Are You “Over Skilled”?

December 30, 2008 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

I would have to say that 90% of the MTB riders and racers that I have met would be defined as “over skilled”. It sounds absurd since most feel that some aspect of their riding needs work, be it skill related such as gate starts or fitness related such as better power endurance (I define MTB specific fitness as a “skill”). However, when you really understand how the human body functions and best adapts to MTB specific skills and fitness you will see what I mean. First, though, I need to explain the OPP.

optimum performance pyramid 300x207 Are You Over Skilled?The Optimum Performance Pyramid (OPP) was first introduced to me by Gray Cook, a highly influential figure in strength training circles. It is probably the best explanation that I have come across describing how performance training should be viewed. Gray uses the OPP to explain the 3 distinct levels of performance training, their prioritization and how to best integrate them.

The first, and broadest, level is Functional Movement. Contrary to the current fitness trends, this does not mean standing on a wobbly doo-hicky, looking like you are trying out for the circus. Functional Movement simply refers to developing adequate mobility, body control and movement awareness in order to safely handle higher level movements.

Examples of exercises in this level would include single leg box squats, pistol squats, Bulgarian split squats, single leg deadlift, push ups and their variations, inverted rows and alternating DB shoulder press. Bodyweight and unilateral exercises make up the bulk of this type of training. However, bodyweight exercises are extremely humbling when challenging variations are used. Do not underestimate the power of this type of training.

The Functional Movement level should also address any imbalances in the body, both mobility and strength wise, as they are a huge red flag for a potential injury. An athlete without a strong base built in this level of training will be far more prone to injuries, have a harder time mastering new skills and techniques and generally find that their training efforts yield few and inconsistent results.

The second level of the pyramid is Functional Strength. This level focuses on improving your raw strength and power. As I have touched on many times, increasing these areas will effectively add to your raw potential. Riders without adequate time spent on this level will also find that they have a harder time mastering new skills and will probably feel as if they have hit a plateau with their progression.

Examples of exercises in this level would include deadlift, front squat, bench press, military press, weighted pull ups/ chin ups, and DB rows. Compound, core exercises for the main movement patterns make up the bulk of this level.

The last, and smallest, level is Functional Skill. Unfortunately, this is where most training that MTB riders undertake would fall. This includes trail riding, DH runs, dirt jumping, 4X track time, gate starts, sprints, intervals and high level strength training methods such as plyometrics and Olympic Lifts. These methods will only yield the biggest “MTB specific” gains if they are used by someone who has spent time developing the base levels of the performance training pyramid. Believe it or not, over use of training methods in this level can actually slow down and stagnate skill development and fitness progression.  Read more

Determining Correct Tire Pressure

December 28, 2008 by  
Filed under Tips

tire pressure rock on ledge Determining Correct Tire PressureTire pressure is the single best thing that a biker can do to improve the performance of their bicycle without having to spend any money.  Identifying the proper tire pressure for your bike will enable you to have more control when riding.  A tire with too low of pressure will make it harder to pedal/ride as well as increase your chances of getting a flat.  Tire pressure that is too high can make for a very rough and bumpy ride and will make it hard to navigate and have control over the terrain.

There is no standard for tire pressure as many factors must be taken in consideration when determining the proper tire pressure for a ride.  These factors include; weight and personal preference of the rider and the condition and terrain of the trail.

Most tire manufacturers will indicate a recommended tire pressure somewhere on the wall of the tire.  We suggest starting with the recommended tire pressure and then altering tire pressure based on the factors discussed above.

topeak smarthead digital air tire pressure guage 300x300 Determining Correct Tire PressureStart with the recommended tire pressure and take the bike for a ride to test your tire pressure setting.  A good indication of too high of tire pressure is if you notice that the bike does not grip well on turns or you find that the bike tends to bounce off of obstacles on the trail.  If you notice this happening drop tire pressure in increments of 5 psi in both tires.  Continue to do so until you find a tire pressure that is ideal.

Low tire pressure means more effort is needed and a higher tire pressure requires less effort.  This is called rolling resistance.  A tire with little rolling resistance will roll fast, but depending on conditions it could mean a loss in control and poor traction.

While determining the proper tire pressure it is important to be consistent with the tire pump and gauge used as psi readings may vary from one pump or gauge to another.

Everyone has their own opinion on tire pressure. It is important to keep in mind that proper tire pressure depends on several factors and therefore what one rider might recommend to another doesn’t mean it is the optimal tire pressure for that rider. Test your tires at various pressures and in different riding conditions and trail terrain to help get a feel for what tire pressure to use at various times.

Early Bird Registration Opens for the National Bike Summit, March 10-12

December 18, 2008 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

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The below was an email received on December 18, 2008 from IMBA
For Immediate Release
Contact: Drew Vankat, Policy Analyst

Join IMBA and an expected 600 bicycle advocates at the 2009 National Bike Summit, March 10-12, in Washington, D.C. Hosted by the League of American Bicyclists, the Summit provides a unique opportunity for mountain bikers to interact with cyclists of all stripes, attend diverse informational sessions and lobby the halls of Congress. IMBA supporters who attend receive discounted registration, a private banquet dinner and tons of great swag.

An Extremely Important Year for the National Bike Summit

The sweeping administrative and congressional changes in D.C. make 2009 an extremely important year. “With so many new members of congress, it’s more important than ever to show them the human face of mountain biking and introduce yourself to their staff and your issues,” says IMBA Government Affairs Director Jenn Dice. “Mountain bikers have a golden opportunity to protect more land, influence public lands bills, increase funding for trails and lay the foundation for productive working relationships.”

Attendees will be treated to presentations and panel discussions on many important topics. IMBA is currently finalizing an exceptional line-up of speakers and sessions to cover the following topics: urban trails and jump parks, integrating trails and neighborhoods, small-group land protection training, funding for the National Park Service and integrating singletrack into the Bicycle Friendly Community program.

Sign up online to attend the National Bike Summit. Early bird registration is now open and available through Feb. 5.

Bolster Your Trails by Attending the National Bike Summit

The Summit is the perfect way to build a relationship with your member of congress. U.S. representatives and senators can be very powerful allies when the time comes to develop singletrack destinations. Just ask the Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists (MORC), who garnered $800,000 for new singletrack north of Minneapolis. “Your congressional office can help you find the right way to go after money for trails. The funding opportunities are there, but you have to go out and get it,” says MORC’s Tim Wegner.

Mike Dulin, of the Kentucky Mountain Biking Association, says, “Last year’s Summit was amazing. The combined knowledge of so many fellow cycling advocates is truly inspiring and the meetings on Capitol Hill are a fantastic way to get the ball rolling on new trails projects.”

Advocates looking to influence public lands protection also benefit from coming to D.C. “We’ve sent Virginians to the National Bike Summit the past few years and it’s undoubtedly helped us become better advocates for mountain biking and protected landscapes in the Jefferson and George Washington national forests,” says IMBA Trail Solutions Director Rich Edwards.

Resources to Get the Most Out of the National Bike Summit

IMBA pulls out the stops to make sure mountain bikers make the most of this event. Attendees are encouraged to register early so they can join pre-Summit conference calls and take advantage of IMBA’s online resources for comprehensive guidance on a variety of topics, including how to raise money to attend and finding lodging options. Limited scholarship money is available to help offset costs.

If you’re serious about taking your local singletrack to the next level, make sure the National Bike Summit is on your schedule.

Entry-Level Hardtail Shootout

December 18, 2008 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Choosing your first bike can be tough. There are a lot of options out there and everybody has a different opinion about what is best. First let’s clear some things up: For the most part the name is the frame, that’s it. Almost all, if not all of the other components on a bike are made by another company that makes the same components for the other bike manufacturer. A lot of people get stuck on a name and think that a certain bike name means quality, but the real key is to try to get the best components for the buck. If you don’t know much about bikes this can be tough but I’m here to help. Here is a quick guide to few different hardtail bikes out there. The full-suspension shootout is coming soon. If you aren’t sure what you want check out the Hardtail vs. Full-Suspension article on MTOBikes.

2008 GT Avalanche 2.0 MSRP $629

gt avalanche 20 mountain bike 300x154 Entry Level Hardtail Shootout

Good value. Triple triangle frame is very tough but a little bit on the heavy side. This one is great for more aggressive or heavier riders.

GT Avalanche 2.0 Product Page

2009 Trek 4500 MSRP $689

trek 4500 mountain bike 300x195 Entry Level Hardtail Shootout

This is a great entry-level cross-country bike. It is light compared to others in it’s class but not built for anything overly aggressive. Perfect for fast singletrack.

Trek 4500 Product Page

2009 Specialized Rockhopper Comp Disc MSRP $770

specialized rockhopper comp disc mountain bike 300x247 Entry Level Hardtail Shootout

Usually I find Specialized to be overpriced, but this model is a pretty good value. It costs a bit more than the competition, but you get paid back with some better components. This will definitely outlast the competition by a bit. If you want a solid all-around performer with a longer life, this is it.

Specialized Rockhopper Comp Disc Product Page

2009 Mongoose Tyax Super MSRP $649

mongoose tyax super mountain bike Entry Level Hardtail Shootout

Not a bad combo. Uses a lot of off brand components like Promax and SR Suntour which means a decrease in quality but for $649 you get a decent hardtail with hydraulic disc brakes (they make a world of difference) and a remote lockout for your front fork (cool feature for riding on hardpack or streets).

Mongoose Tyax Super Product Page

2009 Kona Blast MSRP $699

kona blast mountain bike 300x176 Entry Level Hardtail Shootout

Solid setup overall. Not much else to say.

Kona Blast Product Page

2009 Gary Fisher Wahoo Disc MSRP $659

gary fisher wahoo disc mountain bike 300x188 Entry Level Hardtail Shootout

I’m very impressed with this setup. Solid drive train including, nice mechanical disc brakes, and a decent wheelset. If you are looking for the best bang for your buck this is it!

Gary Fisher Wahoo Disc Product Page

Buying tips

Avoid buying online or used, I’m not saying don’t consider it, but be very wary.  Check out our MTOBikes article on buying used bikes for more details.

Look for last years models in bike shops, you can often get a great deal.

Ride before you buy. Different manufacturers use slightly different geometries and sometimes this is the most accurate measure of a good bike. Think of it this way are you buying a bike or are you buying fitness, a new hobby, thrill, etc.?

You will need a lot more than just a bike, plan a hundred or more extra and see if you can get a deal on some of your accessories (this is where bike shops usually have the most margin).

IMBA Press Release: Bicycling in National Parks

December 18, 2008 by  
Filed under Industry News

For Immediate Release: 12-18-08

At long last, the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) has proposed a rule change which will make it easier for parks to open trails for mountain biking. IMBA urges mountain bikers to register comments in support of the rule change. IMBA has been asking for this change since the 1990s. We now enter a 60-day commentary period to make the change official.

Take Action Now! Customized letters are most effective.

You can read IMBA’s white paper analysis of the proposed rule change and view the entire text in the Federal Register online. We know that several groups are working to defeat this proposal — it will take thousands of comments in favor of the rule change to ensure it stays intact.

As the proposal explicitly states, none of the NPS procedures for environmental review — or opportunities for public commentary — will be diminished by this change. What it will achieve is a much more manageable system for adopting mountain biking trails. The proposal states, “As a general matter, the proposed rule provides park superintendents with a more efficient and effective way to determine whether opening existing trails to bicycles would be appropriate in the park unit they manage.”

IMBA believes that this measure will enhance national parks and deserves your support — please file your comments today!

Sample Letter

Thank you for accepting my comments concerning RIN 1024-AD72, the National Park Service rule change for bicycling. I fully support the proposed rule.

  1. The special regulations process that restricts bicycling on trails is unduly burdensome and duplicates protections that are already addressed by the NPS General Management Plan and the National Environmental Policy Act.
  2. This proposed rule would give park superintendents better tools for opening trails to bicycling. It would also treat bicycles like other non-motorized trail uses, such as horseback riding.
  3. Independent scientific studies, including those conducted by the National Park Service, have shown the environmental impacts of mountain biking are similar to those of hiking, and far less than other uses.
  4. The best research regarding social interactions on trails reveals those who encounter other user groups report very favorably on their interactions. Claims otherwise are unsupported by scientific data.
  5. Shared-use trails are a successful management tool worldwide. NPS staff are skilled at selecting appropriate trails for shared-use by hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians.
  6. This rule will aid visitor enjoyment for both children and adults. Bicycling broadens the recreational offerings and gets Americans out of their cars and into the natural world. It connects people of all ages with the natural environment and is a fun, low-impact activity.
  7. Improving opportunities for bicycling and promoting trails tourism could benefit economic conditions for nearby communities.
  8. Mountain bikers are prolific volunteers–conducting nearly one million hours of trailwork on public lands annually–and could help build environmentally sound, sustainable trails.

Thank you for considering my comment. Bicycling is a wonderful way to explore our national parks and I hope the proposed rule change will be implemented.

Derailleur Hanger Alignment

December 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Tips

In the early days of index shifting when the first systems were 6,7, and 8 speeds, derailleur hanger alignment was important, but not crucial to shifting. Due to the wider spacing between cogs, the derailleur hanger could be bent slightly, and the derailleur might still shift reasonably well. However, with the new 9 speed mountain bike cassettes (10 and now 11 speed for road), proper derailleur hanger alignment is absolutely imperative. Even a slight deviation of the hanger can cause incorrect shifting, and also cause the derailleur to shift into the spokes of the wheel, or jam the chain between the cassette and frame.

Whenever I build a new bicycle, I always check the derailleur hanger for alignment. Without fail, they are slightly bent (or worse) every single time. This cannot be avoided due to the initial fabrication of most frames, transportation, etc. A common mistake made by riders is to think, “I just bought a new hanger, so I will bolt it on and it will be straight.” The logic seems correct, but this does not take into account the fact that surface of the frame where the new hanger attaches is not necessarily aligned (usually it isn’t).

derailleur hanger alignment 300x300 Derailleur Hanger AlignmentThe replaceable derailleur hanger is a relatively new item, but it has saved many frames from the junkyard. In a crash, if the derailleur is near the smallest cogs, the derailleur will become bent severely – causing the hanger to become bent in the process. The replaceable hanger is designed to bend easily or break off in the event of a crash. Steel frames without a replaceable hanger can usually be bent back, unless the threaded hole has become elongated from an extreme bend. Aluminum will fatigue and fail after only a few cycles of bending. In the event that a non-replaceable derailleur hanger on an aluminum frame is bent, extreme care is required when it is aligned. There is a high likelihood that it will snap. Regardless, the hanger will be weakened, and will be more likely to bend in the future.

To achieve proper hanger alignment, a derailleur hanger alignment gauge is used. Using the rear wheel of the bicycle as a reference, the gauge is used to bend the hanger so that the hanger is in the same plane as the wheel. This is not rocket science, but it does take practice to prevent breaking the hanger. Due to the cost of the tool, it is probably best to have the alignment checked by a qualified shop when there is an issue with shifting, or after a crash.

Ay Up Introduces the Gecko Lightset Mount

December 9, 2008 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

We wrote a review awhile back about Ay Up’s mountain bike and road bike light system.  Ay Up’s lights weigh under 60 grams and the battery a tad over 80 grams which enables users the ability to use the new Gecko Lightest Mount velcro mountain system.  This type of helmet mounting offers an alternative method of mounting your helmet lights and batteries.

The below is a press release from Ay UP

ay up gecko lightset mount 1 300x226 Ay Up Introduces the Gecko Lightset Mount

ay up gecko lightset mount 2 300x146 Ay Up Introduces the Gecko Lightset Mount

ay up gecko lightset mount 3 300x197 Ay Up Introduces the Gecko Lightset Mount

Above image shows the Gecko Lightset Mount …

Using very flexible plastic mountings that can be contorted and twisted into any shape along with Industrial Strength 3M velcro dots you can now mount your helmet and light mount in seconds.

ay up gecko battery holder naked 300x177 Ay Up Introduces the Gecko Lightset Mount

Above image showing the naked Gecko Battery Holder, note the slots in the sides to allow cable ties through for permanent mounting. (featured on both the mounts)

Both mounts can be removed completely extremely quickly leaving behind 8 velcro dots on your helmet. Battery swap over is super fast for those ever shorter pit stops during epic races.

Daytime use helmet below…

ay up gecko lightset mount daytime use 300x187 Ay Up Introduces the Gecko Lightset Mount

With both Gecko’s attached less the Lightset which snaps into place …

ay up gecko lightset mount both mounts attached 300x201 Ay Up Introduces the Gecko Lightset Mount

Complete Gecko System, installed in seconds

ay up gecko lightset mount system 300x211 Ay Up Introduces the Gecko Lightset Mount

The added benefit of the mounts being super flexible is you can mount these anywhere on any type of surface.

Below head on image shows the slim but strong profile of the Gecko Lightset Mount…

ay up gecko lightset mount profile 300x162 Ay Up Introduces the Gecko Lightset Mount

Round poles, walls, glass, skate lids, caving, hard hats and helmets with no vents whatsoever, no problem.

The mount weight is under 5 grams but these little guys are as tough and as strong as our current mounts. The plastic composite we use super flexible and UV protective. They will attach to any profile and shape, no worries …

Not Your Grandmother’s Wool—Smart Wool Socks Perfect for Cooler Riding Conditions

December 7, 2008 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

smart wool womens phd cycling light mini sock 300x300 Not Your Grandmother’s Wool—Smart Wool Socks Perfect for Cooler Riding ConditionsI promised myself this fall and winter would be different; I’d stop thinking of excuses to not ride and just start riding. So I piled up on winterwear: under-helmet beanie, tights, long-fingered gloves, and of course, warm socks.

As a winter sports enthusiast, I own plenty of wool socks of differing thicknesses. The problem is, when I slip my wool-covered feet into my Sidi Dominators, my feet feel restricted and confined by the lack of flexibility of most wool socks. This, coupled with the cold weather, numbs rather than warms my little piggies.

Enter Smart Wool Womens PhD Cycling Light Mini socks. These socks breathe, flex, and feel like cotton. They lack the mild abrasiveness of most wool socks. They kept my feet warm through biting forty-degree weather and twenty-mile-an-hour winds. I wore them biking on my home turf, Denver’s Front Range, and even took them on vacation to two of mountain biking Meccas, Moab and nearby Fruita, where they performed beautifully.

One caveat: I wore these socks trail running and because trail runners are bigger than regular sneakers, the socks had room to bunch up. Wear them for cycling or everyday use, but break out thicker socks for hiking or trail running.

Smart Wool: one less excuse to not ride.

Holiday Gift Ideas: What to get that Mountain Bike Lover or What to Ask for Yourself

December 3, 2008 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Love it or hate it the holiday’s are here. The hardest part of all, I think is choosing the right gift. If your like me. you hate giving gift cards and gifts no one will really use. Well I’m here to help you with gift ideas for the mountain biker in your life; or if you are a mountain biker here are some things you might want to drop some hints about.

The Small Stuff: Make them a Kit

pedros levers 300x300 Holiday Gift Ideas: What to get that Mountain Bike Lover or What to Ask for YourselfPedro’s Tire Levers
Ok these aren’t a one gift item, but trust me, these tire levers will change the frequent tire changers life! In my shop time I changed A LOT of tires and the thin but extra-wide design made even the tubeless tires on Bontrager rims easy. A good idea with this is to combine it with a bunch of other smaller items to make a kit. So keep reading for more ideas.

Finish Line Citrus Degreaser (Spray)
Another piece of the kit. This is an amazing degreaser and it smells like oranges. This is a gift for the bike freak who is constantly doing overhauls and degreasing and regreasing everything. Pedro’s is pretty good too. Enough said.

park tools cyclone chain scrubber 150x150 Holiday Gift Ideas: What to get that Mountain Bike Lover or What to Ask for YourselfChain Cleaner and Degreaser
If they don’t have a chain cleaner yet they need one. A clean chain means a happy chain, and less drive train wear, longer chain life, less resistance, and quieter operation. They are very easy to use and you don’t have to take the chain off of the bike to clean it! Don’t forget to buy the liquid degreaser with it.

A GOOD Multi Tool
There is a big difference between a multi tool and a good multi tool. I prefer Crank Brothers or Topeak. They both have a few different models based on how many tools the rider wants. If they are very weight conscious or don’t ride extremely often go for the simpler models, but for the extreme riders the more expensive versions will have a lot of great extra tools to help with trail fixes.

Cleaning Brush Kit
It doesn’t matter much who makes it (Park, Spin Doctor, Pedro’s and Other do) but a cleaning brush kit makes cleaning the drive train MUCH easier. A great addition to a cleaning kit with orange degreaser and a chain cleaner with degreaser.

Floor Pump, Mini Pump or CO2
Everyone likes a good air pump. A good mini pump is a must for any mountain biker; CO2 pumps makes inflation a snap for the rider who craves simplicity; and having a dependable floor pump is always a good thing.

Nutrition Sampler
One cool gift is a nutrition sampler. Find a good bike shop or nutrition store and buy a variety of bars and gels to try. Put them in a basket or something and it is a great way for a mountain biker to figure out what they like and don’t like.

One Item Gifts

If they have one they probably won’t mind having another one. I have four and I still want a couple more. Camelbak’s are one of the coolest ways to stay hydrated and carry all of your stuff. Stick to the Camelbak brand hydration packs. The knock offs always lack some quality and cannot even begin to compare in comfort or features.

nokon cable housing 300x225 Holiday Gift Ideas: What to get that Mountain Bike Lover or What to Ask for YourselfNokon Cable Housing
This is the perfect gift for the rider that spends as much time buying stuff for their bike as they do riding it. Nokon housing has a very cool bling factor, not to mention it shaves weight and reduces cable friction. It is made of a bunch of small anodized aluminum segments. There are a variety of color options out there so do some background prodding first.

Fox Shorts or Jerseys
A nice jersey or a pair of great shorts always makes a great gift. For mountain bikers Fox is one of the best manufacturers out there. Search for the articles about them on MTO Bikes to get the details.