Great Email from a Student Who Had to Break Up with His RideStyle!

I just received this email this morning, it cracked me up!

One Rider’s BetterRide Camp Experience
(or: How I’ve Broken Up With My RideStyle)
By: Anonymous BetterRide Student

Mountain Biking is not just a sport, it’s an art form.  Almost anyone can appreciate the beauty of a rider with an appealing RideStyle as they navigate terrain with flow and panache.  We can recognize our friends on mountain bikes even when they are too far to see clearly because we know how they move and recognize their RideStyle.  My own way of riding a mountain bike was like a place of refuge in my life – time spent there was joyful and relaxing and familiar and fun as hell.

When I signed up for my BetterRide camp (back in 2010), I was really excited to learn to do things I have always struggled with on my bike.  I have always ridden bikes with a passion and have put much of the total energy spent in my life into riding like a bat out of hell over the hardest trails I could manage or find.  After 19-20 years of this approach to mountain biking, I decided to find out what I hadn’t found out yet.  I knew there were gaps in my abilities because I struggled with certain situations (gap jumps, wall rides, high speed rough stuff, manuals and wheelies, etc).  I felt like I was already a good rider, as I handled lots of terrain in a way that pleased me (rock gardens, steps, switchbacks, gnarly climbs, etc).    I felt that I often had “my own way of riding” that was awesome and was rooted in my RideStyle.  I was so excited for the BetterRide Camp to fill in some gaps and add some abilities to my RideStyle, and teach me things I could do differently when presented with situations I currently struggled with on my bike.

That’s not what happened.

Gene taught me the core skills of mountain biking.  I didn’t need to do things differently only on certain terrain, I needed to change the way I ride my bike EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME!  Yikes.   My body was in the wrong place, I was looking in the wrong place (the wrong way), I was approaching corners the wrong way (I thought I was great at cornering before the camp).  It took me some time to get through the Five Stages of Grieving after my camp, but it had to happen.  Sorry RideStyle, it’s not me, it’s YOU.  We’re through!

It started with Denial (it always does).  “I’m great at switchbacks and corners” “I’m fast downhills compared to some people” “I’m a good rider, dammit!”  “What I do works most of the time, I don’t wreck much, even Gene acknowledged that I am a strong mountain biker, I don’t have to completely change the way I ride!”

Denial always ends with the beginning of Anger.  In this case it was spread out as the realization slipped into my brain bit by bit.  Anger when I crashed INTO a wall ride instead of riding it.  Anger when I sprained my hand wrecking over a gap jump (due to poor body position and vision).  Anger when I could not perform the simple drills Gene teaches in camp as well as a beginner.  Anger when I realized I spent 20 years of riding building habits that kept me from doing what I wanted to on the bike.

Once Denial is over, and Anger starts to subside, we get to Bargaining.  This stage took a long time for me.   “OK, Gene was right.  I need to lower my chest and spread my elbows.  He’s right about the shorter stem.   But my vision is OK.  I can remember what he taught us without doing the drills.  My way of doing switchbacks is cool, and it works a lot of the time.   I need to keep some of my RideStyle or I’ll just be a mountain biking robot out there copying Gene’s RideStyle.  There’s more than one way to skin a cat.  Just because what I do is different doesn’t mean it’s wrong.   If I change a few of the things I learned in camp, and keep some of my old Style, I’ll be better and still have my RideStyle (that I have invested 20 years in) intact!  Great Plan!

Not!

Because it doesn’t work that way.  After the Bargaining comes Depression.   Once Gene breaks it down to science for you, your brain will know you are trying to fool it. “You know you can do better.   If you were looking in the right place, you would have ripped that wall ride!  Why did you chicken out on that jump?  Why did you wash out on that switchback and get passed?”  You know your relationship with your RideStyle has to end.  The longer you drag it out the uglier the breakup has to be.   It was sad, but I had to move my RideStyle’s shit out of my house and change the locks!   (That means you, long stem, narrow bars, and hard tires, poor vision habits, body position habits, etc)   The only way to get them out of here was to do the drills Gene taught me.   They are like an eviction service for your bad habits.   So now it’s Acceptance.  That’s the part where I do my drills, take care of myself and enjoy a new way of riding my bike.   The best part is, I’m getting to know a new RideStyle now!  I think I love her.  And I know it can last forever!

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