The Mountain Bike Life

Its still mighty damp round here, I know plenty of guys getting out on the trails but I have to say riding in seriously boggy conditions really doesn’t float my boat unless I absolutely have to. As I’ve mentioned before I believe that part of the responsibility of being a biker is trail maintenance and seriously wet natural trails can get badly damaged by heavy use. Add to the this the heavy toll in terms of maintenance time and cost that very muddy conditions throw up and you’ll find my winter MTB calendar looks a little slim right now. So with only occasional trail centre rides propped up with weights, a bit of running and road bike pedaling this is the perfect time of the year to take some skills/training/technique advice. So why not curl up in a cozy nook with your favourite book? Here are three that I’ve revisited several times.




As a bit of a geek (possible understatement alert….) I will often find myself analyzing my performance (and frequent lack thereof), isolating a new element to obsess about and then follow that obsession to gather as much data as I can to arrive at some conclusion on how to adapt, adjust or ignore that part of my riding. Over the years I’ve buried my nose in more than my fair share of books on cycling and the supply is seemingly endless (941 titles listed under cycling alone currently in the Kindle store). Of those I’ve read a keep coming back to three which although very different on consideration offer a joined up approach to this glorious sport of ours. 

Mastering Mountain Bike Skills – 2nd Edition:  Brian Lopes, Lee McCormack


I mentioned this book in my round up of 2013 and I still rate it as one of the best books on MTB out there. The key difference between this and the myriad of books of its type (in my opinion) is the breadth of the skills in discussion. Brian Lopes has competed and won at the highest levels of our sport, and the explanations of skills are carried from the basics of the task through to the maths of hitting the obstacles at high speed and everything in between.  As a skills instructor you could almost read this book allowed and show the pictures as a masterclass in riding.




One of the key messages for me came in the section around training and competition and Mr. Lopes is his view on the differences of riding for fun, training and competition. Specifically the certainty that laying down the full risk taking 100% is for race days only.  Find the book on Amazon both in paper and digital format


The Time-Starved Cyclist’s Training Formula: how to find TIME to train for 100-miles – and NOT get divorced!: Rebbecca Ramsey


I originally read this with very little expectation, the digital book being a bit of a bargain at less than a pound at the time. I will admit that some of the ideas are a little trite but the message is clear and the structure for finding time and matching achievable goals actually does a tip top job of providing ideas for getting yourself in shape. More interesting for me were the ways to best explain your goals in negotiating time from the family etc to achieve them. As proof of the content I sit typing this still married…..  Available on Kindle here



The Obree Way – the training manual for cyclists by World Champion Graeme Obree

I’ve bored most of my friends to death with references to this book. Graeme Obree is a complex (and frankly pretty clever) bloke with an obsessive thirst for knowledge which you can share for less cost than a decent sandwich. Whilst this book isn’t about mountain biking (Obree does reference mountain biking in his autobiography and I suspect I wouldn’t want to try and catch the bloke) the huge volume of information on every topic from nutrition to training, technique to kit are eye opening. The reason I keep returning to Obree is that even though he was training at the very highest levels of his sport his techniques, kit and practices are achieved in the very simplest method. However some of the topics and method covered are so detailed and complex (the breathing technique alone will take you a bit of time) that I literally had to read it section by section whilst implementing them into my riding. 



Between them, these books cover the 3 core elements needed to be a successful rider: Skills, Time and training management and finally the details that can be focused on to bring your riding to the next level. The key element to these particular books is they are cheap, not demanding of the best kit (in Obrees case almost the exact opposite) and take into consideration normal pressures of time and fitness. The best bit is all this improvement is yours for not much more than a tenner, you can bore your mates with it and you don’t need to get remotely muddy in gaining it. You could even manage a biscuit or two whilst in learning…..

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