Video: Absorbing Trail Features & Maintaining Speed - How To Bike with Ben Cathro Episode 4

Aug 5, 2021
by Pinkbike Originals  


HOW TO BIKE

EPISODE 4



Absorbing trail features and obstacles properly is crucial if you want to go fast on a bike. Ben Cathro breaks down how to properly absorb a variety of features without getting tossed out the front door or entering the dreaded passenger mode.



We'd like to extend a huge thank you to Santa Cruz Bicycles, Deity and POC who supported this project.







85 Comments

  • 113 0
 These videos are absolute gold, Ben. Thank you!
  • 41 0
 Jewellers hate him Cheers dude
  • 17 1
 Best series on pinkbike in a while, the tips aren't that relevant to me, but the video quality and Ben not taking himself too seriously will make me watch all episodes. It's like the anti-pinkbike-academy, sorry had to go there!
  • 5 0
 @Mugen: Why are the tips not relevant to you...
  • 51 0
 Ben is an amazing coach. Kudos to Pinkbike for giving him the platform.
  • 37 0
 I try my hardest Smile
  • 32 0
 Hiring Cathro was the best investment pinkbike made last years!
  • 27 0
 Whoever edits these is a god
  • 43 0
 I’ll let him know. Kinda worried his head might pop at this point though.
  • 3 0
 @ben-cathro: please can you add the links to previous episodes. Thank you
  • 3 0
 @brianpark: thank you!
  • 21 1
 Avoiding trail features and slowing down before you crash is more my things
  • 13 0
 Just used that trick while recording our line choice vid. Genuinely good option tbh
  • 7 2
 @ben-cathro: For line choice I go with "lock all limbs in panic, look at the thing you want to avoid, brake too hard and too late" but I'll let my buddies know that my technique for trail features is now Ben Cathro approved.

Great videos, love how you show the "wrong" way shots as it really illustrates the difference small changes in body position and technique have on riding. Great series so far.
  • 9 0
 There’s line choice? I go where my bike takes me.
  • 17 0
 I think back to the first few Cathrovisions I watched and thought "this guy has so much to offer" How many years ago was that? Surprised it took this long to get him, 2020 didn't help, but he was worth the wait.
Ben, I would watch a video of you explaining how paint dries.
  • 26 0
 Haha, turns out I needed someone to say: Make these videos, here’s the budget, get it done by this date. I was still late on delivery but hey, progress.
  • 5 0
 Ha you're right. I remember him bumming rides to the race and doing the editing in a cheap room late at night. Next morning looking for better wifi so upload would work. It's funny how sometimes it all works out.
  • 1 0
 @ben-cathro: you’re the best dude. Keep it up.
  • 12 0
 This is the best explanation and demonstration of this skill!
  • 12 0
 It’s the graphics man. Just can’t argue with them.
  • 6 0
 he's a effing king of riding skills and teaching them
  • 6 0
 I hated that cash money $$$$$ hat more than anyone, but I am weirdly missing it.
Any chance it can make an appearance in the next episode?
  • 4 0
 The man's a saint. Sincere thanks to those behind the go ahead to fund more Cathro content. Good stuff. And hats off to ya, Ben. There are quite a few that would buy you a pint if given the chance! Appreciate your work man.
  • 3 0
 Might even stretch to a half pizza supper
  • 5 0
 I was struggling with this on a xc race course that I'm gonna do soon, now I think I'll be faster. Thank's for the helpful videos Ben!
  • 4 0
 If you don’t use a dropper your obviously limited by what you can do with your legs but the same principles will still apply. Good luck.
  • 2 0
 @ben-cathro: Yes most will apply and the part about going forward before a drop totally resonate. Coming from years of road racing it took me a while after starting racing xc and marathon to realize that putting your ass backward is not the one-size-fit-all solution when there is something technical.
  • 1 0
 @ben-cathro: Thanks!!
  • 5 0
 I think I've been already doing this, but on my next ride, I'm going to actively think about it - am I actually doing this or not?
  • 7 0
 For sure you are. Being aware of it allows you to maximise it though.
  • 3 0
 Thanks ben for another super useful vid that will hopefully result me riding a bit less-crap.

There is a feature I always struggle with that is on a relatively fast, steep decent where the trail changes gradient to being much steeper for 3-5 bike lengths. I have tried hopping onto it, but the way the trail rolls down to it doesn't really lend itself to that. Ive tried doing a manual into it but with the ground dropping away that gets out of control pretty quickly. After watchin this im tempted to try pumping into it, but i feel like i might eat shit, particularly if im carrying speed. Got any advice?
  • 6 0
 Sounds perfect for a small dip forward of the chest then pushing the bike into the steeper face. Verrrry hard to know if I’ve exactly understood you’re explanation so go cautious with your first try with a subtle move to see if it helps.
  • 6 0
 Another solid episode from PB's best
  • 3 0
 Cheers boss.
  • 4 0
 Hi Ben. Maybe you can do another tutorial for steep turns. I’m wondering what’s the correct body position. I only hear about braking before the turn. TIA
  • 2 0
 @ben-cathro: Ben, thanks so much for this vid. The bit about getting forward and pushing your bike into the downward transition is absolutely true. I went out and tried it yesterday multiple times on various features. It totally works. So much better bike control that way. Entirely counterintuitive, but so many things in this sport are. Thanks again. Keep em coming.
  • 3 0
 When doing the steep roll down on a feature that is longer than a bike length or 2 that is fairly smooth when do you time the push with the arms, just before the roll out?
  • 10 0
 As you go into the feature the arms are pushing “pitching” the bike down at the angle of the feature. This should happen just after the front wheel goes over the edge.

I do it a little later in the vid as I’ve got a long bike and I think I was trying to push the front wheel all the way down to the transition. That’s a personal quirk of mine rather than something you should emulate.

At the transition the focus is on the push with the legs to drive the back wheel through the transition and settle you back into a centred position.

You can add a little dip of the arms before the lower transition to better guide the front wheel through it (you can see me doing this little dip on the green example at 12:15) but it’s not crucial.

So the focus is push down with the arms just after cresting the steep at the top (puts you into weight back riding down a steep position), push with legs as you hit the transition at the bottom (puts you back into Boss Stance).
  • 1 0
 @ben-cathro: Great explanation Thanks!
Really enjoying this series!!
  • 4 0
 Please keep this content flowing, I'll take riding info/tips/hacks over product releases 99% of the time.
  • 1 0
 We have a feature on a trail I regularly ride with a steep roll/drop into a sharp left hand corner. I find myself having to break super hard before the drop so that I can get my front wheel down quickly enough to make the corner. I want to either pre-hop into the roll or scrub it so that I can maintain more speed. I can't really figure out how to practice the move though.
  • 2 0
 Sounds like you’re already doing it right. If you need to slow down for the turn and you can’t slow down after the steep feature then you have to do it before. Sounds like prejumping in would put you into the turn too fast but I could be picturing it completely wrong because words are open to interpretation. Tricky one.
  • 1 0
 This "How To Bike" series is easily the best I've found. My wife and I both coach middle school and high school teams and these vids have come in SUPER handy as they just explain the techniques better than the way we were coaching them previously. I also love the replies here from Ben...can't help but hear that burr while I read his comments. Big Grin
  • 4 0
 Tossed out the front door as a passenger is pretty much my riding style.
  • 12 0
 Going by Friday Fails you are not the only one
  • 1 1
 That is a counterintuitive technique for descending a steep obstacle, but he makes some good points. I would think you'd be setting yourself for an OTB situation putting your weight far forward at the initiation of a steep descent, but immediately following that up with a small transition to a neutral position makes a lot of sense. Up to now I've always used the stay far back technique...I'll have to try this alternate approach.
  • 15 1
 'Stay far back' is one of the worst MTB 'tips' that somehow still lingers and refuses to die. I continue to hear it circulated amongst the dad-bro weekender MTB-is-the-new-golf crowd. Fuck that. Get low and forward and embrace the gnar.
  • 1 0
 @dirtyburger:

Agree. Started riding “proper” “steepish” trails this year. Without really thinking about it after a few sessions I was riding far more neutrally within the middle of the bike.

Weight over the back gives you nowhere to go when you get to a feature
  • 1 0
 @dirtyburger: 100%. Sucks that there are so many of those people giving advice. I see so many pics of people with such bad form or people suggesting bad form.
  • 1 0
 You want the same fore-aft balance on the tire contact patches as you have when riding level terrain. Which does indeed imply that you are going to shift rearwards a little for that same balance (with a big "but" coming up later on). If you look at '90s/00's freeriders descending, it may seem that they're super far rearwards. Though mind that [1] they're probably descending steeper than you are and [2] their wheelbase to wheelsize ratio is likely smaller than what you're riding now so they did indeed have to shift further back for that same balance. Their bottom brackets were probably higher too.

And now the big "but": compared to riding at constant speed, when you accelerate you need to have your weight a little more forward for that aimed fore-aft balance and when you decelerate you need to have your weight a little more rearwards. You probably already do this on level terrain, same applies on sloped sections. You're obviously going to accelerate during the first section of the descend so have you body "ahead" of the bike or you're never going to catch up as it accelerates. Imagine leaning too far back when dropping in on a skateboard (ramp, bowl, whatever). The skateboard would just fly away under you (and you'd likely hurt yourself). Stay ahead and the board will nicely come underneath.

Also mind you that this forwards position is only during the first phase as he accelerates. If the descend is longer and you'll brake for a constant descending speed you'll shift your body more rearwards. Yet if you're geometry is right, you should still have enough room to move and shift your body (to absorb irregularities etc). Only when you actually have to descelerate (so actually reduce your speed) you'll shift your weight even more rearwards to avoid an OTB. But you don't want to go there when not needed (so look ahead to avoid unneeded deceleration hence trail erosion) as you will have little room left to move and steer. Also, it seems people have too much fear of going OTB and dive too deep into the other, equallyh unsafe, corner. If you feel the rear wheel lose contact then lower front brake pressure and it will nicely come back down. Develop that reflex and you'll no longer be that scared.

TL;DR: The very forwards body position is what's needed during the first part of the descend where the bike is going to accelerate. This isn't where you'll be when descending at constant speed or when slowing down. Yet indeed during this acceleration phase too many people seem to be too far back which causes them to both lose room to move around over the bike and they'll end up hanging on for dear life as the bike accelerates with them dangling behind.
  • 3 0
 Thanks for the awesome videos @ben-cathro, I'm injured and watch all your videos to make I don't forget how to ride Wink
  • 1 0
 Thanks Ben. I rode rigid frame bikes for a long time, and it's taken some time to adjust our styles with FS. I haven't been pumping the bike over features ... will need to try this technique.
  • 3 0
 would you say this all applies equally between HT and FS?
  • 6 0
 I would
  • 4 5
 I'm not kidding, these videos are better than any instructor I have had. I am riding much lighter on my bike after the last video and the techniques tie into this one. I was literally thinking "how can I ride smoother and lighter" last weekend.

However, the extended shot of Ben's crotch as he tried to climb the drop was not appreciated.
  • 4 0
 Or was it ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
  • 1 0
 @ben-cathro in a (sadder) world without Sick Skills coaching who would you recommend to get me into my local enduro top 10 finishers? Ideally in Aberdeenshire.
  • 1 0
 Ride every single day. Video yourself and session any sections you are having problems with.
  • 2 0
 Ben! You are the man! Love your edits, humour and video comparisons! We need more of this every week!
  • 2 0
 everyone has already said it but its worth saying again.....Ben is the best!
  • 1 0
 how do you ride that steep rock roll when you have older bikes with steeper head angle? moving forward on the bike is scary and feels i'm going over the bars.
  • 1 0
 Same technique but don't lean so far forward that you go OTB.
  • 2 0
 Yeah, I don't think this is faster then my technique of cartwheeling down the mountain
  • 1 0
 Quality stuff again from Ben and what with Reece doing an excellent job on the recent commentary , The scots are taking over.
  • 2 0
 @ben-cathro the problem with your excellent instruction... is we might run out of Friday Fails...
  • 1 0
 Noice videos Ben, I think you are too tall for your bikes. Lol, and this doesn't apply to most riders. specially on body positioning for short riders.
  • 2 0
 It's like doing trail burpees.
  • 5 0
 But way more fun
  • 3 1
 Can you do a tail whip tutorial?
  • 1 0
 Do you mean a whip or tailwhip? A tailwhip is rotating the bike 360 degrees around the handlebars as you take your feet off. A whip is getting sideways in the air and brining it back.
  • 2 0
 @redrook: definitely tail whip. Can’t be the only one who wants to see a 7ft man throw a whopper on XXXXXL mega tower.
  • 1 0
 @thenotoriousmic: If Ben can do that I definitely want to know how lol
  • 2 0
 The demonstrations of poor technique actaully look sketchy to do!
  • 1 0
 I know how to ride , can;t get hold of a bike tho...
  • 2 0
 Ben is gid!
  • 1 0
 Thanks, Ben. These videos are great.
  • 1 0
 Fantastic video - Cathro's presentations and explanations are top notch
  • 1 0
 All of this is SUPER important for hitting rough trails on hardtails!!
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