Friday Five: Front Wheel Lifts

Mastering the trail means mastering the basics.

This week we would like to introduce Candace Shadley. We have asked Candace to be a part of the Friday Five because of her experience and analytical mind for mountain bike coaching. She is the founder and director of the Trek Dirt Series Mountain Bike Camps, a women’s only and co-ed mountain bike education experience. She lives in Whistler, BC, but travels around a lot for work, has been in love with kiteboarding for the past five years, ski lots, thinks both XC and DH are awesome and has been trying to fit more hours into a day for as long as she can remember. She is also has quite the flair for the word game Boggle.

To start off Candace and I thought we would start with the basics: the front wheel lift.

The front wheel lift might seem elementary to some readers, but for others it is something that might help them flow their local trails better or create a building block for later development.

The Front Wheel Lift

It is a shame that we announce this tutorial during the week of the BC Bike Race because it is an often overlooked skill that can add flow to a trail and lessen frustration. You may use the front wheel lift for climbing over roots or rocks on a trail, or even popping onto a curbstone at your local 7-Eleven, while gathering midnight munchies.

Step One:
Approach at a slow to medium pace, standing up, with level pedals, bent elbows and knees, looking ahead (basically a solid neutral position).

Stand up, create a strong yet supple frame with your body and look ahead. LOOK AHEAD, damn it!

Step Two:
Use your upper body to compress the front end, bend your arms and let your elbows go out.

Build potential energy by pressing down. Create a taut coil with your body.

Step three:
Extend your arms (shoulders go up) and then …

Pulling is nothing without the compress so now PUSH your upper body upward.

Step Four:
Bend your elbows again to help pull the front wheel up.

Once the upward momentum is generated by the compress and push bring your hands up to your shoulders.

In terms of timing, the faster you enter, the sooner you need to initiate your move. The slower you enter, the harder you might need to initiate your move because of the lack of momentum. If you can get your front wheel onto the top of the log and then roll down the other side, you’ve made it. Start with small obstacles that are forgiving so that you can dial in your timing (and your technique) with minimal penalty for mistakes.

Success!

Those were four. But then here’s number five:

As with everything, it’s important to look ahead. Once you see your obstacle and know when you’re going to initiate your move, look beyond the obstacle, to where you’re going to get to once you’re successful. Looking ahead helps your body actually move in the right direction, takes weight off the front wheel when needed, and besides, staring at the log or curb for a long time only makes it get bigger.

And one more note:

The compress, extend and pull have to follow each other quickly. It’s not compress, take a coffee break, extend, take coffee break, and then pull in and wonder why your wheel isn’t coming up. When you compress you’re creating an action, and then thanks to Newton’s Law, getting a reaction. That helps the wheel come up and makes it lighter so that you can actually pull it up no matter whether you’ve spent months in the gym or not.

———
Candace Shadley and the Trek Dirt Series.

The program was started in 2001 and Shadley now runs an average of 18 instructional camps per season, both women’s only and co-ed, and throughout North America. Since the beginning the camps have taught nearly 9,000 participants. Candace still says it is a lot of fun.

Seb Kemp

Bike Magazine’s Gun For Hire is also a certified mountain bike skills coach and before he joined Bike he worked for the Whistler Bike Park and well as guiding and coaching clients throughout BC, New Zealand, Switzerland, Sweden and Nepal. Seb believes that both writing and coaching are, in fact, very similar roles – both require information to be broken down and communicated clearly and concisely. In an attempt to simplify coaching techniques Seb learned to strip back the skills to their core elements and designed a series word games or visual clues related to each technique that make them easier to learn and remember. We will be revealing some of these throughout Friday Five, however, there is no replacement for hiring a good coach and getting some first hand guidance and feedback.

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