Avoiding the “majority mindset” for max results

There’s a running joke among smart coaches in the fitness field – if you want to get into great shape look at what everyone else is doing and do the opposite. Most people go to the gym and do something like this:

– Walk on a treadmill for 10 minutes

– Some light stretching

– 3 sets of 10 reps on a machine based circuit or a bodybuilding based workout where they split body parts up, pick 2-5 exercises to “hit the muscle from different angles” and do 3 sets of 8-12 reps of each exercise

– 30-60 minutes of watching t.v. or reading a magazine on the elliptical trainer

Based on this you have a blueprint for what really does get results:

– Warm up with a few hundred jump rope skips

– Do some foam rolling, stretching and dynamic warm ups drills

– Do a full body workout picking 1-2 exercises for an upper body push, upper body pull and a lower body movement, avoiding machines and using a variety of sets and reps.

– Do 5-15 minutes of interval based cardio

The truth is that you can apply this same principle to just about anything in life, including mountain biking. Mark Twain summed it up best:

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

I think that we can all agree on a few things the majority of the mountain biking world assumes is true:

– Clipless pedals are hands down better than flats.

– Lighter is always better.

– Spandex is acceptable

– If you could just afford that new (insert part or accessory here) you could ride faster

– Strength training is optional and probably not very effective for mountain biking

– Riding a road bike is a good way to train for mountain biking

– You don’t “need” skills coaching

– A fully rigid 29er single speed is acceptable

– The more you ride the better you’ll be

I’m not saying that all of these things are off the mark, simply pointing out some things that the majority believes. I’m sure that there are some more things I’m forgetting so if you can think of any to add be sure to post it below in the comments. Also, if you have an opinion on why any of these things are right or wrong please let me know.

Question everything you think is true and be sure it is what YOU really believe, not just you following along with the majority mindset…

-James Wilson-

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  1. jeffB says:

    “Clipless pedals are hands down better than flats.”
    Eh…it`s too personal to argue about. Ride what you like.

    “Lighter is always better.”
    I`m plenty fast on my 29 pound trail bike, and I can handle WAY bigger hits on it. See you back at the trailhead!

    “Spandex is acceptable”
    I suppose I do have the legs for it, but…umm, NO.

    “If you could just afford that new (insert part or accessory here) you could ride faster”
    I`ll be out getting faster while you`re waiting for the mailman to deliver it. See ya`.

    “Strength training is optional and probably not very effective for mountain biking”
    Sure. I`ll be sure to bring my cell phone so I can call the EMS when you crash and break yourself. I`ll call them from the car, where I`ll have been waiting for 15 minutes when you crashed.

    “Riding a road bike is a good way to train for mountain biking”
    Well, if mtb trails were 60 miles long with no change in terrain you`d have me. But they`re not, so don`t get mad when I lay on the horsepower and leave you wishing you`d done that extra set of squats…(or ANY sets of squats LOL)

    “You don’t “need” skills coaching”
    *almost* agree with this. If you can be brutally honest with yourself and observe your weaknesses, and actively pursue the technical skills you`ll develop them. The guys teaching the clinics didn`t stumble on the ten commandments of mtb skills training, they listened to their bodies and paid attention to what works and what doesn`t.

    “A fully rigid 29er single speed is acceptable”
    If you`re on a personal mission and that`s the path to where you want to go, have at it. If you`re on one because you saw a herd of other sheep on one at the local trail you`re just another sheep. Again…I`ll be waiting at the car when you`re done.

    “The more you ride the better you’ll be”
    True, but ONLY if you set out to get better. If you do the same thing every ride you`ll get the same thing…stale. The truer (truer?) statement should be “the more you work at getting better the better you`ll get”

    YOu can`t get out front by following someone else. Has nothing to do with racing, just means that doing what someone else does only gets you where they are. You may have the potential to ride beyond their means but if you don`t break off and do your own thing you`ll be on their back wheel forever, and personally, I like to lead sometimes 🙂

    Reply • May 15 at 12:33 pm
  2. Julie says:

    My two cents:

    Work your body in all planes of motion- not just the frontal and sagittal planes. As one who gets ridiculously tight quads/psoas, I cannot stress how much yoga and some martial arts training has helped me. The most inflexible people on the planet, I’m convinced, are the male cyclists that come into my spin class. We tend towards rigor-mortis.

    Watch my guys do their mindless stretches after class and see what I mean!

    If you are over 40 and tend towards stiffness, sometimes you gotta “get on the table” and have someone stretch you passively, work out adhesions, etc. Acupuncture is also very helpful. Stretching alone sometimes just doesn’t cut it- me and my anteriorly-tilted pelvis speak from experience.

    Hope this helps!

    Reply • May 15 at 4:41 pm
  3. Rick Beauchamp says:

    After reading your article about clipless pedals, I rode on the same trail with and with out clipless pedals. Got me a good set of flats and after riding with both I am of the opinion that flats are better for me. I was always so nervous about falling that I limited myself and did not work on my trail skills. It has been the best advice I have learned from you so far to date.

    Reply • May 15 at 6:19 pm
  4. dblspeed says:

    Agreed on the majority mindset, but what’s wrong with spandex for it’s intended use: high intensity training rides where baggy clothes would get too wet, cross country racing where aerodynamics counts, winter riding where it keeps you warmer and drier etc. ?
    Whats more the general consensus about spandex seems to be quite the opposite of acceptable.

    Reply • May 16 at 1:35 am
  5. chris says:

    Acceptable or not spandex is damn comfy.

    Reply • May 16 at 8:40 am
  6. John says:

    I love my rigid 29er. 🙂

    Reply • May 16 at 4:13 pm
  7. Joe says:

    “Spandex is acceptable”. Actually I have to chuckle at the mountain bike “herd” that believes in baggy shorts down to their ankles. IMO, it’s nothing more than a fashion statement and the desire to be different from road bikes.

    The statement should read;
    “Baggy shorts are important for mountain biking”. This is an accepted belief by the majority of mountain bike riders.. and guess what ? IMO, I think it’s following the herd 🙂 The fact is those baggy shorts are not even close to being as effective as something like a bib-short spandex. IMO, those baggy shorts get caught in your seat, branches and everything else and are not comfortable for long rides.

    Whoever you are and whatever you wear… be sure you are not confusing a “fashion statement’ with what’s truly effective.

    Reply • May 16 at 8:33 pm
    • bikejames says:

      @ Joe – just to defend the baggy shorts guys, if you’ve ever gone down on rocks in spandex you’ll appreciate the extra layer of skin defense provided by a thicker material like those seen in baggy shorts. Personally I’ll sweat a bit more for a bit of crash protection. To each their own, as long as you know why you’re wearing what you wear and aren’t just doing it to “fit in” then fine…

      Reply • May 17 at 5:18 pm
  8. bradley says:

    About getting faster:
    I think that sometimes the herd just gets too concerned about getting faster. Sometimes I just have to go ride to let everything else in life drift away.

    Road biking:
    I bought a road bike just before my son was born and 7 years and another child later, the road bike still is good for quick spins from the house, but man roadies can be pricks.
    I really enjoyed taking a roadie out a couple of weeks ago for a mountain bike ride. The ride went perfect. First third had nothing technical, he did fine. Middle third of the ride had 6 or so short steep switchback climbs and I don’t think that he made one of them. It was amazing to watch his near endless ability to spin the pedals at 90 rpms but not know how to harness his power. Until I watched this I did not realize how low a rpm I was carrying up technical climbs. Last third of the ride was like the first, so he was not overly frustrated by the time we got back to the truck.
    Sad fact is that I have seen several roadies sandbag on their race class at xc mountain bike races due to their lack of saddle time on a mountain bike and then they dominate the xc race. So, you can build some serious cardio and increase lactic threshold on the road bike, I just find the road bike boring and often in poor company.

    Strength Training:
    I started strength training this year simply because I wanted to ride better and stronger. Man the results are amazing. I can go faster and longer and don’t feel completely beat after a ride. I do not enjoy riding a stationary or a trainer, but now I know that my time can be spent so much better by strength training instead of spinning inside.

    Reply • May 16 at 8:38 pm
  9. Randy says:

    Hey, I spent the last couple of days riding a BMX park. It was a blast and I had to tell you something. It was my first time back on flats and I stood the entire time I rode. The next day when I was sore I realized that I was sore in the same areas that I am sore after doing your DB combo drills. So that was proof positive that you have me working the muscle groups that I should be to get out of the saddle. THANKS!!!

    Reply • May 17 at 7:36 pm
  10. Forrest says:

    Two things I have learned from you James; ditch the clipless pedals, and core based strength training is a must, has taken my riding to the next level. I’m about three months in applying what Ive learned and have never had more fun riding.I now know how to do a real bunnyhop which makes me look at trails totally different. I thought I did before until I went to flats and realized I was just pulling up with my feet.Along with this, jumping always felt scary because of my poor technique that comes with not knowing how to do a real bunnyhop.Also I now feel less fear on technical or fast downhill section with my feet not locked in so I will commit to things I would not before.
    As for core based strength training, I regularly do turkish getups , swings ,windmills ,single leg deadlifts,planks and side planks about three times a week . They are like a drug to me because of the results Im seeing in performance on my bike. I also rock climb, and even though I’ve been climbing alot less lately Ive jumped a grade I climb at .Anyway thanks alot ,you’re the man.( Also thanks for the 20 podcast you have put out. I do construction work and I have listened to them all multiple times)

    Reply • May 18 at 9:06 pm
  11. Walt says:

    My other bike is not a road bike or some ridiculous 29er. It’s a low frame 26″ bmx bike. It has one chain ring and gears in the back and disc brakes. So, I ride this thing on trails standing up the whole time usually trying to stay in one gear, and then I have the added advantage of taking it to our local dirt jumps and bmx track for some real training that you are never going to get from the road or a 29er or from the gym, for that matter. Gym rats want you believe that you are never going to be strong if you don’t workout in a gym. But people have been getting strong for many centuries by something called good ole work. My great grandfather (who never went to a gym in his life) could carry a bale of cotton (500 lbs.) on his back well into his 50’s and pull 1300 lbs on a scale and pick up cars all from just plain ole hard work. But don’t get me wrong, james has some great exercises and if you live like I do where there is snow on the ground for at least 6 months out of the gear, it’s good to do some training. But when you can ride… ride! Ditch the dumbells and road bike for a bmx style bike. it works the whole body and more importantly, you gain bike specific skills that don’t come without a lot of work.

    Reply • May 19 at 11:50 pm
  12. Walt says:

    As for spandex. if your going to wear it, put another loose pair of shorts over them. Spandex only looks good on women…period. I know a lot of women who have a strong disdain for the whole bike culture because of spandex . That’s all they see usually is from roadies and xc racer wannabes. But I have to explain that many mt. bikers wear looser fitting shorts. I’m not making this up. I’ve literally heard dozens of women say that they really don’t want to see some stranger’s package in plain view and I definitely have to agree. Speedos at the beach or board shorts… which would you rather see? I hope you answered the latter. The same goes for bike shorts.

    Reply • May 20 at 1:37 am
  13. The Real Rob says:

    Please add this gasoline to the fire:

    1. Clipless pedals are superior for XC. Has anyone ever won a serious 20+ mile XC race in flats? I agree that beginners should get some skills before trying clipless though. And, I know riders who made the jump to clipless too quick and would benefit from some clinic work on flats. In the interest of full disclosure: I use flats when downhilling.

    2. The brothers need to start watching the trail — and stop staring at my junk. If my lycra (who still calls it spandex?) makes you so uncomfortable, why do you keep following me? You should look into those feelings you’re having.

    3. ALL cross training makes you stronger. Even road biking. Road biking isn’t kryptonite. Your couch is kryptonite.

    4. I’ve been schooled by a pro-female on a 29r hardtail on the most technical trail we’ve got — so as much as I’d like to hate on 29rs with everyone else — I think I’ll have to reserve judgement for now.

    5. Form > Fashion.

    Reply • May 20 at 3:26 pm
  14. thePhoenix says:

    @The Real Rob: Hey, just to make a point and by no means to argue, I finished 4th out of 60 in a XC race on a trail I had never ridden prior to race day…on platforms.

    I don`t know a single roadie that can beat me on a mountain bike. I know plenty of mtb riders that can turn in sub 5 hour centuries on a road bike.

    29ers do quite well for XC and getting up and over things, but when the trail gets twisty and you have turns to deal with I can drop *most* of my 29er friends. Fact is, fast riders are fast riders 😉
    (I believe it was Rachel Atherton who said something like “I don`t care if you`ve got 20, 26, or 29″ tires, boobs or balls. We all want the same thing…let`s go ride.”)

    When it all comes down to it, gear just isn`t worth arguing over. Ride what you like.

    Reply • May 20 at 6:04 pm
  15. Nate says:

    Switched from spandex to Fox shorts (with spandex liners) late last season. They just cover my knees when standing and they aren’t baggy. They feel great and do offer some extra crash protection.

    Reply • May 29 at 8:38 am
  16. Matt says:

    +1 to fox shorts with spandex liner. The “High Frequency” model has a cushion for the good stuff, zippers to keep things breathy and best of all they will NEVER get caught on your seat due to clever craftsmanship and you don’t look like a doofus.

    Reply • June 9 at 8:58 pm

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