Where does your suspension start?

When I'm scanning people's form to look for areas that could use corrections it's often easiest to start from the top and move down. Head, eyes, shoulders, chest, elbows, hands, hips, knees, feet.

The funny thing is much of my instruction starts from the feet, so why would I scan top down when the feet are often the foundation of the rest of a persons riding. Pressure control, wheel lifts, and descending  all are very dependent on happy and loose feet and ankles. Learning the importance of activating your bike riding or driving the bike from the feet can change your riding immensely. 

If you want an illustration of how the feet effect your balance and control try this. 

  1. Stand up straight with feet flat on the ground. 
  2. Keeping feet flat and on the ground, try to bounce.  not jump
  3. Now try with the heals a little off the ground. 
Does the second way feel more fluid? 

Here is another demonstration. 

  1. Standing with feet flat on the ground.
  2. Reach forward like you have you hands on your bars. 
  3. Start to squat. 
  4. Try pushing your butt back like you might have it going down hill. 
  5. Try to keep the balls of your feet on the ground.
It's hard isn't it? The heals naturally want to drop. Let them when riding! Especially when descending and braking!

How about another....

  1. Standing again with the feet flat on the ground.
  2. Try to jump off the ground without pointing your toes down. Keep the feet flat in the air. Activating from the knees and hips only.
  3. Now try allowing the balls of your feet to push you off the ground like a normal jump with knees and hips activated. Toes pointing to the ground as you jump. 
Hopefully you'll feel the difference between getting a smoother lift-off and a softer landing. For landing, when the feet are pointing down it's like your suspension is extended and you can absorb more. 

So what is the lesson here? Think of it like this. When you load the bike with pressure, allow the heals to drop, when you want to unweight the bike, push off with the balls of the feet. You don't have to go to extremes pointing or dropping every time you load or un-load the bike, just be aware of your range of motion and think how your feet effect your control over the bike. This allows greater finesse on the small stuff and bigger moves in the gnarly! It broadens your whole range of what is possible. 

When do you load
 Braking, Pumping, Adding pressure for traction, Pre-loading for logs, jumps...etc..

When do you unweight
Exploding to get over logs, absorbing terrain, jumps, floating rock gardens, transitioning between corners....

Happy trails!

*** A note: Not all have the same range of motion! Use what you got, and try to improve on it!

Notice the dogs feet as it takes off over the gate!

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