FLOPPY-HAT PHOTO SESSIONS
Our former assistant editor, Clayton Wangbichler, sent this gem
of himself and our resident photographer, John Ker. We miss you,
Clayton. Hope you’re having fun livin’ the van life in NorCal.
UNEXPECTED SINGLE-SPEED BENEFITS
Podium appearances are addictive. In an effort to experience
more, I converted my first MTB, a ’ 99 Schwinn, to a single-speed,
and took it on 18-mile dirt road laps where I live. Lessons learned:
—Definite improvement in strength and endurance; mashing
hard up those hills is lung-breaking and muscle-popping.
—The whopping 1. 5 inches of coil-spring travel does not bob
on hard pedal strokes; unforeseen sweetness.
—Old-school narrow bars and steeper angles are harder to
control than my two-bikes-later steed. In an odd way, the stark
handling contrast makes me more aware of how I lean or point
my newer bike; I now push the edges of where it can go. Never
expected a technical push from this endeavor.
—Having more of a freeride/technical background, I use platform pedals. The hardest climbs require pulling up on the pedal as
well as mashing down; there is no other way to get up the climb.
This has forced me to improve on the easily ignored upstroke. And,
with open road as my surface, I can focus on up-pulls and get this
key mechanism into the instinct part of muscle training. Platform
pedals can deliver significantly better endurance and power with
an upstroke, and the technique is easily learned.
A month later I still grin like crazy every time I go out and get a
faster time on those laps. An old, revitalized friend is giving me a
new chapter in my biking journey. I smell podium.
Your mag rocks!
Morgan County, Georgia
I saw that in a 2015 issue Mike Wirth wrote about “The Best
Places I’ve Ever Ridden” and said that Silver Star Bike Park was
one of them. We went up there to check it out. I saw a few amateurs racing, and I noticed the amateurs were just flying down the
track! That was impressive. Keep in mind I haven’t really watched
downhill races before, but, I mean, when you watch a pro racer
coming down the track, they’re really pushing it and flying down
the course and all, but the amateurs were really pushing it, too,
and they practically tore down that course That was quite inspiring
for me. I also noticed that the amateurs were not too much older
than me ( 13, 14 or 15 years old?). I’ve always liked descending
more than climbing. (Okay, who doesn’t like a good downhill rip
now and then?) You know what I mean. I’ve always loved downhill
riding, and now I want to race. Just seeing them race like that was
inspiring for me, so I ask you this: should I try downhill racing? I’ll
be 13 next year. My dad and mum weren’t too sure on the drive
home, but I can’t blame them! When you see a racer with his shirt
off and half his middle and side are covered up in bandages, you
kind of cringe and hold back. Yes, downhill racing is a dangerous
sport, and you’re going to get beaten up sometimes, but I’m still
game to do it!
Oh, by the way, the Mountain Bike Action crew rocks!
Somewhere in Canada
Downhill racing is a blast, but like you mentioned, it can be very
dangerous. Our best advice would be to learn the fundamentals
and progress slowly as your skills improve. You don’t necessarily
need the best equipment to do this, either, which means you can
do it relatively inexpensively if your parents are willing to help.
You might even be able to ask your parents for a loan to get the
right bike, as long as you’re willing to work hard to pay it back in
full. This is the way most youngsters get into the sport. Whatever
you do, be sure to resist the temptation to push the envelope too
quickly, as this is usually when inexperienced riders get hurt. Take
it slow. Build your skills and have fun while you’re doing it. And, if
you are lucky enough to get a loan to buy a bike, get out there and
mow some lawns or shovel some snow off your neighbors’ driveways to pay your parents back!
KEEPING IT REAL WHILE KEEPING IT CLEAN
I just wanted to reach out and say thanks for the way you guys
write your magazine. With all the stuff you can find on the internet
these days, it’s hard to find anything I can feel comfortable giving
my son, who’s 11 and stoked on bikes, to read without fear of
curse words or sexual comments. Every month when your mag
lands in my mailbox I have to race my son to get it first, and I’m
fine with that. It’s a lot better and cleaner content than the other
stuff we find from other magazines and bike websites.
Little Rock, Arkansas