Pickin’ your lines

Ron Rash had a great piece in the Aspen Times a couple weeks ago about mountain bike performance anxiety. Really, Ron is talking about the mental part of mountain biking – you know, the part where you use your brain to make rapid fire decisions about where to point your wheel on the trail. It’s called picking your line and it’s one of the finer points of mountain biking that only comes with experience.

Last week I went skiing in Colorado and I noticed that my ability to pick ski lines through slush and bumps is not nearly at the level of my MTB line picking. Mountain bikers (and skiers) need a chance to try lines, see what happens, and remember the result for the next time.

I still remember on one of my first mountain bike rides out at Palmer Park in Colorado I attempted to speed-hop a narrow channel cutting across the hard packed trail. I had plenty of experience speed hopping roots and bumps in North Carolina but on this occasion, I hopped too soon (or maybe not high enough). Anyway, my rear wheel came down on the edge of the channel and I dented my rim pretty bad (brakes no worky anymore). Lesson learned – if you’re gonna hop an obstacle, make sure you give it everything you got.

I also really enjoy riding with new people on familiar trails to see what lines they pick on tricky sections. Sometimes there is a right line and a wrong line but other times it’s possible to get a little creative. I’ve even found that several tracks that once seemed unrideable became simple once I saw someone demonstrate the proper line to take.

One feature I always wanted to add to singletracks is a “pick your line” game where you look at photos and try to pick the line before seeing someone ride it. I never got enough photos to make the game interesting but I’ve included a couple shots here (actually, all these shots come from a 100-yd section at Palmer Park – if you’ve ridden here you know where this is). Don’t cheat – look at the first photo before scrolling down to see the answer.

Pick your line #1

Pick your line #2
Pick your line #3