Bicycle training includes physical, psychological, and skills training. Although riders often ignore the latter, without skills training mountain bikers limit their potential enjoyment and development as competent cyclists.
This is one of the best books ever published on acquiring mountain biking skills, a book whose principles broadly apply to other forms of bicycling, including road cycling.
The book is well-organized and the topics flow well. The book begins with general bike set-up and pedaling, transitions to braking, cornering, hopping, dropping, and jumping, and puts the basics together in chapters about flowing, crazy (miscellaneous) conditions, and racing.
The book has more than 100 color photos and diagrams, which overall illustrate its points well. Diagrams, such as those on pages 64, 66, and 67 depicting zero, negative, and positive camber help the reader learn the meaning of familiar yet uncertain terms. Time-sequence photography, such as images on pages 106 and 107 illustrating the difference in jumping techniques of a dirt-jumper and cross-country racer are superb.
The book attempts to detail principles for beginners and experts alike, and overall does a great job.
As excellent as the book is, it could be improved.
A glossary would help. Authors and editors often forget that not everyone knows the meaning of the jargon words-such as rail and carve. Even if explained at first usage, a glossary of mountain biking terms would improve the book.
The language is hip, sometimes crude. Although attractive to many who practice downhill mountain biking, the lingo might not appeal to all. For example, in describing pedaling style at the bottom of the pedal stroke on page 34, the authors write: "Pretend you're scraping dog crap off the bottom of your shoe."
The book includes descriptions and illustrations that are inconsistent. For example, in describing a series of turns on page 59, the text describes a left then right series of turns, but the illustration is right then left. In describing how to carve flat turns, on page 66, the text says lean your bike more than your body, but the rider is leaning his body more than the bike. On page 69, in describing skidding into loose corners, the text describes the method of dealing with a skid turning left, but the time-sequence photos are of a rider turning right. Such inconstancies make it more difficult for the reader to follow the authors' points.
Sage advice has its exceptions. When exceptions are not qualified as such, readers may be confused. For example, throughout the book, the problems associated with needless, overzealous, panicked, or overly cautious braking are reiterated. The novice mountain biker may think: "Always stay off the brakes!" Yet in describing how to conquer switch backs, page 68, the first item of advice is "Slow WAY down....you want to reach a happy speed, not scare yourself..." which, of course, is what novice riders think in every situation they consider braking. If the authors had said: "This is an exception to letting-the-brakes-go-to-ride-more-effectively rule," they'd clarify their thinking for the reader and gain credibility.
These minor quibbles aside, this book has great information about mountain biking skills, from one of the most skilled riders who has every lived. If you are a mountain biker, get this book-even if only to look at the pictures.
Reviewer's note/disclaimer: The publisher sent me a review copy. I was not paid for this review.