A few things are for certain: I’m no Graham Jarvis in the gnar, Carmichael on the track, or Wattsy in the woods. While I’m far from an expert at anything moto related, I have been taught a few things in the past 20+ years of riding that help me when I’m out riding my bike. Many of these things are common sense, or you’ve been told a thousand times. Well, sometimes we need to hear things 1001 for it to sink in.
Focus On The Basics
There is very little better for your riding than focusing on your basics. Being able to control your throttle, brakes, clutch, suspension, and body in a glorious symphony is something we dream of. Usually when hopping on the bike, it’s more like a cacophony with the clutch slipping a bit too early, brakes on a little too long, and not the gentle throttle caress that we should be applying. Getting these fine delicate movements takes time and can get VERY frustrating, but there are easy things you can do to work on them. Copy what trials riders are doing. Work on your static balance (tricky on a full size enduro), do figure 8’s around some fixed objects with slowly working your way to full lock figure 8’s. Do some acceleration\hard braking drills, or ride around with the front wheel on the edge of locking to feel what the front is like when it begins to tuck. All these little bits combined will make your riding that much more smooth, and smooth is fast……which leads to the next thing…
Riding slow is one THE hardest things to force yourself to do, especially if you’re riding with someone who’s slow is your personal ludicrous speed.. I struggle with it every time I go out and ride. I get antsy as I’m finally getting out to ride, and just want to begin pushing things. While that in and of itself isn’t bad, it pays a relative disservice to my riding. Riding slow forces you to work on your balance, your little skills, and also to not get overwhelmed with trying to maintain speed. Key in on your braking markers (if out on the track). Focus on your timing and precision when log hopping. If you’re riding singletrack pay attention to when you are on the throttle and when you’re off. Focus on your transitions from throttle to brakes and back to throttle. Pay attention to things you can use to pop you up from sitting, or allow you to drop or change riding position. Riding slow will allow you to be cognizant of all these things, without you worrying about going warp speed into a tree.
Avoid mimicking someone elses riding.
We all ride in our own way, and unless you’re following a pro or someone who is trying to help show a technique or certain skill, following right on the tail of someone is likely going to hinder you more than help. Many times we end up behind someone, and we end up behind them cause they’re slower, or you might just both leave at slightly different times and one person chooses to lead vs the other. It never fails though that when you’re riding behind someone its easy to fall into their groove. You’re braking when they do, and getting on the gas when they do. However this usually means that you’re braking early, for too long, and then not on the gas quick enough. It’s also easy to not be looking at where you want to be going. All of these little things slow you down, and cause you to expend far more energy than if you rode your own ride. If you ride with someone, take turns switching who leads and who follows. If you’re in a race and find you creep up on someone, do everything you can to focus on your own race, and use all of the course to allow you to find a way past the slower rider.
Spend less on gadgets, and more on gas.
I don’t know how else to break this one down more than what the headline says. Stop wasting money on gadgets, and spend more on gas for your bike. There is nothing out there that is going to magically make you better on your bike. No steering damper, custom fork valving, automatic clutch, traction control, abs, or whatever is going to better improve your riding than you putting gasoline in the tank and just riding. Simple as that. There is NO replacement for Seat Time.
Sometimes we have to just force ourselves to stop overthinking, and start enjoying our riding. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to clear a hard obstacle, or trying to break some lap time, and get frustrated along the way when we don’t reach some mythical end point we’ve concocted in our heads. Don’t get down on yourself. Take the moment to stop, gather your thoughts, and have a good chuckle that you’re out riding. You should be having a ball when you’re riding. If its not, try to figure out what mental roadblock you’ve built up and break it down. Start laughing, heck start running through an episode of Seinfeld in your head. Have Fun.
Suffice to say this is not an all inclusive list on some things you can do to better your riding, but they’re some things I try to always force into my head when I’m out getting my throttle therapy. Happy roosting!