Monday, April 03, 2006

Freeriding -- What is it?

This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a pilot project for some graduate work a student is undertaking at UVic. The title was "Freeride Physiology Study" .

There were a number of reasons for partaking in the study. First of all I remember when I was doing my graduate work and what a p.i.ta. it was recruiting subjects. So whenever I can help out I do. Second of all it is always interesting to see how you compare with other riders, and for that matter yourself -- I rarely ride with a heart rate monitor or do any other measurements while I'm riding. Third, it gave me the opportunity to ride with other people that I wouldn't normally ride with. And finally it might help me to define this "freeride" phenomenon.

What is Freeride? Cam, the grad student, defined it as
A recreational form of downhill mountain biking, involving negotiating natural and man-made obstacles such as roots, rocks, and bridges. Routes typically involve a significant loss of elevation but may incorporate undulating terrain.

but is that really all it is? If so haven't we been doing this for years on the Shore? How does this differ from downhill mountain biking?

The study was conducted on Fromme mountain. One of the great things about Fromme is that you have to ride UP. There are no opportunities for "shuttling". So this brings me to where I think the definition of Freeride should be. I think one has to include the ride up in the definition, otherwise, to me, it is just downhill.

It is funny, I ride up Fromme once or twice a week. The number of "kids" that are walking up pushing their bikes is astounding. I often see these "freeriders" and wonder "what is wrong with them?" They are young, they have great bikes, so why are they walking. It must take them hours to walk up. Granted this is exercise, and at least they aren't playing video games all day, but really, walking up? Are they not fit enough to ride up? If not what is this saying about the exercise benefits of Freeride mountain biking? Maybe there is a need to study this type of riding.

The study was interested mainly in our heart rates during the descent, although we did record our ascent as well. What I found interesting was that my heart rate was indeed HIGHER during the descent. Granted I wasn't riding hard up, but I was surprised to see that my heart rate was higher coming down (at least when I had a chance to look at it-- I should get the data this week -- I'll keep you posted).

I did indeed get to ride with people I wouldn't normally ride with. I rode both up and down with Eamonn one of the NSMB Freeride Team members. He had a heavier bike than I did, so the ride up was more difficult for him. Coming down he had more travel than I did, so he would pull away on the big drops, I would catch him on the inclines. It was a lot of fun to ride all the way from top to bottom on a trail that normally we would stop and chat on after every stunt. I definitely enjoyed the flow. And the ride down was definitely more tiring than the ride up.

Maybe there is something to this freeride thing. Maybe I am getting some aerobic benefit coming down. Wouldn't that be great -- I get my cake AND I can eat it too!


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