Bike park skills
Once the preserve of downhillers, now trail riders are filling the minibuses, drawn by the promise of a month’s worth of descending in just one day.
If you’ve never been to a venue before then don’t go straight for the most difficult trails there are. Every bike park is different, and it will take a few runs to work out the size of the drops and jumps, how well supported the berms are, and how the dirt reacts under the conditions of the day. You typically get a feel for the style of a venue after a few runs, but start with the easier Blue or Red trails and work your way up. Remember you’ll also get tired as the day goes on so you might want to ride easier trails towards the end of the day so that you can actually make it out alive.
As your day progresses you don’t have to ride a different trail every run. If you like how one or two of them ride then why not make better progress on them as the day goes on. You can always tidy up the rougher sections, avoid braking bumps that you now know are there now, or take wider lines on the tighter corners. The progression that you’ll make from your first run to your last will be noticeable and you’ll leave the day with a much better feeling of satisfaction knowing that you made a solid improvement as the day went on.
Wear the right kit
You may want to suit up for a day of uplift. There will be a lot less pedalling than a regular XC or Enduro loop, so wrap up warm. After all you’re going to spend a lot of the day sitting on a bus or chairlift. Pads, full finger gloves, a full face helmet and goggles are also a very good idea as you’ll be riding on unfamiliar trails and getting tired as the day goes on, so a lot more likely to make mistakes.
Read the signs
Bike Parks tend to be very will signposted. Every feature and obstacle that you’ll ride will have been thought through and purposefully included. They will generally be described by either the severity of the trail through colour coding, or by drawing your attention to specific features with signposts on the way in to them. Keep your eyes open and pay attention. After a while you’ll be able to know where they’re likely to be and take a quick glance before committing. You can always stop at the sign and take a look, then go back up and ride it clean after you’ve inspected it safely on foot.
Prepare your bike
If you have the choice of bigger or more aggressive tyres then this might be the day to fit them. The extra traction and volume will allow you to get away with a lot more. Gravity fed trails will need a grippier rear tyre so you can rely on the braking when you skid, so a faster rolling tyre with less depth to the tread will be out of it’s depth here. Making sure your brakes are working is also a good idea. They are going to get a huge demand placed upon them over eight or ten full runs, so make sure you’ve had them bled recently and that you have plenty brake pad showing. Flat pedals might be an option here as well in case you have to make a quick exit.
If you’re not used to doing days like this then you’ll be surprised by how physically demanding a day in a bike park can be. Your cardiovascular system will hardly recognise any effort, but your shoulders, forearms, palms and quads are going to be on fire by the end of the day. The day after will be tender, but the day after that! Let’s just say you might not want to do any heavy lifting the week after an uplift day.