Tag Archives: Clay Haglund

Sessioning: my favorite way to practice mountain bike skills and more fun in a group

The first time I noticed the words ‘session’ and ‘sessioning’ was in the All Mountain Mondays at Leb message thread in the MORC forum a couple weeks ago.

AJ Peterson wrote:

Just wondering what makes this ride “All Mountain” vs any other ride at Leb? Do you guys stop and session jumps etc?

Dave Tait wrote:

Well, for me, the difference from the “Leb Mafia” group I normally ride with is it’s less of a pace driven ride and a more “hit stuff” attitude toward all the options and jump opportunities. It means hitting a log ride doesn’t require beating a$$ to catch back up and sessioning stuff is an option. Turns out, it’s pretty much the type of ride I do when I ride solo. The pace is still pretty quick but not borderline XC race pace.

Zach Monack wrote:

Doesn’t matter how much travel your bike has, its more how you want to ride it. The pace and style of the ride changes depending on who shows up and what everyone in is in the mood for. Sometimes we’ll stop and session, other times we might just keep rolling. One thing is for sure though, no one is racing to the top of any of the climbs!

I had an idea what they meant but I found a long description by someone named ‘Robb’ posted to Bike198 titled How To Become A Better Mountain Biker; Part 2 – Sessioning: The MTB Art of “Practice Makes Perfect”. Here‘s an excerpt:

sessioning… picking out a small section of trail and doing it over and over again until you get it right. As the saying goes, “practice makes perfect” and how are you going to become a better rider if you don’t practice? No one expects you to be perfect the first time out, so take your time and get it right. The more you do this kind of “redo”, the better rider you will become. Sessioning is the art of practicing and developing your skills in areas that you are not as proficient in. It is simple as that. These skills that you pick up through practicing hard sections of trail carry on into every aspect of riding. This is…by far…the #1 tip that has improved my riding ability and skills. Nothing else I have done has jump started my ability to become a better rider than sessioning.

Clay Haglund at Hillside Park in Elk River Griff Wigley, Clay Haglund Ken Barker at Lebanon Hills

I did sessioning twice in the past week, first with Clay Haglund of MAMB a week ago Saturday at Hillside Park in Elk River and then last Thursday with Ken Barker of LAMBA at Lebanon Hills in Eagan.

Like Dave Tait, I do this often when I ride solo. But like I did over the years practicing my mototrials skills with fellow members of the UMTA, it’s so much more fun to do it with someone else or a group.  And in one of the mototrials schools I attended at the Trials Training Center, the advice was to keep at it until you could clean it three times in a row, as consistency is a pretty good indicator of an acquired skill. Nailing something once might be just dumb luck.

I’ve not yet done the All Mountain Mondays at Leb but I’ll report back when I do, hopefully with better photos than my sessioning with Clay and Ken.

MORC hosts the Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew: sustainable trail building practices taught by Lori and Jesse

Lori Reed and Jesse Livingston IMBA Trail Care Crew logo C.J. Smith, Jesse Livingston, Lori Reed, Jay Thompson, Reed Smidt

Lori Reed and Jesse Livingston, the current members of the Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew, came to the Twin Cities last Friday at MORC‘s invitation for a weekend of their education program on sustainable mountain bike trail building practices.  I caught up with them for a bit of socializing on Friday night at Dick’s Bar & Grill in Osseo after their session in Monticello with some metro area land managers. L to R in photo above: Elm Creek Singletrack Dirt Boss C.J. Smith, Jesse Livingston, Lori Reed, Elm Creek Dirt Boss and MORC board member Jay Thompson, and MORC president Reed Smidt.

Jesse Livingston IMBA Trail Building School, classroom session, Monticello MN

Lori Reed Clay Haglund, Lori Reed, Troy David Grieves, Jesse Livingston
They did their one-day IMBA Trail Building School on Saturday for a couple dozen MORC members. The 3-hour classroom session in the morning focuses on:

  • IMBATrail Care Crew Quick Reference GuideTrail building theory
  • Essential elements of sustainable trails
  • Designing a trail
  • Constructing the trail
  • Rerouting and reclaiming trails
  • Advanced trail construction techniques

Since I started mountain biking in 2011, I’ve showed up to help a bit on a few local trail work sessions (2013 sessions here, here, here, and here) but I’ve been mainly a clueless laborer who retreated behind a camera whenever I got tired.  I took this IMBA Trail Building School because I wanted to have at least a beginning understanding of the art and science involved. As a newbie, I came away very pleased with the experience.  I thought their rapid-fire presentation in morning session was well done: lots of photos and videos, a few quizzes, hands-on with a clinometer, and thankfully, no Powerpoint slides of deadly text-only bullet points.

IMBA Trail Care Crew with MORC members Lori Reed and Jesse Livingston

Rhett Williams, Matthew Bailey, Jeff Leech MORC members with the IMBA Trail Care Crew
The afternoon field session was held at the Bertram Lakes Singletrack near Monticello.  After a quick demo by Jesse, we divided up into 3 teams of 8, each led by a MORC dirt boss (my team was headed up by Jeff Leech).  It was very helpful to have the hands-on experience and coaching. I don’t know how many feet of trail the crews created but I think we more than marginally adequate as we finished early.

MORC group ride at Elm Creek Singletrack with Jesse and Lori MORC/Elm Creek dirt boss C.J. Smith

MORC group ride at Elm Creek Singletrack with Jesse and Lori Jesse Livinston, Lori Reed, Reed Smidt
On Sunday morning, a group of us did a group ride with Lori and Jesse at Elm Creek Singletrack led by local Dirt Boss C.J. Smith.  ‘Twas a fast, flowy ride on a gorgeous autumn-like day and a fitting send-off.

You can follow Lori and Jesse on their IMBA Trail Care Crew blog (they have a blog post up about the weekend titled They Still Got It), their @Subaru_IMBA_TCC Twitter feed, and their IMBA Trail Care Crew Facebook page.

See my album of 40+ photos (large slideshow, recommended) or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

Video update: do the big rocks at Lebanon Hills require a full bunny hop?

Last week I blogged about how to get up and over the bridge rock at Lebanon Hills. In a comment thread on Facebook about the video, Dan Haglund noted that my chain ring bashguard made contact with the rock. I wrote:

I think this was because I placed the front wheel a little too high on the rock, almost clearing the front edge. I think it’s best if it bounces off the rock a bit about 3/4 of the way up because when the compressed forks rebound, the steeper angle of the bike gives you more clearance for the bottom bracket.

I poked around and found this old video called Going Up Obstacles (Getting up objects) featuring Hans Rey and pals in which they show how to avoid having the chain ring bash the rock. It’s a trials video but it has application here. I can see that I need to learn how to use my leg/foot to lift the rear wheel with that scooping motion. At the 2:20 mark:

Before your chain ring or your back wheel hits the object, you have to throw your weight forward a certain way over the handle bar and at the same time you lift with your feet pushing down, back and up and unweight the back wheel enough to lift it behind you and onto the object. An advanced technique you can learn to hop up high objects is to ram the front wheel into the top of the object. The wheel bounces upward, giving you added lift.

MORC member Clay Haglund reported on his attempt and Dave Tait’s method:

I manualed into it and as soon as my front tire hit the top of the rock, my bash ring "BASHED" hard into the face of the rock. Dave Tait showed me how the pro’s do it. He pedaled in with some good speed and within the last six inches of the wood bridge, he pulled off a bunny hop that cleared that two and a half foot gap and had his BACK tire landing on top of the rock…. AMAZING! His bike has got to be pushing 40# too as it’s heavier than mine which is 35#.

After holding my bike in position on that rock, I definitely think the 29" wheels are a big help with conquering this without a clean bunnyhop. With my front tire on top of the rock, my back tire was right at the base and bash guard was in contact with the face. I think I’d have better luck coming up slow and trying to trials hop it.

I told Clay that I thought the bashing could be avoided without having to do the full rear wheel leg/foot lift of a bunny hop, just unweighting so last night I went back to Lebanon Hills to see.

I started by attempting a more extreme angle to the Leb skills park rock that I’d mentioned in my earlier blog post as a good training rock. Ray Brown took the video:

 Leb rock1 Leb rock2 Leb rock3
I got over it clean but as you’ll hear in this video, not without bashing:

So I wasn’t confident that I could do it on the bridge rock without bashing. Here’s my attempt, first at normal speed, then a slo-mo version, then stop motion:

As you can see in the final frame, I was able to clear the rock without my bash ring making contact. Front wheel placement didn’t seem to be a big issue as I originally thought.

But you can also see that the rear wheel does make significant contact with the rock. I’m able to absorb it without too much bounce back but ideally, a well-executed bunny hop with full rear wheel leg/foot lift would be best. I need a lesson from Dave Tait.

07/13 update:

Last night I reread Chapter 6, Wheelie and Hop Over Anything in the book Mastering Mountain Bike Skills by Brian Lopes and Lee McCormack.  Some quotes:

… push explosively into your pedals and propel your body forward. After you push, lighten your feet to allow the pedals to come up.

… At the moment your weight presses into rear wheel, press explosively down into the pedals and spring upward. If you get light on your pedals… the rear wheel will levitate.

… The harder you push your pedals down, the harder the earth returns the force, and the higher you go. It’s just like hopping on your feet.

He uses the label "lift your rear wheel" in several places but nowhere does he define this as a scooping motion where your foot/leg actually lifts the wheel like Hans Rey described in the video I cited.

Most of the how-to-bunny-hop videos that I’ve pinned to my Pinterest board on the subject recommend the scooping/lifting motion.

bunny hop pushing down

But look at the one titled Bunnyhop for Beginners which has no narrative, with text captions that appear to be in Japanese and/or Chinese.  The slow motion sequences, especially the practice exercises starting at the 37-second mark (screen capture above), seem to show what Lee McCormack recommends: an explosive pushing down into the pedals and not a scooping/deliberate lifting up of the rear wheel. My inclination is to learn the pushing down technique first.