Ride With Pride: Mountain Bike Skills: Let the Missile Guide You

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, March 1995

Ride With Pride: Mountain Bike Skills: Let the Missile Guide You

Missy Giove's hard-won lessons in fat-tire control
By Kiki Yablon

"The best way to monitor your speed is by gauging the amount of control, or lack thereof," advises Missy "The Missile" Giove, in a classic case of do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do. "If your bike is taking you over and through things you need to steer around, you're going too fast." It's a lesson that the pierced-and-tattooed ESPN darling has taken some time to absorb: In her 23 years of various and vigorous athletic pursuits, including skiing off her roof and jumping off a neighbor's, Giove has broken 32 bones. But after crashing in the world championships three years straight, she took the gold -- unscathed -- at the 1994 worlds last September in Vail. "When I was learning," confesses Giove, whose downhill speed has topped out at 60 mph, "I crashed a lot. I let momentum carry me until I lost control. I either regained it or I didn't. You probably want to avoid that." Here are lessons in control from one who's learned the hard way.

Enter the turn so that your bike will change direction just before or at the apex, the point where a straight line would meet the inside of the curve. Bend your inside knee toward the apex and point your outside elbow away from it. That will keep you on course through the turn.

Unclip your inside shoe. "In loose stuff, either of your wheels might wash," says Giove. "You can save yourself with a dab of your foot." Dab with your heel down and forward. Giove warns against straightening that leg, lest you take the shock with your knee.

Recenter your weight, return your foot to the pedal, and ride straight out.

Bunny Hop
"Ride anything you can," Giove urges. "You can't pedal in the air." As you approach an obstacle you'd rather not navigate, level your pedals (Photo 1). Crouch, and then pull up on the bars. "You'll do a little wheelie first," says Giove. "Then lift your hips to the sky." Your feet and bike should follow (Photo 2). Giove prefers to land in the wheelie position, because it gives her a split second to place the front wheel. Whether you hit the ground on one or two wheels, the trick is to resume pedaling immediately.

"Be an aggressive noodle," Giove instructs. Breathe from the diaphragm, and keep your arms and legs controlled but flexible. Take authority over your bike, starting with your position: On a steep, technical descent, keep your center of gravity far enough to the rear to allow yourself to lift the front wheel over obstacles. Brake only on easy terrain -- you'll want your hands firmly on the grips for any real challenges.

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