Friday, March 02, 2007

Mountain Biking and the art of Carry-Ups

Rico & Weeman on a slight carry up.. not that steep but terrain too difficult to get grip.

When it comes to doing a good old bit of quality singletrack with gnarly climbs or proper mountain routes such as Skiddaw in the Lake District, or Cadair Idris in Wales, you will inevitably reach a point where you'll have no option but to push or carry the bike. During a good days wilderness riding, its not uncommon to 'carry-up' at least 10-15% of your route so it pays to find the most appropriate carrying method to help maximise energy and prevent injury. Although carrying is often painful, its all part and parcel of traditional mountainbiking so make sure you take it in your stride, focus and put the experience down to another challenge. Carrying a bike can often be 10 time smore rewarding that giving up and turning back, just think, if its that hard to get up a mountain, how awesome and technical is the decent going to be :o)

In terms of technique its not just a matter of pushing or lifting the bike, think about the terrain, path width, obstacles, the need to use your hands for guidance. You've also got to consider bike design and the added addition of suspension units, reinforced tubing designs, gadgetry etc which takes up space on a bike and also restricts the number of options for carrying (consider this prior to buying a bike if carry-ups are to be an integral part of your riding). I know all this sounds logical, but you will not believe how many people i've seen pushing a bike (additional friction) along a 10 cm wide singletrack while dragging their legs through bracken or physically dragging a bike up a scree slope while nearly passing out from exhaustion. If you want to become a competent all-rounder, these are aspects you've got to consider. You need to adopt a carrying strategy that can save you energy, prevent muscle and joint damage and more often than not, allow you freedom of movement to at least put one hand on the floor during really steep sections (and you do find them, trust me.. :o)

If you are new to the game, a good technique is to stick your arm beneath the cross-bar on the frame (providing you have room) and then lift the bike off the ground while sliding the bike forward so your shoulder rests at the 'V' where the cross-bar and seat post join. Next pull the front wheel down by wrapping your arm under the frame and pulling down on the top of the headset (so your rear and front wheels are pointing as vertical as possible and runnning parallel to your body). Its also good idea to wear a camelbak as you can often use both the suction tube and strap as padding. I find this method far better than a classic t-bar style crossbar carry up (with the wheels horizontal to the ground) as it enables me to push through obstacles, keep a straighter back and most of all reduces the risk of me spinning round and jarring ligaments in high winds. If you havent adopted this approach, go try it and let me know how you get on..

Just remember:

1) Practice. ..... trying to accomplish a successful 1st carry up at 3000ft can be an endurance feat in itself so get used to carrying your bike. Try cycling fo 10 miles then carrying it for 1mile (i sometimes add this to my training schedule)
2) Find a method that suits your height and weight. Try to keep back as straight as possible while carrying to prevent twisting and back issues developing..
3) Pad the shoulder using a rucsac strap etc and get used to carrying on either shoulder to even out the pressure during a long day.
4) Make sure you can still use a 'hand' for balance especially on the steep ascents. Carrying a bike behind you head often utilises both hands and may be problematic if you slip.
5) Consider 'carry-ups' prior to buying a bike if you know you will be adopting a 'wild' and not 'bike specific trail' style of riding. The design of full suspension bikes often means a complete change in the way you will have to carry your bike.
5) Most of all...... save enough energy for the downhill :o)

Hope this has helps a few of the newer riders who now read the active brits blogs..

Respect and feel free to get in touch, leave comments or link to us.

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