Push'ed inner
Editorial

Your Next Essential Upgrade

Words Cam McRae
Date Dec 14, 2017

For mortals there are several ways to approach maximizing the performance of your MTB. Most of us will never squeeze every ounce of badass potential from even a moderately priced machine, let alone a 10k carbon über steed, but does that mean there is no benefit to going all out? Surely if it’s better for Semenuk there will also be gains for those of us with more modest skills?

For some it’s clear the fruit that hangs low isn’t mounted to your bicycle. Want to go bigger or faster or longer? You could drop 15 lbs, do some training off the bike (CORE!), get more sleep, hire a trainer, drink less (maybe more?). Whatever the issue, it might be more productive in the long run to upgrade your meat engine rather than throwing 2k at carbon hoops.

But there are realists among us. I heard this from Tim Ferriss but I don’t recall the source; “if all it took was good intentions we’d all be billionaires with washboard stomachs.” If you know you aren’t going to lose even a pound, hire a trainer or take some lessons it might make sense to maximize performance with your wallet. This isn't uplifting news,  but it is sensible.

And could it be that performance is only one slice of the pie? Most of us know a dude (is it ever a woman?) who pours thousands into tuning his car, despite never taking it to the track. Some petrol heads don’t even take their highly tuned, lowered, winged and supercharged fart cans out of the city. Maybe it’s just fun assembling the best performing (or lightest?) bike you can; the research is fun, the negotiating is fun, debating with your buddies is fun and the build is fun... The fleeting joy is only dulled by the credit card bills.


Living in Vancouver, where real estate has gone berserk in recent years, financial decision making has become fraught with peril. Buy a new frame or pay the mortgage this month? Thinking about a purchase in other binary terms often obscures rationale; should I throw down $450 for carbon cranks? New carbon cranks or old scuffed aluminum arms seems like a no-brainer but how do you determine if there will be any measurable improvement, assuming that matters to you?

teardown

This teardown in Vancouver's west side sold last year for $2.5m. Prices have continued to increase since that time. 

Getting to the source can be helpful. Why do you ride a mountain bike? Is it because the falls are like gentle caresses or because mountain bikes are cheap like borscht?  Perhaps not. Maybe it’s the rush of racing with your buddies up and/or down the hill. Or because the glorious sensation of undulating singletrack buoys your soul. For some it’s a career and for many of us it keeps us sane. You could tick several boxes but drilling down about why mountain biking keeps you coming back could help separate a purchase you really want or need from one that is retail therapy. Assuming you want to make that distinction.

If the goal is ramping your radness on the bike, and you are looking to get fitter rather than just fatter then we should carefully consider where to launder that cash (or that effort if you are a DIY type). My off the bike training consists of sporadic yoga (mostly at home with routines by the amazing Abi and her great 15 min routines or Eion Finn for longer routines) and occasionally a little hiking. I know I would benefit from some strength training, particularly with a core focus to augment my yoga but I haven’t pulled the trigger. More yoga would be a good start but I haven’t been doing that either. Intentions...


Around here there are several options for getting fitter and stronger. Monica Marx, a mountain biker who is also a personal trainer,  is a great example. She uses kettlebells, myofascial release, spinal decompression (etc.) and the max student teacher ratio is 6:1.  If you sign up for a 4-month course with twice weekly sessions it will cost you $205/month or $820 for all 32 sessions. That makes it $25 a session. Or you could do once a week for $165/month or $40 a session. Obviously you could buy some bike stuff with $820; a couple of sets of tires plus an XX1 cassette or a new dropper and some nice cranks, but is there any chance your experience on the bike would change as dramatically as it would after 32 personal training sessions? If you aren’t a local I’m certain there are some good options for training near you that could be tailored to your goals.


We all have much to learn in terms of bike handling, stance and technique but for some reason mountain biking hasn’t embraced lessons and camps the way sports like golf or skiing have. I guess we all figure we know how to ride a bike, but after about ten minutes with a good instructor you’ll likely realize you know SFA.


A really easy way to get world class instruction is to sign up for some courses with Ryan Leech. Ryan’s courses are video based and they include one-on-one follow ups as well as the opportunity to interact with others working on the same skills. Access to all of Ryan’s courses for a year will cost you $189. About the price of a pair of tires. And of course there are more economical options.

Ryan Leech

You may prefer your coaching served live. There are few options here on the south coast including Endless Biking, a camp with Andrew Shandro (with some of the best riders in the world

https://summergravitycamps.com/coaches/

 as coaches) or a session with Cory Leclerc, who will keep you in stitches while he’s teaching you how to ride. No matter who you choose it’s like lightning in a bottle having an experienced coach watch you ride and give you feedback about how you are absolutely shitting the bed (or maybe I’m projecting my experience). If you don’t live in a mountain biking hotbed you’ll likely have to travel to get good coaching, but that doesn’t sound so bad does it?

Another option that doesn’t involve buying new bike parts is to get a pro-level bike tune. This might be a suspension set-up with someone like Arthur Gaillot at Suspension Therapy, a thorough suspension overhaul with custom tuning from SuspensionwerxVorsprung or Fluid Function or a pro level bike overhaul from Jeff Bryson of Bikeroom. Jeff is an EWS mechanic who works for Team Rocky Mountain riders Jesse Melamed and Remi Gauvin. His process for your bike is similar to his process for an EWS bike; he’ll do everything he can to make your bike perform better, roll faster and basically be flawless in every way. 


Buying new bike stuff is intoxicating and we are bombarded with reasons to slap down the cash daily, but it may be that your goals will become more attainable with less new stuff more focus on fitness, flexibility, maintenance, set-up or skills. 


But if you are happy where you are, and you just like having a rad bike with lots of bling, that’s okay too.

Comments

Mic
+1 Niels
Mic  - Dec. 14, 2017, 3:38 a.m.

That is a great piece with some really solid advice, Cam. 

I am currently in hospital after a stupid training related movement gave me a prolapsed disc L5 S1 with sciatica.

All more or less good now, and the best part without surgery. Rest and rehab now, got a good physiotherapist. 

What I am once again checking as a personal upgrade is a new trail helmet with maximum coverage. What good is a fit and strong body if your head is not as protected as it could be? 

And yes, the most simple way to improve performance is fine tuning the engine and skills associated with it. But that is not as easy as buying that set of cranks or wheels. 

Anyways, enough of a middle-age rant, thanks for the article.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Dec. 14, 2017, 9:12 a.m.

Yikes! Glad you are healing up Mic!

Reply

OwNowBrownCow
+1 Cam McRae
John Goddard  - Dec. 14, 2017, 4:43 a.m.

I need to work on the meat machine this winter. Anyone have a bike trainer to recommend? I figure that and some kettle bells should get me through the winter. I just gotta keep away from all the delicious stouts being released and pizza, my kryptonite.

Reply

mhaager2
0
Moritz Haager  - Dec. 14, 2017, 12:13 p.m.

Totally depends on your budget. Best place for trainer reviews is dcrainmaker.com. To make the biggest impact you need to train with power. If you don't have a power meter then I would suggest getting that for your bike and a dumb trainer and follow a training plan. If you have more cash to lay out then you can substitute a smart trainer. Tons to read about, but IMO the most important investment to make first is a power meter for your bike which will be useful both inside and outside.

Reply

OwNowBrownCow
0
John Goddard  - Dec. 15, 2017, 4:18 a.m.

Thanks for the tips!

Reply

zigak
0
ZigaK  - Dec. 18, 2017, 3:15 a.m.

Rollers. You get the additional core strength + stability + supplesse out of your sessions.

Reply

craw
+4 sospeedy AJ Barlas Cam McRae Niels
Cr4w  - Dec. 14, 2017, 6:35 a.m.

I'm in my early 40s and still riding hard. I also train regularly in the gym. All the major lifts paired with kettlebells, lots of high intensity and a pretty diligent regime of rehab and prehab. All the riding buddies who used to proclaim 'all the training they need they get on  the bike' are slowly dying getting slower, getting fatter. Jobs and family time mean they aren't riding as much as they used to, which isn't enough to impede middle age. 

Being fitter, stronger and more flexible means riding hard and faster, surviving crashes better. Which is more fun. Period. 

Why wouldn't you want that? Because you object to looking good naked? Jeez.

Going to the gym and yoga is crucial if you want your body to work well as you age. Those minor niggles become big deals if you let them. Why would you let them? Make time for it. A little more in the winter, a little less in the summer.

Reply

Kieran
+3 Endur-Bro Cam McRae Cr4w Beau Miller sospeedy
Kieran  - Dec. 14, 2017, 8:15 a.m.

No kids eh?

All that you stated above would change. Period. Unless you didn't want to be a good Dad and want the best for your kids.

Don't be hard on your buddies, they are doing a great job from what you say.

Reply

craw
+1 Merwinn
Cr4w  - Dec. 14, 2017, 9:07 a.m.

Totally agree. But the double whammy of not riding a lot plus not doing accessory maintenance work is a recipe for not longevity. Just saying that it’s easier to make a bit of time now rather than slip to a point from which you might not being able to return In ten years.

Reply

Kieran
0
Kieran  - Dec. 14, 2017, 9:14 a.m.

Oh yeah I know. I definitely need to work a bit more, but when you are running on 4 hours sleep from the night before, doing any kind of exercise after the work day is done just isn't an option for me.

Its funny though that I can still beat my non parenting friends up a climb though. :)

Reply

Mic
+1 Niels
Mic  - Dec. 14, 2017, 9:21 a.m.

I am a dad myself, and yes, when we lived together before the break it was at times challenging. 

But in this day and age of easy-to-access info and training and coaching your argument is not really all that valid in the long run. 

Dads and moms need time to get used to the new vircumstances but sooner or later it all comes down to the facts that 

  • every single one of us gas 24 hours. How and with what we spend them depends on each one of us.

  • if a rider wants to improve and stay healthy long term he/she does not come around input/training from other areas/pursuits, be it yoga or lifting.

  • being a good dad entails being a positive, life-affirming role model. And for that Little Toddler should understand that health and happiness can be connected to training and goals. 

But....I can remember that time of "I just want to go gor a ride NOW!" time pretty well, after the birth and the first time.

Reply

Kieran
+1 Niels
Kieran  - Dec. 14, 2017, 9:34 a.m.

I'm not arguing, just stating a few facts for those guys out there that don't have kids and have seen there friends drop out or ride less with whilst not having the fitness they used to have.

Its all too easy to say you should be doing this and that but in reality sometimes you just need to hit the sofa and chill for a day / week / month haha

I totally agree though that trying to stay relatively fit and healthy not only for your kids sake is important. I hate seeing really out of shape mums and dads, it must be hard for a child growing up not to see that this is the norm.

Anyway I'm off for a ride! :)

Reply

Captain-Snappy
+1 Niels
Merwinn  - Dec. 14, 2017, 10:54 a.m.

My $0.02,

Self-care for a parent is important. It is well-intentioned to want to give your kids all your time, but ignoring time for yourself (2-hr early AM ride or a 90 min Yoga/gym class) does not help either the parent or kid because it's about quality time not quantity of time we spend with them. If I don't get out for a quick rip at once on the wknd, I get agitated and that does nothing for the quality of my relationship with my 3 YO. I want to be a role model by showing him that riding/hiking/skiing/playing outside is really fun and it makes you feel good, even if it means spending some time away. Can't wait until he can start riding some trails as well

Reply

niels@nsmb.com
+1 Cam McRae
Niels  - Dec. 14, 2017, 7:51 a.m.

The trick is to find some exercises that work for you and make them part of your daily routine. Once they're part of your routine it turns the whole thing around: the moment you skip them, you immediately notice you don't feel as good and your riding gets worse. For me, that alone is enough motivation to keep doing them. Best upgrade I've ever done.

Reply

mightyted
0
mightyted  - Dec. 14, 2017, 8:20 a.m.

this hobby is expensive but not like hobby helicopters, light planes or even track racers. I think part of what I like is that it's attainable for many of us who try to manage a family and mortgage at the same time. Any full time working dude/dudette shouldn't feel guilty about dropping $X every few years especially considering what we get out of it

Reply

cooperquinn
+2 Tim Coleman Cam McRae
Cooper Quinn  - Dec. 14, 2017, 9:26 a.m.

Well said, Cam.

Reply

DanL
+1 Niels
stinky_dan  - Dec. 14, 2017, 11:57 a.m.

This is a great list of contacts for training! Thank you in advance

One question I have - how did you start using yoga videos like Abi's from a complete beginner perspective? 

How do you scale up yoga poses if you're really inflexible - in the same way that I can scale up/in lifts or other weight training regimes?

That's been the biggest obstacle to me when looking through her yoga videos or other online yoga courses.

Reply

niels@nsmb.com
+1 Cam McRae
Niels  - Dec. 14, 2017, 12:09 p.m.

Take some beginner classes at your local community center. An experienced instructor can see what your challenges are, show you how to make the poses easier using blocks, cushions, stool/chair/table/desk, etc., and make small corrections in your posture. After a while you start to understand what you are doing, pick the poses/exercises that work for you and go from there.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+1 Tim Coleman
Cam McRae  - Dec. 14, 2017, 5:09 p.m.

Good points below from Niels. 

My first five years of yoga were mainly done at a studio. Sadly it closed a few years ago and I haven't found a good replacement in North Van. 

It's hard to know what you are doing wrong in the beginning so going to some classes is a good idea - whether it's at a studio or not. Eion Finn's videos often offer modified versions of many poses for those of us who are more like cedar than rubber. And Abi's programs are generally designed for people like us - inflexible athletic types who haven't taken great care of ourselves.  

If I were you though I would just dive in, but carefully. Yoga shouldn't hurt (despite what Bikram says) so if you use that as a guide you should be okay. Remember that it's a non-competitive pursuit so don't compare yourself to anyone and move until it feels good.

Best of luck and let us know how it goes!

Reply

DanL
0
stinky_dan  - Dec. 15, 2017, 10:08 a.m.

I'll have to investigate some classes near me then, thanks.

I also found that several rounds high intensity tabata style exercise really helped with my cardio/aerobic fitness which feels like my largest deficiency for shore riding and it can be packed into a relatively short time - 15 minutes of jump rope is cheap and easy to get done first thing in the morning or last thing at night

Reply

blackfly
+1 Cam McRae
Peter Leeds  - Dec. 14, 2017, 5:02 p.m.

A good, simple upgrade is the old classic:  pumping iron.  Bench, military press, rows, pull ups, ab crunches...you would be surprised how the classics make riding so much better when you have the upper body strength to muscle through a tough descent and stay on track rather than getting thrown.  Also helps in the up portion if you have to hike a bike, too.  Of course, squats give the strength for the legs and best of all, the cardio comes from the riding.  Weightlifting has been my best exercise upgrade by far, and I only wish I started it sooner.

Reply

skooks
+1 Cam McRae
Skooks  - Dec. 14, 2017, 10:46 p.m.

Great thought-provoking article Cam.  Personally, I will stick with an exercise program only if it's something I truly enjoy doing. That rules out any kind of gym-based program for me. I truly love getting out on my bike though, so this is what I do as often as possible. Road bikes in summer and mountain bikes all year round. This is the fitness program that works for me. Having fitter/faster/younger friends to chase around helps alot too. 

For those parents with young kids, don't despair it gets better. You will eventually have more time to ride, and if you are lucky your kids will develop a passion for it too. Nothing beats riding with your kids, especially when they get better than you and start to teach you things. This will likely happen much sooner than you think.

Reply

LoamtoHome
+1 Niels
Jerry Willows  - Dec. 15, 2017, 11:26 p.m.

Trail building/maintaining works all the muscles and your cardio... plus you accomplish something that makes your riding more enjoyable.  Win win and it's cheaper than a gym. Strap your bike light to your helmet for night time.

Reply

sportforaction
+1 Cam McRae
Sport ForAction  - Dec. 19, 2017, 1:12 a.m.

Nice training advice!

Reply

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