When I coach pro racers like Mitch Ropelato and Cody Kelly I realize they aren’t the same as most riders. They are younger versions of me (and now much better versions of me) when I raced in the pro class.
Being stronger, more aggressive, and getting paid to do well in races gives pro racers a different goal than most avid mountain bikers have. Different Goals require different methods.
I have found quite a few situations where you might not want to ride like a pro and I will share them with you in a series of articles. Some involve different equipment, some different mindsets, and some completely different skills.
Situation One When You Might Not Want to Ride Like a Pro:
Don’t Take Pro Lines when your goals are different. Have you ever heard the saying, “don’t take the smooth line fast, take the fast line smooth”? I learned that from a teammate years ago. Everyone whose goal is to go as fast as they can, need to learn and live that. I’ve taught that to my students for years.
Taking the fast line smoothly often means going straight and using various methods to float over the rough stuff. Bump jump, bunny hop or simply unweight over anything that might slow you down. Then pump the backsides of the landing to gain speed.
Doing this well has been my meditation for years. It keeps me focused, at the moment and it provides instant feedback. It rewards you by avoiding impacts and allowing you to accelerate down the trail.
You also immediately know when you mess up as you “eat the handlebars” when the bike slows and your body keeps going, causing you to do a full-strength pushup.
What is your goal? Is it to have fun, ride with more confidence, and/or not hurt yourself?
Well, depending on your goals you might actually want to take the smooth lines at medium speed! I’m 54, “taking the fast line smooth” can be exhausting now.
Floating over the rough stuff often takes speed and explosive movements, two things I find myself with less of as I age.
I crashed hard on New Year’s Day 2020 and it woke me up. My priorities have changed, I can’t be broken and provide for my family and I can’t coach when broken.
Since the crash, I have backed off to 90-95% of my former pace. When going that pace, descending is different. I don’t have the momentum to float over some of the rough stuff, so sometimes I have to take the smooth line fast instead of taking the fast line smoothly.
Taking the smooth line fast is actually pretty fun though – it won’t win any races, but you take less of a beating. It’s much calmer, and you’re not overloading your mind with hundreds of split-second decisions a minute.
“Don’t take the smooth line fast, take the fast line smooth” is also a relative thing. Believe me, Aaron Gwin takes way faster lines than me because he is better and MUCH stronger than me.
Aaron’s lines scare the heck out of me! Anything as small or smaller than a Honda Civic he just goes through or over, his lines are insane.
Though they won’t scare Aaron, my lines might scare you. Based on our goal/s, our fitness, and our skill level, what we think is the last line, changes greatly.
I honestly never realized how mentally exhausting it is to ride at the edge of your ability until I decided to back off a bit. The way I have descended for the last 30 years produces a massive rush, not just an adrenaline rush and dopamine rush, but a brain rush too. It is super intense, like a drug, hence my addiction.
Riding just a little slower is a completely different sport, less intense and much more relaxing. Riding like this doesn’t wear me out near as much as charging it does.
A wise Buddhist once said that our goal isn’t elation, the goal is an even keel. We can get too happy and when we get too happy we can’t maintain it and we will crash later. As a young man, I found that defeating. I wanted the happiest happiness ever. As a middle-aged man I have learned to appreciate Buddhist wisdom, apparently, it even applies to mountain biking!
I also missed a lot of fun lines and isn’t the #1 of mountain biking to have fun? Following my “slower friends” I have always found them to be more creative than me. They playfully look for little “hits” to jump off of as they zig-zag down the trail. It used to drive me nuts! Now I enjoy following them, seeing and hitting all the “fun lines” that I missed while seeking out the fast lines.
I hope you found this article helpful or at least entertaining. Look out for my next article on how you might want to use different equipment than pros use.
Please share this article with anyone you think may benefit and feel free to call or e-mail with any questions.