Reading the Trail: A Session with Knight Ide

I’ve never been a great descender.  Average for an XC guy, but never great.  In rough sections I can stay upright, but I tend to lose time on the front the field and don’t carry as much momentum as I should.

With all of that in mind I sought out some trail skill lessons with Knight Ide of Ide Ride in East Burke.  Knight is one of the cornerstones of riding in the Kingdom, and the lesson options offered through his Ide Ride are targetted at getting people to the next level.


For me that next level is improving in XC and marathon XC races.  Slight advantages in skill can add up to huge amounts of time and energy saved; even in races 100 miles long seconds count.  The difficult part is translating that goal into something that can be taught in the confines of a lesson.

My main goal with my session was to improve on corners.  We talked about my mental approach and what I needed to think on the trail.  Knight’s first comment was “you’re not reading the trail.”  Right.  The good lines were obscured by obstacles and I was staying upright, but not smooth and certainly not fast.

We talked about how to read the trail and how to approach corners.  After absorbing as much insight as I could we made our way up to the top of Kitchell for the first of several trips down through the sweeping bermed section.  Bermed turns are exaggerated corners, so with less risk of sliding and an increased need to look ahead DOWN the trail Knight recommended we focus on that.

First trip down Knight rolled through first and was clearly well faster than I was, which I expected.  I was also starting to put together how I needed to attack the berms in order to maintain some speed.  With the goal of starting further outside and looking down the trail I started to improve a little each run and was able to stay off the brakes.

After the session I began to analyze how I’d been approaching corners and looked back through a couple of race pictures to see if I would have taken a different line now.

Here’s a shot of a short downhill section right before the finish line at the Dark Horse 40 last year.  There’s nothing heinous here, but my line is indicative of not looking far enough down the trail.  A better line would have been to start further outside, go around the rocks at the top and then also be setup outside for the (rider’s right) turn just out of the frame.

Interesting.  So how did it work out on the trail?  Well in my first race on a flat, technical course I maintained speed and had my best Wednesday Worlds of the season.  You can read the details in this post, but the biggest win there was being able to ride smoothly and maintaining speed.

The formal product offering from IdeRide includes options from individual coaching through camps and clinics which I highly recommend if you’re looking to take your riding to the next level.  For more info check out

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