kingdomexperiences

3 ways to improve your jumping skills!

Words and Photo by: Quinn Campbell

One of the best ways to become more comfortable and capable out on the trails is to improve your jumping skills. However, it’s essential to leave the ground both confidently, and more importantly, intentionally. Whether you’re a seasoned rider looking to refine your technique, or someone who’s just tapped into their love for two wheels, here are three ways you can improve your jumping skills.

1) Start Small

I’ll begin here because safety is key. I hate to break it to you, but mountain biking is inherently dangerous even before you leave the earth, there’s no sound reason for your practice jump to be the biggest thing around. To start, find a jump you feel reasonably comfortable on and begin to familiarize yourself with the feeling of catching air. How does body position affect your takeoff and landing? How does your bike respond in the air? With a little repetition on the same jump you can move up in size and begin pushing your boundaries with more confidence.

2) Hit The Pump Track

Do a little research and find a pump track near you. Each time you hit a jump your body does a very similar motion to “pumping” a roller. You push the bike into the takeoff and pull upwards into the air while leaving the lip. It all happens in a matter of seconds, each movement practically indistinguishable from the next. Laps through the dirt rollers and tight berms will dramatically improve your timing and additionally cultivate an understanding of how your bike moves beneath you, both of which are essential components for a graceful takeoff.

3) Hone The Bunny Hop

This is the most difficult, and consequently, the most beneficial skill to learn. The bunny hop will allow you to properly control your departure and trajectory. It also gives you the ability to make jumps out of natural trail features, rocks, roots, and rolls will become opportunities to lift your bike off the ground. Don’t worry if you haven’t quite mastered the bunny hop, with a few pointers and some practice time it’ll become effortless.

Learning on flat pedals will help build proper technique. If you were hopping with clips before reading this, I’d change out your pedals and give it another go! There are three main steps to complete a proper bunny hop. Begin by lowering your chest and bending your arms and legs, essentially preloading your body. Next, in an explosive motion, move up and slightly back, pulling the bars toward your lap while pushing against the pedals. Your hips should be just behind the rear axle. Then, once your front wheel is off the ground, point your toes at a downward angle and scoop the pedals with your feet while bending your knees. This will pull the back wheel off the ground. If may feel awkward at first, but with repetition the motions will begin to blend and before long you’ll have both wheels off the ground!


When spring rolls around, or if you feel ambitious and want to haul out the fatbike and get some preseason practice in, take these three tips and put them to the test. New lines will present themselves on old trails and your confidence and bike handling skills will increase. Before long your rides will be filled with newfound airtime, greater control, and a propensity to show off.         

The Escape Artist: Vermont Dirt Road Riding

By Collin Daulong

Ernest Hemingway once said: “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle,” and that guy is pretty smart.

Dirt road riding has become a recent obsession amongst cyclists of all types: the overworked business person escaping from the concrete jungle, the suburban cyclist dodging the over caffeinated (and generally distracted) drivers, and all other rider archetypes of varying fitness levels and ages. These riders are trading in their favorite stretches of tarmac for a slice of solitude in the countryside.

When looking at dirt road riding and finding that perfect slice of inner peace, there is no denying Vermont as a mecca, especially when looking at New England specifically. Here are 3 reasons why the dirt road riding in Vermont is a must for any cyclist.

  1. The sheer volume of unpaved surfaces and the population density (or lack thereof). Vermont boasts an impressive paved to unpaved surface ratio, there are about 8,000 miles of unpaved surfaces versus only 6,000 miles of paved roads. When you couple that ratio with a population density of 48 people per square miles versus 742 and 858 (!) to its southern states, (Connecticut and Massachusetts respectively,) you can see why it is easier to find your sliver of solitude in the bucolic Vermont countryside.
  2. There are amazing and world renowned gastronomic gems hidden in the hills. You will be amazed where the most unsuspecting dirt road will take you and what sort of gastronomic experience will present itself. In a little town called Greensboro Vermont, a town that you could ride through and not even realize you just rode through a town, you will find one of the most recognized brewery and cheese makers in the world (yes I said the world!) Hill Farmstead brewery has been named “Best Beer in the World” by RateBeer.com 5 times in the last 6 years. Right down the road from this acclaimed brewery is The Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm. These cheese makers, similar to their bubbly and hoppy brethren down the road, are no strangers to world’s best awards. Owning accomplishments such as: “World’s Best Unpasteurized Cheese” and “Best in Class” from the World’s Cheese Awards and World’s Cheese Championships, respectively, are only a small tasting (no pun intended) of their accomplishments. These cheese and beer makers are only a sampling of what the unique Vermont countryside offers. Having gems like these in the hills offers the most delicious proverbial “carrot” at the end of the stick for your rides.
  3. It looks just like the brochure! To put it simply: the views are positively breathtaking. Speaking from my own personal experience while spending a lot of time on the dirt roads, there is not one ride that goes by where I am not floored by the uninterrupted beauty that the Vermont countryside has to offer, even if I have seen the same view hundreds of times before. Vermont does not have the tallest or most dramatic mountain peaks in the world, but what it does offer is a landscape that is stunning in its own way and calming to the soul. You will find yourself transported back to a simpler time not engrossed in technology and unsolicited tweet storms, when it was just you riding your bike for the unadulterated love of being outside with yourself or friends.

If you have not gotten off the pavement recently to ride some roads less traveled, we highly suggest it! We know that transitioning to new types of riding presents a whole new slew of challenges and curiosities, so if you have any questions at all regarding dirt road riding or how to try it out please let us know!

 

 

 

 

 

High School Cross Country Mountain Bike Racing!

By: Chris Mehlman, Photo: Alice Johannen

Mountain biking is a fast-growing sport. More and more people are taking it up as a way to socialize and challenge themselves physically and mentally. However, according to pinkbike.com, mountain bikers are “mostly male, between the ages of 25-44, and relatively affluent”. How can we ensure that mountain biking will continue to flourish in the future and attract a more diverse range of participants than it currently does? The answer: youth XC mountain-bike racing.

Cross-country mountain bike racing is not your typical middle or high school sport. Most kids gravitate towards traditional team sports such football, basketball, and baseball. However, mountain biking offers much that traditional youth sports do not. First, it is a lifelong activity. While many kids play team sports through high school, they often end up stopping once they graduate, since it is hard to find the time or a league in which to play those sports later in life. When kids take up mountain biking, however, they develop a passion for a lifelong sport. Even if they do not choose to race after high school, they now have a way to enjoy themselves and stay fit through their working life and into retirement. Second, mountain biking offers an alternative for kids who are not interested in traditional ball sports. I played lacrosse throughout middle school, but found that mountain bike racing offered me a chance to challenge myself physically
and mentally in a way that no other sport could, while still allowing me to be in a team
environment. While XC running is the closest comparison, mountain biking racing involves a longer effort and more technical prowess. Kids who are more interested in the technical nature can challenge themselves through that aspect, while kids who want the aerobic challenge can also be pushed to their limit. In mountain biking, a young racer can feel his or her own work directly paying off and bringing results or PR’s. Finally, and most importantly, the mountain biking community is a fun, welcoming group to be around. Just go to any high school race, and you will see hundreds of smiling faces, kids from different teams hanging out with each other, and a general sense of community that other larger sports do not have.

For these reasons, youth mountain bike racing is growing at an astonishing rate. New England High School Cycling Association (NEHSCA) was founded 2015, with its first race taking place in the spring of 2016. Even at the first race, there were over 175 kids. I, like many other kids who mountain bike, had always struggled to find other young people to ride with, but once I started racing in NEHSCA, I found a whole community who shared my passion. There were racers of all different ages, from 5th-12th grade, competing in several different categories. Some had raced for years, and were there to win, and others were there just to have fun. As a testament to the growing popularity of youth mountain bike racing, NEHSCA more than doubled in size in their second season, and is on track to continue that growth this year.

This massive growth is not a phenomenon isolated to New England. Throughout the country, there already are well-established middle and high school racing leagues run through the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). More and more leagues keep popping up each year, and I have no doubt that there will soon be a league in almost every state.

These leagues are also working hard to attract people other than the stereotyped affluent white male. The largest barrier to mountain biking is typically the cost. However, large companies like Cannondale, Trek, Specialized, and Shimano, along with local shops, have been generous in supporting youth cycling by offering discounted bikes and equipment to youth racers. They do this because they know that these leagues are the foundation for a strong future for mountain biking; they are these companies’ future customer bases. Some leagues have also established teams in the inner-city in less-affluent neighborhoods. In addition, many leagues, including NEHSCA, have worked hard to attract more girls to the sport, through girls-only clinics andgroups. Little Bellas, an organization founded by professional racer Lea Davison to help get more girls on bikes in order to develop self-confidence, has also helped leagues with this mission. By introducing kids of different genders and socio-economic backgrounds to riding now, mountain biking will be even more popular and widespread 20 years down the line.

Now, when I ride in the trail systems around Boston, I always smile when as I see more and more kids in NEHSCA jerseys riding in groups, or out with their parents. The bug has hit them, just as it has hit all of us.

5 ways to better plan and dress for your fat bike adventure!

By: Tom Seymour

Adventure can mean many things. Often when we think of adventure in the context of cycling, our minds immediately go to far off places and big landscapes. But adventure can happen anywhere at any time and fatbikes are a great tool for adventure seekers everywhere. This being January in Vermont, I’m mostly thinking about winter adventures right now. Winter is great here in the NEK, but the temperatures can vary quite a lot and quickly. In this article I will discuss some ways to stay warm and comfortable on your next winter time fat bike adventure.

 1: Know your abilities and plan accordingly. 

According to a 2014 article in Men’s Health, fat biking can burn up to 1,500 calories an hour. While we all won’t be burning that many calories every hour we are on a fat bike, we can look at this information as a gauge of how much work our bodies may have to do during our next fat bike adventure. The first step I take when planning for a fat bike ride is to look at the weather and the trail reports and use this information to plan my ride and to choose the clothing I will use to regulate my body temperature. If you are new to cold weather cardio, I recommend  shorter, close to home rides to learn how your body and equipment respond to various temperatures.

2: Layers!!

Most of us are familiar with the concept of layering your clothing to stay comfortable in cold weather. When exercising in sub freezing temps, the right layers are key to staying warm and as dry as possible. The first layer to consider is your base layer. Whether you choose a mid weight or lightweight layer, make sure it is form fitting to allow the base layer to move the sweat that you will inevitably produce away from your skin.The next layer will be either the mid or outer layer; it will usually have some type of insulation and if used as an outer layer should have some type of wind protection. Mid layers should be some type of breathable insulation and should fit small enough so that some type of shell can be worn over it. Though fat bike specific clothing is now being offered, most cross country ski clothing works well as does winter hiking clothing.

3: Wind  protection

Even though winter riding tends to be slower than summer time riding, we are still moving through the cold air at pace fast enough to make wind protection important.  Like the rest of our clothing, exactly how much wind protection we need depends upon the temperature and the type of riding being done. For example; on a 30 degree day in the woods, wind resistant garments are not needed nearly as much as the same day on back roads where speeds are higher and much of the tree cover is lost. Again, fat bike specific clothing is now becoming available but other types of winter clothing can work well and in a pinch, a rain jacket worn over an insulating layer or two can work to block the wind. If shopping for a new garment, look for one with a wind-proof/resistant front and a more breathable back. Also look for stretchy material to allow for full range of motion and make sure it is large enough to accommodate an insulating layer worn underneath.

4: Hands, feet and head

These are areas that a very important to take care of; not many things can change the tone of your adventure like excessively cold hands or feet. For most people, a thin winter hat under your existing bike helmet will work well, you can also pair this with a neck warmer or use a balaclava for an all-in-one solution. When Temperatures dip below 10 degrees fahrenheit, an insulated alpine ski helmet can keep you warmer and keep more of the wind off of your head. Gloves could be an entire post by themselves! To keep it simple, I recommend thin glove liners and a good warm glove that blocks the wind. If your hands are particularly sensitive to the cold, consider pogies(see next point) and/or temporary chemical hand warmers. For shoes, you can choose from some fat bike specific offerings from various brands or use an insulated winter boot with a non aggressive tread that will allow good contact with the pedal. If you are prone to cold feet, you can use chemical toe warmers or there are even heated socks available.

5: Dress your bike: frame bags and pogies

 Two last items to consider to make your next fat bike adventure more comfortable are pogies(handlebar mounted mittens) and a frame bag. Pogie designs vary but they all focus on one thing, sheltering your hands from the wind and cold. Pogies are not only great for warmer hands at lower temperatures, but they also allow the use of a much thinner glove when the temperatures rise allowing for a more natural feel of the brake and shift levers. Some pogies include pockets on the inside to use for snack or hand warmer storage. Framebags fit in the front triangle of your bike’s frame an can provide storage for tools, snacks, extra clothes and water. In fact, a frame bag in conjunction with an insulated water bottle is the best way I’ve found to keep water from freezing during colder rides. By replacing a back pack with a frame bag, we lower our center of gravity for a more stable ride and have the best solution for maintaining an unfrozen water source.

The Butt Smear – Collin Daulong

Mountain biking and instruction are two things that have not come together universally until relatively recently. I have done some thinking on why this is and came up with a few reasons why.

“ It’s as easy as riding a bike”; one of the oldest cliches in the book. Used to describe anything that is easy or intuitive; mostly used because of how young we are when we start riding a bike.
The sport of Mountain Biking is relatively young, only in the 70’s did Gary Fisher and Joe Breezer start making klunkers to descend down sketchy fire roads with reckless abandon.
The final reason why I think these two have not been tied together more tightly is because the race scene has been relatively under exposed compared to some of it’s other outdoor counterparts like skiing and snowboarding.

Now that we are living in the age of social competition like Strava, the price of admission in the form of equipment is becoming lower and race formats are becoming more friendly for all ability level and age groups, we are seeing more and more people seeking out assistance in the form of instruction to make themselves better riders. I cannot stress enough the importance of getting targeted instruction – even if you think you do not need it (sure says the guy trying to sell instruction). Before you judge, let me explain myself in the form of a story.

I have been deeply passionate about all things mountain bike since around 1997. I was a “husky” kid with pimples, braces and 4 eyes who did not fit into the regular repertoire of middle school and high school sports (let alone their jerseys) so I sought out something I could call my own: mountain biking. Ever since then I have made it a goal to remain competitive against myself and try to be my best. Over the years I thought I had gotten it, I was riding faster and faster, becoming more skilled, cornering better and even getting fit!

Last year, I took a certification class to become a certified mountain bike instructor through PMBIA. I went in expecting to check off boxes and not learn much that would be new, as I felt that the skills taught were things I was doing intuitively for years and even decades. I went in with an open mind and acted like a sponge. Many of the things we learned like how to shift your weight when climbing, how not to shift under load and using front brake versus rear brake….boring right? Especially at my superior level (insert heavy sarcasm)?!

And then BOOM, it happened, I learned something game changing, something that I use hundreds of times a ride that sets my riding apart – it was the butt smear. Ah yes, I am sure you are dying to hear more about my butt smear! It is actually a pretty ingenious way of thinking about cornering and how to position yourself and your butt for that matter. It means that when you go around a corner imagine smearing your butt on the outside edge of the corner to position your body correctly to get the best traction to carry your speed better. In all honesty this is something that I was doing for years prior, but it was not until I had an instructor help me visualize it in this way that helped me optimize the motion. This visualization and different way of thinking about something has lead to an increased amount of fun and excitement on EVERY SINGLE RIDE I have had since then.

There is a quote: “the physician that treats himself has a fool for a patient” and this could not have come to life more thanin the PMBIA Course. I am not saying instruction is for everyone or for you, but what I am saying is that if you open yourself to the opportunities that targeted instruction can present it can enhance EVERY SINGLE RIDE of yours after that.

Now let’s go smear our butts and ride to a better future!

Happy Trails,

Collin

Beat Those Pre-Race Nerves!

Battling pre-race nerves is not always an easy task. For some, channeling nerves into excitement and adrenaline comes naturally. Yet sometimes these nerves can be debilitating – they cause anxiety, fear, and flooding thoughts of self-doubt that normally don’t exist. Here are some tips to help overcome the harmful effects of pre-race nerves:

1.) Remember that racing is no different than training. It can be hard to do this with the added competition and atmosphere of a race. Try to keep your race routine as similar to training as possible. There’s no need to do anything “special” on race day that you wouldn’t do on a normal training day. Doing so can lead to added pressure to compete well.

2.) Visualize. Visualization is powerful tool and is shown to stimulate the same parts of you mind your that are used when actually performing the actions you visualize. Imagining yourself ride sections of the course the way you want will give you confidence, because in your mind you have already mastered them.

3.) Engage in positive self-talk. Positive self-talk can be used to combat doubtful emotions and thoughts that may arise from nerves. Find a mantra that speaks to you and the kinds of things you are trying to combat on race day. Remind yourself of the things you are good at so that you can channel those strengths in the race, and feel confident beforehand.

The key is to learn how to make your nerves work for you, instead of against you. If you let your nerves control you too much, they can become crippling and debilitating. When channeled properly, however, they can create a powerful source of adrenaline that can help you go even faster on race day.

Moriah Wilson

Quinn Gets Excited for Summer!

New England winters are arguably more brutal than those of any other location in the United States. The unfortunate combination of length, temperature, and severe vitamin D deficiency make spring– and the beginning of bike season– that much more tantalizing.

February has graced those of us here in East Burke, Vermont with a surprising number of pow days, and I will admit, they make the heart of winter substantially more bearable. But no matter how many turns I carve on soft groomers, or cliffs I jump in hardwood forests I can’t replicate the excitement of bike seasons first pedal strokes.

By late April, Darling Hill, sleepy and trimmed with feet of snow in the winter, is replaced by a bustling scene of locals and tourists who’ve pulled their bikes from the shed, oiled their chains, and made their way to the Kingdom Trails. There’s a constant, palpable excitement which presents itself through customers face splitting grins and muddy shins after the morning’s first miles.

As opening day wears on, my excitement will grow exponentially, and for the last hour in the bike shop I can hardly contain myself. I sneak glances at the clock. Thirty minutes, ten, five, and the first “open” sign of summer is rolled up and brought inside. With the jitters of a six-year-old on Christmas eve I’ll tie the familiar laces of my riding shoes and plot a mental map of the trails I love so much. Threading my handlebars through the shop’s door frame as my cleats settle securely into the pedals, I’ll crank towards the trail head and into the new season. There will be countless afternoons during the summer that start just like that, but for now I’m waiting in anticipation of opening day, sucking wind on a stationary bike and wishing the turns I make in the woods were atop two wheels and a ribbon of dirt.

Quinn