Tips: The Attack Po­si­tion

Mountain Bike for Her - - Contents - Words & Pho­tos by Jim Bar­ron

Ba­sic In­stinct The attack po­si­tion is prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant rid­ing tech­nique you can have in your skills set and luck­ily it is a fairly easy one to de­velop. It is clichéd I know, but in this case the attack po­si­tion re­ally is your best means of de­fence.

Nearly ev­ery time I go out rid­ing I see peo­ple out on the trails who spend al­most the en­tire ride sit­ting down on their sad­dle, even over tech­ni­cal fea­tures and when ap­proach­ing fea­tures that they are un­sure of. I re­cently asked one of th­ese rid­ers why they stayed seated and the re­ply was that they felt safer seated when the trail was rough. I asked them to try rid­ing in the attack po­si­tion and showed them how. I bumped into them again later and they were grin­ning from ear to ear and couldn’t wait to tell me how much eas­ier it had made the rest of their ride af­ter they started us­ing the attack po­si­tion. What you want to de­velop is to in­stinc­tively adopt the attack po­si­tion at the ap­pro­pri­ate points.

What’s in a name? The attack po­si­tion is known by at least three ad­di­tional ti­tles! If you have had any coach­ing from a Bri­tish/Scot­tish cy­cling trained coach, or ride with peo­ple who have, you may well hear it re­ferred to as the “ready” po­si­tion. In a later ar­ti­cle you will also see me re­fer to it as po­si­tion “2” and po­si­tion “B”. What it is called is unim­por­tant, how­ever, it is how it will im­prove your rid­ing that re­ally counts.

Be­ing able to be sta­tion­ary with­out putting a foot down while out on your lo­cal trails, or even on the roads go­ing to your lo­cal trails, lets you ride with more flow, con­fi­dence and con­trol. There are loads of ex­am­ples of when track stand­ing can or should be used on the moun­tain bike, way more than when road bik­ing or even cy­cling on a track, where the tech­nique orig­i­nated.

Attack, Attack, Attack When should you use this tech­nique? Sim­ple an­swer is al­most ev­ery time that you are not ped­alling. If you are ap­proach­ing a rough part of the trail where you don’t need to pedal – attack po­si­tion. Be­fore any non-seated ma­noeu­vre – attack po­si­tion. Un­sure where the trail is about to go – attack po­si­tion. Although I much pre­fer the term “attack po­si­tion” over “ready po­si­tion” -- I think it is cooler and sums up how most of us want to ride -- the term “ready” is a good one as it gives and clue as to when to use the tech­nique. Ba­si­cally, it is the po­si­tion that al­lows you to be “ready” to em­ploy any of the other skills you will need on the trail and for any­thing else that you are about to en­counter on the trail.

As­sume the Po­si­tion Here it is in a nut­shell: 1) Get your bum off the sad­dle 2) Look for­ward and well ahead 3) Long legs but with knees slightly bent 4) Drop your heels 5) Bend your el­bows (it’s sooooo en­duro) 6) Try to line your belly but­ton up on the bot­tom bracket (the bit your cranks pass through) 7) Try to have a more or less level back (don’t worry if it’s not to­tally flat) 8) Drop your shoul­ders

Bum, Bum Bum, Bum Bum It is im­por­tant to get your bum off the sad­dle as it gives you bet­ter con­trol of the bike. This is mainly be­cause it al­lows the bike to move around un­der­neath you largely with­out it trans­mit­ting this move­ment into your body. Why is this good? Sim­ple, you don’t get shaken up or spat off when it gets rough. You con­trol the bike, not the other way round. We’ll cover more on this in a fu­ture ar­ti­cle on “Cone of Move­ment”, but for now just pic­ture a drawing pin stuck point up to your sad­dle when­ever the trail gets rough, or you need to be ready for any­thing and keep that bum up.

Heads Up If my clients were to be polled on the ad­vice I give them the most, it would un­doubt­edly be to keep their heads up and look for­ward. The attack po­si­tion is no ex­cep­tion to this. It is the usual story that it al­lows you to read the trail bet­ter, etc. but even more than this is ef­fects your cen­tre of grav­ity on the bike and the way the bike reacts to ob­sta­cles on the trail; and more im­por­tantly, what hap­pens to your body when your bike en­coun­ters th­ese ob­sta­cles.

Mommy Long Legs The most ef­fec­tive sus­pen­sion on any moun­tain bike is your legs! You can have a hard­tail or a 170mm en­duro rig, but it holds true for both. With your sad­dle dropped, it will pro­vide most rid­ers on cor­rectly sized bikes with at least 300mm of travel – awe­some isn’t it? Like all sus­pen­sion you want to set it up with a lit­tle bit of sag, in this case with your knees be­ing a lit­tle bit bent. You also want to get the most from this nat­u­ral sus­pen­sion, hence the long legs. This will give you your op­ti­mal range of move­ment.

No Stilet­tos on the Trail That’s right, I don’t want to see any high heels. Drop those heels to im­prove your po­si­tion. Drop­ping the heels has loads of benefits, but please re­mem­ber that if you are rid­ing flats then use a shoe with sticky rub­ber or a good waf­fle sole as you don’t want shins as scarred as mine. By drop­ping your heel, you will im­prove your grip on the pedal, but more im­por­tantly, you re­duce the risk of your foot be­ing bounced off the pedal and for­wards if you bike en­coun­ters a root, rock, or stray bad­ger. In ad­di­tion, drop­ping your heel low­ers your cen­tre of grav­ity, which in turn gives you greater con­trol and sta­bil­ity.

It’s Sooooo En­duro Look at al­most any photo of a top rider shred­ding the gnar -- on­line and in mag­a­zines -- and you will no­tice that they all have their el­bows bent and out. The rea­sons are sim­i­lar to those men­tioned above for your legs with bent knees, but also again it al­lows the bike to move in­de­pen­dently from your torso. But why el­bows out and not back? You are stronger, and there­fore, have more con­trol with your el­bows in this po­si­tion. If you don’t be­lieve me, try a sim­ple ex­per­i­ment. See how many proper push-ups you can man­age with your el­bows bend­ing out to the side, now give your­self a minute or two’s rest, then try to do the same num­ber of push-ups “marine style” e.g. with your el­bows tucked in and bend­ing par­al­lel with your torso. For most of you, the for­mer way will be eas­ier and you will achieve con­sid­er­ably more reps.

Belly But­ton Dancer We are be­gin­ning to get into the fine tun­ing of the tech­nique now. If you are even only able to em­ploy the tips I’ve given you above, it will greatly help your rid­ing and con­fi­dence on the trail. How­ever, if you re­ally want to rip those trails then read on.

Get­ting your hips a bit fur­ther back than you may feel is nor­mal will help you with your bal­ance in this po­si­tion and keep that all im­por­tant cen­tre of grav­ity over the cor­rect part of the bike. You’ll tire less eas­ily in this po­si­tion, too, as you will be en­gag­ing your glu­teus max­imus mus­cles (yes, re­cur­ring theme here, it’s your bum again). Your glutes are a mas­sively pow­er­ful set of mus­cles so rather than just carry them around for show, let’s make them work for you. The way to check if you are more or less in the cor­rect po­si­tion is your belly but­ton should be more or less over the top of your bot­tom bracket.

Flat Back Attack The fine tun­ing con­tin­ues with this point and it leads on from the im­me­di­ately pre­ced­ing point. By keep­ing your back flat and more or less level -- within the realms of what is com­fort­able for you -- will en­sure that your hips re­main back and that your belly but­ton over the bot­tom bracket. Don’t get your back straight by only low­er­ing your shoul­ders try to bend for­wards from your pelvis, but en­gage those abs to cre­ate a straight­ish line from the base of your neck right to the end of your coc­cyx (tail bone).

Shoul­der to Boul­der Try to drop your shoul­ders if you can. You should find this hap­pens when you get your hips and back po­si­tion right any­way, but many rid­ers ex­hibit their ner­vous­ness on the bike through ridged and tense shoul­ders. Try to re­lax them and let them drop. This al­lows you to ab­sorb more move­ment more quickly; it also gives a great range of move­ment. If your shoul­ders are re­laxed and down, it should also al­low your head to be in the cor­rect po­si­tion.

The Fin­ish­ing Touch So you’ve nailed the po­si­tion and are ready to take it out on the trail and ride your bike like you stole it, but let me give you one fi­nal say­ing that I want you to re­peat to your­self un­til a lit­tle voice in your head shouts back “I am!” That say­ing is “heavy feet, light hands”. This is one of the best pieces of ad­vice I was given and I make no apol­ogy for pass­ing it on. Hav­ing the best attack po­si­tion in the world will count for noth­ing if you have a death grip on your han­dle­bars, with most of your weight on your arms and your feet are float­ing. To be hon­est, that should be al­most im­pos­si­ble, any­way, if you have all the above points in place, but rather than try to re­mem­ber if you’ve done ev­ery­thing I’ve sug­gested as you are do­ing warp speed down that piece of track you’ve al­ways wanted to dom­i­nate. Just re­mem­ber, “heavy feet, light hands” and you should more or less revert to the cor­rect po­si­tion.

Photo Credit: Jim Bar­ron/Dirt Vix­ens

The rider’s belly but­ton is over the bot­tom bracket, her heals are low, her back flat and she’s look­ing for­ward - per­fect.

Photo Credit: Jim Bar­ron/Dirt Vix­ens

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.