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How to be a real cyclist?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Alrighty, I'm stoked. I bought a road bike 18 months ago and a used MTB a few months later. I love biking almost as much as skiing and want to become much better at it. I have some questions that I like to have your inputs on.

 

1. Gear: I often hear it's the indian, not the arrow when the question of gear comes up, be it photography, skiing, or biking. But I definitely would not want to be in knee deep power on SL skis if I have access to powder boards. The useful question to me is a what level gear matters and by how much for the same terrain/activity. My road bike is an aluminum Specialized with Shimano 105. I have been advised to get a better bike, carbon frame with better grouppo. But saving 2-3 lbs doesn't seem much from a total of 170 lbs. Will such a bike help me go faster and longer significantly, say by 10%?

 

2. Training: It looks like the big focus for road biking is building a big engine. There are lots of training materials from Friel, Carmichael, Coggan, etc. that are enough, though not always clear, to help me experiment and have fun. But on the skills side, especially for MTB, how do I improve besides riding more and hoping not to develop bad habits?

 

3. Instruction: Are there effective bike schools you recommend? Books and videos? A friend of mine, competitive racer in both road and MTB, feels I am just too old to acquire skills he picked up as a kid. But I also started skiing late. By methodically studying and practicing it, I am proficient enough to expand greatly my range of comfort and enjoyment over different terrains and conditions. I hope to get to that stage with biking too. There are good instructional materials, both books and videos, for skiing to build up the skills from a very low level. (Another big help in learning to ski is that crashing on snow is a lot less painful than on rocks.) The MTB books I have read are like "Ski the whole mountain" by Eric and Rob D. very good books to be sure, just not useful for beginners. I remembered the first time I read STHWM. Everything made perfect sense, except that I just couldn't do it in real time on snow. I just didn't have the basic skills, balance, and confidence to execute. I hope my friend is wrong and I can find good instructional materials to help me with my modest goal.

 

Ride on,

Chuck 

post #2 of 12

Point 1.True.  It is the rider more than the bike. With that said the 105 is a nice midlevel group as is the SLX in the MTB world. Weight does make a difference. All things being equal, 2-3 pounds is quite noticeable-esp if it is in the wheels/tires. Aluminum frames are OK, but once you ride a steel or carbon frame you will never go back to AL. It would seem prudent to go with what you have now; then after you learn about the sport and bikes move up.

 

2. Just ride with more skilled folk. Go on shop or club rides. Most mtn bikers will be happy to show you a few tricks. In exchange, watching you crash on occasion with be fair compensation. biggrin.gif

 

And as with skiing, the more you do it the better you get.

 

3. Books and videos are OK, but refer to answer in #2.

post #3 of 12

Weight matters less than you think.  And it depends on what type of riding you are doing.  If you are racing, a few pounds can make a few watts difference in an attack on a climb.  That can be the factor that matters between following an attack or dropping out the back.  On the other hand, being more aero can mean 20-40 watts.  That means the difference between being able to win a time trial and lose.

 

If you are looking to improve your speed, then investing in aerodynamics will almost always beat investing in weight.  There's just a much bigger payoff.  Buy a set of aero wheels before buying a carbon fiber bike.  An aero set of wheels, such as a Zipp 404 (or 303 for that matter) can give you 20-30 watts gain.  Working on your form can pay wonders as well.

 

As it relates to training, I think the big issue is to get the right type of training.  That is first build a base, then work to build power and speed.  Many cycling books provide a good background on the elements of a training plan, and even provide sample plans depending on what you are aiming to do and the amount of time you have to devote to training.  I personally like Friel's The Cycling Training Bible.  I, on the other hand, have worked with a cycling coach over the past three years who has monitored my progress and devised a customized training plan based on my goals and training progress.  Of course, it also helps your training significantly to have measurements of training progress.  I train with a power meter, and it's quite instructive.  You can use one whether it's road or MTB that you choose as your poison.

 

Mike

 

 

 

 

post #4 of 12

See if you can download a torrent of Fabien Barel's AM Riding video.

post #5 of 12

For instructional material, check www.leelikesbikes.com and his books.  He also teaches clinics.   There is plenty of beginner-friendly stuff in the books and the blog.  He's not the only place or person to lay this out, though he's a very good writer which I think helps, and he has been sought out by some pros.  The problem with riding with more-skilled riders as a way to learn is that most of them aren't as skilled as they think they are, and frequently may even teach things the wrong way.  For instance, I very frequently see people who sincerely view themselves as "good" mountainbikers giving frankly dangerous advice on things like how to take jumps -- this is similar to what you often see on here with advice for things like bumps and steeps.  Likewise you often see horrible advice for bike setup.

 

Ride several different kinds of bikes before considering a next bike.  My bias is that a good enough road bike is good enough for a long time, unless you're truly serious about racing.  For a MTB, you have several different options in terms of type of bike, and where you live and ride has a lot to do with bike choices, maybe more than skill level.

 

One other key to improvement on the MTB side is simple quality time, chunked into at least 3 days a week in an environment that can work the skills you want (which say buff singletrack often will not).  Pumptracks are a great way to work on skill and are now widespread so there's likely one near you; they're also cheap to put into your own backyard.   Parking lots and apartment complexes are also widespread, and simply riding onto and off of curbs, parking blocks (including riding along the top of parking blocks), playing with speed bumps, and similar things can really help your riding.

 

Depending on where you live, there may or may not also be a good concrete skatepark nearby that allows bikes.  If there is, and if there is a time where you can access it when it is not crowded, you can then ride it without having to do the jumps or other tricks that people associate with parks.  Just riding up and down the curved part of the walls, and up and down the small jumps without jumping, can get you used to varied terrain.  Every bike-friendly park is among other things like a pocket version of a classic sandstone MTB area, except the concrete is actually more friendly to fall on.  If you do try this out, there is a specialized etiquette at parks to allow multiple people to use them safely, so bear this in mind and maybe take an hour or two when the park is busy to see how people use the park before trying it yourself.

 

One day a week at a concrete park or pumptrack, and one or two days just tooling around the local neighborhood, can let you get lots of skills-building in without having to drive for good terrain if none is nearby. 

post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thank you all for your suggestions. I appreciate them. This is like learning to ski with similar issues which is part of the fun. I am still waiting for the torrent download of Fabien Barel's video.

 

I have Lee McComack and Brian Lopes' MTB book. The basic stuff helps me on buff single tracks, but I am not making progress with the more advanced stuff. Face to face instruction probably will help. Are there different "systems" or methodologies for MTB teaching and training like in skiing duel.gif?

 

I go out from time to time with some guys who are very good (by my standard) bikers but are probably not good teachers. Of course, I could be a poor student, but I really feel they just can't break down the elements of a skill and articulate them because they do it so naturally. On a recent descent through a switch back, my "instructor" barked "TAKE THE OUTSIDE LINE! LEEAAN! Oh... SHIT".

 

They are as amazed at my inability to do wheelies as I am at their seemingly effortless wheelies and hops. One guy came up with what he called an easy way to do wheelies for newbies: load the front wheel and quickly jerk the body backward while pulling on the handle bar. The other guys thought that's not a good way to do wheelies. But I was able to lift the front wheel by a few inches that way. Excited, I tried it over a curb, mis-timed and went over the bar. I was in pain but everybody else had a good laugh.

post #7 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChuckT View Post

 Are there different "systems" or methodologies for MTB teaching and training like in skiing 



There's no system. Yet. Probably because there is no money in it. Yet. If there's anything starting o resemble a system it's probably what they teach at Whistler. I am certified as a freeride instructor through them.

 

If you can't pull a manual at all, I wonder how your bike fit is. You know, the better I get at biking the more I realize it is like skiing. You need to be balanced n your feet. If I were to guess, I'd say you are too much on your hands.

post #8 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChuckT View Post

Alrighty, I'm stoked. I bought a road bike 18 months ago and a used MTB a few months later. I love biking almost as much as skiing and want to become much better at it. I have some questions that I like to have your inputs on.

 

1. Gear: I often hear it's the indian, not the arrow when the question of gear comes up, be it photography, skiing, or biking. But I definitely would not want to be in knee deep power on SL skis if I have access to powder boards. The useful question to me is a what level gear matters and by how much for the same terrain/activity. My road bike is an aluminum Specialized with Shimano 105. I have been advised to get a better bike, carbon frame with better grouppo. But saving 2-3 lbs doesn't seem much from a total of 170 lbs. Will such a bike help me go faster and longer significantly, say by 10%?

 

2. Training: It looks like the big focus for road biking is building a big engine. There are lots of training materials from Friel, Carmichael, Coggan, etc. that are enough, though not always clear, to help me experiment and have fun. But on the skills side, especially for MTB, how do I improve besides riding more and hoping not to develop bad habits?

 

3. Instruction: Are there effective bike schools you recommend? Books and videos? A friend of mine, competitive racer in both road and MTB, feels I am just too old to acquire skills he picked up as a kid. But I also started skiing late. By methodically studying and practicing it, I am proficient enough to expand greatly my range of comfort and enjoyment over different terrains and conditions. I hope to get to that stage with biking too. There are good instructional materials, both books and videos, for skiing to build up the skills from a very low level. (Another big help in learning to ski is that crashing on snow is a lot less painful than on rocks.) The MTB books I have read are like "Ski the whole mountain" by Eric and Rob D. very good books to be sure, just not useful for beginners. I remembered the first time I read STHWM. Everything made perfect sense, except that I just couldn't do it in real time on snow. I just didn't have the basic skills, balance, and confidence to execute. I hope my friend is wrong and I can find good instructional materials to help me with my modest goal.

 

Ride on,

Chuck 



1) Don't but upgrades, RIDE up grades!*

 

2) Ride LOTS!!!*

 

 

 

* Far wiser men than me.....

 

 

 

post #9 of 12


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChuckT View Post

Thank you all for your suggestions. I appreciate them. This is like learning to ski with similar issues which is part of the fun. I am still waiting for the torrent download of Fabien Barel's video.

 

I have Lee McComack and Brian Lopes' MTB book. The basic stuff helps me on buff single tracks, but I am not making progress with the more advanced stuff. Face to face instruction probably will help. Are there different "systems" or methodologies for MTB teaching and training like in skiing duel.gif?

 

I go out from time to time with some guys who are very good (by my standard) bikers but are probably not good teachers. Of course, I could be a poor student, but I really feel they just can't break down the elements of a skill and articulate them because they do it so naturally. On a recent descent through a switch back, my "instructor" barked "TAKE THE OUTSIDE LINE! LEEAAN! Oh... SHIT".

 

They are as amazed at my inability to do wheelies as I am at their seemingly effortless wheelies and hops. One guy came up with what he called an easy way to do wheelies for newbies: load the front wheel and quickly jerk the body backward while pulling on the handle bar. The other guys thought that's not a good way to do wheelies. But I was able to lift the front wheel by a few inches that way. Excited, I tried it over a curb, mis-timed and went over the bar. I was in pain but everybody else had a good laugh.


What are the 2 or three "next" skills that you want to learn?  Lee's pretty generous with his time, I'd send in a blog question to him re: the issues you're having, if it hasn't been addressed yet. 

 

The pulling on the handle bar thing causes virtually everyone to NOT move their hips back enough.  Pulling on the handlebar won't produce a sustained manual or power wheelie if the hips don't move.  I think you'll find manualling helps you more btw.  This is something I'm sure would be addressed in Lee's blog and book -- it's frustrating to a  lot of people at first.  Learning on grass helps a lot because there's less subconscious fear of a slam.

 

There are varying degrees of bike instructor -- I encountered one who may in fairness have been real good at teaching basic bike skills, but didn't know what a g-out was -- search for gravity traverse on here, and imagine a similar experience -- but not the same weirdness that skiing has where there's good money to be made convincing middle-aged white collar professionals that the "pros" are all doing it wrong and that blue-groomer carving, even if a bit backseat, is where it's all at.

 

 

post #10 of 12

http://www.leelikesbikes.com/wheelies-and-manuals-finding-the-balance.html#more-1114

 

A quick search pulled this up, as one example.  Going over curbs is great practice for lots of things, btw, from working on getting the rear wheel down first for drops to flat, to working on hopping up onto the curb, to if the curb has a round enough cut using it to bump your rear wheel on for a type of jump. 

 

 

post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by CTKook View Post

http://www.leelikesbikes.com/wheelies-and-manuals-finding-the-balance.html#more-1114

 

A quick search pulled this up, as one example.  Going over curbs is great practice for lots of things, btw, from working on getting the rear wheel down first for drops to flat, to working on hopping up onto the curb, to if the curb has a round enough cut using it to bump your rear wheel on for a type of jump. 

 

 



Thanks!

 

post #12 of 12

This was in my inbox this morning. I haven't looked at it at all yet - you be the judge - http://www.zeptechniques.com/

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