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  1. #1
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    How long to break in a noob?

    I've recently gotten an old friend from high school interested in mountain biking. He bought a used Fisher Tassajara with front suspension a couple of months ago. First time I brought him out on the trail around 2 months ago, he was very slow going up and down. Since his first ride, his skills have improved somewhat, but I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to bring him on any serious rides or if he'll be able to keep up with me (I ride at a moderate pace, and little faster down most hills).

    We've been on a good 8 rides over the last couple of months including a trip to Northstar and a trip to Tamarancho this last weekend. He rode most of Tamarachno pretty well, albeit at a snail's place- still had problems with all the switchbacks and Wagon Wheel (expected of course!) I'm still burning him up hills regardless if I'm riding flats or clipless. He rides down hills a little bit faster than before, but he's still incredibly cautious about going over 15 mph it seems, even on wide open and smooth fire roads. It also seems like he doesn't want to push his endurance. I've always been a firm believer that if you want to increase your skills and endurance, you have to push yourself.

    I realize everyone's learning curve is different, but how many rides before I should expect him to improve his endurance/skills and ride at an intermediate level. I'd like to take him to Annadel in the future and do a 15 - 20 mile loop, but I don't wanna turn it into a 6 hour ride. We're both 30, and he's in good shape but doesn't do any aerobic workouts besides biking. When I ride with him, we seem to average around 3 - 3.5 MPH.

  2. #2
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    Throw him under the bus. Or push yourself as you said.

    Suggest doing Annadel and not do the 20 mile loop. Maybe an out and back on Lawndale or cut it short after you hit Ridge.

    That is what I do with my friends. A good friend got into riding, we did some easy build up cardio rides in the Headlands and China Camp. Then we did Tamarancho a few times. And then off to Moab and Fruita.

  3. #3
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    I've been trying to do that- not seeing a ton of progress though. My concern is that I may never be able to get him to the 20 miles ride at Annadel level. Should I give him 10, 15, 20 rides under his belt before we can tackle something like the Pine Mountain Loop or a longer Annadel ride?

    I should have mentioned that he isn't the most coordinated person either. There is about a 50% chance he crashes or injures himself in some way or another when we go riding. Last week he tried taking a small dirt mound as a jump, pedal kicked back and cut up his shin really bad. He also did this about a month ago, but in the parking lot before the ride and needed 4 stitches in his shin. Am I doomed, or is there light at the end of the tunnel?

  4. #4
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    That's a good question. Not everyone really wants to get any better at mountain biking. A lot of my friends I ride with are happy being able to get outside for a few hours every couple of weekends to go for a ride and that's what mountain biking is for them. I have to respect that.

    Other guys are super competitive, go on two or three rides and start signing up for races. Those guys get way better quickly. The best indicator to me is how much they are riding/exploring by themselves. If your buddy starts calling you all amped cause he was out by himself and found a sick new trail in china camp or cleaned some section he had never cleaned before you are pretty much there.....
    Previously known as mttamrnr.

  5. #5
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    PM loop is a good cario ride. Not much tech in there unless you know go elsewhere.

    Why wait until your friend reaches X rides. Take him to Annadel but tell him to stop jumping, etc.

  6. #6
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    Yah, good point. I guess I'm just kind of getting mixed signals that I'm trying to decipher if I'm going to have a serious riding partner or not. On one hand, he calls me up to inquire about riding, but on the other hand he isn't really out there trying to find new trails or riding by himself...

  7. #7
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    Sort of a related question

    Related: Any advice for a rider out who has developed a huge mental block for riding anything remotely technical? An old friend of mine who I've ridden with for years has lately gotten a terrible case of The Fear. Anything remotely technical and he gets off and walks. I know he has the ability to do it because I've seen him do it before, but he says his body tenses up and he can't get over it.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Turd Fergusen
    Related: Any advice for a rider out who has developed a huge mental block for riding anything remotely technical? An old friend of mine who I've ridden with for years has lately gotten a terrible case of The Fear. Anything remotely technical and he gets off and walks. I know he has the ability to do it because I've seen him do it before, but he says his body tenses up and he can't get over it.

    I crashed on a road bike, really bad, lost two days of memory, when I got back into riding I too was freaked,

    I had a racing coach back then and he suggested I ride around on the grass a lot and practice falling, put on pads to start with if yo want, and just fall a lot. This helps the mind get over the idea that falling is going to have serious results, worked for me.....

    not really directly applicable, but I have to guess the fear is falling is the problem, so it might help get your buddy to consider riding over something where he is in fear of falling.
    "It is a bad sign when people stop identifying themselves with the county and start identifying with a group."

  9. #9
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    8 rides (on a Fisher Tassajara!) isn't long enough to get really good. I agree with etuck - it's all about the "stoke" factor. It's the stoke that pushed all of us to progress, remember?

    The thing I'm learning is, everyone mountain bikes for vastly different reasons. Some people could spend all day in the dirt jump park, some like riding beefy bikes on shuttle runs, others can't stand their bikes being over 25 lbs, and love riding 50 mile, 8000' of climb rides for fun. (some of us like all of the above - ahem!) And some people just aren't stoked enough to do any of that. Which way does your friend seem to be leaning? To see progress quicker, maybe you need to see what your buddy gets really excited about, and try to steer him in that direction.

    Another thing is - maybe he needs to enroll in a skills clinic so he can do jumps and not kill himself?
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  10. #10
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    Up to him

    Quote Originally Posted by Haus Boss
    II should have mentioned that he isn't the most coordinated person either. There is about a 50% chance he crashes or injures himself in some way or another when we go riding.
    It's up to him if he wants to get better. He needs to get out and ride a lot on his own to build up endurance. At age 30 it should be pretty easy to get in shape. Twenty miles on a bike is pretty easy as long as you go your own pace. I'm uncoordinated and I fall all the time. But that does not stop me.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by etuck
    Not everyone really wants to get any better at mountain biking.
    Bingo!

    And, even if he does, eight rides really is nothing. Depending on the type of rider and their rate of advancement, there may be cases where you shouldn't be asking "how many rides" but asking "how many seasons?"

    I happen to have a complete log of my rides since my first. I've just looked back at it and it seems that my first ride that had more than 15 miles of trail riding was 10 months (and 30 rides) after I started mountain biking regularly. And, even that one was a bit of an over-reach for me at the time (at over 30 miles of mixed riding). My second ride that exceeds 15 miles and on which I didn't feel like I was dying was 15 months from the date I first started, right around ride number 62.
    Looking for local rides? You'll find plenty on my website: Bay Area Mountain Bike Rides.

  12. #12
    It's about showing up.
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    You can't ride the bike for him....

    as we say in the coaching business.

    I think the real question will become how long can you do this?

  13. #13
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    And probably the more important thing to remember is that pushing a beginner rider toward more and more grueling climbs and technicals rides is the best way to turn him off riding altogether.

    By contrast, if you want him to grow to love it, the ideal thing to do is to let him advance at his own pace.
    Looking for local rides? You'll find plenty on my website: Bay Area Mountain Bike Rides.

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    Progression just as been mentioned depends on that individuals drive to get better. Maybe he is happy with just getting out and enjoying himself and has no drive to get better. I first got introduced by one of my friends who has been riding for a long time. He was the only one at the time that I knew who rode bikes. He went out with me a few times until I got the hang of it then it became a sink or swim kinda thing. Then it became upon me if I wanted to get myself better and push it or be happy riding in the back. I took initiative and I went to local trails I had been introduced to and rode by myself a few times a week because I had the desire to get better and wanted to be able to do what he was doing.

    He has to want to get better himself, the old saying "you can lead a horse to water..." Another thing to do is not introduce him to so many different places or things at once... Let him get comfortable with an area that way it is easier to feel and see progression. The hardest part of starting something new is feeling like your getting better or learning. Once you start seeing the progression you get inspired to keep moving forward to get yourself better. Just when you go out enjoy yourself don't spend your ride waiting for him and going at his speed, ride ahead and do your thing and re-group at junctions or have meeting points if you both know the route.

    Chris

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    Quote Originally Posted by Haus Boss
    Yah, good point. I guess I'm just kind of getting mixed signals that I'm trying to decipher if I'm going to have a serious riding partner or not. On one hand, he calls me up to inquire about riding, but on the other hand he isn't really out there trying to find new trails or riding by himself...
    You guys riding or dating?


    It's easier to make friends with a mountain biker than to make a mountain biker out of a friend. My wife is in waaaay better shape than I am, runs, roads, swims, plays tennis, skis. Won't touch a mountain bike or dirt trail. So I ride with other people. OTOH, I don't ski. I won't ski. I don't want to ski, talk about skiing, hear about skiing, go sit in the lodge and read a book, while she skis, etc. So she skis with the kids and friends.

  16. #16
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    The answers so far have been perfect. It could be one month, it could be never, usually in between.

    The better question is:

    How do you motivate a new rider to become a much better rider faster?? How do you start the mountain biker fire in them?

    fc

    p.s. some ideas

    - take them to best trail possible
    - take them to the trail with the least climbing and the most fun
    - put them in a friendly and competitive group with riders at their level
    - put them on a road bike to learn to climb
    - put them on a shuttle ride to learn/enjoy descending.
    - sign them up for a century or a race. give them a goal.
    - make them bike commute
    - make them ride solo, many times a week.
    - ensure their equipment is perfect for their ability.

    Personally, I gravitate towards the riders who have the riding fire in their eyes. They can be fast or slow but if they live to ride, everything else falls into place. They can be injured, on a shitty ride, have four kids and two jobs but they still manage to find quality pedaling time.

  17. #17
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    I would have to agree with Erginguney about letthing noob riders advance at their own pace.

    I have a good example to share. Last year my buddy went out and bought a Specialized Rockhopper hardtail. He took that baby all over paved trails and loved to ride fast. One day, i take him to ride fireroads trails with climbing and desents (loose gravel). He takes a spill on the loose gravel. Goes to ER for stitches. Swears his hardtail is not capable of riding trails. Sells the Rockhopper and buys a brand new Specialized Stumpjumper full suspension bike.

    I thought with his new purchase he would be calling me up to take him on the trails. That is not the case....at all. Since purchasing the new bike, he has only taken it on the trails ONCE. He mostly stays on road or paved trails.

    Makes me a little sad to see such a nice bike not being used for what it was built for. Well bottom line is every riders rides to the beat of a different drummer. We all here have the "itch" and all we think of at work is where our next ride will be. Until my buddy gets the "itch" I will just give him space and let him advance on his own.

  18. #18
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    So here's my dilemma: A typical situation I've had to deal with, my buddy calls me up to see what's up with a ride and prior to the call I was planning on tackling 20 miles of terrain over the weekend- or riding some singletrack that's way above his skill level. I kind of feel like a dick if I put him off (he's going through a divorce right now and trying to stay busy), but at the same time if I go with him every single time he calls.... I'm gonna be stuck doing 8 mile rides with not a whole lotta technical stuff.

  19. #19
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    Introduce him to group rides that have no-drop rides. I have been on a few and the folk are very accomodating to all level of riders. Its also a great way to meet new friends since he is going though a hard time right now.

    Meremortals is one that i subscribe too and they have group rides every weekend and also on weekdays too.

  20. #20
    It's about showing up.
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    How long can you do this?

    It is really very simple but no one likes to say it. When you ride with folk like this you give up your riding. It really can kill your experience no matter how fulfilling it is to help a friend. So then we have to look at how we want to manage this situation. That has to do with setting up limits and expectations and hoping your friend can understand. My sense is that this is not entirely about riding for your friend. At the same time you ride for the riding.

    I wish we had a Miss Manners here to put this in perspective and give us words.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Haus Boss
    So here's my dilemma: A typical situation I've had to deal with, my buddy calls me up to see what's up with a ride and prior to the call I was planning on tackling 20 miles of terrain over the weekend- or riding some singletrack that's way above his skill level. I kind of feel like a dick if I put him off (he's going through a divorce right now and trying to stay busy), but at the same time if I go with him every single time he calls.... I'm gonna be stuck doing 8 mile rides with not a whole lotta technical stuff.
    I can empathize with that very well.

    I try to ride twice a week (though the average comes to less than that in the end) with a small group of riding buddies. Two of these people ride with me very regularly and are, consequently, in as good a shape or in better shape than me. The others, however, join only occasionally and usually aren't up for rides of the difficulty us three regular riders would ordinarily opt for.

    What ends up happening is that, in something like 70% of our rides, the three of us regular riders end up riding without anyone else, so we do a ride that can be as challenging as we wish. In the remaining 30% of the rides or so, one or the other occasional rider who's out of shape or has an injury agrees to join the ride. In those cases, we automatically change the riding plan without batting an eye to something shorter or easy enough to accommodate the weaker rider.

    There are two factors that prevent this from becoming a problem for us:

    1) The weaker rider(s) join rides only occasionally. So, it's not very painful to give up a big ride plan to compromise for another rider who happens to be able to join "this weekend". Because, we know that it is more than likely that the same extra rider (or others) will not be able to join "next weekend" or the one after that, and we can simply postpone this bigger ride to then. Of course, if you say "yes, but he wants to join almost every ride with me", then the problem defeats itself after a certain point: If he really rides with you almost every time, then you could gradually (with "gradually" being the keyword here) channel him toward riding incrementally longer and bigger rides with you, and at that rate, it shouldn't take too long before he's riding at or close to your level. (But not by counting the number of rides with him up to 10 or 12 and expect him to do an epic ride with you on the 13th ride or anything... )

    2) We rotate over a large number of riding locations (more than 30 "usual" options). So, the same ride doesn't reoccur that quickly. Even when we have to pick a lighter ride for the sake of an occasional participant, there are still so many such "lighter" options among those 30+ ride locations that, even such easy rides we do to accommodate the weaker riders are usually at places where we haven't ridden in a long while, and it's still a reasonably nice change for us. If, on the other hand, you had to do the same 8-mile ride every single time your beginner buddy wants join you, it would become boring pretty quickly. Therefore, unless you already have many options, I'd advice you to find a wider variety of (easier) riding options that you can suggest whenever he wants to ride with you. That way, at least, you won't be riding at the same old place with him everytime, and may still enjoy the ride more than you would if you were.
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  22. #22
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    Prior to reading the divorce comment, I was assuming he just wanted to see you in lycra ;-) Seriously though, it probably took me a good year before I built up any confidence. Then I started doing more group rides, and I got really in to it. I say try to get him involved in more group rides. Invite others where you can split off and regroup later.

    Also, I don't think anyone has suggested the idea of beer on the end of a stick, figuratively. One of the things that drew me to mountain biking was the social aspect. Wednesday night Skeggs rides, TNGRs, big demo gatherings, etc. The post ride party is sometimes better than the ride itself. Anyway, try to bring him along to group rides where you aren't stuck babysitting. You'll both enjoy your ride and still get to crack a few beers and hang out afterward.

    And as hard as it is to remember, it isn't always a race. Sometimes rolling along with somebody and chatting isn't such a bad thing. You may make him feel like a tool since he'll be panting and on the verge of collapsing while you're chatting away. But most likely if he's going through a divorce, he's reaching out to an old friend for someone to talk to, not to chase some dude whose always just up around the next corner almost out of sight.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Haus Boss
    So here's my dilemma: A typical situation I've had to deal with, my buddy calls me up to see what's up with a ride and prior to the call I was planning on tackling 20 miles of terrain over the weekend- or riding some singletrack that's way above his skill level. I kind of feel like a dick if I put him off (he's going through a divorce right now and trying to stay busy), but at the same time if I go with him every single time he calls.... I'm gonna be stuck doing 8 mile rides with not a whole lotta technical stuff.
    Also, tell him to meet you somewhere, like annadel, but do a lap before he gets there. That way you get your hammerfest in, but also get to ride with him. Thats what I was doing with a buddy who was trying to get back in to MTBing after 10 years off. I would ride a good 1.5 hours before meeting up with the guy.

  24. #24
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    We're riding mountain bikes, not trying to set speed records. Why would I wear Lycra (or shave my legs for the matter!)?!

  25. #25
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    Just tell him to stop being a pu$$y and ride that bike like he stole it.

    But seriously, I would first make sure the bike is set up correctly for him, frame fit, saddle height and position, stem rise and length and bar width.

    Then I would go over body positioning when he's on different trail situations.....ie cornering, rocks, roots and uphills. I would also suggest that he does some urban riding to test the limits of himself and the bike.......like how much brake to grab before you start to go over the handle bars.

  26. #26
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    Nice thread, thanks for starting it Haus Boss. I'll add:

    Expect nothing. It takes a lot of slow to grow. Have a beginner's mind.

  27. #27
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    I have a similar situation although not as drastic. My solution is to do a pre-ride, then connect with my buddy and do an additional slower ride.

    You could also hammer one day and the next do a "recovery ride" with your bro...

    If possible put him on a more aggressive freeride-ish bike on lesser trails and build some skills and confidence in this manner. Once you have the skills its easier to go to a lesser bike, I think.

    Your a good friend. I have a few that I would like to ride with but they are just such pansies, I know they would have a blast if they just dedicated a bit more....

  28. #28
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    Ummmm........He's your friend, going through a divorce. Just be stoked you are helping your friend out. He probably needs and likes to spend time with his buddys right now. Probably a lot on his mind other than getting good at biking. Take him out for a beer after the ride too.

  29. #29
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    I would say unless your training for a upcoming race I would split the riding with him while he's going thru tough times. Let him know your plans of your long ride and schedule something with him more his level also. Fiqure the dirt will always be there!

    Good luck!

  30. #30
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    Thanks for all the great advice, we'll see what happens. I'm looking forward to surfing this winter. At least when it comes to surfing, he can ride the smaller stuff closer to shore, and I can paddle out to the real waves. If only it was that simple with mountain biking!

  31. #31
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    Riproar had some good suggestions with doing a pre-ride or a recovery ride with him. If you ever have wanted to ride a single speed, that may be a time to try one out when you are riding with him. Also, you could work on some technical stuff or play around while waiting for him to catch up.

  32. #32
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    Another option: Instead of riding together at his pace, just race ahead for several minutes and then double back. You'll get more riding in and your friend won't feel the pressure that comes from having someone who is taking it easy riding right next to him while he's struggling.

  33. #33
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  34. #34
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    Well, I'm still pretty new and what did it for me was some buddies I went to school with let me use their Gary Fisher Big Sur HT and they took me to some easy stuff at Fort Ord, but before the ride I took one small pull of some medicinal pipe and it enhanced the mountain biking experience to a whole new level. I have been riding a hard for two seasons and I'm about to make a major puchase on a new bike....

  35. #35
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    Once I took a friend, who barely rode a bike before, to Slickrock trail in Moab, in mid April. Rented a pair of bikes. We have been on a cross country rock climbing trip - I was still in grad school and he just decided that Wall street career is not for him (though is doing fine in SF financial district now).

    He braved the trail, walking his bike in a few places. Then, a flash storm hit us. The area got flooded. Wind was so bad, one could not stand up without being dragged sideways. Few people got standed on the trail. We crawled several miles under raging rain, wading in water in a few places. Did not abandon our rental bikes.

    He loves biking ever since.

  36. #36
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    Pick your riding friends wisely.

    It all depends how much effort his is willing to put in??????

    If you get a competitive person, in short time he could be smoking you.

    Yet another person that does not like to get the Endorphins flowing will always ride at ONE level - slow

    Pick your riding friends wisely.

  37. #37
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    Bring him to a BTCEB Gala Ride. You ride the "A" ride and he can ride the "C" ride. You're both in the same place but with different groups and you both end up having fun.
    There are no stupid questions but there are A LOT of inquisitive idiots.


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  38. #38
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    Takes Time

    My wife is getting into biking seriously. We ride together all over now - Wilder, Ft. Ord, China Camp, Quicksilver, Mountain Bike Oregon, etc.. We go somewhere almost every weekend, and sometimes during the week. She finds the meremortal group to be fun, but it's more South Bay.

    As slow as I am, I'm still much faster than my wife, and about 5x the endurance. So what I do is ride a hard fast ride on Saturday, and a second fun social ride with her on Sunday. I used to ride one very long ride on Saturday, and spend the day at home on Sunday. But now I split it up, and have time in the afternoon both days. The only downside is I can't do long Henry Coe rides very often anymore.

    Like you, I sometimes wonder why she's not faster, more endurance, or can't handle more technical or downhill after more than a year of riding. But then I realize she has greatly improved, like when she did the Goat Trial at Ft. Ord a few months ago. But I just don't notice easily. And I think back to when I started, and it also took me a year or two before I could do the hills I do easily now. It really does take a lot of time to improve fitness and skills, unless someone's already very fit from road riding or such.

    When I'm with my wife, it's still fun in a different social way. I still get out on my bike and enjoy the ride, perhaps even more with the easy pedal. I do the hard workouts during the week before going to work, or else on Saturday as I mentioned.
    It's not slow, it's doing more MTB time.

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