Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Zero2Hero : Mountain Biking Skills Made Fun

I have been riding bicycle since I was 13 years old. Like many my generation, we started off with a BMX bicycle - an essential back in the late 80's when riding and performing stunts were seen as the new rebel. However, i never went past doing the Wheelies and Bunny Hops. Graduating to a bigger boy toy that comes as a Mountain Bike, the whole "riding thing" changed the game. Learning to ride a basic mountain bike was different from riding the metal road bike I use for commuting (to and fro school). With no suspension and basic cantilever brakes, Kemensah was my playground. The inclines, declines, trails and ruts were fair game. Bone-shaking descend were taken like any teenagers would be - with loads of balls (guts). Then The old ride was upgraded with suspension (or elastomer if you want to call them suspensions) that made the downhill rides more plush.
My old trusty Cro-Mo Le Run Vesuvius where it has seen much better days in the trails, here, prepped for my first triathlon
So, with that many years of riding, claiming to know how to ride like a boss, raced in them - who would had thought I would need classes?
MAD, Are We?
Two weeks ago, I received an invitation from a friend to join a mountain biking course.
Wait a minute...
Me? Joining a course for Mountain biking? Like...seriously?
What else do i need to learn to ride? I mean, I've been riding like ages. Surely I have all it takes. 
At the same time, I am intrigue. What could I possibly learn that I do not know, yet?
So, i took up the offer from that buddy and signed up for the course. It is known as Mountain Bike Adrenaline Day or MAD for short, MAD is an exciting 1 day program run by a team of professional Mountain Bike Coaches that lets you experience the best Mountain Biking has to offer in the safest of environments. Imagine conquering your fear and riding down steep hills, cornering a bicycle like you are driving a Ferrari and riding over obstacles that require balance and precision, even if you have never ridden a Mountain Bike before.
Right...MAD it is, that's a near vertical drop. Screen capture from Zero2Hero.asia website
As you can see, a short visit to their website at Zero2Hero.Asia showed me what I could possibly get myself into. I know for a fact the drop as shown in the photo above is a WALKER for me - that is, off the saddle and push the bike down. Now, if I can ride like that after the end of the 1 day, I would consider the course to be successful. To be honest, I was excited.
Un-learning And Re-learning
The day came and I got myself to the meet up point. I reached the place early and brought along my own bike though they do provide a Bike and helmet. I decided to ride on my own bike, as that would be the best representation in the quest to become-one with my Spanish Girlfriend.
What a beauty...
But of course, you don't really need to own a bike to attend this course. In fact, if you ask me, this allow any beginner that can ride a bike on a flat ground, thinking of getting themselves a bike, an opportunity to see and know if this is what they wanted aka to commit themselves to cycling. This is a plus point if you ask me. 
Registration counter with a Sweet Young Thing manning it.
After signing some forms, my buddy Raymond Tomatoman showed up. It was thanks to him that I was made aware of this.
What do you mean this bike is "buy 1-free-1"?
Zero2Hero collaborates with Polygon bicycles and if you think the "rented" bike are some crappy junks, think again. The bikes that are used/on-loan to participants are mid-range Polygon bikes. The specs could match or make my bike look outdated.
It's sized by the participant at registration, so you get the suitable sized bike, even for a 1-day lesson
Helmets are provided on loan basis as well and they are the proper bike helmet. Zero2Hero lives by the "safety is important" policy. Which is good. I've seen too many cyclists riding without helmet and many of them do not understand the severity of not wearing one. So, this is a "No Helmet, No Ride" policy.
Introductory and Safety Briefing
The participants come from all sort of bike-handling skills. There are those that know how to ride a bike on flat to those that compete in bike races. The skill sets is diverse and I immediately know that the only way for myself to maximize the coaching is to push myself and not be afraid to make any mistakes. For that is the only way to improve.
Nice tshirt by 2ndSkin.Asia
The coaching is lead by Head Coach Darcy Steinhardt and assisted by a few other coaches such as Dave Spencer, Azlan "Lan Gila" and a few more coaches. I counted six including Darcy. These are experienced riders and bona fide bike racers, and even race organisers that knows what it takes to take you from Zero 2 Hero
Short of spoiling all the fun by laying out what we went through, suffice to say that the coaching introduced the participants all they need to know about gearing, balancing, stopping, speeding, cornering, climbing, descending and most important of it all - confidence. 
For me, it was an un-learning experience as I shake off all the things i thought i knew about mountain biking and re-learning everything that was taught to me in the hours i spent there. 
Thumb - Panic Button. Index Finger - Speed Button. Two Fingers - BRAKE!
You see, the whole course was designed in such a way that by the end of the day, you can potentially do this like Darcy.
BIG drop. Darcy demonstrating what to do.
If you think the drop above is huge and "not do-able", read on and be surprised. But before that, everyone need to go through the basic. Braking is such simple thing that many does it wrongly on both road bike and mountain bike. To be honest, I never had that kind of respect for braking until yesterday. 
Cornering, are you sure you can bend it like...never mind.
I thought I knew the best way to tackle a corner, until Darcy offered some tips for improvement and I found myself more confident in taking it like Valentino Rossi. Seriously, I knew how to do it, but it was those fine tuning and pointing out that made all the differences. That is where the un-learning and re-learning comes in.
Lean in!
It is important for the participant to commit to the coaching. Like for example, the braking exercise where positioning, modulation and using BOTH brakes is important, i went from 30km/h to 0km/h within the 2m box or in about 2 seconds without losing control of the bike or flipping over the bar.
Follow the leader, but go as slow as you can.
Another essential skill critical of a mountain biker is the ability to balance with both feet on the pedal and with the bike stationery. It is not an easy skill to learn, but with those tips given by Zero2Hero, I find myself re-connecting with this skill that I once knew - and i found my dominant side to balance it all up. Nice.
I was stationery for a full 3 seconds :D
See the blue shirt guy that was behind me in the photo above and he is now in front of me pretty far ahead. I was not moving, or moving slowly!
The team prepared some hydration for everyone in the form of Hammer Nutrition HEED. Coincidentally yours truly is sponsored by Hammer Nutrition via Team 2ndSkin collaboration effort . Simple lunch was served too and it is up to you if you want to eat it or opt for your own food (that you bring).
Still not sure how it tasted like...
After the short lunch, it was time to learn to go down hills and clear drops. The program "graduated" participants by stages. We went from something about 10degree gradient and ended up with something up to 40degree gradient. 
Ray showing how to clear the second gradient (20 Degree)...getting steeper as the class progress
Darcy and the coaches evaluate you as you go along, offering advices and one to one coaching for improvement. At all time, they were at hand to "save" the participant should anything goes wrong. There were moments and at all time, participants were pulled/saved. 
20 Degree gradient...Easy does it
The key to descending is control and weight distribution. We were all taught where and when to do all that. Something I never do properly short of lowering the seat post. I now felt silly (for thinking lowering the seat WILL help the descent).
40 degree and clearing it like a Boss. Thanks to Zero2Hero Coaching
In full control
Then Darcy announced that some of us are ready to take on the Big Kahuna. Remember the photo i show above? The one showing Darcy clearing the big drop? Go on scroll up and see. That is because the "graduating" drop that the coaches want us do consist of two more than 40degree drop!
And if you missed the second drop, you land in the lake. Don't worry, Dave's a qualified life guard
If you think the course stop where Allan (red tights) stand, you are wrong. Here, Disco Dave demonstrating how to get jiggly with it.
Clearing the first descent and heading to the next one. Notice the coaches lining the drop?
Then the party begin. Oh What fun and adrenaline rush that makes you feel like 20 years younger. :)
Tackling the second drop
4 Strong Men to catch 1 Good Looking Man
Each of us has at least two go at it with each time improving a bit more as the confidence grew. The tougher part, we realised, was pushing/carrying the bike out of the second steep drop.

Now you have an idea how steep it was?
Simply Superb!
After what seems like 4hours plus, the session/coaching comes to an end. We were each given out a feedback form that we filled up. 
Then, we were each given a cert and come vouchers for purchases at Rodalink shops (the distributor for Polygon bikes) and it is a nice touch as it also allow newbies thinking of buying a bike, with some discount to do so.
A new Hero in town! Thanks Zero2Hero!
Zero2Hero has two other programs which is the Silver and the Gold membership. Click on the respective words to find out more about the packages. Or if you are just interested with the MAD, click here. The cost is RM199/MAD session BUT if you have signed up for Xterra Malaysia, you get to register this for RM80.
Has It Really Benefited Me?
I would say a YES. Not only it gave me back a lot of confidence riding down descent, it has taught me skills I once knew, but forgotten due to bad riding technique over the years. The new found confidence is priceless - both for riding in a race or riding as a leisure activity (or taking the trail really hard). 
Who it will benefit:
1. Noobs that knows nothing about mountain bike, and wonder if that is the right sports to do - without investing in a bike.
2. Beginners that owns a bike and want to learn and start to ride, and do it better.
3. Seasoned riders looking for that extra edge to improve on their current skills. You will ride more confidently. I know I did.
Never thought I could do this, ever.
With 2 months plus to Xterra, you can bet your ringgit and sen that you will see me riding more in the trail as opposed to pushing the bike up and down the trail. See you there!


  1. Hi TriStuPe..
    Syikin here. I, just like u, agree that MAD Day was unbelieveably awesome! I came away with 3 things after the said course :
    1. I learned to ride almost like a beginner pro ��
    2. I befriended cheerful, friendly people who were not stingy with Important Tips
    3. I got a massive feverish flu..huwaa..
    Anyways,pls email to fazlyfariq@ymail.com my pics on MAD Day if u have any..just for keepsake la. Thanx ya..
    It was really nice knowing you, Ray and the rest that day. I hope we'll meet again. If there's any Trail Running event/ training etc do let me know please. thanx.
    Lastly..say 'hi' to your wife..she has such a beaming smile!
    Tri on..

    1. Syikin - the Wondermum. Photos coming right up ;-) I will download those in FB for you also. Give me a day to sort this out. :)

  2. Great review bro.Whack it at Xterra ya ;)