July
15

How to Pedal Through Rocks – A Case Study From the Trail

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and the longer I’m alive the more I realize that it is true. We are often sent on the road of frustration and dead ends based on someone trying to help us with what ultimately proved to be bad advice.

In the fitness world I see it all the time with training and nutrition advice. Well meaning people gave someone some advice about how to train or eat but that advice ultimately made things worse.

Some good examples of this are “you don’t need strength training for cycling sports”, “eating fat makes you fat”, “spend a lot of time on the road bike building your base” and “the key to performance is knowing how to refuel while you ride”.

All of these are pieces of advice that may be good for some riders in some situations but in the wrong hands they can create problems. This is why I tell new clients that it is usually easier to work with someone who hasn’t had any training before because I don’t have to undo as many bad habits before we can start building new ones.

And this problem doesn’t stop in the gym. Every day new riders are given advice about how to ride their bikes that ultimately holds them back from realizing their potential on the trail.

One of the biggest examples of this is the advice to “sit and spin” as much as possible and only to stand up when absolutely necessary. This is the worst advice possible for a mountain biker because it doesn’t teach riders how to use the standing pedaling position to their greatest advantage and instead to rely on momentum and hope.

In this video I show you how the “sit and spin” advice makes it harder to ride through technical trail sections and how standing up makes things much easier. Getting off your seat makes it easier on you and the trail.

As you can see in the video, the key to getting through sections like that is skill and technique. Anytime you need to display skill and technique you have to get your butt off the seat – it is impossible to execute any skills while sitting down.

BTW, I know that some of you may think that you need to keep your butt on the seat for traction, especially on climbs. The problem is that when you really look at how this works you see that your butt being on the seat doesn’t help anything.

I’ve made a blog post with a video explaining this in more detail but the short version is this – you don’t want weight on the back tire, you want pressure, and you can create that pressure between your hands and feet instead of your crotch and feet.

The “sit and spin” advice may work for road riding but mountain biking isn’t the same thing. It is a much more dynamic sport that requires you to use skill instead of only relying on pedaling fitness.

The first step to getting out of your own personal “technical rock garden hell” is to stop following the sit and spin advice. Learn how to use standing pedaling as a strength and you’ll see sections like that being something you look forward to instead of avoiding.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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James Wilson
Author and Professional
Mountain Bike Coach
James Wilson