Monday, 18 February 2013

Touching the Ceiling

The past few weeks have seen me getting in some decent riding at Annadel with Jaime, a few fun loops around the local haunts and our first night ride of the year. The Nomad has also been primped with a nice set of Deity D30 bars for added width and my fitness is recovering from the Christmas splurge. All good foundations for the year's riding that stretches out before me. My nice new Giant Glory is yet to be birthed but I can't wait to get it, dial it in and use it as the perfect tool to nudge my progression upwards. To kick start this progress, I decided to put a few demons to rest from last year's downhill season. Namely... jumps and berms. I made some great progress at Northstar and Whistler with the techie riding, but my jumping prowess felt somewhat impotent and I felt speed sapping frustration instead of flow on the berms. So I took the downhill costume out of hibernation and called upon trusted mentor Mike Brill to help me out and get me feeling good about these fundamental aspects of gravity riding.

Mike took me back to the Boyscout trail in Pacifica - the same place I did my first jump clinic with him and Celia about 18 months ago. We spent the first hour dialing me back to a place where I felt good about hitting the gapped jumps and a decent step down. Following Mike's nuggets of advice, and his lines, I started to feel confident about hitting the front face of the jump with speed, manipulating the bike in the air and landing smoothly. After playing around in my comfort zone long enough for me to feel like I was having too much fun, it was time to push the ceiling and take things up a notch.

After concentrating on berms for a while we sized up a steep step up jump. Perfect practice as it's exactly the kind of take off that intimidates me and really hampered my flow at Whistler last year. Mike emphasized pumping into the face of the jump. In fact, pumping all the way up to the jump not only readies you and the bike, but it helps gain the necessary speed for a clean boost, airborne control and smooth landing. My instincts kept squealing at me to hit the brakes, but the more I let go, carried speed and put faith in pumping, the better (and safer) the results. I felt the bike come up into me allowing for a controlled, deliberate landing - as opposed to the bike launching it's own trajectory and me going along for the ride. 

After a couple more hours and a few more tricky jump situations (including two gapped jumps in quick succession) we called it a day. I'd taken a few spills and pushed past my comfort zone. But more importantly by feeling the control gained from using solid techniques I'd de-mistified some of the unknowns that held me back last year. I'm looking forward to hitting Boyscout again on a regular basis to really solidify some confidence and make this year the best one yet for downhill mountain biking.