Relearning MTB: The Yips, part 1

Relearning MTB: The Yips, part 1

I admit to doing a little bit of culture jacking here, with the yips already part of the social dialogue through an episode of Ted Lasso and Simone Biles' very public challenges (called "the twisties" in gymnastics) at the Olympics. But it's maybe because I was already thinking about them that made me realize I was also experiencing them on the bike. 

It started on my way home from our weekend at the Flow State MTB Festival in Vermont. I already had my bike on the roof and would be driving through the Catskills to get home - why not stop at world class bike park Wyndham Mountain and spend some more time working on jumps? I had learned some fundamentals in my coaching session at Bryce and continued to work in them on a small jump line at a local skills park. I wouldn't say I was brimming with confidence but I at least felt I had enough grasp of what I should be doing to have another run at a real jump trail. The trail at Wyndham is called Wilderness Roll and the jumps are a llittle taller, steeper and faster than at Bryce. (Both trails were built by Gravity Logic, the evil geniuses behind Whistler and many other parks.) Wilderness Roll is also long - about 3 miles in length. Plenty of reps, but also requiring a lot of stamina and focus.

Not my video, but one I probably should have watched beforehand.

I started out smart, rolling the jumps and getting a feel for their size and steepness. Maybe halfway through the first run I started catching some air. And then I let my ego get the best of me and tried clearing a couple, before I had remembered and fully committed to technique. The results were predictable. The first one I nearly cleared, so I pushed on. The second one, whatever technique I thought I was applying failed me and I rose up with big dead sailor energy, listing to my right (always the derailleur side, naturally) in the air. In an unfortunate irony, it's because I cleared this jump that I ended up crashing. As I continued my rightward tilt over the crest and onto the downramp, my wheels were in the air long enough to shift far enough out to the left of my center of gravity to lose traction. They immediately gave way upon landing, sliding me onto my knee and over the side of the jump into a rocky gutter. 

My day would have ended on the first run if not for this knee pad. In hindsight, ending there would have been a better choice.

I rolled gingerly through the rest of the run and back to the lift. The park was almost empty so there was no line. As I rode back up I remembered something Dave had said on a ride we took through some technical VT singletrack not 24 hours earlier. "Some crashes just feel like the first of many." Dave is either prescient, or he hexed me. 

I rode Wilderness Roll a couple more times but couldn't find my form or confidence. There is a blue technical trail at Wyndham I saw from the summit as well, called Batavia Skill. More confident in my technical riding than my freestyle I decided to take a run or two down that and see if I could find my mojo.

There should be an understood exchange rate between trail ratings at different mountains, because a blue technical trail at Wyndham would be considered a black at many others. That's a piece of narrative foreshadowing. Naturally I crashed on Batavia, hard. I carried an appropriate amount of speed for a Virginia blue through a chicane between some trees, but it was too much speed for a Wyndham blue heading into a steep rocky section. My body was caught out of position and I grabbed two fistfuls of brake, but the steepness caused my front brake to lift my rear wheel. From there I had no choice but to let go of the front brake and try to nose wheelie my way through boulders the size of human heads. A full Mathieu-Van-Der-Poel-At-The-Olympics later, I lay on the trail motionless, taking stock of my body and wondering if anybody was going to find me before the weekend.

After a few minutes I was able to collect myself and climbed back onto the bike to tip toe down the rest of the run, straight to the car. No lasting physical damage, but the psychological damage would show up a few days later.



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1 comment

Practice runs essential! Also following a guy that is 50kg when you are 70kg err on caution!

David Webber

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