Saturday, June 25, 2011

love from hillside

Lori sent this great postcard with some of her photos from the ride that she led last week. Susan also led a group around the Hillside and Campbell Tract trails (Black Bear, Rover's, Ridge, Viewpoint, Moose Meadow, P38, Birch Meadow, and whatever else is required to connect all of those together).

The food afterward was so delicious that I thought it warranted a second photo, larger than the one in Lori's postcard. Notice how few of those homemade white chocolate-nutty cookies are left.

As a good leader, Lori was constantly looking for any tricky spots on the trail. Here's one she found on Birch Meadow, thus saving the rest of us from catching a pedal on that stump. Thanks, Lori! Great ride!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

skills? we've got 'em!

cone slalom: turn your head and the rest will follow

It's not how fast you go, it's how much control you have.

This thought should resonate with each of the more than 20 Divas who showed up ready to learn at Monday evening's Singletrack Skills clinic. Guest coach, Janice Tower, shared with us her expertise as riders navigated the cone slalom, practiced their wheel lofts, imitated a grasshopper and slowly descended a skinny thread of trail. My, how two hours can fly!

A few things covered reinforced what we've been teaching for years: when coasting, ride with the pedals in the level position - what Janice calls "moto." This position allows you to be active and ready for anything on the bike. Ready to slide off the back of the saddle for a descent, approach an obstacle to power over it or lean into a banked corner. Moto is a ready position and much easier for us to yell than "pedals level!"

How far back can you go? Janice holds me as I demo positions for
descending and climbing. Something everyone can practice at
trailheads or while regrouping along the trail.

Another concept we worked on was tight cornering. The tips were helpful to riders of all levels. We probably all know that if we look at something, we tend to move that direction. At previous clinics we've practiced riding tight circles and looking over our shoulder to help us make that circle tighter. While riding the slalom of cones on Monday, Janice kept a close eye on everyone and encouraged us to exaggerate these motions so that everyone was turning their head to look at the next obstacle and letting their arms and bodies follow. We worked on looking ahead to the next obstacle even as we emerged around the previous one.

Preparing for a slow, singletrack descent.

Oftentimes we only look a short distance ahead of us. By looking ahead, we were able to prepare for the next corner. This will come in especially handy this evening as we ride the STA trails and tackle some of the tightest switchbacks in town. Are you ready?

For those who weren't able to be at the skills clinic, I have a few extra handouts which describe some of what we did. Plus, there are about 22 Divas who will be happy to pass along what they learned!

I'd like to extend a big thanks to Janice for volunteering to coach us on skills! And thanks to Jean for once again documenting the event.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


At the ride leader clinic in late May, I noticed how many Divas are still reluctant to adopt clipless pedals on their mountain bikes. Why? The most common reason is: I'm afraid I won't be able to get out and will fall over. Some people have tried them only to return to flat pedals or clips & straps. Some have witnessed others fall or heard their tales. I'm not going to tell you that you won't fall. You will fall! But you're outdoors women and I know fear of falling has not prevented you from taking up skiing or other active sports. Well...

There are so many benefits to using clipless pedals instead of a flat pedal or toeclips. I'd like to share a few:

You will climb better. Really. Because you're clipped into the pedal, you're not just pushing down on your pedals; you're also pulling up. You can put power to the pedals for the entire rotation of the cranks so you'll have a smoother spin up the hills. This is in contrast to the pulsing action of the pedals when you're just using the downstroke to pedal. Think about it: more even power.

You'll have more control. When riding over rougher trails that have exposed rocks and roots, your feet will stay firmly in place on the pedals instead of sliding around or bouncing off. This will make it easier for you to ride over the rougher trails and descend faster. You will be one with the bike which gives you more control, and in turn, more confidence.

You'll ride farther. When you only pedal using the downstroke, only one muscle group is working. When you add the upstroke and spin more, you bring more muscles in to share the work. Sharing the work lets you ride longer before the muscles get tired.

Just a few thoughts on toe clips (the plastic cups that are attached to the pedals to keep your foot in place): If you snug down the straps, they're harder to get out of than the clipless pedals, but that's the only way to get the most efficiency out of the pedal. For mountain biking, you want ease of entry & exit. I've occasionally seen people ride with the toeclip hanging down below the pedal. This is a good way to catch the pedal on a trail obstacle, such as a root or rock. Don't do it!

Finally, I'd like to share my own experience with clipless pedals. There's a very steep hill on the Horseshoe Loop at Kincaid Park. When I first began mountain biking I didn't have clipless pedals. I would try, but could never make it up that hill. Finally, I rode with the pedals I'd just gotten a week or so earlier. Sure enough, I was able to power my way up that hill. I hadn't suddenly transformed into a stronger rider, I'd just adopted the tool that would make it easier to climb the hill. I've been a convert ever since.

I'm happy to offer advice on which pedals might work best for you. If people would like a pedal clinic, we can do that. I can even schedule an after-hours equipment talk at Paramount Cycles. It's your club; what would you like to do?