Words: Brittany Gustafson                                                                      Photos: Simon McClaine
 
Brittany Gustafson has transferred from gymnastics to mountain biking – and here's what she has learned.
 
Becoming a mountain biker was simply another excuse to get outside. At a young age, I would train for competitive gymnastics 4 hours a day, 6 days a week. gymnastics was my life, and I loved every minute of it. I now ride a mountain bike. At first, I found it hard to justify purchasing a bike with very little experience or knowledge. However, with the reassurances I received from friends, I eventually dropped in on one. At the time, I was living at Maydena Bike Park, so I managed to learn fast… especially as I was riding with friends that are better than most.

 

Having moved back to British Columbia with my new love of mountain biking, I’m amazed by the variety of trails there are here. Slabs can look daunting at first sight, however most of the time they are far grippier than you think. I’ve found you can really push into your front tyre to grip up, whilst applying the majority of your braking power through the front end. Having weight over the front wheel is going to maintain maximum traction whilst you ride a rock face. Your body position will ultimately decide how much you’re going to slow down. 

 

When opening up and letting off the brakes, I’ve found it’s really helpful to keep my body position low and centred over the bike. This is especially key whilst riding over roots and holes at pace. With more speed, the more I try and ride aggressively to stay in control. Sometimes it’s even fun to pump through ‘bomb-holes’, as it helps with maintaining speed and keeping it fun. 
 
Once I dropped my outside foot a little and pointed my hips down trail, I was able to ride turns a lot faster. Often, it’s not about how fast you enter a turn, but more about how fast you exit the turn. Braking early, setting up high and wide is going to make it feel smooth and far more natural.  

 

A new sport and new skills

The majority of the time I feel more comfortable looking at blind features, or watching someone else ride them to gauge speed. When I’m out riding with my friends, it's an opportunity for all of us to step out of our comfort zones, and try more difficult features. Eventually, it becomes one big session. We are just a bunch of mountain bikers having fun in the woods.