IF YOU DON’T KNOW Neko Mulally, he is our hometown professional downhill racer. Neko moved to Transylvania County four years ago to escape the cold winters in Pennsylvania and to be close to some of the best riding in the country. In 2014, Neko placed fourth overall at the World Championships in Norway on a bike with no chain – it broke off right out of the start gate. He was unable to pedal the entire course. Neko just signed a new contract with the YT MOB, a German bike brand, but he is still sponsored by Oskar Blues brewery right here in Brevard. Who better to give riders some tips on how to read the local trails?
TO START, a lot of the trails here are grown-in doubletrack that is now singletrack. They are eroded, rough and fast with more roots than you can imagine. Here are some basics that I use every time I ride. These tips can help you go faster, ride in more control, and have more fun!
•IF YOU WANT TO RIDE HERE, you need to look ahead. Your line of site is 2 to 3 seconds ahead of where you are. In Pisgah, that distance is a little closer. You need to get used to looking farther ahead of where you are.
•RIDERS WILL ENCOUNTER A LOT OF ROOOTS ON THE TRAIL Choosing a line where you will cross the roots square on is smart. You can’t avoid them, and if you slow down to try and snake through them you are just riding slower. Get used to reading the trail and looking ahead; try and square those roots up.
•STAY RELAXED A lot of folks come here and see how gnarly the trails are, so they tense up when riding downhill. Steep, chundery sections can make you tighten up, so staying relaxed will make it that much easier to ride. You will use less energy and you’ll enjoy it more. Enjoy it, relax and breathe.
•FLUIDITY, or carrying momentum, is also really important. Try to time your braking and carry fluid speed down the trail. Sometimes you can get going so fast you have to hit the brakes, but if you can read the trail and choose a good line, you can brake more efficiently and riders can carry a higher average speed rather than a high top speed. To ride a higher top speed you have to brake hard to shut it down. It wears you out to ride like that, so if you’re more fluid it’s overall faster and easier on your body.
•BODY POSITION is also key. You want to try and be balanced as much as you can between the front and rear wheel. If you’re able to stand centered on your bike you won’t ever be pulling or pushing with your arms, and it will be easier for you to ride. Your bike will work better too, and it will move independently of you. It’s natural to go over the back of the bike, but standing in the center you’re better balanced. A lot of people lean too far back. The more you try to weight the bike in the center, it’s easier to maneuver. The balance is really important.
•LEARN WHEN TO TAKE A BREAK and when to ride. It rains all the time here, so riding in the wet, you need to be really conscious of your braking. Try not to brake on slippery roots and rocks. If you can find a place to hit the brakes where there’s good traction on level sections, brake early before you get into gnarly sections. Then, while you’re crossing a root or a rock, you can let off your brakes. Your tires are less likely to slide.
MOST IMPORTANTLY HAVE FUN OUT THERE!