FOR WHAT IT’S WIRTH – 10 things I’ve learned from riding with the pros

 

10 things I’ve learned from riding with the pros

BY MIKE WIRTH

I’ve been fortunate enough to hit the trails with some of the fastest riders in the world. On those rides I’ve learned a few things— other than the fact that I’m a pretty slow rider in comparison.

1. You won’t beat a pro at his sport, and you shouldn’t try. I’m not going to challenge Stephen Curry to a game of horse, and I’m not going to ask Niki Lauda to race go-karts. I also no longer even try to chase the likes of Brian Lopes or Jerome Clementz down a trail. I’ve tried, but I’ve either crashed out or been completely exhausted at the end of the ride.

2. Their equipment is better. It doesn’t even matter if you spend 10 grand on your bike; the pros’ bikes are faster. They have the “special sauce” fork oil flowing through their custom-valved suspension. They have titanium bolts everywhere they can possibly fit them. They are eking out every last bit of mechanical advantage they can; however, most of the pros we talk with don’t think of their bikes as prized possessions like you and I would; they think of them as tools to win. When you see a drool-worthy paint job on a pro’s bike, it’s almost always the doing of the company that’s sponsoring him for marketing purposes.

3. You shouldn’t take all of their equipment advice all the time. While they usually know about equipment choices inside and out, they will likely only plug their own sponsor’s components. After all, it is their job to help the company sell more bikes and bike parts.

4. Pros are fiercely competitive, but they will wait for you. They have nothing to prove by “winning” a group ride that’s not on the clock. Sure, their natural speed may be way faster than your top speed, but that’s not because they’re trying to put the screws to you and impress you. Once I was riding Whistler and came up on Sam Hill waiting on the side of the trail. It was a steep section that was difficult to get off of, but he immediately did. He then said, “Waiting for my mates.” I know I can’t beat Sam Hill on any down- hill track, but I did pass him on one once.

5. They are human, too, and will usually take the time to say “hi.” I learned this early on working for Mountain Bike Action. Before any pro had any clue who I was, they were almost all very approachable. If you happen to see your favorite pro at a race, don’t be afraid to go for a high-five or ask for an autograph; however, don’t be offended if you get the cold shoulder when they’re in “race mode.” While most of them are very friendly, all of them are very focused on race day.

6. They eat like everyone else—but healthier and in bigger quantities. The notion that pro riders live off energy bars and supplement smoothies is completely wrong. I’ve seen pro riders down a steak in one sitting and watched them chug colas and put down more espresso than my stomach could possibly handle. The thing is, whatever they put in their system, they’re very aware of it and plan to burn it off with training. It’s the same food we all eat, but it’s carefully planned out rather than scarfed down in a frenzy at the end of a long ride.

7. Most pro riders could ride any discipline and do very well. If you dropped Nino Schurter, the XC world champion, into a down-hill race, he would likely do quite well. Similarly, if you took Greg Minnaar on your local XC loop, he would crush you. The top-level pro riders are fitness nuts, and they simply choose a specialty. Heck, even Brian Lopes is pretty good at riding a trials motorcycle from what I hear. These guys are almost like a different species when it comes to riding anything with two wheels.

 

8. Their mechanics are magicians. They can fit a square peg into a round hole and shave off 200 grams with titanium hardware in the process. Your favorite local bike-shop mechanic might be good, but these guys work with the most advanced equipment in the world and make it look easy. It’s an incredibly stressful job, but one that comes with great reward. I consider myself a good mechanic, but I’m nowhere near the level these guys are on.

9. They will never look down on you for taking a go-around line. In fact, they will probably appreciate it. There’s no shame in taking the easy line when you’re not confident enough to hit the gnarly one. Most pro riders will respect you more for knowing your limits than if you huck yourself off a cliff trying to impress them. This goes for many group rides as well, although it’s harder to take the wussy line when you’re with your buddies. If you are lucky enough to ride with a pro, know that the go-around line is an option—one that you should take. Heck, you might even get a good Instagram photo from the bottom as the pro hits it.

10. They ride more than you do. While you’re staring at your computer screen at the office, these guys are out shredding for training or carefully dissecting a trail to figure out how to go a milli- second faster. That is why they are faster than you and me.


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