I have a certain amount of trepidation about learning to mount/dismount my bike. This is one area that is quite different from the other disciplines of cycling used in 'cross. What steps did you take (or planning on taking) to learn this new skill?
My plan is to go to my local park and try everything at slow speeds. Here are a few videos I've found that make it look easy:
One thing that helped me when I was first learning: watching the top racers.
I'd find a good vantage point near a set of barriers. At race pace, it can be hard to tell what is going on; many times they are moving so fast and their actions are so fluid. I would bring my digital camera with me and take short movies. When I got home I'd watch these movies on my computer in slow motion to go over their movements to get a better sense of what was going on — who was going "foot-in," who was unclipping both feet before getting to the barriers?
I did find one suggestion on VeloNews that suggest unclipping both feet and then riding the instep (foot-out). How common is that? Too me it seems like the pitfall would be under wet conditions you could slip off. But I guess if you didn't unclip properly you would end up all tangled up with the bike on top of you.
I need to finish up my bike and hit the park and trails to practice.
totally agree with josh - the best thing is to learn from folks who can show you and watch you. there's only so much you can do online or via books or videos. hit the park with some folks, or sign up for an early season clinic.
I think you research some of the different techniques and practice. Some work better than others for different people. We all have different biomechanics. What works well for me may not for you. It's trial and error.
I think the first time I full committed myself to a flying remount was in my first race. I could never work up the courage to try it without any race-speed pressure. I can't say I have had any mishaps, but I can say that it's a lot easier than I expected. In fact, I really learned to love a well designed barrier section as I found it easy to make up time in those spots.
My advice: don't do it, or practice doing it, it baggies. Too much potential for seat+crotch snagging. Trust me on this one. *wince*
To me the trick isn't getting back on the saddle, it's keeping your momentum going once you're on there. Don't futz too much with getting clipped in right away, but be sure to keep pedaling! On muddy courses there's the possibility of having to knock your shoe against your crank/frame/pedal to clear the cleat as well, but I'm getting ahead of myself. :)
Hours of mounts and dismounts, with many forms of transitions so you get comfortable with the dismount at speed. In the mid-summer i hit my local park and walk-jog the perimeter and mount-dismount-mount-dismount, over and over and over until I can't stand it. The stutter step will be gone in weeks. I get >1000 steps in each drill.
It is true, when you remount don;t focus on clipping in, just ped away to keep your race momentum and the cleats will take care of themselves.
For me, it is countless hours mounting and dismounting each season to get the race pace momentum comfort. Once you lose the stutter step, it will be gone.
doing thousands of them at walking pace before going to a jogging pace and doing thousands at jogging pace before going to racing pace is critical.
But even more critical than that is doing it right.
All that effort if done with poor technique is wasted and forms bad habits.
I can't say it enough: GET SOMEONE TO HELP. have a pro or veteran watch you and give you pointers the first time.
Only watching someone do it on videos is sort of like being good in bed after only watching pornos... it don't translate well...
Get someone to show you in person how before you start doing the thousands of stuff.
I like to do 50-100 per session. The grass shoulder along a bike path is great. DO NOT do them on pavement...
There are really only three ways to get off, and variations of them. It is BEST to master all of them. Each is helpful in certain situations. If you only watch the current pros you'll generally just see one form because of how the barriers are generally being placed in most UCI races.
If you race as fast and on courses identical to them - well follow that.
Buy some of Henry's videos if you are a new england/MAC/NY racer and see how those pros get on and off the bike on courses you are more likely to see:
henry's page is: http://www.cyclocrossvideos.com/
Practice will help. But it is still a bike race. Getting on and off the bike is a very short part of the event. You still have to be able to pedal the damn bike :D