Monday, November 11, 2013

Video Review: Performance Mountain Biking

A mountain bike video that begins with a voiceover announcing that “Riding a bike can result in very serious injury or even death” might be enough to scare some people away from the sport altogether. Despite recent medical advances, death is still one of the most serious health concerns and a cure seems years off.

Despite this incredible risk, 1990 UCI Cross Country Mountain Bike World Champion Ned Overend managed to assemble a motley group of fearless daredevils, willing to gamble it all for a brief shot at stardom in his classic instructional video Performance Mountain Biking.

Staring DEATH in the face.

Ned Overend puts this troop through a skills training session that would make military Special Forces bootcamp look like a school-holiday program. Filmed in 1996, please be aware that this video contains bar-ends, tucked in baggy t-shirts, bad helmets and even the occasional bum-bag.
You can find a preview here.

Some of the drills include jamming on the front brake, climbing up steep boulders and riding through sand. It’s not hard to imagine the absolute hilarity that ensues.
There’s a two-up eliminator-style “slow race” where riders attempt to ride as slow as possible towards a line of rocks. As Ned points out, maintaining balance at low-speed (without the gyroscopic stabilising forces of a fast-moving wheel) is an important skill in mountain biking. “There’s some guys who could take all day to get to that rock.”

Fortunately for us, Ned doesn’t have all day, plus, he’s got a whole bunch of other great drills to squeeze in to this 60-minute instructional video.

Although it seems to have gone out of favour in recent times, back in 1996, the “Tripod” was a legitimate XC cornering technique.

There’s also some excellent footage of a rider stalling on a steep climb and falling down an embankment.
“Downhill World Champion and bike handler extraordinaire” Greg Herbold appears as a guest instructor to provide some advice on tackling obstacles, doing wheelies and getting “air time”. 
Greg is also quick to remind us about how serious mountain biking really is. “Wheelies are one of the coolest tricks you can do on a mountain bicycle, but they’re not just for kids.”

Evidently, they are also for fully-grown men wearing lycra onesies and slightly unsettling sunglasses.

“For performance riding, you might want to try clipless pedals. You’ll get a more efficient style and improved control.” While this might be true, the benefits of combining them with lace-up suede MTB shoes are unfortunately not explored.
Pedaling efficiently also requires appropriate bike geometry and setup which is demonstrated by a strange 3D graphic of man and his offroad bicycle in what appears to be a jail cell. 
I guess nobody in the real world would let Ned get close enough to measure their inseam – what with that creepy moustache (now removed), large mole and weird helmet angle.
The 3D graphics, undoubtedly cutting edge for their time, are used periodically throughout this video to demonstrate braking, turning, descending, climbing and even crashing.
The 3D graphics “artist” was obviously feeling extra-creative as evidenced by the inclusion of a Cane Creek Thudbuster suspension seatpost.

Ned understands how important attitude is when climbing. “A lot of people really dread climbs. They can be uncomfortable and even downright painful at times. But I prefer to think about the positive side of it. All the fitness benefits I’m getting from time spent on the climb.”

There’s no question that Ned is definitely a “glass half full” kind of guy. One wonders if it might have been half full of something a little stronger than water though. Perhaps Ned and the 3D graphics “artist” had a few long-lunches down at the Steamworks Brewery during post-production. He’s definitely been spotted there before.
In Durango, CO they have a MTB race that actually goes through a pub!

Along with Greg Herbold, Cross Country and Downhill specialists John Tomac and Juli Furtado also make cameo appearances. It is unclear whether Juli is any relation to Canadian singer Nelly Furtado who shot to prominence with her catchy single “I’m Like A Bird” in 2000…and also apparently enjoys cycling.
The rocky Colorado landscapes are beautifully captured in this video, but aesthetically, there is a lot more to appreciate.

In the introductory montage alone, the editing team fully exploits their creative repertoire with a barrage of scene transitions including the Page Curl, Pixelated Whirlpool, Fold Over, Purple Inflating Square & Triangle, Diagonal Cross-Hatch and Wavy Wipe. Later on there’s also an Oblique Spinning Square, Clock Wipe, Rotating Cube and Swinging Door.
While it might not seem all that impressive, it’s important to remember that this film was edited a long time before every hipster had an illegal copy of Final Cut Pro on their MacBook.

It’s no surprise that the website has a list of glowing quotes about this video.
" and tips that are hard to get out of your head"
- Armchair Mountaineer, Snow Country
This is certainly an understatement. With the African-inspired rhythms of Brin Addison’s “Hey ya mama” fading in and out in between Ned’s instructional vocals for the entire duration of the film, getting this song out of your head can prove difficult.

As well as the 3D graphics, there’s also a swathe of impressive visual effects used including the Colour Invert (negative), Solarisation, Picture-in-picture and some crazy, spinning 3D titles.
Even if you aren’t willing to risk DEATH by riding a mountain bike, there’s still plenty to appreciate in this film from an artistic, fashion and historical perspective. You can purchase the DVD version online at Everest Sports although, strangely, it seems to have been mistakenly filed in the “Clearance” section instead of the “Classics” section – I’m assuming that will be rectified soon.