Category Archives: Learning to ride

Progress on pump-manualing across two bumps: a very sweet feeling indeed

Mastering Mountain Bike SkillsIn the Pump Terrain for Free Speed chapter of Lee McCormack’s book Mastering Mountain Bike Skills, he has a one-pager titled Pump-manualing across two bumps.

He writes:

This is one of the coolest-looking, sweetest-feeling moves in mountain biking.

Continue reading Progress on pump-manualing across two bumps: a very sweet feeling indeed

Video: Practicing dismounts off a skinny

Stockade skinny HillsideI had been practicing wheelie drops (also known as "slow drops to flat") this summer so that I could have decent chance of managing a fall off a high skinny without getting hurt. 

As I mentioned last week, I want to attempt The Browner, the difficult high stockade skinny at Hillside Park in Elk River.

Why a wheelie drop? I read this this advice from someone named “guest_s” who posted to the MORC forum discussion back in 2010:

If a skinny is any higher than 1 foot or so off the ground, don’t try it if you can’t bunny hop or wheelie drop. Learn those two things first so when you do feel you will slip or fall off the side, just bunny hop or wheelie drop and ride away. If you can’t do this, you will endo (go over the bars) if your front wheel comes off…..and endo’ing is about the most unsafe thing to do.

skinny dismountI can do wheelie drops  now but not within the split second or so of losing my balance on a skinny. Maybe someday. But in the meantime, I discovered by accident that I could jump off my bike’s pedals as I lost my balance and land on my feet. So I’ve recently been practicing this dismounting.

Rock wall, downtown Dundas, MNI started with planned dismounts while riding on top of block wall of various heights. The wall was wide so that I didn’t have to worry about keeping my balance. I wanted to get the basic dismount motion down till I was confident I could jump off either side of the bike.

I then practiced dismounts while riding a narrow curb. The idea was to only jump  when I actually lost my balance because the reaction time would have to be quicker.

Lastly, I practiced on a wet log that was 18 inches or so off the ground.  I wanted to see if I could still jump off if my front wheel slipped off first.  The verdict? The jury is still out. A front wheel can slip off so quickly that you’re plunging downwards before you’re able to jump, or so it seems. I guess I won’t really know till I’m high up and it happens. <GULP>

Here’s a 90-second video of me practicing the dismounts as described above:

The height of a skinny: managing the danger is part of the fun

Leb skinny intermediate outIn a MORC forum discussion thread this week, I commented to Lebanon Hills Dirt Boss Dave Tait about the height of the big log skinny in the intermediate out section of Leb. He had told me that when the tree originally fell, they had to lower it a bit to comply with Dakota County’s height limit of 30 inches. I used the phrase "dumbed down."

Battle Creek Dirt Boss Tom Gehring wrote:

This touched a bit of a sore point with me. I may be in the minority, but I fail to see how "lowering it" is dumbing it down. It still takes just as much skill to ride without dabing it just reduces the consequences of a fall.

Dave Tait wrote:

I agree. There was never an issue of feeling like we were dumbing down that tree ride. We peeled the bark off, prepared the ride surface to a minimum and then measured up the height. It was a little high so we put a saddle beneath it and dropped the height to our allowed limit. The end result is actually tougher than the original with bark because you slip off easier. The only resistance to lowering it was that we needed to figure out a few details and do a little extra work.

Chance Glasford, chief designer of the Eagan and Cottage Grove bike parks, wrote:

I see no issue with keeping skinnies low, the skill is in the balancing act…

A big part of any sport is managing performance anxiety. That can be danger-related or it can be stage-related.

Learning the balance beam in gymnastics can start with a harness and the beam on the ground. And then it’s doing it without the harness. And then with the beam higher. And then in front of parents or at a competition.

We all know the experience of choking, knowing that we can perform a skill when it’s practice but screw it up when it’s performance time.

I see skinnies this way. The variety of skinnies in Leb’s skills park is perfect, IMHO: some are smooth, straight and low. Others are crooked and bumpy and a bit higher off the ground. Likewise,  the skinnies at Ray’s Indoor Bike Park. Both parks offer lots of progression options.

Carver raised bridge skinnyOut on the trails in the Twin Cities area, there are man-made skinnies with some height if you want to try them: some wide but higher up; others narrower and higher up. They freak some people out and others love the challenge and see them as a way to try to put those skills learned in the skills park into use on the trail "For Real." The man-made skinny at Carver Lake Park is a great example of a high skinny with options: variable widths and an exit before the most difficult narrow part.

61 skinny Murphy-HanrehanLikewise, the man-made ’61 skinny’ at Murphy-Hanrehan: wide, then very narrow, back to wide, then a dirt ramp out-option before it starts curving and gets higher.

Most intermediate riders could clean it if it was flat on the ground but its height adds the element of danger. The athletic challenge is managing one’s anxiety.

As you can see in this 30-second video, I can easily clean it but if I made a $10,000 bet on it and had to do it in front of a crowd, I’d probably choke.

Stockade skinny HillsideThe stockade skinny at Hillside (the ‘Browner’, named after the first—and thus far, only person to have cleaned, Ray Brown; video here) is the most challenging skinny in the metro area and possibly the entire state.  It’s all or nothing. As designer/dirt boss Rich Omdahl wrote:

The Browner is in its own class of evil. I’ve never even made it half way across it. I designed that thing to have 8 layers of difficulty. The first one you contend with is that I built it at the top of a climb on an uphill slope with an off camber entry. Then it gets harder.

Most local expert riders could probably clean the Browner if was a foot off the ground but the danger of not making it at its current height is a big psychological barrier for most of us. Danny MacAskill and Ryan Leech would be bored with it, but they have their psychological barriers, too.

Somewhat related: A friend of mine remarked recently that he thought the arguments to legalize exploding fireworks (eg, firecrackers, cherry bombs, etc) were off-base. "Why not just enjoy the explosions that are set off by the professionals?" he asked. I said to him: "Because a big part of the fun is in managing the danger."

See all my blog posts tagged with the word ‘skinnies.’

Getting up the rock ledge at Leb’s Tedman’s Curve: the importance of not pedaling

rock ledge at Leb's Tedman's Curve rock ledge at Leb's Tedman's Curve rock ledge at Leb's Tedman's Curve

I first tried this rock ledge in the XX section called Tedman’s Curve at Lebanon Hills MTB Park about a year ago.  It seemed impossible so I’ve stuck with riding between the rock and the tree when I’ve felt like a challenge beyond the typical ride-through.

But two weeks ago, I decided to try the ledge again and video my attempts. I made it on my second try. When I got home and looked at the video, I saw how it clearly showed what the difference was between my failed attempt and my successful clean.

So I made a 4-minute video that explains it, hoping that A) the learning burns itself into my brain and muscle memory, and B) others might be able to benefit from it.

Warning: For those of you who can bunny hop over ledges like this with your hands tied behind your back, this video isn’t going to do you any good. Move along, nothing to see here.

The inner railing on the 2nd St. Bridge in Northfield: my first urban skinny attempt goes awry

inner railing on the 2nd St. Bridge in NorthfieldFormer Northfielder John Gaddo posted this photo on his Facebook wall last week with the caption: Use your imagination.

Yes, he cleaned it on his trials fat bike and innocently asked, "Hey Griff, have you done this one yet?"

I replied, "John, I usually just ride my Mary Poppins hybrid bike around Northfield (sans helmet) so no, I’ve not tried this railing on the 2nd St. bridge. But now I guess I’ll have to."

I gave it a go early Sunday morning. Bad idea, as the iron rail was wet from dew and thus, very slippery. I made it half way or so on my 4th try but subsequent crashes took their toll, despite the body armor I was wearing.

Here’s my 40-second video.

Using a pedal wheelie to get over the bridge rock at Lebanon Hills

bridge rock at Lebanon Hills bridge rock at Lebanon Hills

This past summer, I blogged about my attempts to get up and over the bridge rock at Lebanon Hills, with a follow-up post on whether it and other big rocks at Lebanon Hills require a full bunny hop.

Ken Barker, family photoWhen I rode Leb with Iowa’s Ken Barker in August, I showed him how I used a manual wheelie to get over the bridge rock and he promptly showed me that he could get over it clean with a pedal wheelie.  I didn’t get a photo or video of it but it was burned into my brain, as I was curious whether I could do the same.

I did this week. It only took me 17 tries. Gah.

The problem for me was two-fold: 1) I mostly suck at doing pedaling wheelies  (see Ken doing two long ones in my video of him at Ray’s) so I had a hard time keeping the wheelie straight; and 2) I couldn’t get the timing right for pressing down into the pedals and springing upward so that the rear wheel would ‘levitate’ prior to hitting the rock.

In my 90-second video, I only included 8 of my 17 failed attempts. It includes a slo-mo and two stills of the one successful ride.

I wanted to finish it up with a video of a manual wheelie over the rock from a rear view angle (earlier videos were front view here and side view here). I put the camera on a tripod in the middle of the bridge which caused me to slow down slightly as I rode by it. The lack of speed and lack of front wheel height on the manual was almost disastrous, as I nearly did a header right into the rock. Have a laugh: