Monday, 10 January 2011

New Year Guide to Nailing Spins, Wheels and Bones




"Tricks are for Kids" well it seems maybe this time I should have listened. Cy lent me one of the new XS BFe's to play on over the christmas period along with some light encouragement to see how the XS behaves as a throw about, freestyle type bike. To be honest I have got a bit carried away with having a small flickable bike to play around on, but it is a hell of a lot of fun. It makes a really nice change my usual long, fast stable setup. Getting back on something more diminuitively sized has sent me back to the riding I did as a teenager. When first getting into bikes we would go out and find some little pimple or dirtjump and mess about playing with tricks, boosting and generally just having a laugh. I have to say, the christmas break in the end really was that, a real laugh. The XS has now been out in the snow, tentatively aired in a cold icy mini ramp, manualed around a small council skatepark, sprinted down a rather waterlogged BMX track and taken a lot of abuse on the dirt jumps at our local sand quarry. This is where the XS belongs in my view, out in the parks and smashing the dirtjumps.




So from the beginning. My first real taste of the XS was on the brand new and beautifully crafted concrete mini ramp that has just been built in my village. It took some time clearing the ice from the inside of the ramp but it was an opportunity not to be missed. Dropping in was hairy with the ice covered coping sucking the wheels out sideways but the transition was nice and the XS was very comfortable to air. My mini ramp tricks are more honed outside the ramp, back in the day we rode a lot of mini, it was all about smooth manuals across the length of the ramp and tricks to tyre tap, the odd failed pedal grind. Snow was killing this kind of action but it was still fun to pump around and throw the bike into the air.




My personal mission for the Christmas hol was to relearn 360's. I have tried a few spins on flyouts on my normal BFe but it really is hardwork to get the bike to spin. The extra length just keeps it railed in a straight line and it really has to be hauled into a rotation. 360's are one of those tricks that I very almost had as a kid. I could do them over small box jumps in parks but never had the guts to throw one over a proper double. The sand quarry this winter has been the perfect training facility for nailing this trick. Being sand it really is a winter venue as it needs water to keep the jumps held together. It builds quick but also erodes fast and sand is definitely one of the nicer substrates to bail onto. I have got to thank the local guys because this year there was a really nice 6 pack riding a small semi table top jump and a larger double with long soft landing for stepping the tricks onto. The place is also the host of 'famous' an absolute monster jump built by Grant Fielder, Blake Sampson and Sam Pilgrim. Luckily that one was not really in a rideable form, it has an immense run in from the top of the quarry wall and the take off is a super steep and massively imposing piece of spadework, the landing long wide and soft. It is one of those scary beasts that looks humongous but worryingly doable.




The first session up there was a chilled out affair. It took a while to get out of race mode and hit the jumps at a slow dirt jump pace. Initially I was charging about with twice the speed I needed, squashing the lips and having to fight the over hectic nature at this tempo. Once the speed mellowed and I had found a more suitable flow we had a mint session on the 6 pack. The 6 pack is a nice size where the jumps are big enough to play on but by no means intimidating or overly risky. The larger jump at the side of the quarry was a little more intimidating. It had a nice steep take off, reasonable gap and a slight bomb hole before reaching the takeoff ramp. With no setup before it speed is somewhat guess work. First attempt was too fast and I totally miss judged the bomb hole killing my launch and ending in a nice solid hang up on the back of the lander. Spades had to come back out to mend the mess. Second attempt was far more successful. I was able to send it high and 90 percent in control. The short bomb hole meant the takeoff came up very quickly and it required nice timing to feel balanced in the air over this jump. Never the less Grant and Blake showed up later in the day and were busting flips and spins over this jump with upsetting ease.




Having got my taste for the jumps my mission was to start bringing out the 3's. First attempts were on a flyout, I found spins initiated really nicely on the XS but was struggling to keep the front wheel at a reasonable height and had the bike near vertical through the rotation. I blamed this on the awkward nature of the flyout and decided it was time to transfer them to the smaller table. A couple of chicken runs lead to the first attempt that was succesful in the sense I got round but front wheel was high and one foot was not on the pedals. The sensation is strange, and pretty full on. In a sense when learning these things you have to chuck them fairly blind and hit them with confidence to maximise the chances of a good outcome. Assuming a reasonable take off it is only on the last portion of the spin, reaching round with your head where you really know how its going to work out and there it this last minute panic of trying to crank out the extra rotation needed or surpress any extra momentum. After a few attempts I was getting the front wheel low but not getting the distance I needed to travel through the air any where near right. I had about 4 or 5 attempts a couple of crashes but felt happy to be able to succesfully judge the rotation even if landing on the right part of the jump wasnt working. Last attempt of the day was a quality crash where I put extra effort in to make the landing. I held onto the bike for the complete rotation but landed heavily on the front wheel, dug in and ended up on the floor with my handlebars in my chest. This marked time to leave before any serious damage was done.



Second session at the jumps I was jumping far more naturally and feeling far more confident on the bike. First attempt at a 360 of the day went well. It was a really nice stable rotation, I cleared onto the landing and barely drifted sideways. The problem was on the landing I wrapped the rear wheel into the frame. The obvious answer to this was to get the spoke key out, jump on the rim until straight and keep riding. This worked and we had a good play on the 6 pack. Second 360 of the day was near identical nice rotation but folded wheel on landing. Feeling I had 360's fairly well nailed I wanted to step them up onto a proper jump. This spot with its soft landings is one of the few places I am prepared to try this kind of thing, the usual hard packed dirt sends the risk level too high for my liking. I knew I would probably have only one shot at the 360 over the larger jump so I got the guys to arm their cameras ready and hoped they would not miss the shot. A serious amount of 'maning up' later and switching all sensible thought processes to the back of my mind I dropped in. I had the bomb hole pumped nicely, I felt balanced up the take off and initiated a nice spinning action. Chances felt good, only as I reached the top of the take off there was a massive crack and my rear wheel folded in two. This stalled my bike and sent me careering through the air backwards. I managed to land with my shoulders onto the very top of the landing and rolled out but the bike dictated that it was game over for the day. Still the psychological hard work was done.



I needed another poke at getting the 3 on the larger jump. All my mates had finished their christmas break and with relatively good odds of hurting myself I didnt want to end up jumping alone. In the end my parents kindly offered to take photographer duties and so we were back in the car with a fresh rear wheel ready to take on a 'proper 3'. On getting there it was clear this would not be on. The guys were changing the larger set and it wasnt going to be riding for the day. After a bit of warming up I tried a couple of 3's on the smaller ramp. The first was perfect. Nice and high and clean to the landing with little drift. The second however was not so nice. I got off balance and squirley on the take off and ended up ditching the bike. I stayed just about in control and landed on both feet facing forward. There was a loud blunt noise which turned out was my fibular snapping. I walked away but my leg would not hold my weight. After a brief moment on the floor getting my breath back I got up and could feel a crunching sensation. The strange thing was no considerable pain. Arguably one of the other great things about this jump spot is that there is a Minor Injuries unit literally across the road. Within a few hours of snapping the bone it was X-Rayed and in a cast. By far my quickest and most efficient hospital experience! No pins have been needed but the injury will unfortunately keep me off the bikes for a while and the worst thing is I now still dont know if I could have landed a proper mansized 3.



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