Good style never goes out of style. Big hucks and tricks are impressive, but they’re hardly tangible to the average rider – and it’s no surprise that videos of professionals simply riding smoothly with a bit of style go over quite well. But, this leaves me with a question: where do we draw the line between smooth style and gratuitous shralpage?
Lately in mountain biking the technique known as the freeride flick or “Canadian kickout” is getting a lot of hate. Those who can’t do it think it just looks like the rider is skidding down the trail, and those who can but are over it don’t see a point. Then there’s the very real problem of riders imitating the brakes-off drift with actual skidding.
I will admit that I only began learning this technique in 2012. It was around the same time I learned to whip and scrub at the bike park – both necessary to get the most out of your bike on fast jump trails. Being that I might be considered a relative newbie to the freeride flick – which actually equates to doing flat ground whips – my thoughts on the matter are not as credible as a those of a seasoned veteran.
However, even with my lack of experience with certain advanced techniques, I have to wonder about some of the things I see in videos on a regular basis.
The Foot Out Flat Out
The first technique I have to question is the foot out berm skid. The biggest culprits are amateur DH racers in their “welcome to the team” edits. The rider jams into a corner with their inside foot off the clipless pedal, and showers a big pile of dust/loam/gravel into the camera lens.
I get it. This looks cool. It’s reminiscent of the Repack days. But these people are not drifting like Kovarik, and it’s most definitely not a fast way to go through a corner. Ever notice that videos will switch to a new clip after the foot out skid? That’s because the rider comes out of this move at a snail’s pace – the exact opposite of the “slow in, fast out” idea I learned racing cars.
Just this past week I see Jerome Clementz doing it. You don’t win top level enduro races with unnecessary movements. I’ve ridden with Jerome and he is 100% calculated. So maybe I’m wrong, and maybe in some circumstances this is a fast thing to do?
Wheelieing Out of Corners
Coming out of a berm straight into four or five pedal strokes on the rear wheel with the bars sawing back and forth wildly. This is a thing, again seen in “big bike” videos. While riding on one wheel for extended periods of time is impressive, doing so hard on the gas is not as much so.
Getting on the pedals as soon as possible out of a corner is a great way to carry more speed into the next section of trail – but isn’t the front wheel better off on the ground where you can load your fork and support some weight with your arms?
I see motocross bikes as a precedent here: roll on the throttle out of a corner and the front wheel comes up with ease. Who doesn’t like a good braaaap… but the motorcycle still accelerates when this is happening. On a bicycle, I just can’t see how this move is doing anyone any good.
Maybe Red Bull just isn’t showing us the corners on World Cup DH tracks where this technique is being implemented. I’m a big fan of Fabien Barel’s school of thought and I’m probably biased against what seems like unnecessary pedaling.
Can We All Just Get Along?
Style and speed are, most of the time, exclusive elements of form. When they come together, it can be a thing of beauty. Take Danny Hart’s nasty whip when he won the World Champs. There are good arguments for either end of the spectrum, with more subjective points applied to style and logical ones more often appealed to for speed.
I would prefer if the discussion stayed constructive – though I’m sure the freeride flick haters will jump in to tell me I’m a hack. I do honestly believe in furthering riding skill by having fun on the trail, even if it’s not the fastest way down the hill. I want to hear from people who do these moves – and I’m open to being persuaded that they have good reason to do so.
Do you do it like they do in the movies?