Being a girl and a relatively new mountain biker makes you an appealing target for well-meaning, more experienced riders to dump their knowledge on, solicited or not. In fact, it’s difficult to go on any kind of ride without relentlessly being prodded with the same nuggets of basic mountain bike knowledge, reckons Charlie Lyon.
When I’ve asked for it, this advice comes gratefully received, but when it’s imparted ad-hoc, especially when there’s no evidence I need the direction, it tends to smart like a mud glob in the eye. And it becomes more of a pedal strike if it’s just plain wrong. Still, I’m polite, so I tend to keep shtum, and instead, I’ll give voice here to the iffiest bits of advice I’ve been given over the last few months.
Situation 1: Bleeding in a trail centre.
Advice from a man having a coffee: You can get that grit out of your knee using a pan scourer.
Professional advice from nurse in the minor injuries unit: Do not at any cost take a pan scourer to an open wound like this. A gentle jet of water will work out the dirt.”
Situation 2: Riding a red-grade trail in the Forest of Dean at a gentle pace.
Advice from a random rider who passed me: You need to buy a full-suspension bike for this really.
Professional advice from a mountain bike coach based in the Forest of Dean: You do not need a full-suspension bike to ride a red-grade trail here.
Situation 3: Riding with a beginner’s group on gentle natural trails in the Forest of Dean.
Advice from a fellow rider: You’ll want to swap that hardtail for a full-suspension bike soon.
Professional advice from a mountain bike coach based in the Forest of Dean: You do not need a full-suspension bike to ride the gentle natural trails here.
Situation 4: Descending a short but steep and stony track.
Advice from club rider I’ve never spoken to before: You want to get all your weight back over the back tyre for this.
Professional advice from a mountain bike coach: Don’t put your weight over the back tyre or you’ll lose control of the front. Keep low so you can still drop your chest to the bar.
Situation 5: Trying some easy tabletops at my local trail centre.
Advice from a random passer-by: You need to pull up the front bar more when you take off.
Professional advice from a mountain bike coach: Don’t pull up the handlebar of your bike or you’ll lose control of it.
Situation 6: Practising manualling off drop-offs.
Advice from a family of bikers: Just go faster and it’ll be easier.
Professional advice from a mountain bike coach: Learn to manual over drop-offs at slow speed. In fact, always work out technical challenges at slow speed in a controlled, safe manner.
Situation 7: Riding natural trails with a group I didn’t know well.
Advice from riding companion: You should get some clips. Jumping is much easier with clips.
Professional advice from a mountain bike coach: We always advise to learn basic mountain bike riding skills with flat pedals. Especially jumping.
Situation 8: Two random bikers standing next to my bike in a trail centre car park.
Advice from biker 1: Your handlebar is rolled too far forward. I hate that. [Adjusts it.]
Advice from biker 2: Now that’s too far round. Bring it back a bit. [Readjusts it.]
Advice from bike mechanic: Let’s try it both ways and you decide which is most comfortable.
Situation 9: Considering buying a full-suspension bike with over 130mm of travel.
Advice from FB member: Over 130mm travel is for bigger stuff, and you’re not quite there yet.
Advice from bike shop salesman: Hell, you can have whatever bike you like. You want to try bigger stuff? Why limit yourself!
Situation 10: Practising pumping on an inner-city track.
Advice from watching teens: Put your seat down, love.
Professional advice from mountain bike coach: Get your seat down out of the way.
[OK, OK, some unsolicited advice can be helpful.]
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