Kyle Strait in the “Hilbilly Flag” to build a world-class double slalom track

second annual Fjords double zig zag acre inviting just exploded in Snow Summit Resort In Big Bear Lake, California. Racers from all over the world had the privilege of entering a world-class double slalom track which was masterminded by legendary mountain biker Kyle Strait. If you haven’t seen double slalom, they are racing side-by-side on individual sides of the track. A difference is taken from one rider to another, and then the runners switch sides and take them out again, until the top three stand on the podium.

This year there was a change in place. Kyle Strait and his wife Rachel brought the race from their backyard to the Snow Summit Resort. Their goal was to expand the racing potential of mountain biking and protect this specific style of racing – and boy, did they do it.

An announcer standing next to Kyle and Rachel Strait, the event's organizers.

Broadcaster/champion Mickey Haderer with Kyle and Rachel Strait before the final round of competition. Chris Wellhausen

Rachel Street said men’s magazine. “The excitement around the event was completely unexpected and inspired us to push hard in 2021 to make it happen again. One concern was the possibility that the hype was only there because almost all events were canceled in 2020. With over 200 riders last week, amateur and professional combined I think we’ve debunked that theory.”

3 bike riders on the winning podium with giant checks over their heads.

The 2021 Strait Acres Dual Slalom Invitational Mens Pro podium with Tommy Zola in first, second goes to Joey Foresta, and Dante Silva in third. Chris Wellhausen

The playoffs were very competitive, with $20,000 at stake. To get an insight into the Strait Acres Dual Slalom Invitational, we spoke to Kyle Strait about building one of the best dual slalom courses of all time, the kind of bike control it takes to win, and pro tips for improving your riding.

A view from above for the second annual Invitational Double Slalom Fjords, set off at Snow Summit Resort in Big Bear Lake, California.

The 2nd Annual Double Slalom Over Acre Fjord at Snow Summit Resort Chris Wellhausen

men’s magazineWhy did you partner with Snow Summit, and where did the inspiration for your dual slalom track come from?

Kyle Strait: The partnership gives Invitational more room to grow, allowing us to build the best possible paths. Summit was great when I presented them with the idea. They wanted to be a big player in it. I am grateful for the area we work with, the machines and the staff. It was incredible to have five to six guys every day building a sick track. Inspiration stems from a lot of my global experiences in double slalom. Most of these features are ones I’ve experienced over time…I just changed them in ways to be better.

Two cyclists on the track.

A battle between the major powers, as Cole Sweets challenges Kyle Street. Chris Wellhausen

What makes the best dual slalom courses?

The best dual slalom courses have a diverse mix of obstacles. Too much of one thing isn’t fun. Exit the starting gate [of the 2021 Strait Acres Dual Slalom Invitational], the first in a row is BMX, going to MTB style—a tight, backyard kind of pump track—and from there it switches to a super-fast free track; We have a hole in a huge cylinder that you can rub. The rest of the track flows similarly to the rhythm sections: deep hurdles until you reach the flat corners that contain a series of winding gate hurdles – each with one-foot drops – that take you straight to the finish line.

Does architecture play a role, or do you really base course design on the ride and build experience?

I like to call it hill science. They are just skills learned over many years of trial and error, seeing what works and what doesn’t. I can visually look at something and tell it looks great or if adjustments are needed.

Two cyclists are racing across a dual-track track.

Dylan Stark and Devin Kjaer’s fender turns deep into the pockets of these girders. Chris Wellhausen

Why are the mounds so deep?

You have a fixed entry and exit point. The only thing you can really do is make the dirt berm steeper to better hold your tires. You can see it in NASCAR and highway ramp design. You start putting a little notch on it, and all of a sudden you get more traction, more downforce. This goes across the board with double slalom cycles. The steeper the berms, the faster we can pass through them, and still hold. I enjoy hitting hurdles like this because sometimes there’s a limit on a lane and you can’t help but be really fast because you just get so much traction. With steep beams, it creates more traction and downforce.

What specific bike control requirements does it take to win a double slalom?

The track is only a 30-second sprint, so you can’t make any mistakes; Your accuracy needs to be accurate, all day, every time. Selection skills must be accurate. Accuracy and consistency are key in slalom, because you do so many runs. By the time you reach the finals, you will have completed 12+ rounds. Regardless of whether you are the fastest player of the day or qualified, you must pass all the rounds. It’s not just about mental confidence; You cannot make any mistakes.

How is the brake game? You do not hear tires sliding or locking up.

Certain obstacles have speed limits, so you should adjust your speed accordingly. If you use the front and rear brakes equally, this is how you slow down and maintain the most control. I like to make it clear in coaching that if you’re skiing, you’re not in control, and you have less traction. If you can cut your brake time in half, and brake stronger in the right places, you’ll get more traction and more control at the right times.

Two cyclists in a dual track.

Joey Foresta holds little lead over Devin Kerr in the double-strait slalom call. Chris Wellhausen

Explain what a scrub is – and how can you control your bike to clean it well?!

Your main goal is to rub speed. Often, when you set up a jump or a feature, you get in too quickly. If you don’t scrub it, move away from the landing. What you are trying to do is clean up your speed without having to scrub too much, so that you can still land on the back side of said feature. This all comes from a motocross background, as Bubba Stewart learned to do it on the triathlon. Translates directly to MTB.

The way you do it is you combine speed with commitment, a little bit more speed than if you were going to jump on the feature. I aim to one side of the jump and lean my bike and body as low as possible. From there, the bike takes off. Once you are in the air, it allows the bike to go to the side. Now your goal is obviously to land right in order to be able to continue down the road. It’s something that has been learned over time and a lot of practice…falling and sliding out.

Two cyclists jump high above the track.

“It was definitely a great feeling to be racing against Kyle. Cole Sweetos said the strength and experience of this guy is insane and it was an absolute privilege to have him on his side for this event. Chris Wellhausen

What do you think about jumping into a head-to-head competition?

It’s faster to jump but stay low, for example, on that five-reel segment than it is for rolling, because you can’t roll very fast. This is when it comes to jumping or gapping versus rolling and doing the proof.

What parts of the bike do you rely on most when racing dual slalom?

It’s always a combination, but I’m a hanging guy. For slalom, you need some kind of super setup – unlike motocross – because of how hard they hit the jumps. For me, it’s about my suspension where I can push really hard to get to those corners. If the suspension isn’t stiff enough, you kind of flop; It goes down and you can’t keep the right streak. The same goes for jumping and flat angles. I tuned my suspension to where there’s a little bump of sensitivity to keep traction in those flat corners, but it’s tough enough for those corners and jumps. With all that mixed together plus a choice of tires and a seven-speed drivetrain, because I just blast the gears and put quite a bit of power into the pedals.

Cycling rider Kyle Strait is on track at the Invitational Dual Slalom Acres Fjord.

Kyle Strait rides a sand wall at the Strait’s double meandering call. Chris Wellhausen

What gear are you shaking?

Tires: Kinda Benner in the foreground The booster is on the rear frame.
Wheels: Stance No MK3 Flow Tubes
Suspension: Rock Shock 140mm Pike fork, Rock Shock Super Deluxe in the rear
payment system: SRAM XO1 DH
Framework: Commencal Mita TR29
fists: Sensus Meaty Paws
bars: Cut SRAM Premium tapes to 760mm
shoes: Ride Kyle Strait Concepts
seat: SDG Bel-Air III

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Written by Joseph

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