I bet you think I’ve picked up some smart advice on how to reduce the super-size bottom that broke the Merida’s saddle last week. Alas, beyond cycling more and eating less, I haven’t any pearls of wisdom there. But I have discovered that a weighty derrière can be an asset – if you know how to use it to your advantage.
Cycling with buddies who know how to ride is a real bonus for a newbie mountain biker, although it can be a bore for the know-it-alls. Fortunately my chums at Ride have the patience of Bradley Wiggins on a speed leg of Le Tour.
It paid off for me on a scenic jaunt through the Swartland wheat fields. Firstly Jazz Kuschke pointed out that I am cornering all wrong : “Give yourself room by having your inside leg up and counterbalance with your weight on the outside leg. This helps to keep the back wheel from sliding out. It’s the trick on gravel roads, where there’s a loose layer over a hard one.”
Further on, Jazz showed me how to stand up on the pedals and make my position more secure over rough terrain and downhill. “Stand on you pedals with both feet at even height, not with one leg up and the other down. Learn to balance like that and your position will become very much more secure as you push your centre of gravity further back on the bike and are less likely to ‘step over the handlebars’. Then when you’re comfortable doing this, practice pointing your heels downwards to lower your centre of gravity. ”
I played around with this a bit. It felt odd being so high above the saddle. But going over bumpy terrain, it made a big difference. “Soften your elbows to absorb the shock,” said Jazz helpfully. “Don’t lock your arms.”
Where I ride there’s a lot of mud and films of clay lurk at the bottom of innocent puddles. That was the cause of last week’s crash and splash. But I’ve since learned to approach in a higher gear and really set my bottom back on the saddle – the added weight makes a big difference and slowly I’m gaining control of the back wheel.
I didn’t fall once on the ride with Jazz, but the very next outing, while climbing a gentle hill that had been ploughed by a farmer and was still a little rutty in parts, I discovered that the back wheel is only half the battle won. My front wheel slipped into a rut and twisted to 90 degrees. In an instant I was over the handlebars and on the grass.
My fancy cycling friends had no sympathy when I told them this morning: “What are you doing riding ploughed fields? You’re doing too much too soon. Get onto a nice long gravel road and clock up some proper mileage.”
And that’s exactly what the next week holds – after a yoga for cyclists session at CycleLab to stretch my stiff muscles. In the meantime …
Pedal on …
Contact CycleLab for a great selection of products in the online store, advice, tours, online race entries and details of the stores round the country.
READ OTHER NATTY NEWBIE BLOGS
Natty Newbie gets into mountain biking
Natty Newbie starts mountain biking episode two: Bike set-up
Natty Newbie episode three: Six things Natty learned about mountain biking
Natty Newbie episode four: Mountain biking first spills
WIN Ride, Sanlam Reality and CycleLab are giving one lucky reader the chance to win the full starter kit as described in this blog. All you have to do is follow the series and answer the question below.
Click here to enter the competition. Closing Date is 31 October 2012. The items on the prize equipment list may be exchanged for similar goods of the same or lesser value to cater for individual fit. Click here for the full equipment list for the prize.
All images: (c) Jazz Kuschke Media