She loves cycling in the woods in the dark

The passion cannot be lost when Katarina Rönnbacka Nybäck talks about mountain biking. She started competing relatively late, but has managed to win the European Championships in cyclocross, SM in sprint and come fifth in the veteran World Cup. Here she tells Sweden by Bike about how to get over rocky passages, why girls should ride MTB, Bergslagen cycling, the benefits of dark cycling and much more.  

Why do you think MTB is a good form of training?
It's mainly because it's so much fun. Exercise should be fun otherwise it will not be lost. You can get the combination of nature experience and adrenaline rush in many sports, but in mountain biking it is easy. Just sit on the bike and swing onto the nearest path. You choose how advanced you want to drive. It is about constant rewards that may be difficult to feel or achieve during, for example, a run. During your mountain bike workout, you will pass through intermediate goals that provide direct feedback and endorphin supplements. For example, fixing a party with roots and stones that you did not manage last week, or that you get up or perform the steep hill that you got to walk last time. One should not underestimate the possibilities of ego trips and the increased self-esteem in sports. In mountain biking you can get several per pass. Then the playful cycling in the woods usually makes you forget that you exercise hard. You can work out yourself or in groups, you can work out briefly or a whole day.

Mountain biking is like a "cheek egg" that packages nature experience, exercise and playfulness in one. The speed determines whether your experience lasts 30 minutes or more hours, whether you are a beginner or an elite and unlike hiking or running, you will experience more per pass and more time. Lastly, mountain biking is relatively gentle. There are many runners who have had knee problems that are renamed cyclists. That way they can still train in the wild.

It is special to cycle over stones and roots, and maybe over a narrow footpath. How much is a matter of technology and how much is fitness to become good? 
Of course, it is good with leg strength and strength to handle certain technical steps, but to cycle over a footpath you need to work with your confidence and learn small tricks rather than improve fitness. Fix your eyes far ahead. The worst thing you can do is look down the sidewalk. Practice on planks on flat ground. If you manage to ride a board, you can ride a pedestrian. Practice balance and whatever speed you feel comfortable with to handle the bike best. Are you going to sit or stand?

When it comes to rocks and roots in the forest, small knotty slopes or the like, bone strength and fitness play a bigger role. You perform technically better if you are not completely exhausted. You keep your head clearer and easier to make the right decision while you're on the move. Then it's all about practicing and practicing. Getting through a rocky section, jerking the front wheel over an obstacle and so on is very timely. For example, by taking a technology course, training with someone who is good at explaining or finding a club to train with, you can get a lot of help to develop faster. Youtube is also a source of much knowledge, but it is unbeatable to have an experienced person who can look at you and correct your mistakes. It can sometimes be about moving your body weight a few centimeters, how much or little you bend your arms at a certain moment, or where you fix your eyes.

The answer to the question is really a counter-question. What is your level of ambition? If you are going to compete, you have to work hard with both. Is it because you want to develop technically to make it feel fun to meet challenges in the forest? Then spend as much time as you want on technical training. You get the fitness training at the bargain. This is known to those who have practiced various technology, for example at a camp. The whole body gets tired.

You have invested a little extra on MTB training for women. Why? 
I started camp for girls for 2011. This was partly because in the project I was working on I was going to organize an event of some kind and partly that I was quite alone as a girl when I cycled in the forest. The first camp was fully booked and then it went on just by speed. One camp grew to three camps a year, but at two of the camps guys are also welcome. Mountain biking has been and is still largely a male-dominated sport, although the number of female athletes is increasing rapidly. I experienced that some women were frightened by the fact that it is a gadget sport and believe that one must be able to do so much to manage cycling in the forest. That is why our girl camp also includes workshops in the form of mecca, settings of dampers, brakes, position on the bike and so on. Of course, it is the female instructors who teach you mecca. The interest among girls for these skills is enormous. Our goal is that the girls should not be afraid to go out in the woods and cycle. They should be able to change hose, put together a broken chain, adjust gears as hassles and not least, take care of the bike properly after the ride. Then it is extra fun that several of the girls who have camped with us have taken to the competition tracks. Some even out in the world, with EM medals as a result.

If you enjoy cycling but are not a competition person, how do you think you should train to get to the next level? 
First you have to ask yourself what level you want to achieve and why. If you want to get better fitness, it is often enough to increase the speed of certain workouts, or add more workouts a week. If it does not work out, it may be time to structure the workout a bit more. You can read on your own, find training programs online, or if you are really serious you will need the help of a trainer. This way you can maximize your workouts for the time you have to spend on training. Is the better technology you want to get you do as I have mentioned above. Courses, club or fun buddies are probably the key. But the simple answer is that the more you ride the better you get.

Why is Bergslagen cycling a good area for MTB? 
Bergslagen cycling offers trails whether you are a beginner, a family, club or experienced. The amount of leads allows you to spend weeks here without cycling the same route twice. We have almost 120 km of signposted trails. You will find all info about our routes, bike-friendly accommodations, areas, route descriptions, gps files to download and info on where to buy the maps at bergslagencycling.com

Some of the areas have many short trails which is good for the beginner and the family of children. Other areas have more long and demanding leads for those who like the challenges. You get a good overview of where the leads go and what difficulty they have on the digital map on the website. Then you can click where the accommodation facilities are in relation to the joints. The best thing to do is to download the gps files to any of the suggested apps or to your heart rate watch. Sometimes a sign disappears on the joints, but if you have the gps route downloaded you will not run incorrectly. The paths are divided into difficulty levels, green, blue, red and black, where black is the most difficult. Then we are well located in the country. Örebro is located in the middle of our area with good connections for all weather conditions.

How do you motivate yourself to exercise when it is autumn and the evenings darken?
Invest in good clothes and shoes, reflective vests and lamps and then you go out in the dark with a bunch of friends. It gives a completely different dimension of cycling. Don't miss focusing on fitness and performance on your bike tour during the fall evenings. There is nothing that clears up stress and negative thoughts like a mountain bike ride in normal cases. In the dark, you will also need to keep extra focus on the path. Roots and stones are taller in the fall, you discover the obstacles later, you train your coordination and reflexes and definitely have no time to think about anything else. It can blow and rain, but in the woods the trees protect and the darkness makes you end up in your own bubble. It is a wonderful experience. Then I would like to hit a beat for cyclocross. For those who want to continue training hard workouts and your fitness but at the same time have a goal, the autumn and winter cyclocros competitions are crazy fun. You get to ride your mountain bike in exercise class. Cyclo-cross is run in a park environment on lanes, and can contain everything from clay, sand to obstacles such as stairs and set wooden barriers to jump or run over. If you feel the mountain bike season is over, a new bike season is waiting now.

You have won the SM and come fifth in the veteran World Cup in XCO. What is it like to compete?
I haven't competed in that long. I ran my first real racing season in the XCO branch (the same branch or type of cycling that Jenny Rissveds won the Olympics) in 2014. Before that I had tried to run long races, but I thought it was difficult with queues in the forest, too much dirt road and that it took so many hours to get to the finish. After all, I got hungry, pissed off and got hurt in my back. Some other cyclists pestered me to test the XCO branch. The XCO World Veterans Championships would be launched in the fall of 2014 in Norway. I wanted but my husband who also bikes and I decided together. This was a chance in life. Didn't matter if we were coming last. Imagine being in a World Cup! So we started training, and competing. I competed so hard that I took home the victory in two cups that year. And it was not because I won, but I was the most diligent. In addition, we participated in the SM for the first time. I was also registered for the sprint branch, where you compete in heat that takes about 2 min. It ended with SM gold! At the World Cup in Norway I did not come last. There were a few after me in the finish even though it was among the scariest things I've done. But it gave me a taste and we have continued to compete, even in the World Cup.

To compete is incredibly fun. I have to admit that I can be terribly nervous before and many times have asked myself why I do this. When you stand on the starting line, the adrenaline feels pumping, is dry in the mouth and the opponents look like they are going to bite you, yes it can feel awkward. When, after the first lap, you think - I break, I've never been this tired, then it feels hard too. But the reward, when you pass the technical passages, when you find the flow and realize that you can continue even if you feel close to death. When you are full of endorphins, talk about the race all the way home, well then I know it was worth it and that I will do it again.

It's not about investments. To compete gives so much more. It is primarily about the community with your competitors and the people you meet. We are almost like a big family and it is so fun to meet the other girls. We practice the tracks together, we hang out afterwards and sometimes between competitions. Then it's obviously fun to win. I was extremely happy when I took the European gold in cyclocross. Years of toil provided another reward. Sometimes you don't really know what life takes for turns, and that I would become a racing cyclist after I turned 40 was nothing I even dreamed of. But now I am and it is crazy fun! Get out and ride a bike. You never know where the journey will take you.

Merit in selection
Gold in the European Championships in Cyclo-cross
Rank 5 in the XCO Veterans World Cup
Gold in Sprint in SM in XCO (and several other SM medals in MTB and Cyclocross)

Facts
XCO stands for Olympic Cross Country and is a branch of MTB. The race starts with mass starts on a hilly course with many altitude climbing. The track should contain grass, forest, paths or fields and often difficult built obstacles. 

A competition in cyclocross is usually arranged on a roundabout with bicycles that can be described as extra robust road bikes. The track is always varied with elements of sand, meadow, path, park and road and often obstacles that you have to carry your bike over. So-called plank barriers are the most skilled cyclists jumping on the move. The competitions are very intense and require both good fitness and good balance.

Daniel Bergstrand
daniel@swedenbybike.com

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