- Mountain biking is mindful but risky and now is not the time to be a downhill hero.
- Dry summer trails have less traction and a greater risk of crashing.
- You can ride smart and fast, until the surge abates.
The festive season is a time to explore mountain bike trails in new locations, or double-up on some training mileage close to home.
For some, riding more hours at this time of year is an excuse to avoid awkward social interaction, although the pandemic has already assisted greatly in that regard.
As the Coronavirus second wave surge is straining hospital capacity, how does it influence your approach to mountain biking?
For all the happy Instagram images of mountain bikers posing at viewpoints, or enjoying post-ride coffees, there is a reality that experienced riders know well: risk.
The bike is better than you are – so keep it under control
Mountain bikes have evolved tremendously in the last decade. Superior suspension technology, better tyres, larger wheels, progressive frame geometry and more powerful brakes have created bikes that provide terrific rider confidence.
Severe rock gardens and steep technical trails were once only the preserve of very talented riders. The forgiving nature of advanced frame design, more active suspension components and tyres with robust puncture resistance, have incentivized average riders to be a lot more daring.
It could be argued that the modern mountain bikes are so good, they flatter riders with discrepancies in their ability. And that is something to remember, riding during the surge. Especially on unfamiliar trails.
Don’t try and be a hero
This is not the time to progress your technical riding. If you have been wanting to conquer that challenging jump or drop, make it a project for autumn 2021. Attempting jumps or drop-offs that are beyond your competency can trigger a significant crash, straining limited medical resources.
Trails along the Cape coastline and Karoo, where many mountain bikers might venture for vacation, are very dry in summer. That means more dust, less grip and a greater risk of crashing.
Even a low speed crash, rounding a dusty corner, can have serious consequences with a possible broken wrist or collarbone.
Mountain biking is mindful and has tremendous value, as a healthy outlet of activity with inherent social distancing, during the festive season. The fun can also be addictive, generating a momentum all of its own, and lulling you into riding beyond your abilities.
Instead of trying to create some ridiculous Instagram video content by attempting a new trail feature you should not, now is the time to ride well within your limits and perhaps focus on refining technique.
Your rides don’t have to be boring descents, cautiously glazing the brakes. But instead of trying to be an enduro hero, attempt to find flow.
Practice the transition from braking to entering a corner, and counter leaning. Get that outside pedal down low, when cornering. Look ahead, scanning the trail, allowing your vision to set posture and influence body position on the bike.
These are all techniques that can be practised and improved over your festive season rides, without having to take an unnecessary risk by keeping those tyres on the ground, instead of having them take to the air.