A couple weekends ago I had the awesome opportunity to hang out with two mountain biking legends: Wade Simmons and wild man Brett Tippi at the annual Rocky Mountain dealer day and Wade camp. Read on as it was one hell of a weekend…
Friday: Rocky Mountain Dealer Day
Local rep and fellow shredder Andrew LeFeuvre from Rocky Mountain bikes hosted the Rocky Mountain dealer day at Blue Mountain resort in Collingwood.
Friday turned out to be an awesome day, thanks to the torrents of rain that poured down from the sky the night before! The deluge was exactly what Blue Mountain needed; before that the slopes were dryer than a sewer in the middle of the Arizona dessert, with many of the slopes covered in talc. But Friday morning, thanks to the rain, the slopes were a super-tacky glue-like surface. Even Brett Tippi was going nuts over it.
Initially I expected to spend a lot of time sitting and talking over the product line so I was pleased to learn that all we were going to do was ride, have fun, and talk bikes a little bit while on the lift… or in my case, listen to Tippi and his jokes. The man does not stop!
Anyhow, we did talk a bunch about what is new and forthcoming from Rocky Mountain, and how both Tippi and Simmons felt about their present rides (both were on Slayers for the weekend). Both guys really love their present Slayers and were tearing up the slopes with them, making me want to swap out my V10-C and ride my Nomad-C. Tippi had his ride tricked out with a bunch of Race Face Atlas components, new Suntour suspension, and a mostly-new Saint drivetrain (go figure), while Wade’s bike was rocking XTR, new Saint components, and Marzocchi for suspension. Both were running dropper posts as well (if you don’t know why, check out mtbgreg1′s article).
Needless to say, Friday was a fun day filled with hitting slope after slope as they opened up (some runs were a bit too wet). It was cool to have both Wade and Brett in front as you can learn from their riding style and pick up a thing or two.
It was also cool to just get informal feedback as to how I ride (thanks guys, you’re too kind), and what could be improved. We basically stuck to Showcase, Haole, Embryo, Waterfall, and Raisin run, with a few Grab Bag and O-chute runs tossed in there as well. I personally loved the Showcase and O-chute runs: both were challenging in different ways. Showcase really keeps the flow up and O-chute offers technical sections like the coffin drop and rock garden.
We ended the day with beer and munchies at Rusty’s Bar, about 150 ft away from the lift –talk about convenient.
Saturday: Wade Simmons Bike Clinic
Saturday was the Wade clinic, and again both Wade and Brett were there teaching. Mike Towers, head tech at Blue Mountain and local legend, joined them to assist with the class of 18 people.
One of the very first things we talked about was bike choice and bike setup. We talked about the importance of having the bike controls and suspension set up correctly; those were the real keys of the day. As some of the riders learned, just because it looks cool or your buddy has their bike set up a certain way doesn’t make it right.
One of the first targeted items was the position of the brake levers on the bars, and how important it is to have the levers set so that in your riding stance you levers should just be visible and no lower (more on that later). Too low looks cool but doesn’t allow you to grip the lever fully with one finger (or puts undue strain on your wrist).
Next up was the suspension. All of us agreed that properly balanced (front to back) suspension is key to a properly-functioning ride. Having the rear too hard or too soft compared to the front sets the bike up to do terrible things. You would either be bucked off (too hard) or risk not turning while the front of the bike plows everywhere. Either way, it’s not fun.
Photo credit: Marc Laudry.
Once we reconvened up top it was time to learn how to turn. The training surface was a very loose gravel… what better way to learn than that! The loose gravel slows everyone down while turning and forces the rider to maintain balance and a centered riding stance.
On the short turns a 3/9 pedal position is best. For one thing, the newer bikes with low bottom brackets will tell you that in the form of an unpleasant pedal strike. On longer, faster, sweeping turns it works better to have the outside foot at the 6 o’clock position and the inside at 12. Along with that, Tippi and Wade also mention (as a reference) using your belly button to turn into the direction of the turn. This helps naturally change the body position into a proper turning stance.
Wade then demonstrated a difficult flick maneuver which sounds easy but requires a lot of skill. The analogy from Cars (the movie) applies: “You will find a time when you’re going fast enough. You’re going to need to turn left, to go right.” The flick maneuver requires you (in a right turn) to lock up the rear wheel, flick the bars to the left, then follow through (releasing the brakes) turning right. Sounds easy? Wrong! In the time we had practicing, I did it once (and badly at that). It’s definitely a skill I can add to my bag of tricks when it comes down to avoiding trees and such.
Next on the agenda was drops. Now something I took away, which I though was a great way of looking at things, was keeping my body position neutral in attack position on drops. What I learned was to keep the chin just above the stem in your riding stance, but when you get to your drop you should stab the bike forward, rather than falling back on the saddle. The big thing here is that it gives the bike more momentum rather than possibly stalling out (dropping the front down, as the rear comes to the end of the drop). Doing it Wade’s way also prevents a straight-arm landing.
All the riders had fun taking turns on a safe little drop. Wade and Mike played a bit, popping off the drop to add some extra style to it.
Things did turn a bit ugly when I didn’t make a wall ride and had a rather hard fall. At the tail end of this video you can see me crashing down as my bike skipped off the wall:
For me that was the end of the day, but the group went on to hit some perfectly-groomed jumps, which I was really disappointed I missed! Anyhow, a good time was had by all!
If you’re thinking about taking a few clinics, I say do it. You can always pick up a trick or two and, who knows, maybe fix some bad habits as well. For more on mountain bike skills clinics, check out mtbgreg1′s blog post about “Why Everyone Should Take MTBing Lessons.”
Oh yeah, almost forgot. That very top photo…Gimmi a “B”! Gimmi another “B”! Gimmi another “B”!! Put it together and what do you have?! BudaBudaBuda!!! So sayeth Tippi!