Trials Biking – Group Ride and Solo Session

Group Ride – Colonel Ledyard Park – July 14, 2021

This past Wednesday was another cooker, with temperatures near 90 degrees and humidity thick enough to cut with a knife. With all the rain we’ve had lately and the high humidity, we figured it’d be a good idea to avoid all the ‘sweating’ rocks in the wooded areas, and opted for a more open location: Colonel Ledyard Park. After nearly melting within moments of getting out of our cars, we decided to stick to the rocks in the shade, which were still drier than the sweaty stones in or normal wooded riding spots.

Despite the stifling heat and humidity and some pretty decent fails and bails, we also had some pretty good lines. I even tried some lines I’d never tried before that frankly, kind of scared me. Somehow they were much less scary this week, and despite not quite pulling them all off. I made some good attempts.

Solo Session – July 5, 2021

We’ve been getting quite a bit of rain lately here in Southeastern, Connecticut and it’s been darned hot (it is summer, after all). Monday, July 5th was actually much cooler and overcast, so I was expecting a nice, comfortable session on my trials bike. Despite being cool, it was insanely humid. I was dripping wet with sweat in no time. After warming up, I put on gloves, but even the gloves became so sweat-logged that my hands were swimming in them – so much so, that it was hard to hold onto the handlebars.

The ground was also still damp from the rain, so my tires picked up plenty of mud, which became caked between the treads and smeared across every surface the tires touched. Soggy dirt filled my shoe soles and and collected around my pedal pins, making them slippery as well.

I struggled with some old lines as well as some new ones. In some cases I came pretty close to what I was attempting to do, but I couldn’t quite pull anything off to my satisfaction. Regardless of all the excuses, riding is always better than not riding. It’s all part of the trials experience, and always helps inch your progress forward in the long haul.

After spending a long while torturing myself on some seemingly simple lines in my little trials course in the shady woods while fending off hordes of mosquitoes, I decided to try doing a gap to front for the first time, between two pallets. As you’ll see, it was pretty awkward and quite humorous. This is one of the oddest feeling moves that I’ve ever tried on a trials bike. There are several aspects of this that I need to master, including correct body position and weight transfer, the timing of each piece of the move, precision of landing the front wheel on the edge of the target spot, wheel swaps from front to rear on the landing, overcoming my fear of faceplanting, and just being smoother.

I’d like to get this move down to extend my gap reach beyond what I can do just gapping to rear. Plus, it’s also fun and rewarding to go through the process of learning a new skill, seeing progress, and hopefully mastering it one day. Obviously, I have a long way to go to get this to look even remotely like a real gap to front.

Bike Trials Group Ride – UCONN Avery Point – July 7, 2021

Summer is definitely settling in. This week brought another hot, humid day for our bike trials group ride. Due to the amount of rain we’ve been getting lately, we opted for a nice dry, open area in the sun: The UCONN Avery Point campus. It was definitely a scorcher; I was utterly drenched (in sweat) by the end of the afternoon.

We sessioned a handful of the usual locations this week, hitting some of the same lines and trying a few new ones as well. Avery Point has a variety of natural features and a handful of manmade ones. Since we want to stay in the good graces of the campus police and the university staff, we only ride a few of the manmade features such as the concrete deck near the lighthouse.

Thankfully, the rain and thunderstorms held out until the drive home, when the sky opened up and dumped water out. My bike actually did need a good rinse…

Fun was had by all, including Scott, who made the best of things, even after snapping his bike chain.

Trials Biking Group Ride – My Yard – June 30, 2021

Wednesday was smoldering hot and humid, with temperatures in the upper 80’s or low 90’s. Perfect weather for trials riding right?

This past week I hosted the group ride at my house for the first time. We had a pretty good showing too: seven riders including me. After riding some fairly sketchy lines on rickety old pallets and lumber in the blistering sun, we migrated into the shady woods where I’ve started building my trials practice area. We closed out the session by throwing ourselves at a couple of squishy tractor tires for a while before finally calling it quits.

Of course I’ve ridden these features many times (as you may have seen in my videos), so it was pretty cool to see other riders tackling the same obstacles in different ways.

Trials Biking Group Ride – Glacial Park – June 23, 2021

This week’s group ride was at Glacial Park in Ledyard, CT. Tony (our so-called ringleader) put down what seemed likes miles of tape for gates scattered like breadcrumbs down the trail, but most of the session was focused on a handful of features where the taped sections ended. (I didn’t get any riding on all those earlier gates – sorry Tony!) Regardless, it was a fun ride as usual. I pushed myself do do a couple lines that were scarier than I would normally do.

This Was Only My Third Time Mountain Biking!

Trials biking skills definitely help on the MTB trails in a number of ways such as riding this narrow rock ridge

This past weekend, one of my trials biking crew and his wife loaned me a hardtail and took me mountain biking at Hurd State Park. I’d only been mountain biking twice before (a couple years ago) and have been wanting to hit the trails again for quite a while. In fact, I think I need to make this a habit. Man, what a blast!

While I’m certainly not going to win any biking speed records, my trials experience has definitely helped me tackle some of the obstacles on the trail. I only ‘dabbed’ a handful of times. I’m sure that my speed will increase with comfort on the bike and on the trails.

Thanks to A&Z for taking me out on the trail, loaning me a cool MTB, and filming me with the follow cam. You guys rock!

Trials Biking: How Far Can I Gap?

It was a sunny, hot, humid day. What a great opportunity to see how far I can gap! Or maybe not…

I’ve been trying to improve my balance and control in general, and to learn better trials techniques. And of course I’ve been trying to pull of bigger and bigger moves. During this weekend’s ride, my goal was to maximize my gap distance. In this episode, I tried to tell more of the story, so I was a bit of a ‘chatty Cathy.’ If you’re a trials rider already, hopefully you can relate. If you’re not, well, hopefully you’ll gain an appreciation for the struggle that goes on behind the scenes when you see the edits with all the huge moves and stylish tricks.

After throwing myself between two pallets for probably an hour, I tried one final line made of sketchy wooden pallets and an old plank. Earlier in the session I had spent 30+ minutes practicing trackstands, but I figured that would probably bore viewers to tears.

Here’s the article on rear wheel control that I mentioned in the video: Coach’s corner: Rear wheel control (Bashguardian)

Bike Trials Double Header – Riding at Home

Precise balance is a critical trials biking skill. This 2×4 ‘rail’ is narrower than my bike’s tires, so unlike when normally riding a bike, you can’t turn the handlebars to keep from tipping – it’s all about body weight distribution to maintain center of balance.

May 31, 2021: Back to Basics – Balance and Motion

Ever have one of those days where you’re just not ‘feeling it’? Yeah, I have them too. On weekends when I plan to ride my trials bike I usually convert those ‘off’ days into opportunities to practice trials basics instead of pushing myself and getting injured.

For most of this session I focused on balance and precision on a ‘skinny’ beam, which is a 2×4 with the skinny side up (i.e., 1.5 inches wide, which is narrower than my tires). I spent about 1/2 hour trying to just ride all the way across it, then about another 1/2 hour trying (unsuccessfully) to rear hop across it.

I finished out the session trying to improve my pedalups. I could get onto 2 pallets almost consistently (a first!), though they weren’t the most stylish execution. Since I was able to do 2, I tried 3 pallets, but couldn’t quite get it. I finished out the session doing more pedalups onto two pallets.

June 13, 2021: Gaps

This weekend I decided to just chill at home and practice gaps in my backyard setup. I tried several different lines, using a pallet, rocks, and rubber tires. Aspects of each one made this challenging, but that was the point. Using the pallet let me get more stable on setting up the gaps, but it was sloped downward for one line, and very narrow for another. The rubber tires are squishy and concave. The rocks are uneven. All provide challenges that build skills… which is exactly why I built this practice area.

Bike Trials Group Ride, Narragansett, RI – June 11, 2021

Send it! Drop gap over a tide pool during a group ride in Narragansett, RI

For the second week in a row, our group ride hit the shoreline ledge rocks in Narragansett, RI. Again we were blessed with a gorgeous afternoon. Sunny, but not hot – a perfect riding day. Since last week was all filmed as POV, this week I decided to use the tripod instead to give a better perspective of what the features look like.

Trials Biking: Group Ride – June 2, 2021 – Narragansett, RI

Trials bike riders on the rock ledge of the Narragansett, RI shoreline
Trials riding paradise – Narragansett, RI

This week’s group ride was on the shoreline ledges of Narragansett, RI. This was my first time riding here, so I had no idea what to expect. It certainly didn’t disappoint! There were so many good lines to try, limitless possibilities. I stretched myself a bit, doing drops that are a little higher than usual for me – always intimidating when the landing is nothing but rock.

Much of the video is POV for lines I rode, but I also tried to capture the other riders as well. (Note to self: Need to do less POV and use the dang tripod!) Unfortunately, the camera always makes everything look smaller, smoother, and more level than it actually is. Some of the drops I did were 2-3 feet high, but they look like they’re only about 6 inches in the video.

This video is little bit longer than usual, because there was just so much to show. Apparently I did quite a few drops and gaps. I’m trying to get more comfortable and in control at the edge of the drops, and to overcome my fear when getting onto the rear wheel and gapping on downslopes. When your front wheel is downhill from your rear wheel, it’s easy to have your rear wheel shoot from beneath you, sometimes resulting in a painful landing when you’re on rocks.

It was a good time. In addition to the countless challenges and fun lines, there were lots of encouraging words as well as fun ribbing and banter, typical for our sessions. This is a great group of folks to ride with. As always, I’m looking forward to next week’s group ride!

Sometimes Getting Started Is The Hardest Part

Photo by Ann H from Pexels

Whether chasing a challenging goal or just trying to accomplish a mundane ‘everyday’ task, just taking the first step is often one of the most difficult hurdles to overcome. Regardless of whether the obstacle is fear (of success or failure), lack of motivation, lack of information, or any other myriad reasons, the only way to get through is to move forward.

While the fact that you have to actually do something to get started seems intuitively obvious, it still helps to be reminded. Plus, knowing something and actually doing it are two different things. Lately I have been reading books like a crazy person. A number of the books I have read recently, as well as some I have read in years past, explicitly address the importance of just getting started, offering techniques to overcome the inertia of inaction. My own experience aligns with what I’ve read, in both my professional and personal life.

What Do the ‘Experts’ Say About Getting Started?

Here are some books that you may want to read that cover various aspects of getting started. Each of these books addresses different pieces of the puzzle. I have found that there is no panacea, no ‘one-size-fits-all’ method for improving any aspect of life and productivity is no exception. Reading multiple books and studying a variety of systems provides a diverse set of perspectives and techniques from which you can synthesize the techniques that work best for you.

  • Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work That Matters, by Jon Acuff (Theme: Always be starting)
  • Atomic Habits: an Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones, by James Clear (Theme: Create positive, manageable, “low-friction” habits to overcome inertia and build sustainable momentum)
  • The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield (Theme: Overcome The Resistance, which is always fighting to hold you back and keep you from starting, particularly with creative works)
  • Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future, by Leonard A. Schlesinger and Charles F. Kiefer (Theme: Use low-risk experiments and small steps to adapt to new/unknown types of work, learning from low-consequence failures)
  • Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, by Brian Tracy (Theme: Leverage various techniques to overcome procrastination and get going; start with the most ‘distasteful’ thing to get that out of the way up front)
  • Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, by David Allen (Theme: Identify the specific next action to overcome lack of action caused by ambiguity)

Practical Examples

A handful of personal examples come to mind with respect to getting started. I’m sure there are many more, but these are fairly poignant.

As an engineering supervisor, I have had employees who struggled with making progress on their assignments – in fact, they specifically struggled with getting started. After several discussions with me regarding their assignments, they still appeared to be stuck. In these cases, I explained that I was not going to judge them for imperfection of works in progress. Next, I told them that I could not help them unless they picked a direction and started moving. Once they started doing something (anything !), then I could provide coaching and support; however, as the saying goes, “you can’t steer a parked car.” This approach usually helps.

Examples abound in everyday life as well. For example, there are weekends when either the weather isn’t very inviting or I’m just not particularly motivated, but I should be riding my trials bike. Not out of duty (it’s certainly not drudgery!), but because I love trials and because you only get better by riding more. After realizing that I’m just fighting my own internal resistance, I usually try a very simple technique: just begin doing something related to getting outside to ride my bike. Usually I going to my bureau and start taking out the clothes I will ride in. After that, I change into those clothes. Then maybe I’ll get the GoPro ready, get a bottle of water, and so on. The key is to start by doing a very easy activity that moves me toward my objective. When that activity is complete, I start another.

After the inertia of starting has been overcome, sustaining momentum to keep going gets easier. It’s much less difficult to keep moving than it is to start. Once you realize this fact, practice building self-awareness so that you can recognize and identify your source of resistance, and overcome it by just getting started. Study strategies and tactics discussed in the aforementioned books and any other sources that you find. Leverage what they have learned, and tailor your personalized approach through experimentation.

Start. Evaluate. Adapt. Repeat.