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Two time DH World Champion Fabien Barel talks about the art of flow.

Two time DH World Champion Fabien Barel talks about the art of flow.

Billy Thackray Billy Thackray



Dirt Magazine’s Steve Jones has been out and about with his modern cordless-video-phone recording the brain thoughts of the world’s best riders. First up, Fabien Barel.

It’s now ten years since we produced the Fundamentals video filmed so masterfully by Alex Rankin. It was a series of skills in which pro riders talked about how to become proficient in a variety of techniques from roots to line choice, manualling, cornering or heeling in a camber.

Today many people offer the services to teach the basics, they are still an essential part to anyone’s armoury. Yet it’s how to string together and integrate these into a free-flowing technique, one that is free of any stop-start movements which is at the very heart of that rare commodity – carrying speed. As such it is the core of riding skill yet as many will tell you in many ways is simply a feeling.

The master of flow. Fabien Barel. Photo//Steve Jones
The master of flow. Fabien Barel. Photo//Steve Jones

But how to describe, rationalize, something that is in essence a feeling – a reaction? Here in an uncut moment in the hills north of Nice, two time world champion Fabien Barel talks openly about the unseen world of flow.
From feeling pressure through feet and hands, to changes to surface conditions we get an insight into a higher level of riding. The Frenchman is one of the sports great technicians and reveals that often it’s not something that can be learned by video or tutorial.

Flow is inexpressible. It’s partly instinct, partly a space in itself. Partly a path of least resistance within a landscape that breed’s power in which linking sections becomes part of the interrelated bigger picture. Flow is not describable in words because it’s something ‘other’.

This begins a series of very rough-cut videos with pro riders in the darker arts of riding.

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  1. stooky

    no one speaks better about MTB. I would pay good money for a half hour long vid of this man.

    In the same way I could with steve jones… wish his article had gone deeper!!

    1. Berto

      That was a great interview, I could’ve listened to Fabien speak for a whole hour on that topic.

      I’d really like to hear his whole opinion on the virtues of 26 vs 29er. No marketing hype, no misinformation just an expert rider with a thorough understanding of mtb design and handling idiosyncrasies giving his unbiased opinion of the strengths and weaknesses of the different wheel sizes. I hope you can do this at a later stage Steve & Billy.

  2. Dave

    I must admit when I saw that Steve Jones and Fabien Barel were going to talk about “flow” I was thrown into a state of confusion: whether in order to fully understand I should listen straight or drunk

  3. downhilldan

    Steve man stop interrupting and let the man finish what he’s saying!!

    1. Nick

      agreed from the 1st minute

    2. adude

      Absolutely ! That interview could have achieved optimum quality if Jones just shutup and let Fab speak freely. I found myself thinking “Jones …..clearly you’re just not getting what Fabs saying”

      1. Andrew

        Great lessons to be learned. Please Steve let him speak though.

  4. dirtmonsta

    Awesome interview. Wise words from Master Yoda.

    “A 29er generates less speed than a 26″ lol.

  5. Har-Mar Super-Star

    The Master

    When he speaks you listen!!!!

  6. Tino

    Pure gold. Thank you Steve for extracting something so clear from Fabien.

    Never thought about 26er generating more power but makes perfect sense, balanced against the 29ers rolling and contact patch advantage.

    So we can now conclude 29ers are for newbs, glad we got there in the end.

  7. Eoin

    Awesome. Wonder how many moaners will pop up in the comments for this discussion…

  8. Juan

    Fabiens phone went off at 11.05.
    look how quick he turned it off…he has lightning quick reactions.

    1. Mr A


  9. baon

    Yet again, a great insight from Fabien Barel.

    Insight not only into how to better ride a trail, but how a greater understanding of riding (and the philosophy/science behind it) will allow you to improve as a rider. Just as Fabien has done himself.

  10. Frankyboy26

    Move over Cantona. Great interview with the ultimate sports philosopher, Fabien Barel. Just wish the interviewer would stop interrupting.

  11. max

    Fabien Barel-Living legend .

    Truly is a bike master and conveys it in an incredibly unique way.If theres a coaching course with him sign me up!

  12. Gaz

    Have to say I agree with pretty much everyone – a great interview somewhat spoilt by SJ’s constant butting in. Yeah!

  13. chris-m

    I really enjoyed that, Mr. Jones! A very articulate way of explaining the art of flow. More of this please.
    As far a butting in, it shows that Steve is actually listening to him and wants to respond like anyone would when chatting about such an interesting subject, so to speak.

    1. Hank Stamper

      Get Fabian set up for a TED talk here !!!!!! Seriously. T w

      1. Hank Stamper


  14. Steo

    Have to agree with the comments above regarding Steve Jones. Please be quiet after you ask your question. When you ask someone a question and they’re in mid answer why (continuously) keep interrupting them…?

  15. Euan

    jesus Fabien talks so much sense!

  16. Darko

    Steve Jones you deserve a punch in the face.

    1. billy

      Hey Darko, you don’t mean that really do you? I know Jones may look like a tough grizzly bloke but he is also a caring, sensitive chap. I saw him gently weeping the other day when his ferret got stuck in the cage door and injured its paw, he said he was fine and it was ‘just a bit of grit in his eye’ but I saw the sadness in his expression when he realised that the ferret, Brian, would not be doing ‘trouser tricks’ for at least a day. Just saying…

  17. stooky

    Christ on a bike where do you people get off.

    It’s an interview Steve is trying to keep him on point so it’s an interview about flow not the world of biking.

    Don’t get me wrong I want to get into the psychology of biking as much as the next man. but it’s not in the brief.

    bunch of keyboard genghis khan’s

  18. ddmonkey

    Tip Top, Fabien is a joy to listen to – and so what about Steve speaking too its a conversation, they are meant to go two ways.

  19. PumptrackTim

    The comments are a bit nuts. Its an enthusiastic conversation, and to say Jones doesn’t get what Fab is saying is a bit of a leap, especially when you read the article that sparked it.

    Its interesting stuff and worth exploring. Without their enthusiasm there wouldn’t have been any video at all.

  20. InsaneShane

    True words of man who knows how to ride! Fab is a true legend of our sport. Always liked his analytical way of riding! Good luck in the enduro series Fabien!

  21. chrissy baby

    Flipping great bit of an interview. Dirt (and mr Jones) are really pulling it out of the bag at the moment. Who else is doing anything like this? To me it begs the question; what do you really get out of reading any of the other bike mags?

  22. Ben

    Fab truly understands the sport and what it takes.

    3 types of athlete (this mainly goes for racing sports):

    1. Those who teach themselves how to be good but lack that bit of something.

    2. Those who have that extra bit of something.

    3. Those that have that extra bit of something and realise they have it, and thrive on it.

    Fab is clearly in the latter. No surprises he stayed at the top for so long.

  23. Cheese

    A legend Fab is a God of MTBing true words about wheel size !
    PS . Shut up Steve

  24. JCL

    Good god man shut up and let the man speak. Half the time you’re missing his point and then bringing it up as a question 1 minute later. I nearly had a brain collapse.

  25. Dave

    Time to jump to the defense of Me Jones here I think. I don’t know about anyone else but I saw a conversation happening the same as any other I here down the pub: and it i that casualness that helps people express themselves without having to think too much. Well done Steve, great idea to record the conversation!!s

  26. jonesdirt

    Maybe we should have put the conversation into context, for it was simply a chat after dinner. Yes, when i played back the video i also thought that i should have maybe held off for a split second but then how many times do all of us do this in a day. Also there is no edit to this video, its one take reality im afraid. There is a second part which i think will go up next week or week after x

  27. shutter2ride

    it was a simple chat and a fun & informative one for sure, I enjoyed it for sure.
    What a bunch of internet whiners though, it’s never good enough it seems.

  28. Jamazepam

    It is what it is guys! A chat between MTB fans/enthusiasts. I enjoyed it. If you keep hating then we won’t get to see content like this!

  29. LemonadeMoney

    That was excellent. Well done Jones for getting it to film. Ignore the moaners, the booze probably helped the flow, and I got the impression Barel said everything he wanted to.

  30. ronin

    nice conversation. bruce lee is not dead. he is fabien barel.

  31. facebook_uwe.buchholz.14

    Just great! Fabien is the prophet. Best person to speak about such themes. Thank you for such clear mind and ability to speak it out. In English!
    And stopp bugging Steve, most other would not be able to start iphones video funtion during such after dinner conversation. Thanks for let us join!

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