Megs and Vanessa: Episode 2

How to up your game on the enduro bike

Progressing enduro and hard enduro riding takes energy and dedication, it doesn’t just happen so here’s how Megs and I approach upping our game, and it ultimately comes down to dedicated practice. I’ve written this following our live chat on the topic – you can watch it here:

Dedicated practice

So what is dedicated practice? It’s focusing on an individual element of a skill or riding so homing in and spending a chunk of time solely focusing on that. Consider it like doing drills, over and over again.

It’s important as it enables you to really develop and get the movement into the muscle memory. Once you reach the point of it being subconscious you free up your mental capacity for other areas. Such as reading the terrain ahead, which will actually then help you go faster. Think of the Dakar riders who are able to ride at +80mph sucking up the sand dunes and unknown terrain while following a paper scrolling navigation on their bars using cap headings. Without muscle memory this would be impossible.

Examples of dedicated practice drills:

  • figures of 8 whether that’s big and fast or slow and balanced
  • de-weighting the front wheel
  • going up a hill climb
  • static balance stands
  • clutch over brake use on hills
  • controlled braking down hill

What’s my favourite dedicated enduro practice?

For me it has to be logs, although they always scare me. With practice I’m starting to be able to hit bigger and bigger things. Logs come in so many shapes and sizes, with different run ups and exists, then you add wet conditions and it’s a different board game. My least favourite has to be corners unfortunately. I’ve been spending time on figure of 8 drills and have definitely improved but put me in an unknown terrain or a flat bend and I’m not yet at a point of really trusting the side tread and wanging it around a corner to what ever I face next. Lot’s more practice needed.

Hard enduro tyre obstacle
Hard enduro tyre obstacle on Husqvarna TE 15i

Two areas of dedicated practice

There are two areas of riding where dedicated practice can really help.

  1. The first is with dialling in your current skills. The things you are doing most of the time you’re riding. These are going to progress your riding in your current areas, get your speed up, increase your control and handling, but you won’t necessarily be able to tackle the next level yet.
  2. And then you have the progression in terms of new skills where you’re really stepping forward into new areas. An easy example is when you first start de-weighting the wheel, this then opens a progression trail that leads to logs, steps and even rock beds.
Upping your game in hard enduro
Photo by Phill Hodges

How to identify your practice point?

If you’re like me when I first heard about dedicated practice, you might be wondering what are your areas to focus on? Here are some ideas to find yours:

  • The obvious is spotting your weakness, what are you not so good at, or maybe even suck at?
  • If that’s not obvious how about the area you’re slowest at? Does everyone accelerate past you while you’re struggling for traction? Maybe you wobble the second things get slow and technical?
  • What about the area you least enjoy? Quite often the area that needs to the most work is the area we’re the least good at. It is natural to find the least enjoyment in the bit you find the hardest. It’s harder, maybe that comes to mind?
  • Then you have confidence. Confidence often comes with experience and skill, so if the confidence is low that could be a clue to an area that needs more focus. Say logs always terrify you. I guarantee if you spend enough time drilling logs over and over in a mix of conditions, you’ll be come so normalised that you’ll get confidence.

If you’re still sat there thinking…ummm I can’t think of an area… there are two possibilities, either you are GForce Jarvis and an absolute pro… or … more likely….you’re just not quite focused your mind on your riding enough. Maybe ask a friend what they think your weaker area is. Friends are normally ace at knowing and a good friend will be honest with you!

I was terrified of downhills but with practice, going round and round I am starting to normalise the fear:

Tackling those practice points

Next it is time to talk about actually working on them. You need to figure out an exercise to focus in. Cornering is an easy example with figure of 8s. Standing, sitting, up / down, burms, off camber, flat, gravel, rutted, sand.

Find a way to ride them as much as you can. If you don’t have a dedicated area you can train, when you go our trail riding, try to dedicate ten minutes every time you ride. Find a space where you’re not going to upset anyone and focus in on that skill.

Using friends to give you a visual or even video yourself is a great way to get analysis. So often I think I’m burning round a corner, elbows up, weight forward…and then I see the video and it barely looks like I’m even trying. Video is a great tool for self-analysis!

If you’re not sure on the technique get on to some online tutorials, YouTube is an obvious start and Megs has loads!

Find new terrain, new locations, new spots to ride, travel and get some riding time with new people.

How do you identify new areas to improve

We’ve worked on weakness but how do we then work out how to really step things up!

It’s not just about getting better at what you do, it’s also about growing your riding skill set. So how do we identify them?

  • The obvious one is having a go when you naturally come across new terrain out riding. It might be a small bank or a little log, something you’ve not tried before. Make sure it is a sensible thing to try given your skills and give it ago.
  • I find riding with people who are better than me, which is not hard to find, really helps me grow. It gives me inspiration on what is possible and friends right there who know the best tips to help me grow.
  • You then have a more planned and structural way of aspiring to learn something. Take the obvious like wheelies. Do the research online first, get your head around what you need to do and then get out and try it.

Learning frustration

An important factor when pushing your riding to the next level is understanding that it can take time. It can take hours and hours of practice, fall after fall and many bike drops. You might also nail is one day and then completely fail the next. This is why dedicated practice is needed, keep at it until it is so dialled in you get to a consistence performance. Don’t give up! You might also want to seek some help from others or video yourself and double check some online tutorials as it could be a small tweak in your body could get you there.

But don’t give up. Rome was not built in a day and progressing can take a lot of sweat and bruises.

How far to push

Having said that…it is also vital to understand how far to push yourself and know when you’re at your limits. To progress you have to leave your comfort zone but it’s important to only push so far. Enduro and hard enduro can be very demanding and dangerous sports so it’s about making calculated risks. Push beyond your limits but in a safe way. I guess it is the difference between being brave and stupid!

No when to give up, here I tired three times and knew it was time to walk away, live for another day and conquer that hill/step next time.

You must leave your comfort zone to grow, but remember the difference between bravery and stupidity!

The Girl On A Bike

It’s also important to know when to quit. Maybe today is just not the day. Walk away and try again another day. This could be particularly important when the conditions are not right. Don’t set a be all and end all goal on learning to wheelie on a wet day, it’s just not sensible. Try something else.

So that’s what we have! I hope that’s been helpful, I’d love to hear your thoughts so please do get in touch via my social channels!

Get out and ride, and stay safe.

If you’re new to my page – it’s more than just dirt bike riding and racing, I’m on a mission to prove that nothing is impossible if you want it bad enough. See more about my story plus read about my life changing accident, which started it all.

You can find me Vanessa, The Girl On A Bike over on InstagramFacebook and YouTube, and www.thegirlonabike.com.

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