For the longest time, I thought my climbing technique sucked. For example, there were a few spots in Water Dog that Bryn, my lunch break riding partner, and I had named as our nemeses. And there were two that I had never been able to conquer: one of the Three Sisters and one at the top of the switchbacks on Finch Trail. Both share the same characteristics: they are a very short climb with the good line being on the left side that sits on a steep bank. Bryn had fallen off and slid down the bank at both spots, so I knew there was not any real danger even if you blew the climb and tipped over, but I always got scared and stepped off at the first sign of my front end bobbing around. Yes, that's my biggest problem — my front end wobbles when I climb anything steep.
I did my research. Brian Lopes and Lee McCormack said plainly in their book that front end wobbles because "your weight is too far back, stupid!" I read online and people talk about pulling downward on the bars, scooping the body forward, etc. I thought I tried all those, but still I had no success in attacking those two remaining nemeses.
That was until this weekend…
Passion Trail Bike was hosting a demo day. Erik and I signed up. I got an Ibis Mojo and he got a Specialized Stumpjumper S-works. We took the bikes for a ride at Water Dog. I had the route planned so that we climbed Elevator twice (see my story about Elevator) and the Three Sisters, and in the end, we descended Jack Daniels, a steep singletrack outside of the park. The bike climbed like a goat. The first thing I noticed was how head-steady it was. The front-end wobbling was pretty much gone. Climbing tight switchbacks up, no problem. On Elevator, it stayed its course very well. Although I did step off once on each of my attempts, I was able to get back on the bike. (For a full disclosure, the rain the day before must have helped pack down the gravels.) When we got to Three Sisters, I was able to ride all the them in one shot without any trouble. Wow! I could not believe it! Just then, I fell in love with Ibis Mojo.
So, it's not the rider after all; it's the bike!
I shared this discovery with Bryn on own way to Water Dog today on our newly renewed lunch break ride. Per his suggestion, we started off doing our time trial — a ride from the map post at the bottom to the No Parking sign on Finch Trail. Some guys did a time trial on one of the PTB shop rides and there were some crazy good times. Bryn and I did not expect to ever come close to those times, but we use this time trial to gauge our own progresses. The climb ends with my second nemesis — the short steep climb right before the last switchback (and right before the No Parking sign). I had always gotten off and pushed my bike for the last fifty feet. I expected to do the same today. However, one thing I noticed right away was I seemed to have a better control of my front end than I had ever remembered on my bike. That aroused some confidence, so I told myself that I would give it a try. To my big surprise, I did that climb without any trouble at all this time and posted my personal best on this climb. I know that with the rain on Saturday, the trail condition had improved, but I didn't think the trail condition could have ever been my excuse for not making up that climb. Wow, I did it without riding an Ibis Mojo!
So, between last time I failed on it and my success this time, what has changed? That's a question I asked myself and I shared my thoughts with Bryn. I think the mileage in Oregon helped — 40 miles, 17 miles, and 60 miles on three consecutive days. And there was some technical riding in those miles too. I'm not sure the Dirt Series camp had helped me climb because the first day I was in a basic skills class where we practiced braking with front brake only, back only, and both front and back sort of things, and I was bored. Second day was fun, but we spent the day descending in the bike park. At last, I remember right before that last short steep climb, I thought to myself, "Pretend that I'm riding an Ibis Mojo. I'm on an Ibis Mojo. The bike should be able to climb up this slope." The mind trick worked even though I was actually riding my old Stumpjumper.
When you can trick your mind into thinking any bike you are riding is an Ibis Mojo, who needs a real one? Um… Wait, I still want an Ibis Mojo though. It sure looks cool! Besides, it does ride a lot more stable (read: head-steady) than my Stumpjumper in general.