At the risk of repeating myself, there is nothing quite like going for a ride with good group of guys en masse and then having a beer afterwards.
That’s exactly what I did on last Sunday. There were about ten of us and we went for a hack, up in Aro Valley, Wellington, NZ.
It was stinking hot (for Wellington), I got sun burnt and probably near enough heat stroke (or at least it felt like it after two pints of Garage Project).
There were crashes (Gerard, anyone else?), flat tyres (Matt) and of course the obligatory showing off (Matt), which I might add I wasn’t prepared to do, after someone pointed out showing off might be why my last bike frame was cracked.
Last Saturday 12 December 2016 Dirt Merchants and Santa Cruz came together to offer up Wellington’s first Santa Cruz test day. The weather played ball and the atmosphere was buzzing.
Held in Aro Valley, I went down there and got my hands on Dirt Merchant’s James personal ride, a large Bronson, with a 160 Rockshox Pike up the front and some very wide carbon rims (he looked slightly nervous – who wouldn’t!).
The first thing you notice about the Bronson when you ride it is the position. It just feels comfortable and right. Not too high, not too low: it feels like your in the bike, not on it. Probably a product of the length Santa Cruz have added on the top tube and the slackened head angle from last year.
The second thing you notice is just how nimble it is. For a 150mm travel bike it rockets up the hills, even with the suspension fully open.
I just took the bike for a quick lap on a short circuit, but I was pretty impressed. the Bronson is just so playful and willing. It pops over things effortlessly, that would normally have me pulling up hard on the bars. It also felt great through the rock garden on the loop, brushing it off like it was a gravel road.
It feels sturdy too, and is almost definitely up for a bit of a beating. In fact I would go so far as saying that the Bronson feels much like the new Specialized Stumpy, but with a bit more attitude.
Pricy? Yes, Prissy? no way, this bike means business.
Over the last year or so I have been actively trying to improve my mountain biking skills, mainly so that I can have more fun on the trails, but also because I want to kick other peoples arses on Strava and in races.
Improving in anything takes a degree of self reflection. For example taking a step back and thinking about your strengths and weaknesses and then actively considering, what can I improve.
For a lot of people, when they start something new, there is a steep (but necessary) learning curve, followed by a long plateau as they find their comfort zone and stay there.
Personally, I like to be continuously out of my comfort zone and that’s what drives me to become better. As I accomplish one thing I look for the next harder challenge.
(Incidentally this is probably what drives people to make and ride pirate trails i.e. because they run out of challenges or the ones they want don’t exist and so they build new ones).
So how am I doing and has self reflection worked?
Last year I could barely jump off a curb and now I am hitting one metre drops, gapping obstacles (albeit very baby ones), and riding down stuff I can’t even walk up.
First, I often just ride a track and have in the back of my mind, what am I doing good and what could I do better?
Second, when I know what skills I want to improve I go back to the basics, look at the tutorials on You Tube or where ever and go study.
Third, I go back to the trails and try to implement what I’ve learn’t, often walking bits of trail to work out where the best lines are (trust me the best riders do it!)
Lastly, I always set myself goals that I want to achieve. Not big goals but achievable goals. Once I achieve those goals I look for the next, bigger challenge and start the cycle all over again.
This year, I want to master the gap jump and I there’s one that’s at least two metres long that I have my eye on.
But wait there’s more…
Self reflection is all very well, but often it’s someone else’s reflection that you need! So in the new year i’m going to get myself booked in on a local skills course and see where they think I need to improve.
Last, but not least, I have a no fail rule, which means if i’m likely to kill myself I wont do it.
Dust of your Raleigh Burner and pump up your mag wheels, Wellington, New Zealand is just about to get it’s very own UCI rated BMX track. By the looks of it, it’s shaping up nicely and will be ready to ride soon.
The guys at Capital BMX Club have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to make it happen. It will cost in the region of $300K and will service115 schools with 39,000 students and 180,000 residents.
To get behind the new track I have bagged myself a lovely Capital BMX t-shirt: it looks the nuts. The next thing to do is reincarnate my BMX skills.
The Miramar track project have just announced the date for their Enduro race, and I am going to be there, like a rat up a drain pipe. It’s going to be held at Mt Crawford, Miramar, Wellington. It’s the first of several races i’m going to do this year.
The race format is usually three downhill stages which start from an Old Prison, the tracks have names such as Jail brake and Solitary. There’s a few drops and a couple of doubles and a metre or so gap jump over a stream, which make the course a bit more interesting.
Anyway, it leaves me with a total of 8 weeks to prepare, not that i’m competitive at all…
My main focus is being able to clear the double jumps in one hit (as it saves time) and being able to master the winding corners of Solitary.
To master the jumps here’s the video i’m using to help me, yes it’s rather remedial but then i’m not quite at Brandon Semenuk’s level yet.