengthens your lungs which convert to big improvements on the bike. it is also great for strengthening your upper body.
- weight training. weight training is great for mountain bikers as it can help you push bigger gears, climb hills and control the bike. When you weight train, it is important to include all muscle groups and not just concentrate on your legs otherwise you will become heavily imbalanced. On the trail, you are practically using all of your muscle groups so strengthening these are pretty useful.

the sports I listed above aren't the only cross training methods and are just some ideas. you can include other sports like cross country skiing, down hill skiing, down hill mountain biking, hiking etc. just so long as you are working!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Make Your Bike Faster! UPDATED!

When you get your hands on a brand new bike the suspension is plush, the gears are smooth and the whole machine just feels great. How do we keep this level of performance? The answer largely comes to keeping it clean. When we ride off road, abraisive dirt and grime attatches itself to your bike, concentrating in and around the moving parts, accelerating wear and decreasing performance. When the drivetrain and moving pars are free of cruddy dirt, the chain and derailleurs dont have to work as hard to change gears, the dust seals on your bearings and suspension are under less pressure and your bike looks nicer! Here's how to do it:

Tools of the trade

  • bucket
  • warm water
  • garden hose
  • simple detergent (I like to use dishwashing liquid)
  • sponge
  • stiff bristled brush (eg. washing up brush)
  • any other brushes that you see fit (eg. tooth brush to get into the nooks and crannies)

- give your bike a quick rinse with the garden hose to remove most of the loose debris. It is important that the water pressure is no more than a rainshower as high pressure water will force past the seals in your suspension, hubs, bottom bracket and headset, damaging the components (see useful hints for a way to give these parts extra protection).

- put some detergent and warm water an a bucket and begin to sponge bath the bike, from top to bottom. clean down the suspension sliders and around the headset, not forgeting the bottom bracket. Sponge down the rims and hubs as well. Using one hand to hold the cranks steady, scrub the rear cassette cogs and then move onto the front chainrings. While your bending over, scrub the chain, front and rear derailleurs as well as the pedals.

- now that your bike is covered in soapy suds, grab the garden hose and begin to rinse it off. Remember to keep the pressure low.

- now that the bike is sparkling clean, bounce or shake it a couple of times to rattle of most of the water. You may also like to wipe it down with a dry towel. Alternitavely you can take it for a brisk 1-2 minute ride to blow the water off, however this may cause dirt to fly from the tyres onto the bike again.

- when the bike is dry, lubricate the chain and cables appropriately

Useful hints

  • Aim to clean your bike after about every 2-3 hours of riding
  • you can easily clean down your suspension sliders with a rag or with the back of your gloves which will reduce pressure on the dust seals

  • most mountain bikes these days have pretty decent seals on the bearings, however if you are paranoid that water will force through, tie some rags around them for extra protection.

  • you can use degreaser on your chain and cogs to make the drivetrain extra clean. Aim to keep it on the chain and cogs only to prevent it getting into any sealed units.

  • don't put any chamicals (lubricant, degreaser etc) on the brake pads or braking surfaces as this will contaminate them, greatly reducing brake performance.

Having a clean bike feels great and will increase it's life dramatically.

Friday, March 28, 2008

cycling fitness basics

Before I start getting into any articles about fitness, I thought I'd provide you with the basic elements of the topic.

There are three main training phases that a cyclist or mountain biker needs to understand being base, build and competition/peak:
  • Base - the base phase is where you lay out your foundation of aerobic fitness before any high intensity training is taken place. Base training basically includes spending most of your time working on endurance rides at a low intensity (65-70% of maximum heart rate if you have a heart rate monitor). Building your base provides most of your endurance for later in the season and without it your improvements will be dramatically limited. Time spent in the base phase depends on your goals for the season. The longer you spend in the base phase the larger your potential for the season; aim for somewhere between 3 weeks and 3 months. It is useful to develop your base either on road on an indoor trainer as it provides less interruptions with your heart rate and rhythm.
  • Build - once you have built your foundation in the base phase it is time to start to ramp up the intensity. Here it is also useful to suppliment with strength/resistance training. Sessions in the build phase can include intervals, hill starts and pace rides. It is a good idea to start with your workouts having longer and less intense efforts and gradually work your way up to shorter, harder intensities.
  • competition/peak - this is where all of your hard work troughout the season pays off. Your workouts should be short and sharp focusing mostly on speed and high intensity. If you executed your base and build phases correctly, you will find that at this stage you should notice a difference in performance. Your body can unfortunately keep this sort of peak condition for a limited time from 2-4 weeks, so it is important to time your program so you are peaking at an important race or event. Riders often feel that they are losing fitness through this phase, but if you peak correctly you will reap the rewards.
  • restoration phase - at the end of your program, after the competition phase, it is important to give your body a rest to rebuild and recover. Depending on your condition and calander this phase should last between two weeks and two months. In this time avoid having a junk food blow out accompanying plenty of couch time and try to continue to eat well and include some gentle exercise like swimming, walking etc. The restoration phase is also used to recover your mind making you motivated to train when you finish resoring.

The overload principle

The overload principle entails gradually increasing work (duration, intensity, weight etc.) over a period of time. This should be used in your base, build and any weight/resistance training you may be doing. For example, in your base phase you should be aiming to increase the duration of your rides by about 10% each week, in the build phase you should be increasing intensity each week and so on... In the competition phase however, you need to do the opposite by reducing training volume by 10 % each week. This will allow your body to rebuild and "taper".


It is important to add recovery into your training schedule to prevent "burnout" and allow time for your body to adapt. Every 3-4 weeks back off the training slightly to allow for a bit of extra recovery. Remember that it is in recovery your fitness improves due to your body rebuilding and adapting to the exercise.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ride Slow to Ride Fast

When you think about it, going fast on a bike is easy. A lot of the time, the hardest part of riding trails is going slow. If you have slowed right down, it means that you have come to a piece of trail that is very technically demanding and riding it too fast will lead to crashing your brains out! However if you can improve your slow riding skills, you will find yourself exiting these technical sections faster, smoother and safer.

The drill used to practice your slow riding skills is called the track stand. The track stand is seen as balancing in a stationary position on your bike and can look pretty impressive through the eyes of onlookers.

To perform a track stand there are a few things you need to keep in mind:

- In a track stand you are not actually keeping completely still. In fact you are constantly moving, rocking back and forward. When you are beginning your rocks can be bigger and more obvious and you will find that with improvement you will be able to keep your movements much tighter and controlled.
- Off the brakes! Being off the brakes will make the rocking action a lot easier.
- keep your head up. How often do you ride your bike looking at the ground beneath you? Keeping your head up helps to simulate trail conditions where you need to be switched on and scanning for the next obstacle.

It is often easier to begin on a slight gradient with your front wheel pointing up hill. Get yourself in a gear that allows you to have some tension on the chain without being too light or too heavy. Standing on the pedals, put your favourite foot forward in about the 9 o’clock position and gently apply and release pressure to give you a calm rocking motion. It may also help if you turn your handlebars to one side.

Advanced techniques
If you start mastering the basic track stand you can begin to take off one hand, one leg, two legs etc. Trying a track stand sitting down also adds some extra difficulty and is handy of you can do it right. You may even want to venture into some trials riding where your skills will be put to the ultimate test. Stay tuned for a beginning trials post.

How the track stand will improve your riding
The track stand is the most fundamental skill on a bike. If you can perform a track stand well, you are definitely on our way to being a more skilled, faster and safer rider. Even after about a weeks practice, I have found that my stability at high speed had improved greatly, my skills through technical terrain were better and since improving my track stand I have been crashing much less! Learning the track stand at first can sometimes be slow and frustrating, however the rewards are defiantly worth the time spent practising.

Monday, March 24, 2008

BMX Track Riding For Supreme Singletrack Skills

Riding BMX tracks/pump tracks are a great way to make you a smoother, safer and faster mountain biker. I have spent a lot of time riding local BMX tracks and have found that it has greatly enhanced my control over the bike by improving confidence, weight and balance over the bike, jumping skills and fluidity through singletrack.

Getting started
The easiest and best way to get started is to grab some friends and head down to the local BMX track. If you don't have any BMX tracks in your area you can try to find a pump track or even build your own! (I wont be getting into trail building this issue but stay tuned!) Having friends with you can speed your skills improvements by having someone to compete with, someone check your form and friends makes it alot more fun.

Drills and techniques
Once you become well aquainted with the track, you can start practising pumping technique:

  1. keep your head up - like all mountain bike situations, you should have your head up, scanning the terrain ahead so you can become familliar with what's comming up.
  2. body movements - you need to be active on the bike by moving both up and down and forwards and backwards. You need to achieve this by pumping your arms and legs in a rhythm with the humps on the track. As you increase in speed, your pumping action will need to be faster and more dynamic.
  3. body separation - in the pumping action, you need to use your upper body's full range of motion to maintain your front wheel's contact with the ground. You will find that your arms will be pumping up and down rapidly as you increase speed. Your legs should be reletively quiet compared to your arms but still needs to be active in pumping and maintaining traction with the riding surface. In the pumping action you are aiming to push your wheels overand down the humps in a fluid motion, linking your upper and lower body movements which will increase in speed as you go.

A great way to improve your pumping technique is to practice going through the entire BMX track without peddling, only pumping. You can also race your buddies and you will see that an increase in your distance and speed are a sign of your improvement.

Practice jumping your bike by hitting the kicker with appropriate speed and landing smoothly on the down ramp on the other side. I reccomend starting on tabletops as it is easier to land safely if you don't make the distance. when your skills and confidence improves, you can step up to some of the bigger jumps.


All you really need is a bike and a helmet to start riding BMX tracks. However, when you start jumping, you may want to enclude some extra armour in case you fall; it may also give you the confidence needed to get you over the gap. If you find a hidden talent in BMX track riding you can grab a dirt jump bike and continue your quest to international 4X victory! The compact frame and slack geometry are well siuted for quick manuvers at BMX tracks giving you a better grasp on jumps and humps. I am comfortable using my XC hardtail as I fell confident riding it and it makes it easier to transfer skills from the track to the trails.

How BMX track riding will improve your mountain biking

Pumping through BMX tracks are all about increasing momentum and holding traction which are two very important aspects of mountian biking. The more you practice pumping, the more you will use it in singletrack situations. Your emprovements in holding traction will make you better at cornering and the fluid pumping action will make you a more fluid rider. Combine small hops and pumping through root infested trails to hold speed, traction and fluidity.

Getting some air at the BMX is very useful for improving your confidence and areal awareness. you will learn to spot landings mid-air and execute them smoothly. practising landing on a transition (down ramp) will greatly improve your smoothness and safety when jumping on the trail. There are many situations where jumping in the singletrack is faster, smoother and safer; especially when you have the skills to do it! Having the ability to jump with confidence opens up a world of new lines that you can ride adding to your performance and the enjoyment of the ride.