I have a friend who often tells me, “In Montana there are three things we’re never late for…”. I’m late (sometimes) and he (always) has a schedule to keep.
While I’m inclined to remind him that we’re out for a social bike ride, we’re not in Montana, we’re not going to church, work, or dinner, I concede his point. Being tardy is inconsiderate.
However, life happens. Traffic gets congested, our kids take priority, the phone rings, or we can’t find a water bottle while heading out the door. So, invariably, at some point or other, you’ll be waiting at the trailhead for a friend and thinking about A River Runs Through It.
So, what do you do? The options seem obvious.
- Play on your phone.
- Seethe and think of something cutting to say.
- Relax and remember you’re supposed to be riding for fun?
(Pick the fun option, pick the fun option, pick the fun option.)
There’s actually something else that you could be doing. Something that will actually improve your riding.
“Practice what,” you may ask? Well let’s see….
1. Track stands:
Sure managing a track stand makes you look cool and if you’re good enough you can even be looking at your watch when your friend (finally) arrives, but there’s more. A solid track stand forces you to refine your balance and body position on the bike. This progression leads to better riding and trail skills that will allow you to manage slow speed maneuvers better.
Rider suddenly stops on a climb in front of you? You want a second look before a roll down or steep section? Reconsidering your line for a feature or descent? No problem. Your track stand will get you there.
2. Braking Drills:
I know, we can all use your brakes. Day one, page one, of the lessons. Everyone can do it. Except…it’s an under appreciated skill that is foundational to everything else on the bike.
Take the time to play with braking points, feeling how your center of balance changes under different braking conditions. Practice regaining traction control once you’ve started a skid (gravel parking lots only please).
The better your braking the better your other riding will be and the more confident you will become.
3. Cornering Drills
There isn’t a rider riding who can’t improve their cornering.
Red Bull riders? They work on it. EWS Pros? They work on it. World Cup DH Champions? They run cone drills, to work on their cornering. Riders on National, Provincial, and Trade Teams? You see where I’m going with this….
OK, so even if you’re not striving to be an elite rider, cornering drills will offer a great skill reset and a good warm up for your ride allowing you to bring more confidence into your time on the bike.
4. Any other skill or maneuver that you’re trying to hone for your season. You’ve got some time, why not make the most of it.
If you don’t want to do drills, stretch. Take the time your friend has gifted you and run through a few mobility exercises, your body will thank you for it.
Now, rather than being grumpy or clever, you can thank your tardy friend for giving you an otherwise missed opportunity to practice!