Hello, campers!

For the quickest route to improved riding, consider a coach

Mens Journal (6/12/2002)

Brion's comments:
'Even the best athletes need a little coaching to keep improving. Same for mountain bikers. Another installment from the Bike Nation package for men's Journal.'

Feature article:

OK, you've caught the wave, You plunked down two grand of your hard-earned coin for a stylish new dual-suspension rig. Now comes the tricky part. You've got to ride the damn thing. Despite all the ads promising smooth sailing, the dual suspension bike is a breed apart from your old rigid frame. It's not going to feel the same, and it's not going to ride the same.

So we went to the source -- Dirt Camp's own Rod Kramer -- to get some quick tips on ripping with your double squishy. Hey, even the best skiers take a break from their deep powder bowl runs to spend a few minutes with the man -- instructor, coach, guru. After years and years on a hardtail, Kramer, at 43, has embraced the joys of full-suspension. In many ways, Kramer reflects the changing profile of his clients -- a little older than the average rider, fairly affluent, more technically-oriented. Dual suspension intrigues these riders, and also helps them absorb the punishment that mountain biking can dish out.

"We have to sort of retrain them," says Kramer of his dual suspension converts. " It's a lot about how you deal with the terrain. I call it ‘point and shoot.' These bikes will allow you to ride over amazing terrain."

Here some pointers:

1) If you forget every other word here, remember this one: Momentum. With full-suspension rigs, momentum is everything. "We tend to have people shift up a gear when the going gets tough, to keep the power on," says Kramer, recalling his full-suspension initiation on Porcupine Rim in Moab, Utah, pushing his bike over coconut-sized rocks without a problem. "You don't have to pick your way through it. The bike can absorb everything. You just have to keep poised over the bike, and keep rolling straight."

2) Pedal in circles, especially when climbing. "On a technical uphill, the non-suspended bike hits a rock, the tire hops into the air and you have some loss of traction," says Kramer. "With full-suspension, the wheel tracks up and over the rock without losing traction. It's a finesse thing. You must be very smooth in your power delivery. I tell people to pedal in big, fat smooth circles."

3) The power move. With full-suspension, cornering brings new delights. Instead of "steering" through the corner, Kramer says fully-suspended riders can hit a banked corner with a little more speed and, pushing the bike down with the outside leg and inside arm, can almost snap the rig through the turn. "This concept of counter steering is counter intuitive but very productive," he says. "It's cornering in a whole new way."

4) Get pumped. Hardtail traditionalists often use tire pressure to adjust their ride -- too much pressure n technical sections, and the rider gets bounced around. With full-suspension, the bike's shocks take the hit. Kramer, at about 200 pounds, runs "between 55 and 65 pounds of pressure in my tires. It helps keep the sidewall stiff, and allows the tire to roll more effectively."

5) Prepare to bail. Newcomers to the dual-suspension ranks often get carried away with their new-found travel and twist the throttle too far. "The tendency to get in over your head is high," says Kramer. "Just remember, if you do make a mistake, and your going faster, the catastrophic quality of your fall is much great. There's a reason why the pro downhillers wear all that body armor. I tell my clients to practice their jumps and rolls."

Want to learn more? In addition to their traditional week-long sessions, the folks at Dirt Camp will host a series of weekend camps for those short on free time. The camps will be held at ski resorts -- Squaw Valley in California, Keystone in Colorado and Waterville Valley in New Hampshire -- that provide plenty of off-the-bike distractions for family members (or significant others) that may not be as into biking as you are. For more details, call Dirt Camp at 1-800-711-DIRT (e-mail; info@dirtcamp.com) or check out their web site at www.dirtcamp.com/mtb.

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