Bike Skills Project

Category Archives — Bike Skills Project

What Bike Bag or Bike Box to Travel With

Fancy Options – these are used often by those that travel a lot

Cheaper route

is the cardboard box route -> I still use this and breakdown is not huge … handlebars have to come off but that is usual with all bags I believe. Advantage is it is cheap, light (ie. pack other gear in it) and can be broken down to store easily in your rental car etc.
 *if you can get a Trek Madone Box from a local Trek Dealer they are very big and open like a shoe box, which makes packing very easy !

The ‘Canadian’ Solution = Mid-Range with some Advantages

can also get a hockey bag (goalie bag – needs to be very big) and use that. Often Hockey bags travel cheaply or free!
=> Generally requires a bit more bike breakdown as fork has to come out usually.
  -> I use this one I think key measure is 44cm or larger (often custom order)

Once you have it – How do you get your bike in it?

If you need help with getting your bike boxed GCN has a video here to box your bike

How to Race Your Bike in the Mud – An explanation, cautions and take-a-ways from my ability to run beside a bike

I won a race on the weekend. This has happened a handful of times in my career, and only once before on a day with any mud (Crank the Shield 2008!).

How/Why

I’ve been asked how I went so fast this past weekend numerous times over the last 24 hours.  While I tend to avoid talking about my racing too much (well, apart from that 10 years of blogging about it … ) I believe that a few coaching clients and ‘questioners’ are missing the practical ‘how-to race in the mud’ skills/concepts and expecting that I had some sort of mechanical advantage or super secret PAM spray that kept mud from sticking to my ‘Blak Majik’ Trek Fuel.  [Insert Technological doping, top tube and slippery tube jokes here to save time later]

I’m sorry to disappoint, but there isn’t any one magical thing that I used in the mud, cold and snow at the race, but there are a few things you can practice in your training and keep in mind next time the weather turns with the key items (explained below) being run more, move in a variety of ways, learn to dismount/mount and grab your top-tube if you are off your bike.
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Photo of one of my most awkward moments in race. AVOID unexpected dismounts / dead-stops
by Hans “solo” Clarke on the Facebook (gallery here, need to be friends with her to view)

But before I get into it, I want to start with a caution: if you are an aspiring XC racer, the sport has changed. These days of mostly running disguised as mountain bike racing —are very niche and increasingly do not result in world championship titles, although they might be a small part of some high level races, the front runners are not running much usually. I am not getting overexcited by my win, I assure you that I am aware of my place in the sporting world and that many people would have beaten me had yesterday been a world cup or more lucrative points/money race. With that said, I have some sort of knack for running beside my bike, and you may find yourself in a race where that skill and the associated concepts help you achieve a result: they did just that for me at Bonelli this past March where I got UCI points in an UCI-HC event that had many very talented and motivated athletes… many of whom I ran past holding my top tube in the final few laps as several climbs turned to peanut butter, bikes got heavy, running became more important, and weather (motivations) worsened.

 

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​Experience​:

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2005 Transrockies – This stage was one of the craziest days of my life, with the Mayor of Singhampton

An important background is that this ‘Snow-Cup’ at Highlands Nordic this past weekend aligned a lot of things I do often in training into an event. In my training, I am fairly specialized to mountain biking, but my rides typically involve sketchy sections, stairs, fences, giant logs, bush-wacking, significant hike-a-bike and frequent mounting (how to video) and dismounting (how to video). Clipping in without loosing speed and while on variable terrain is also part of this and worth practicing. Many of the people who know me well will describe certain sketchy rides that include those elements as rides that I would like or a “Pete ride.” Case in point, on the day after the race I was on my Trek Boone cross bike and tippy-toed across a river, was on gravel/grass for a bunch of the ride, scaled a sketchy barbed wire fence and ran through a wet ditch then remounted my bike with a cyclocross mount (onto my thigh) . It is just how I ride. I like to explore and put together crazy routes.

I run most days for 5-20 minutes in the morning, walk 5-20,000 steps a day, and Ride 12-18 hours most weeks. I think biggest week was maybe 25 hours this winter while down south. Strength is 1-3x a week and for last year has been mostly just some variation of my ‘anywhere core’ routine due to inconsistency of equipment with our travel. I also use a HIGH:LOW:OFF three-day cycle, meaning I go really hard on day 1, then long on day 2 and then off day 3 (walk/hike/light run/ light core routine/outdoor work). I Spiro-Tiger (respiratory training device) a couple of times a week and usually as part of race warm-up: it is most of my warm-up on crappy days to avoid getting cold and trashing my bike before the start.

 

My bike warm-up was about 15 minutes with 3 x ~1min efforts up grass hill by the start, getting HR >85% MHR (strava link to race/warmup).  I also wear a lot of clothes to try and get sweating and warm before I get to the start-line, as we would for any race.

This video (LINK) also embedded below, explains “Grab the top tube” (And this one for hike-a-bike in stage racing might help you see where seconds to minutes can be lost)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rq-2cjh-nQ]

In terms of specific training, running is a very large part of ‘riding’ well in the mud. Skills to descend (attack position!) and pump/flow terrain on downhills is very important, if you over-brake you will be off your bike a lot more. If you have a smooth pedal stroke and seated power than you can stay on your bike more (I do not have this).

Should you train like me? It depends what your goals are. I obviously believe that we should all be able to move really well in a variety of ways–Molly and I did start a podcast on that topic–but if you are trying to be world class, you will need to focus on that disciplines key skills and not on finding swamps to run through while holding your bike. If you want to do an MTB stage race, like La Ruta or Transylvania Epic, then I would suggest working on your running, hike-a-bike, remounts and gravel road riding in addition to ‘standard’ mountain bike skills. (If you like ‘hacks’ then check out 10 ways to go faster at Leadville without training more). Being able to run, move well in a variety of ways (gym work helps) and perform in a variety of conditions is generally a good idea (and as shameless plug, the point of the Consummate Athlete Podcast…)

sarah

One of the athletes I coach and my TrekCanada team-mate, Sarah Fabbro, won the Junior Expert Women’s category. As I passed her, it was evident (to my delirious and biased mind…) that she was moving efficiently. Smooth dismount and running with her hand on the top-tube, using the bike to help keep her up on off-camber and not stressing that her tires were rubbing and/or that her chain was falling off. We had a laugh as we ran through a section together mid-race, the fun/smile is key. Run the flats/uphills and Coast/Pump the downhills. Clean the drive-train while you’re moving when long sections of pedaling arrive.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fteamhardwoodtrek%2Fvideos%2F1191406547544411%2F&show_text=0&width=560

Following the example of the young riders who brave colder temps and often worse weather early in the morning

Mindset:

​I have a rule that I don’t quit, and that I start if I register. The rule has been broken perhaps twice, three times at most. This rule of  ‘the only way out is the finish line’ eliminates hesitation about the sanity or rationality of what we are doing and on days I feel like crap, it eliminates the option to quit. While I did cringe as we looked at the course before the start; thinking about what the race would cost in bike repair. We had committed to the day and so motivation to do the best I can, to see how my training experiments are going, is high. Eliminate hesitation, the only way out is the finish line.

I am also fortunate to have the support of a great mountain bike Ontario (and beyond) community. Highlands might be considered my ‘home course’ as well, indeed I have won another Ocup there and narrowly missed provincials last year. I have developed a reputation as a hard-man–I am not sure I deserve it given my affinity for the trainer and California–but when the race organizer and several racers are calling you for the win, there is a certain level of ‘social motivation’ where you need to/want to defend your ego/identity. I feel all of these things worked in my favor but are also possible for you to leverage by telling yourself and others that you like riding in the rain, that a race will be good for you and by committing to race/warm-up as you would expect someone who does well would. No complaining or hesitation in your routine.

​GEAR​:

I have the fortune of many years of great support from the Trek Store​ of Toronto/Barrie/Aurora and Trek Canada. We are a small team largely supported by “mom and dad” so while the store makes sure we have great equipment to minimize the chances of things like broken chains, flats, chain suck, etc. it is important to not use that as an excuse. I prepped my own bike, changed to bigger tires the day before a race and did a test-ride to make sure the discs didn’t rub and tires seated. I’m not sure that any of my equipment was that much different or specialized for the conditions. As I go through the results, perhaps there is something in the frame:tire clearance in the Trek vs. other brands, but I am not sure as many riders had good days for them on other brands: Liam on a dually Scott in second for Pro-Men as an example, where he (in his own words) had many new experiences on Sunday and was motivated to have another podium in his first year elite. Liam also has a cross-country running background. Even tires are debatable as many people did well with smaller/dry weather tires (e.g. Bontrager XR1).

The tires I used we​re Bontrager XR2 ​2.2 width, but I suspect a 2.0 or even classic mud tire with 1.8 and big knobs may have been tire of the day if you could find one. In a perfect, free bike world, I​ think a hard-tail would have been faster strictly because of less surface area for mud to grab onto and less overall bike weight.

Single-ring setups and drive-trains generally were an issue for both big component brands. We run SRAM and I had my chain come off a couple times. I wiped the ring with my hand and sprayed the cogs/derailleur and carried on. I believe not pedaling while spinning on low traction mud is a mistake that causes excess accumulation around the BB and rings and that is why so many people had problems. I dismount quickly to move forward faster for same energy if I am sliding. So this means many remounts/dismounts in sketchy areas and a lot of running. Many people rode more than I did, but if running is not efficient for them than that might have been their best option.

 

 
I tend to over-dress always so on inclement days I am usually wearing 1-2 more layers than others, so I am very used to performing (usually moderately) while wearing arm and leg warmers so I have ones that don’t fall down, fit well and that I am used to. During this weekend’s race I wore an undershirt, 2 jerseys with a vest in-between to keep the wind out, a trick I use this more often then I might admit to stay warm and not obviously wear a vest.

 

Technique:
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TextBook!! Grab your top-tube and run, lean on top tube as needed (Hans Clarke Photo)

The biggest thing to focus on is dismounting and grabbing the top tube quickly every time: traction is lost (basically any flat single track or uphill) and running for all you are worth. I rarely picked up bike the whole race, occasionally would lift rear wheel by lifting top tube and pushing on left grip/handlebar to keep rear wheel out of sticky mud areas. Having your right hand on the top-tube gives you something to lean on when running so when you slip you don’t fall. When tires got really gummy, I would jam my hand between the tire and frame at BB and seat stays while pushing forward and then hop on and mash until wheels rolled. Kyle Douglas of 3Rox, rode more than I did and was doing similar mud clearing while riding his bike.
I hit every puddle/wet area of dirt (look for rivers / puddles). All my water bottles went on drive-train, at key portions of race course where pedaling became more possible/efficient.
 
If I could race again today: 
I would have put in the mud cleats into my shoes as it would have boosted my speed and prevented a few painful slips. I think narrower tires, 1.8 or 2.0 might have been really good given the mud accumulation / wheel rotation issues. Throwing down a gel might have added some extra pop for last 20 min of race, but at 1hr20 minutes and equal lap times it is hard to think fueling was huge issue.

 

It was a win. I cherish any I get, as there are few in most careers. Olympian Sue Haywood said something similar at this year’s Whiskey 50 rider meeting, where she was honored. Her point was to be a good person, have fun and enjoy your ability to get out there and work hard. I hadn’t really thought about it, especially for a rider of her caliber, but there has to be more to why you race than just the chance of winning, and for me, pushing my limits and riding stuff I find fun has been my goal for the duration of these 20 years. On the odd days that races line up closely with this skill-set I’ve created, I grab my top-tube and run for all I am worth, while the other races, I am content to pedal, learn something about myself and have some laughs with friends along the way.  Perhaps this article gives you some ideas or motivation to find your favorite version of riding a bike and survival skills for the next mud-fest.

Off-Season – Video Check in & Off-Season Basics

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This is adapted from the Smart Athlete Newsletter – Not all posts get to the Smart Athlete Blog! Make sure you get all the great content, offers and updates by signing up here (~1 message / week )

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erCNqJSz0Ew]
Show Notes

-> Make sure you take at least a recovery week, if not a full week off bike.
-> If you have been charging hard at races or had any injuries/illness will need at least 2-3 weeks.
-> those time crunched but healthy athletes may only need 1 week
->

Fall/Off-Season is a great time to:
-> work on skills with skill sessions (Book a Skill Session)
->Plan & Goal Setting for 2016 – Book a consult – Guidance & feedback for $25!
-> Start Coaching or try a training plan while you have lots of time to recover, learn, build and try new things.

Feel free to reply with Questions or ideas !  Or comment on facebook!

Peter

 


My Latest Writing
-> Latest SmartAthlete Blog Articles -> HERE
-> Latest articles in Canadian Cycling Magazine -> HERE
-> Bunny Hop Like a Boss – Bicycling Magazine LINK
-> Bicycling Magazine – 1min Tips to get faster and ride better LINK

Latest Race Links, Photos, Stories
Hardwood Canada Cup – LINK

Horshoe Ontario/Canada Cup – http://wp.me/p5lose-169
Trans-Sylvania Epic – LINK


3 Month Plans 100% Made for You, Your life and Your Goals – APPLY FOR YOUR PLAN NOW!

3 Common Mountain Bike Mistakes That Steal Your Speed

3 Places I see clients loosing ‘free’ speed are found below.

Too often I get to see clients too late. At the race site in the days before the race is a tough time to make change in your trained movements (good or bad).

Our skills are very much connected to our end performance but it is ‘easy’ to over-look how much a daily focus on skills can change our performance, enjoyment and safety on bike.

These are 3 of the most common areas I see clients loosing speed and efficiency on trail.

peter vertical on hardwood rock by ivan rupes

A crazy photo but demonstrating that as the hill gets steeper we need to shift forward to stay upright and powerful

1) Hills are Hard

              -> Does Client understand (and use) shifting to optimize cadence and carry speed?

              -> Standing up balanced and powerfully ? (need to do this in training to do it in races)

              ->  shift forward on the saddle. Often riders will have seat slammed back and sit on back of saddle. As hill gets steeper shift your butt forward to stay upright – train to avoid ‘boobs to the bar’

2) Frequent Flats, Wheels busted, trouble in bumpy-tech sections

              -> Work on front wheel/ rear wheel lift (related videos) – Start today w. a stick on ground and on curbs

              -> Work on pump track / not pedaling in sections that have whoops and berms to practice generating speed without pedaling *in practice … keep pedaling in races!

              -> Ensure maintain centered position on bike (attack position) when ‘pumping’ terrain and on downhills (rarely need to be BEHIND saddle)

              -> How to fix flats and setup Tubeless 

3) Stopping pedaling when terrain flattens

               -> Most people loose time at the top of climbs where we can still pedal but the terrain does not ‘force’ us to. Power drops, speed stays SLOW. We need ‘spin out the gear’ to get back up to speed.

               -> use those ‘spinups’ and high-cadence drills from the trainer and road to motivate your MTB performance. Get back up to speed at top of climbs before taking rest

               -> use downhills to recover and pedal hard when you can pedal. Practice this on road and mtb by keeping steady power on ups, downs and flats

Feel free to reply with Questions or ideas !  Or comment on facebook!

Peter

Exploration – A Bike Skill to Practice and Coach ?

I talk a lot about this idea of skills. I use skills for traditional ‘bunny-hop’ type skills and also more practical or theoretical tasks we must accomplish while on bike, such as drinking, eating, pacing. One skill I have been working on more and more with clients is exploration.

IMG_8438  A Group of Awesome, Smart Athletes Have finding endless trails and gravel roads to explore getting ready for Leadville

Exploration, as I am using it, encompasses training and moving in a fashion beyond intervals and numbers. It includes a willingness to be a beginner, get lost, to have an ‘imperfect’ ride, to ride longer/shorter then the plan and to think about navigation and where we are in the world. The more I see athletes explore their movement and their environment the more I see them finding additional reasons to ride/train/race OUTSIDE OF RESULTS. Navigating new areas, learning new skills, enjoying an adventure with friends all improve wellness, fitness and–I am suggesting– performance.

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Team Quebec Touring the Best Roads in Oxnard, Ca 

Health and Wellness for athletes has been the main goal behind ‘smart athlete’ since I started out on my own as a coach. While I have always loved adventure and ‘crazy’ trails/rides this is not something I have really taught or encouraged much. Over the last year it seems the more I share my own personal love of exploration and help others start exploring the more they start ‘enjoying the journey’. By Exploration I mean taking new routes, trying new skills, doing the same workout a bit differently. So this applies to both movement practice (skill work) and actual route choice and training-partner inclusion in training.

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Three of my favorite adventure buddies, Mitch,  Adam, and Eric, and I exploring around Monteray, Ca

 

Tools for those who want to use Tech to ease into Exploring:

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Talking about the adventure is at least half of the enjoyment!

I find that athletes, especially those with training plans, coaches and/or goals often loose the fun in riding/moving and focus too much on ‘training perfectly’; they become very externally focused on numbers/results. As this exploration and socialization is lost the ability to go out and ‘train’ everyday eventually becomes very difficult, even for the most introverted and dedicated athlete. We can ride the same route–or the trainer–for a year and do ‘perfect’ workouts but this monotony and singular focus will eventually lead to burnout. There is a time for very focused workouts but it is not nearly as much as we think. I have moved more and more in my own training towards being about 80% ‘perfect’ most days and aiming to be a bit more tight in the final weeks before a big event.

group ride scott cooney jamie smart athlete 2010

Group of Smart Athletes Getting a Tour of 3 Stage

 

3 Ways you can add more exploration to your training

1) Take a different route, even just trying a new road or path as an out and back, every time you ride. You will quickly learn to connect different areas and expand your options.

2) Try different lines, especially on familiar trails … often there are older less worn in routes, more technical routes or even less efficient routes that challenge your movement ability.

3) Look at a map before and after you go – right out some road names and try exploring. Just leaving the house without a direction can be good but often leaves us doing the same old thing. After you have an adventure make sure you pull out a map and figure out where you were so that your own mental map is improved.

4) Join a group ride or let a friend do the navigation, even if they don’t know where they are going. Often fresh eyes make awesome discoveries … even a dead end can be an awesome spot to be.

5) Try taking a skill session or getting a tour in a new area or even in an area near your home. Riding with others can open up new trails very quickly.

 

 

Peter

P.S. If you are looking to ease into Coaching Check out Pre-Made Plans on Training Peaks OR get a 100% Made for You Plan at SmartAthlete.ca

 

Top 5 Cyclocross Strength Exercises

Cycocross is a demanding sport because it requires a variety of full body movements off-the bike including lifting and rotation. There are several exercises that can be included to ensure you have movement skill and capacity to perform in each race this season.

0) Bonus -> Take your bike and practice the skills on a short route that forces many (100+) skill repetitions in the ride. I remember riding around my parent’s house for an hour twice a week as cross season came so that I could get a huge number of repeats of dismounts/mounts, carries, shoulders and corners (and maybe to ruin my Dad’s grass).  This really biases the skill/agility/mobility/strength required for cyclocross. A local park trail works too, add extra dismounts with logs etc. Combo it with the exercises below and you have a really fun circuit you can do at home.

1) Alternating Bent Over Dumbell Row 

-> I love this exercise because it challenges the back/torso to remain stable against the alternating rotational forces of the dumbell row and the hanging weight . These forces are not unlike the challenge of maintaining your posture on the bike while pedaling hard and while pulling on the handlebars to sprint.

*This could be done as a ‘renegade row’ in the top of a pushup position if you find this awkward or painful.

2) Farmer’s Carry and Suitcase Carry 

-> Nothing makes a 16 pound Cyclocross bike seem extra-light after carrying 1/2 bodyweight (or more) dumbells around. Start with a Dumbell in each hand and walk out and back 10-50m. The point is more the weight being moved and less about the distance  traveled. Keep your shoulders back and torso upright. Try and make it look like the weights aren’t heavy. These carries also make airport travel much less stressful and easy to recover from. Make sure you challenge the weight you use once you are comfortable lifting the weight up to carry. Learning to handle heavier weights before you need them for other exercises makes progressing in your other lifts quicker.

3) Overhead Press

-> A classic upper body movement that will help you in shouldering and also for your remount. While not quite as specific as some of the other movements I think working on basic pushing mechanics and challenging your shoulder range of motion have many benefits beyond pushing your bike up a hill or off your shoulder.Watch that your belly stays tight and your back doesn’t compensate for limited shoulder range of motion. This can be done alternating as well for additional challenge to that stable torso.

4) Split Squat

-> Barrier hopping is often limited by hip flexion. Compare the ‘fairy hop’ method of avoiding to the hurdle step. A great way to improve hip range of motion is with split squat or lunges. If very restricted un-weighted or altered range of motion might be required. Progress range of motion or load each week.

 

(Images on this page from medbridge.com)

5) Hurdles / High Steps / Step-ups of some kind 

-> to the best of your ability get coordinated. Strength training generally will help but looking into some actual ‘agility’ work would help many cyclocross riders feel more comfortable on their feet and over barriers. Add speed and height up to (and beyond) Cx barrier height. Fast and coordinated feet are your friend ! A stair set can be a great way force stepping up and timing. Skipping and learning double unders is another great way to understand how your body can move in a coordinated fashion.

Did I miss an exercise you use ? Please leave a comment

New to Cross or Want to learn more ? Check out Bike Skills Project.com and these 3 videos specific to cross

Bike Life: Clinics and Conversations = Coming to your area soon !

I am pleased to announce a new element to my offerings here at Smart Athlete.

As requests for speaking to groups and also basic skill clinics are increasing I have been looking for a way to get out and spend in-person time with more people in more areas and make booking such an appointment more straightforward.

peter talking to group with hands head shot    

Molly Hurford, author, cycling industry personality and Bicycling Magazine Staff Writer has proposed a tour to share the valuable concepts from her latest book, “Saddle, Sore: A Women’s-Only Guide to You and Your bike” combined with mini-clinics going over the basic skills discussed with  The Bike Skills Project

Each event will consist of a combination of a Bike Skills Clinic that really gets back to basics to make your riding on or off-road a lot more enjoyable, and a Conversation event following the clinic, where Molly discusses the top tricks learned while writing Saddle, Sore: A Women-Only Guide to You and Your Bike. Often, there will be wine. There will always be hilarity, and an open space where you can ask your most awkward cycling-related women-specific questions.

For groups that want to open the clinics and/or conversations to both sexes, we will have a third option for Uni-Sex events discussing bike skills, cycling hygiene and enough women’s specific ‘stuff’ to help dads, coaches and friends be better assets to their women cyclist friends.

canva bike life

So in brief if you have a club, team, store, race or group that would benefit from a night of conversation on being more awesome on your bike please contact us through the form (HERE)

Read More about the tour and Molly at Molly’s Site

Visit the Bike Life Site