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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Things I learned from participating in a BikeTrial Competition

First off, why did I participate in a BikeTrial competition? Firstly, I want to see what it feels like to ride a section other than the ones I setup myself... LOL. Secondly, I can learn so much from so many riders by just watching them ride a section, and then trying myself. Thirdly and most importantly, it is just so much fun!!!!

Here is a list of things I learned from participating in the Round 1 of Singapore National BikeTrials Competition this year:

1. Favourite or "chocolate" foot

When first starting to learn track-stand, you have to determine which of your feet is your "favourite" or "chocolate" foot. This is the foot that you place on the fore pedal. My favourite foot is my right foot. I was only able to track-stand consistently with my favourite foot in front. After training for a while, I managed to get comfortable with having the left foot in front, albeit inconsistently.

What I learned during the competition was that being consistent with track-stand using either foot was critical to riding the sections. Because sometimes, you cannot control which foot you need to use for a dab, especially when you loose your balance.

If you are not comfortable with the foot on the pedal, recovering from the dab could be very expensive... LOL. That is, utilising an extra dab to get your favourite foot on the pedal to get back to riding.

During a dab, the position of your bike could be in all kind of weird positions, which may be difficult to adjust, maneuver or recover from. So train yourself to recover from a dab with your trial bike in as many varied positions as possible.

In conclusion, it is important to train yourself to recover from a dab using either foot on the pedal and with the trial bike in any position.

2. Walk The Section Before Riding

I learn from watching the more experienced riders that walking through the section before riding is very important. Half the battle is already won if you can determine the perfect riding line prior to starting on the section. It will also enable you to fully utilise the 2 minutes allocated to finish riding the section.

When walking through the sections try to do the following:
  • Identify possible difficult parts of the sections that will require extra effort and energy to ride.
  • Identify when to use a dab if necessary.
  • Identify rest points along the sections. Use your tires or pedals to rest if necessary.
  • Identify and evaluate the techniques to be used for riding the section.
  • If possible, see how other riders ride the sections and adapt it to your style and skill level.

3. Slow down and Don't Panic

I have a big problem with this. Maybe it is the adrenalin... LOL. You just have to tell yourself to do it. I suppose more competition experience will help here. But I doubt it... LOL.

4. Rest

Take the time to rest while riding a section. Relax, 2 minutes is longer than you think... Hahaha.... yeah right! This is why when walking the section, you need to identify the rest points, where you can use the least amount of energy to rest by using the pedals or tires. (For UCI competition rules, you can't use the pedals to rest.)

5. Breathe

I always see the experienced riders taking hard and deep breaths before they ride a difficult part of a section. The correct way to breath would be in through the mouth and out through the mouth? (Can someone confirm this?)

Anyway, my problem is that I forget to breath when I ride... LOL. This affects my stamina and I am usually exhausted by the time I reach one third of a section... LOL. Som good news is that since then, I have improved quite significantly... LOL. So learn to breath... Hahah.

6. Understanding Bike setup

Understanding how to setup a bike properly for a section is critical. What I learned during this particular competition was that when riding "natural" (natural means sections built from the natural terrains - grass, moss, logs, roots, rocks, etc.) deflate your tires reasonably according to your weight. This will enable you to get more tire surface area contact with the ground, thus giving you more grip.

In my case, I deflated my tire too much and received a puncture on the front wheel when I missed an extend and landed on the edge of a rock as I slipped... LOL.

Another tip I learned was to loosen the screws on the brake lever brackets holding it to the handlebar. This is just in case when you crash your bike, having a loose bracket will prevent your aluminum brake lever from breaking off (and thus ending your competition if you dun have a spare).

7. Understand the Rules

Knowing the BikeTrial rules is definitely important for any rider intending on competing. I definitely need to have better understanding of the rules. Maybe after I get myself trained as a Observer... LOL.

I still need a lot of training in all the above areas. There are probably a lot of other things which I am not aware of, but this is a start.

The competition really made me realised how much more things I needed to learn and I am only referring to the basic stuff. Forget the rest, balancing on "natural" terrains is a big challenge for me. Mostly, I trained on hard concrete and tarmac ground. I was totally not used to the varied combination of loose, wet, slippery and soft ground.

In any case, if you are a beginner like me, I hope that the above points will help you ride better... If you have more points to contribute, please feel free to post your comments. Cheers... :-)