I'm back from the Langkawi MTB Race where I learned a few things:
One: The Maxxis Ikon sucks in deep mud;
Two: Mud and 2.2" tires don't mix on the Specialized Epic's rear;
Three: Don't race when sick.
As a result of points One and Two (above), I got a few tire tips from the pros and I'll be switching the Ikon 2.2 (front/rear) to the Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.1 on the rear, and the Schwalbe Rocket Ron 2.25 on the front for the coming wet months.
Me on the urban xc section on Day 1. Photo courtesy Cycling Malaysia.
As a result of point Three (above), I had to pull out after day 3, but at least I got Bury Stander and Todd Wells to sign my bike, so the trip wasn't a total washout!
Bury Stander signing my bike. Olympus OMD EM5, 20mm f/1.7.
MTBSkills Instructor Sandy Maxwell demonstrating a turn
When MTBSkills Instructor, Wilson Low, invited me to join him and two other instructors, Liz Mulconry and Sandy Maxwell, for a couple of days riding at Drak Bike Park in Batam, Indonesia, I gamely joined in. I'm pretty fit, and was confident of being able to keep up with the group. I did not expect to be blown away, but that's exactly what happened. I could keep up on the straights, but as soon as the trail began weave it's way into the jungle... ZOOM. They were gone. I tried pedaling hard to catch up, jamming my brakes into each corner, then sprinting out of it, while all they seemed to do was flow effortlessly around each corner, so fast that there was was nothing I could do to keep up, and the only time I saw them again was when they stopped for a break. It was apparent that I lacked some critical skills.
A couple of days later, we were back in Singapore. The three MTBSkills instructors were giving a course in basic skills and asked if my wife and I would like to join in. Laura, who had heard all about my experience on Drak definitely wanted in.
Step One: Get those elbow up!
Vision. Position. Momentum. Technique. That's their mantra. It's about looking up the trail, getting your body in the correct posture, and controlling your speed. It was like a light bulb going off in my head. Yes! This is the way I should be riding, and no, it's not that easy, because for the past 15 years of mountain biking, I've been doing it wrong. And that's the problem with getting lessons for biking skills. We don't know we need them. As MTBSkills likes to say "you don't know what you don't know".
Walking through the turn that Sandy demonstrated in the top image
Smooth is fast. On my basic course, I learned to corner (there's a whole lot that goes into making a smooth turn, and yup, I had it all wrong). And I learned to unweight the front wheel (yup, I got that wrong too), not only useful for clearing obstacles, but also for riding drops more smoothly. Lessons are typically half-day, cost S$140, and run at a maximum instructor: student ratio of 1: 5. For MTBSkills courses in Singapore, contact Wilson Low by phone at (65) 98784113 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org