(working on the rear wheel drop)
So it's really no secret that I'm completely addicted to downhill mountain biking, and, eager to absorb all the information that I can, I've been harassing e guys in the four mountain sports bike shop for the last month.
"Hi, Kyle... Wanna ride?"
Kyle Sauders runs our rental operation in Snowmass, keeping the fleet of Norco Dh Race bikes, freeride bikes and trail bikes in top shape after being hammered on all day on our new mountain biking trails.
He's a fairly contemplative and intimidating dude who takes his job very seriously, and expects excellence from the people who work for him. He also rips.
He's also been incredibly patient, giving and open with everyone I see him interact with, even when its slammed busy and the bikes are stacking up for repair. I first met him after he competed in the Snowmass downhill race a few weeks ago, with a strong finish.
"Hey Kyle, wanna ride?" I kept bugging him.
Finally the stars aligned. His bike was in good shape, the lessons had all gone out, and Kurt, Kyle and I were all ready to roll at the same time.
We headed up in the gondola and my initial suspicions were proved to be right... Kyle is dedicated to this sport, loves to be a part of it, and is one of our many disparate strong resources for turning Snowmass into an incredibly well thought out mountain biking park in the summer.
On the way up, we were talking about drops and step downs, two of the things that I need the most help with in my riding right now. Kyle was able to explain really simply the progression for doing a Manual in order to make these types of obstacles more navigable for me.
(Kyle shows great cornering form in a place where there's consequences.)
We unloaded and headed down the road, and I was kind of expecting kyle and Kurt to take off, I mean, this may be their only free run of the day, so waiting for me might not be on the top of their list. And I'm actually happy with that, with riding "with" these guys, who wait for me at certain sections of the mountain, but who know I'll get down to them shortly, so they can go with speed and flow and have their own fun. It works out well.
On this day, though, Kyle pulled over off the road at a ditch and walked me through the process of pulling your front wheel off the ground.
First, we worked on dropping your weight back progressively while pulling a little extra on the handlebars.
After my front wheel was popping off the ground, we worked on pushing the pedals forward in time with the weight shift back, to kind of "scoop" the bike under you, enabling you to either roll or pedal one or two strokes on your back tire while the front one is lofted.
We practiced over the ditch, over a rock, and then on the road all the way down. At the top of gravity logic, we went through it again. It was so clear, the steps for doing it, how to modulate how much pull on the handlebars versus how much push with the feet according to what you were trying to clear.
This simple, basic foundation piece is going to be something that I can move onto skills like j hopping, dropping bigger lines, popping off step downs, and learning a long manual, which you can use for creek and ditch crossing, as well as style points.
Kurt and Kyle checked that I had my coaching cues, and they took off, I'd meet them back on the road at the end of this amazing swooping, winding, jumping trail which has become my favorite playground.
As I exited the trail with a huge grin on my face, Kyle said "You got it, didn't you? I mean, you felt the beginnings of it."
Yup! And when the timing is right and the weights moved back properly, it's easy, you don't even have to muscle it that much.
On the way back down the fire road, I practiced some more and when we got to a small wooden rainbow bridge, Kyle pulled over again and coached me through doing a wheelie drop off of it.
"So just do a manual, like you've been practicing, but see if you can roll the whole back side of the bridge with the back tire."
This sounded like an insane idea to me, but what the heck, it was a small bridge and we had worked up to it.
I followed kyle off the bridge, shifted my weight back, lofted the bars a little, and kicked hard once on my pedals. The bike floated up and rolled down the back side of the bridge knits rear wheel. I ended up centered in the "cockpit" of the bike on landing, and ready to roll, rather than being tossed forward by the drop.
I looked at Kyle as we pedaled down the road. "thanks man!" I said.
I was thrilled. He had taken an extra half hour or so out of this free run for someone else, and while it was a half hour to him, it was a huge foundational piece in my riding.
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