Five steps to improving your ride
The key to enjoying a mountain bike event like the Berg & Bush is having faith in your biking abilities.
If you own a mountain bike, you can do a mountain bike stage race. Anyone with a bike is capable of completing an event like the Berg & Bush. To really get the best out of the event, though, you want to be comfortable on the bike. That comes with time but also through a desire to improve.
Fitness is a good starting point – train for an event and you will more than likely enjoy it. But something that is often overlooked by South African mountain bikers is the benefit of a skills clinic. If you do your homework, you’ll be able to find a reputable coach in your area. Focusing on skills like descending, cornering, climbing (yes, there is a technique to climbing!) before you learn too many bad habits can produce game-changing outcomes to your riding life.
Ride with better riders
Once you’ve aced your skills clinic, try and find more experienced mountain bikers to ride with. Not only will the gentle competitiveness keep you on your toes, but you’ll be forced to ride outside your comfort zone – this applies to fitness and skill level. You’ll find by chasing faster riders that you simply become faster yourself; likewise, by riding trails that you would normally avoid, your technical skills will start to improve.
While it’s great having your own local trail, to become a more accomplished rider it’s important to ride a variety of trails. This is obviously easier said than done, as time constraints, convenience and potentially even costs can become a factor. But if you have the opportunity, try at least once a month to ride unfamiliar trails. This will help you develop your technical skills and keep complacency at bay.
Understand your tools
Almost every mountain biker in South Africa rides with tubeless tyres. But punctures can and will happen. Almost every mountain biker in South Africa rides with tyre plugs and gas “bombs” to reinflate flat tyres. But there’s a disconnect, as many riders have no clue what to do with their plugs and bombs when disaster strikes. Understanding this basic tool and being able to plug a puncture will give you greater confidence on long rides or events, knowing that you can handle this minor repair job with ease. It will also make you look like a mountain bike pro when you stop to help stricken cyclists looking on in confusion at their tyre plug set!
Try a cycling specific programme
Hopping on your bike and just riding is what cycling is all about – but if you are committed to improving as a mountain biker then it is worthwhile investing in an event-specific or goal-driven training programme. Not only will you get fitter, but your enjoyment of riding will be greatly enhanced. 2022 entrants to the Berg & Bush will have access to such a training programme from January 2022, allowing them to better prepare for the event.