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Donnerstag, 27. Juni 2013

DeNOOBing ourselves-and riding on the AOUEIn´s wings: A technique training tutorial

 On Wednesday, traditionally the weekly ride of my mountainbike club takes place. This week I contributed a bit by offering a tutorial, for beginners and rookies and trail riders alike. Wasn´t exactly crowded, but the quality of company certainly made up for it. BärLee, who agreed to assist me in guiding the training, Andrea, who is a very nice person with a deep personality, Seppel, and last but in no way least, Jandark. We met at the Felsengarten, which might be known to readers of my blog;-), and had a chat beforehand. It seems that not all is grand in the wonderland of our club, and we discussed about that, Jandark being the web designer and Andrea being the press consultant, Seppel and Bär some of the most active members, and myself, having started this whole mess;-). And I feel the urge to loose some words on the subject:

In the beginning, Zee Aylienz were more than just any other club. It was an idea. It was not only about buying the latest paraphernalia and having a shiny bike and tech talk and training. There were times when I had taken this whole thing way to serious, but even if  I do not do this anymore and have simplified my attitude a bit, some aspects still remain:

It is about getting out on your bike, having fun, for sure, but also taking responsibility, for freedom isn´t free. First and foremostly, the woods we ride through are not only great for the fact that they provide us with a sporting area. They are great, because they are woods, with all the animals and plants involved. We get out there for adventure, for freedom, to get out of the madness of our world, and we want to preserve this possibility, and so we have to work for the woods. We have to fight for them, for trees, while they can hate, they cannot move. We have to love the trees and animals for what they are, not what they should be. Oh, and we did it and still do that. And our team became bigger, and we started to take the madness of the outside world with us on our rides. People started to compete on the rides, and that´s not bad in itself. But they forgot they were kins and brethren in a fight for a moment of freedom and peace. They valued their ego so much their smile first became wry, when they shook hands after battling each other up or down the hill. Then the whispering started and the gossip. Then the woods became irrelevant, and the material you rode ever so much more important. More whispering started, bragging and mobbing.

Recently, this had become better again, and this is the reason I agreed to do something for the club again. Mountainbike riding has given me so much more than just getting dirty or about performance;-). It has taken me places in the woods and mountains I would have never experienced without a bike, but more important, it has taken me places in my soul I would never have discovered. I could rant on endlessly about the concept of flow, and I have done so on other occasions and other blogs. If you want to understand what drives me, look here. I have experienced flow myself, not only in mountainbiking, but also in ex - tempore poetry and musical sessions, and I looked at myself in awe, wonder and gratefulness at being alive. And while I have no right to lecture or even tutor anyone on that topic, I want to give something back to the world. The fact that flow is not limited to sports and not even to an activity, gives me hope to bring back a tiny bit of magic into this deranged world, for the concept of flow shares many characteristics with the feelings described by adepts of most any religious concept. That said, and keeping in mind I do not want to lecture anyone or create a dogma, this concept best speaks for itself when experienced, and that´s not easy. Mountainbiking is not "the" way to experience it, but it is one way. But just as Satori is not being experienced while you struggle and concentrate on techniques, but only after a period of constant practice, when the moves involved have become second nature, it´s just about the same with flow, which in my book, IS the same.

Since this experience not only has made me very happy, but is also crucial to the transcendent experience of forest environments, and since this experience is at least beneficial to the understanding of the original idea of the club, "zee aylienz", I currently feel the urge to pass it on. Of course, there is also a bit of wishing to be understood involved, but first and foremostly, I believe that many of the current challenges in the club or even in society might be won if we had something to believe in. In that, our club is a mirror of society in the whole, and, hey, I cannot save the world. But maybe I can try to do my friends a favor, eh?;-)

Flow is no sorcery. It´s just a phenomenon encountered after a bit of training after all, be it music or mountainbike riding. What anyone makes out of this experience, is not my business. What I can contribute, however, are plain old training and some tricks this old dog learned;-) on the trail. I must also mention that I owe a lot of the practical side of the tutorial to Elmar Keineke, with whom I once made a tutorial for kids from a poor social background together. Also, he always had some giveaways for the kids courtesy of his employer at hand, and thusly, I can´t thank him enough.

Okay, now talk is cheap, and we quit blabbering also, and made for the location. Since only Andrea was present who needed tutoring, I did not do it systematically, but simply tried to answer her questions. First we did some sort of warming up, nothing fancy, really, just riding the simpler stuff, and then we got to the point where the rubber meets the rock;-).
 Bastian analyzing a rock garden section that was not exactly smooth;-).
 After surveying the terrain, which importance can´t be emphasized enough, Jandark made up his mind to ride the bastard. It is crucial that you get the ride in your mind before you actually do it. You have to visualize yourself riding this or that line succesfully. If you cannot do that in your mind, that´s when you have to say "No". This is even more important than  actually doing it, but doing it out of control. "Those who fight and run away live to fight another day", as the old saying goes. If you feel uneasy about it, don´t do it. If your buddies yell at you or call you a coward, let them talk, it´s your spine fracture, not theirs. It´s more important to know when to say "No" than doing it under pressure. But also ask yourself if you really can´t do it. Look at it at least three times, walk the section and analyze the line. Remember that the path down the hill is always the same as the water will take. Sometimes you must modify this general rule of thumb, but most of the time it will help you.
 Jan walked it. He paused. He touched this stone or that. He looked at it intently, then breathed, and said "I will do it". And did he make it? BOY, did he!;-) Look at the picture: Jan keeps his strong foot on his front pedal. Also the cranks are level with the ground. That way he can control  the ride with his strong foot and does not risk hitting a rock with his lower pedal, which might even result in a crash with a nasty air trip over the bars and stopping on your cheekbone.;-) Clearance is crucial in this situation.

I must admit I stood there, on top, and fear swelled up in me. But I knew I had ridden this before, and even if the rain had caused some severe erosion in the past few years, it was still the same trail. So I breathed into my stomach and concentrated on my sternum. It helps to count to three when breathing in and to five when breathing out to calm down. If you cannot calm down, call it a day and walk it again.

I managed, for I knew I could do it, and I rode it myself. Bastian, however, was a bit injured still, and simply called it a day. Got the gist, that this is crucial;-)?
 Then I tutored Andrea showing her how to ride on slippery terrain, such as loose gravel. The trick is frightening at first, but works: Most people tend to use the rear brake more than the front. But roundabout 80% of braking force is applied through the front brake. If you use the rear brake exclusively on a steep slope, the rear wheel will lock up, and you end up on a sleigh ride down the hill, becoming ever faster and losing control. The trick is to use the front brake. When the rear brake locks up, and you start to skid, don´t panic. Just open the brake for a fraction of a second to allow it to make a half revolution to get new grip. Always look ahead of you, about 15 m to the front. The bike will also always follow the direction where it´s pointed, and that´s the direction of your head. You can try that out in an empty parking lot: Ride a straight line and the explosively turn your head in one direction. When you follow with your knee on that side, you will already have a half turn, aim your elbow around the bend and the bike will turn. The only limit is the wheelbase of your bike! Also remember to have all your braking done before any bend: First you slow down with your front brake, and use the rear brake only halfway through the turn.

Keeping that in mind, you can figure out to look at things and objects you´d rather avoid might end up in a desaster. So, don´t program your mind like "oh, don´t hit that rock", but go like: "steer to the right side of that rock". Look  where you are aimed. MESSAGE!;-)

That said and done, you can experiment with your mind a bit. put on two different socks, say one with pink polkadots and one with yellow. Ride a straight line on the parking lot. Then think about the pink polkadots.

When riding around a bend at high speed, and not through rocks that might need more clearance and pedals level with the ground, your balance and speed is greatly enhanced by weighting the outside pedal. You can even experiment with all your weight on the outside pedal, taking the inside foot from the pedal. That  way you can ride out 360 degree-bends with little to no braking.

 When Andrea saw Bär Lee jumping the staircase she immediately went: "I want to do that, too!". To float down a flight of stairs, you have to unweight the front wheel, but be careful. First experiment with the balance point. Dismount your bike and set it on the rear wheel before you, holding onto the handlebar. Then push the handlebar diagonally back, down and then away from you, resulting in a push of the rear wheel away from you. You will notice that there is one point where little to no force is required to push the rear wheel  away from you. This is the much sought after balance point or manual point. Keep in mind that the curve diagonally back towards you, then down and away from you describes a dynamic curve, like a whiplash-line (MESSAGE!;-)). This curve is not only crucial to lift the handlebar in the so-called "floater drop" down a staircase, but also to the wheelie and bunnyhop. But, also keep in mind, that there are dangers, too. If you do not adjust to the manual point, you might fall off backwards, onto your spine, and this would be serious. First and foremostly, use appropriate safety gear and carry a first-aid kit. A daypack with a hydration bladder serves the purpose of spine protection quite well for lighter trail applications, but if you want to go big, always wear a motocross or freeskiing spine protector.

But there´s also one simple technique you can use when overdoing the quest for the holy manual point. Try out dismounted, with your bike before you, to push your bike over the balance point, and then pull hard on the rear brake. The front wheel, following the braking impulse, will immediately come down.

When practicing lifting the front wheel it is first crucial to lower your saddle so that you can at least sit on it while both of your feet comfortably sit on the ground. Roll at medium speed. The piece where your fork sits in the frame to meet the handlenbar is called a steerer tube, and there you can find a badge or something. Go down into a crouch, while you push your elbows out, and while doing so, lean forward, so that you can see this badge. Pull back/up, down and forward in a whiplash line motion. Imagine a whip going through your motion. The front wheel will go up, but not much. Now repeat the procedure, but this time roll at a medium speed (both pedals level with the ground and your strong foot on the front pedal) standing up as high as possible, then crouch down explosively in a whiplash line motion. KEEP! THAT! FINGER! ON! THE! REAR! BRAKE! LEVER!;-) You will be surprised at how easy the front wheel goes up. Also, practice the wheelie and dismounting off the back in a stress situation.

Now to the floater drop. Andrea rode the staircase first, at least ten times. We also practiced stopping on the stair, and riding slow, but this time we hit the stairs at ever-increasing speed, and Andrea realized the front wheel always became lighter with increasing speed, and that she had a tendency to land on the front wheel. Since it were just three steps, that was not a problem. But when hitting a larger staircase or natural rock drops at high speed, this can send you sailing over the bars. This is the reason the Gods made the floater drop;-). You use it to lift your front wheel out of trouble, and to land with your rear wheel first. This way, the impact is taken away from your weaker arms and transferred into your stronger legs, and the process of the bike dropping from the rear onto the front takes the force out of the impact additionally. But you have to take care that your front wheel is a bit higher than the rear always. This you can achieve by leaning back in the air. If the front wheel gets to high, tip on the rear wheel just enough to lower it. Diving the front wheel is a technique only applied when there´s a slope landing involved.
 It simply was a great experience, for different skill levels of riders simply rode together in a very friendly, heart-warming atmosphere, tutoring each other and simply having a ball. Bastian, in spite of his injury, did quite some dropping down himself, and must I go on endlessly about the skill level of Bär Lee?
I mean, that guy rides for but, .... wait, is that two years...?! Here, he´s airing it out in style. It´s great to hang out with those gals and guys, for it helps me improve myself also. I hope I have made clear, that we did that together. We are on a quest. It´s not only the quest for "bigger is better" and the ultimate fun. But we also seek the truth in a world of lies. I don´t know if mountainbiking is the correct means for it, but then I do not care. We are freaks, but care for each other, and we try to discover a new world, for the old one is wrecked to pulp by banksters, politicians, priests, and liars.

I also hope I have made clear that it´s not just mountainbiking for me. It´s the woods and the real world I want to discover. I have been force - fed lies all of my life, and never believed in them. Now I hope.

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Now go on, discuss and rant and push my ego;-). As long as it´s a respectful message, every comment is welcome!

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