Dirt Skills MTB Coaching: Part 3, Trail Scanning / Awareness
Hey everyone, thanks for checking in for week three of Essential Dirt Skills.
I hope you have all had a great week practicing new body positions and are feeling more comfortable and stable on the bike. Now that is beginning to feel normal, let’s talk about scanning and trail awareness.
Looking well ahead and scanning the terrain is the best way to maximize the time you have to set your bike and your body position for what lies ahead. Whether racing between the tape, shredding local trails or ripping the pump track, we need to know what we are about to encounter. Scanning the trail and its’ surroundings will let you know whether the track is clear and safe for you to tackle at full speed.
Always be on the look out for anything that might cause an accident. Stopped riders, walkers, animals or trail intersections are some of the most important things to be aware of. These can be unpredictable; slow down and proceed with caution. Better to miss out on a few metres of fun than spend 6 weeks off the bike as a result of a crash that could have been easily avoided.
When riding, think about keeping your chin up, this can be a great way to stop your eyes from dropping too low. With your eyes up, you will be able to look further ahead - helping you look for dangers, choose better lines and maintain speed to flow the trails with confidence.
Sometimes when things get tight and technical, we need a better idea of where our front wheel is. Once you have scanned the trail ahead and know what is coming up, it is ok to momentarily drop your eyes to see what your front wheel is doing, just make sure they don’t stay down for long.
Next time you go for a ride, play around with this. Try looking as far ahead as possible then try looking directly in front of your wheel, you will quickly discover the benefits of each.
Make sure you try this on trails you know so you don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation. Although there may be times when you feel like you are the only rider in the bush always have a friend riding with you as a spotter, just in case you encounter someone coming the other way.
Scanning and looking ahead is a vital part of trail awareness. Signage at mountain bike trails has come a long way with frequent signs indicating trail difficulty as well as warnings for jumps, drops, gaps and intersections. Seeing these signs early gives you more time to decide whether it is necessary to adjust your riding to suit.
While we are on the topic of trail awareness here are a couple of other things a good rider should be conscious of:
Whether catching your breath at the start, stopping to have another go at a technical section or celebrating at the end of a trail, always stop off the trail and be in a place where you are visible to other trail users. Whenever you pull up, ask yourself ‘how would I feel if I came across a rider stopped here?’ a little thought and consideration goes a long way, and may just avoid a tyre to the back of the head.
When you encounter others, how you handle the situation says a lot about the person you are. Every situation is different, looking a long way ahead will give each person time to assess the situation. Quite often a little bit of patience and consideration from two riders will allow them to pass safely without either of them having to stop.