The Hysterical Parent

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Family Vacations, Summer 1996

The Hysterical Parent

What if I somersault over the handlebars and do a headplant into a rocky ravine?

Just as a beginning skier wouldn't attempt a black diamond on a first run, a beginning mountain biker should graduate to trails of increasing difficulty. Build confidence slowly, heeding what follows:

  • Falling. Find a grassy spot and practice bailing off your bike. Don't cushion your fall with your arms; wrists are vulnerable to breaks. Instead, tuck and roll.
  • Balance. Your goal is to ride so slowly that your feet are in the pedals but the bike is almost standing still: That's how you scout a trail. Never attempt a downhill without scouting it first.
  • Braking. There are important differences between the front and rear brakes. Slamming on the more powerful front brakes can catapult you over the handlebars; too much gusto at the rear might send you into a skid, which would stress both you and the trail. On steeps, learn to use both brakes, relying more on the rear brake and feathering the front.
  • Eye position. Don't fixate on the front tire. Look ahead, 30 to 40 feet down the trail. You'll be prepared if you know what's coming.
  • Body position. Keep your body low, and shift it back and forward as you encounter various terrain. Stand up, keeping your knees and elbows soft-they'll be your body's shock absorbers.
Franklin Henry is a pro rider and instructor on the staff of Dirt Camp, based in Boulder, Colorado.

Copyright 1996, Outside magazine

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