Technical Trails Tip: The-Look-and-Think-Link



Emma Atkinson is a talented local rider who has in recent years moved from competing in Downhill racing (Winning a Junior World Cup at Fort William!) across into the world of leadership. She has her UKMBLS Level 2 award and is working towards achieving her Level 3.   Emma has also been working with Glenmore Lodge as part of the Outdoor Trainee Scheme (OTS).



By Emma Atkinson

With Spring now here, mountain biking is on the mind. What are your goals for the year? What will you aim to improve? For me, it’s steep, technical trails.

They say in the Canadian backcountry “Ski good or eat wood” and it’s much the same for mountain biking in Scotland.

The sound of snapping twigs chase your back wheel as you cut turns in dark, mossy mud. The world flies past you in a blur of greens, browns and yellows. Pressing and pulling, leaning and pushing you feel connected to your bike and your bike to the ground.

Scotland is magic by bike. The choice and opportunities for riding up here are endless, with mellow tracks through mountains and bumpy blues at trail centres, there is something for everyone. But if you’re looking for something more technical and challenging this year, there is no end to what Scotland can offer you. Furious fast through tight trees is our secret speciality.

If you want to ride more technical trails, you need to build more technical skills and if you want to build more technical skills, you need to ride more technical trails. Unfortunately, there is no short cut to the learning.

In the hope of saving you a bite of wood or two, here is my number one learning objective for technical trails this Spring. Practicing this has made a big difference to my riding in the past.

The “Look-and-Think-Link”

Look ahead, they said. You won’t crash, they said….

But what they really mean is, don’t just look – look and think.

Look: What do you see? Think: Anticipate the next section of trail, what will it feel like underneath your bike? Adjust: Adjust your riding position accordingly.

For example:

Look: Ahead is a sharp left corner, with some roots just before the turn.

Think: Roots feel slippery, the corner feels tight.

Adjust: Turn your head to look around the corner, brake a little before the roots – control your speed for the turn, weight to the outside pedal and push your bike into the corner.

To begin with it’s hard work to look and think, there is a lot going on in your mind, all within a few seconds. Decide to ride at a pace which allows your brain to keep up setting you up for success . Persevere, every time you ride – easy trails or hard trails practice the “look and think link”, eventually it will become second nature and you should find yourself riding smoother and quicker.

Once you think you’ve got it, keep going with it. You can always improve. Create the look-and-think-link, then get it faster and faster..

Glenmore Lodge runs a series of 2 and 5 day training skills courses, from beginner, to performance level. Click here to learn more.

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