By Brian Beatty
There are rare pieces of advice that are so rich they inform one for decades and become “best of” material. For my many years of mountain biking, the advice given to me almost 20 years ago by Matthew Lee remains my ‘best of’. After watching Matthew flow effortlessly away from me over rough terrain, I had to ask, “What’s your secret?” “Gyroscopes and intention,” was his reply. Given that this concept helped him to seven first place finishes on the Great Divide trail race, self-supported from Banff, Canada to the Mexico border, it seems worthy of passing along.
A bike in action is a set of three gyroscopes. Each of the wheels is a gyroscope. The spinning motion of the wheels is what holds the bike upright and moving forward. The third gyroscope is created by your legs pedaling the crank arms. The great realization for me was that my job is to simply keep my gyroscope upright and turning, staying balanced between the gyroscopes of the wheels. The wheels keep the bike moving up and over obstacles as long as one keeps turning them. The conceptualization of appreciating the motion of the bike and the sensation of simply balancing over the bike instead of forcing the bike or pushing it where I wanted it to go were revelations. Practicing it has improved my ability to find those joyful, dialed-in moments that draw one repeatedly to the trails.
The concept of balancing over the wheels can also help in creating a smoother pedaling action which brings efficiency to all endeavors on a bike. Just let your legs turn your own body as the gyroscope and then keep yourself balanced over the wheels. Simple, practical, rewarding and yet an unending challenge.
Of course, something still has to guide the bike, if you are now balancing yourself instead of forcing the bikes path. The guiding of the bike is accomplished by intention. Focus on sighting the line in front of you where you think the bike should go. Look over and through the obstacles in the trail, but focus on the path while letting the obstacles register in peripheral vision. The trick is to sight the line, not fight the line. Just stay balanced over the bike and keep the smooth power going in your gyroscope. Let the bike guide itself to the best path, it will follow the line of your intention and make the adjustments that it needs to make; your job is to adjust yourself accordingly and always continue to turn the gyroscope. Hopefully this advice given freely to me can help us all capture the feeling of riding the flow of the trail instead of doing constant battle with the obstacles in the trail.
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Brian Beatty, practices physical therapy in Carrboro NC at ATI Physical Therapy, and rides or runs any trails that he can as part of the Trailheads. His Trailhead name is “Gyro”, inspired by the concept in this article. He is inspired by all fellow trail riders, and passes along a shameless plug to the Ride the Divide movie featuring Matthew Lee as great off road inspiration. Ridethedividemovie.com