As riders we are taught to take good care of our bikes. After all, we are relying on them to make it down the trail without falling apart and getting us killed so it only makes sense to make sure that they are working well.
Part of this is doing some assessments of the bike from time to time. Simple stuff like making sure your tires are aired up, your brakes are working and your headset isn’t loose will go a long way in making sure that you bike is ready to perform for you when it counts.
But what about your body? You know, the thing that actually pilots and drives your bike?
What assessments do you do to make sure it is ready to perform on the trail as well?
While there are a lot of different assessments that you can use (I have around 20 that I’ll use depending on the rider and their goals), for me it starts with 3 simple movement assessments.
The reason I start with these movement assessments first is because if you don’t lack one of these core movement skills then that has to be fixed first. Trying to execute your skills and power your bike with inefficient, unbalanced movement is like riding with your brake pads dragging – sure, you can do it but it is a lot harder and more dangerous.
These 3 movement assessments look at the basic movement skills behind your Attack Position, Standing Pedaling and Cornering skills on the bike.
These 3 skills make up the Core Bike Skills that everything else you do on your bike is based on, meaning that if you fail one or more of these assessments you have a movement gap that is holding you back big time on the trail.
They also take less than 5 minutes to do and require only a broomstick or something similar. Try them for yourself and see if you’re missing something that can really change your riding.
1 – Touch Your Knuckles to Your Toes = Attack Position
The instructions for this one are to keep your feet flat and balanced on the floor (don’t let your weight shift to your heels or your toes during the movement) while you touch your toes with your knuckles. You can have “soft” knees, which means they don’t have to be locked out but you can’t bend them.
Passing is being able to do this with ease. A fail is anything else (only you know if you are struggling or bending your knees to reach, lying to yourself doesn’t mean you actually passed).
Now, you’ll probably notice that I said to touch your knuckles to your toes. This is for a few of reasons, primarily to help you from over-reaching with the shoulders and because we need a bit more range of motion than “normal” people who don’t ride pedal bikes down mountains.
This assessment looks at your Hip Hinge, which is your ability to bend at the hips and not the lower back, as well as your ability to shift the hips back instead of just tipping over. The ability to bend at the hips and to shift them back in the process is vital to being able to get your weight back on downhills while staying spread out enough to keep some weight on the front end.
2 – Stand on One Foot for 15 Seconds (Left and Right Side) = Standing Pedaling
The instructions for this one are to stand on one foot while raising the other knee up until your thigh is parallel with the ground. Keep your foot balanced and top of your head pointed to the ceiling. Hold this position for 15 seconds before switching legs. You can have up to 3 attempts on each leg.
Passing is doing this with ease. A fail is anything else.
This assessment looks at several things – single leg balance, hip flexor range of motion, postural integrity while pedaling – that are all behind Standing Pedaling on the bike.
3 – Stick Windmill = Cornering
This one if easier to show than just try to explain so you’ll have to check video to see how to perform it. Just like with all the other assessments, passing is doing this with ease on both sides while a fail is anything else.
This assessment is looking at your ability to lean your body over while staying balanced over your feet. This is the key to cornering on your mountain bike and something most riders struggle with.
When you struggle with this movement skill you will tend to lean over instead of staying balanced on your feet. This pulls your weight inside and causes you to lose your balance and tip over.
On the bike this shows up as washing out and crashing hard in corners, which leads to advice like “lean the bike and not your body” …which isn’t what you want to do either.
By when you can pass this assessment you’ll make sure that you have the potential to lean your body in a safe, balanced way that will help you carve corners faster than ever before.
There is an old proverb that says, “To be different from what you are, you must first know what you are.”
Assessments like this can help you better understand how you move and how the quality of your movement can affect you on the bike. This gives you the power to control your progression instead of just being a victim of your equipment or trail conditions every time something goes wrong.
Moving better so you can ride better is what it is all about and with assessment like this to help guide you can help you make sure you aren’t fighting yourself on the trail.
Until next time…
MTB Strength Training System