It’s been my longest stint off a mountainboard due to injury, but it’s finally over; it’s been 3 long months but I’m back on board!
Last weekend was my first time back – a Facebook Live ‘Ride Along’ at Andy’s local bmx track. The video was only half an hour or so but the session was a good hour or two. I managed almost all of it before the ankle fatigued and starting to get painful which was great – I was pumping, turning, manualing and jumping so a good range of mountainboard techniques. My timing was a little off for a while, in part due to being off a board for so long, in part because I’m tweaked my setup in quite a major way and in part because one section of the track is very hard to get right.
Any extended period off a board will have a detrimental effect on technique, I changed my trucks which altered my wheel base which will always take some getting used to and lastly, the tricky section four small rollers that are just a little too close – even when you’re at your prime. All in, I was very happy with how I rode and how the ankle held up.
Matrix Pro IIs
I mentioned changing my trucks – I’ve made the switch, for the second time, to Matrix Pro IIs. Unlike the first time, which was on practice day for the World BoarderX Championships 2015, I have plenty of time to get used to them and I’m riding some higher durometer urethane bushings courtesy of Leon Dove.
I’ve always liked the idea of the Matrix Pro IIs. Sure they have some drawbacks, but largely I see them as a step in the right direction. Reducing spin weight is one of the best ways to progress mountainboarding overall and not just in freestyle. It not only enables you to spin easier but move the board around easier and put it where you want it. Moving away from springs is arguably a good thing – you can have a good debate about it but I’m in the camp that springs contribute quite heavily to speed wobble. That said, it’s a big shame MBS didn’t come out with a wider durometer range of shock blocks – the oranges certainly aren’t stiff enough for what I like to ride and I’d be incredibly impressed if anyone could use them on the Nitro ramp and pull off more than grabs and small spins.
Leon’s custom blocks are doing the trick though. Stiffer and a bit longer than the orange blocks, they fill the void currently left vacant by MBS and have enticed me back into trying the Matrix Pro IIs. After a couple of sessions they have now bedded in and I think I will need to make a tweak Leon suggested to increase the amount of resting pre-load, but after that I think they’ll be prime.
As for the trucks themselves, the reduced weight and spin weight of the board is noticeable and much appreciated. The shorter wheelbase requires a tweak in pump and jump timing but that is fixed quickly enough through riding, and a good argument can be made for the shorter wheelbase providing a better pump once the timing is on point. The increased ride height is quite strange, especially on quarter and half pipes, and I’m not looking forward to knuckling a jump. If I could tweak the trucks to make them ride lower, I would.
All in, I think they are great and I’m really enjoying riding them. I’m looking forward to getting them out into the woods and onto some bigger BoarderX and Freestyle runs to see how they hold up. Oh and they definitely grind a lot smoother than the Matrix Pros do as well.
Cut to this weekend. After a game of squash on Sunday morning I hopped in the car and drove to Adrenaline Alley.
Many a great session has been had at the Alley and it’s resi ramp has always provided a good jump to practice, re-learn and build confidence on. There’s a bunch of other fun ramps and lines around the place though as well and it’s well worth the trip over.
Having successfully ridden at the pump track, a skatepark would provide a good all around test for my ankle’s strength and flexibility. It took some time to warm up the ankle but once it got going, for the large part, it held up well.
We started out with a session on the 7ft half pipe. It’s quite a compact and steep ramp and can catch you out when popping if you aren’t careful – something that happened to me a few times and caused some twinges in the ankle. Once I had got the ankle loosened up though it was go time! I’ve always been a straight line pipe rider – just going backwards and forwards pulling tricks, never grinding or airing across the pipe and using it’s full width. After seeing Kody tear up skateparks, that’s been changing. Aiden, Andy and I were setting each other challenges and lines to copy, and I was always throwing 50-50s across the coping into the mix.
It was a good little session to warm up with, I got a bunch of my classic pipe tricks back and mixed up my riding style. I wasn’t airing out the top like I usually do, and the extra ride height on the board wasn’t helping, but it will come back over time.
We moved on to the mini-spine. Unfortunately the spine is a few inches higher than the outer walls so you go flying into the outside hits with waaay too much speed. The ankle isn’t ready for the quick transitioning and tweaking required for fun spine riding, and Andy has bad memories of spines, so we watched Aiden put down some runs.
On to the resi jump box! Aiden has been riding Corby fairly regularly this Winter so started out with 3s and flips whereas Andy and I took a more timid approach. After a few straight airs and grabs to warm our legs up (and test my ankle out on a steep kicker and fairly heavy landing) we started to push it too. We tried some Facebook Live on my page but the mobile signal wasn’t very good and my phone battery drained very quickly (plus my cable for my external battery wasn’t working) so we decided to end that pretty early on and just ride.
The best thing about the jump session was Andy’s confidence in frontside spins. I’ve never seen him so solid or confident spinning and it was great to see – he was adding in all manner of grabs and every kind of tweak with his fs 3s, always making them super steezey, and added a bunch of different grabs to his fs 5s. He also got stylish shifty shifty 3s dialled in after a few attempts! The biggest win of the day though was landing his first 720. It’s a tricky jump to get a 720 on because of the steepness of the take off; when you throw hard for a spin it can easily throw you into a cork unless you actively try to counteract it (and you can only counteract it well if you know what to expect and you’ve got experience doing 720s!). Andy fearlessly went for the 7 attempt after attempt and was consistently close, always making the rotation but often falling due to the unexpected cork. After a rest and another session on the 7ft, we came back to the resi to close out the day and Andy stomped the 7 clean. All the attempts had a solid melon grab as well and looked great!
Outside of Andy’s 7, we fell right back into 2016’s routine of setting different grabs and tweaks for each other to incorporate into our spins which lead to a super fun session. Aiden had a solid session and pulled out a bunch of great tricks including landing his own 7 – with some greater consistency, adding a grab to his 7 and if he can learn some switch, I think Aiden could push for the top 15 at the #mwfc17.
For me, I was going with low expectations. I was hoping to get a couple of solid hours in before having to rest up my ankle but I managed to last the whole day and get much more done on the jump than I thought. After a rusty start, my 3s got solid and I had my flips, 3s, 5s and fs corks back on lock with a range of grabs and tweaks. I even got a 7 on the second or third attempt which is epic – I definitely didn’t expect to ride at the level I was riding at straight off the back of my longest injury stint off the board!
Another big positive during and after the Corby session was how fresh I felt. In the last few years I’ve really started to tire and tighten up during and after a session of riding, with only my desire to ride enabling me to keep going. That was different Sunday, my body was more than able to keep up with my head (well, except the ankle of course). I put that down to the regular exercise I’m now doing.
Swimming twice a week is really helping with my overall fitness, and squash and badminton are helping with explosive and interval fitness. My body was feeling fit and strong and was possibly in one of the best conditions it’s been, fitness-wise, during Sunday’s session which is really reassuring with a very busy World Champs and UK Champs this year. I’m planning to keep up the fitness work and add in some strength and conditioning training which, if I can stay healthy and get a good routine together, should see me at my fittest and strongest in time for the World’s.
Where it’s at
So where is the ankle really at? I’m not entirely sure. Since Sunday my Achilles has become tight and painful to walk when I’m not in shoes. I’ve booked in for a Physio consultation tomorrow so hopefully that will give some answers. Perhaps I just didn’t stretch enough.
I’m still getting swelling at the end of each day and the ankle is constantly discoloured with a persistent small amount of bruising along the bottom of my foot – all of which I was expecting to have gone away by now. The consultant at the hospital said I would be back to normal around 25th January and it’s been a full month extra on top of then and it’s still niggly. Of course I anticipated my ankle still being stiff for an extra couple of months after the end of January, but I didn’t expect the swelling, discolouration, bruising and some of the pains to linger this long.
Hopefully tomorrow will shed some light on it. I’m sure it’ll be fine eventually, these things just take time. I’ll keep up with the exercises the hospital and my physio friend back home gave me, and take on board what the physio says tomorrow and hopefully within another month the pain will be almost completely gone and I’ll be solely on the long road to full flexibility. Wherever the ankle is at, I’m very happy to be able to sport and, especially, ride again.
Back on keyboard
Back on board also referred to my keyboard this week – I’ve started putting work into the 2017 World BoarderX spreadsheet. I’m hoping my proposed, simplified and more varied qualifying method will be adopted for this year’s championships and so I need to adjust my spreadsheet accordingly.
It’s been good fun and I’ve made great progress, but I’ve reached a natural stopping point and seeing as I’m off snowboarding at the end of the week it seems like a good time to put it on pause. I have some logic to work through in my head and I need to decide how best to code up the logic and the snowboard holiday will give me a good opportunity to do that.
I’m hoping that it’ll be the case that once I return from snowboarding, within a few weeks I’ll have the spreadsheet fully completed (a couple of weeks to input and test the new logic and link it into the rest of the system and a week to code up a new randomising macro). If so, I’ll be sooooo ahead of the game for a change! Then I can turn focus back on the UK Champs and get that BoarderX spreadsheet updated and begin work on the background paperwork.
As mentioned above, I’m off snowboarding this weekend! 8 days in La Plagne, Saturday to the following Sunday, with a mighty crews of pals – it’s going to be awesome. I can’t wait to get on the snow again and see our friends who are out there doing a season. To be honest, I’m very content and happy in my job so I haven’t missed being on a season this Winter but I’m definitely ready to get away and do some snow stuff!
I think snowboarding will be kind on my ankle – I’ll make sure to avoid the park and any side hits to flat and the high, rigid boots should provide some good support. I tend to get more pain from heelside turns on my mountainboard at the moment and, thanks to the highbacks, I can’t flex my ankle back much at all in my bindings so another plus there! The real issue I see will be putting on and taking off the boots..;..
With the holiday in mind, I’ll do my best to get a blog out on Tuesday but you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t! Either way, it seems I’m back on a mountainboard and a snowboard. Hell to the yeah.