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I learned to coach because I love helping people succeed. That is a coach’s job, help their athletes reach their potential. I had a horrible snowboard coach (he knew his stuff technically but was bitter and put all the athletes on the team down) and thought I could do that better!

In my 29 years of coaching my focus has always been, how can I get this student performing at their best? The thing holding most people back isn’t their athletic ability, it is their mindset.

I have heard many mountain bikers say things like, “I will never be able to do that”, and they think top racers are special people, somehow they were born to mountain bike. Well, guess what, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right!” (Henry Ford)

Greg Minnaar wasn’t born with bike skills, he developed them and continually seeks to improve them. I wasn’t born with coaching skills, I developed them and I am always learning and improving.

Change your mindset from, I can’t, I wish I could … to, with practice I am getting better. Like most of us, I have setbacks and frustrating days but I don’t let those days get me down. I use those days as inspiration to get back on top of my game.

Do you know what stokes me out most about riding? Challenging myself and seeing my riding progress. I’m 52, I stopped getting faster 12 years ago! But I’m getting better, I cleanly ride sections of trail on 130mm travel bike that I struggled to ride with a downhill bike 12 years ago! (and I chicken out a little more too, I’ve gotten better and wiser!) I study, practice with focus and intensity, sometimes I fail, then I get back up and try again.

Never stop learning and practicing! About anything, if you are interested in something become a student for life! Often it isn’t about learning more, it is about learning and doing better.

Years ago I had a student say, “I already knew that.” I asked him why he wasn’t doing it! 🙂 Learning physical skills isn’t just about knowledge, it is about being able to do the skill. Can you corner as well as Greg Minnaar? If I took a photo of you practicing in a paved parking lot would you look like this?

If not you need to either learn more and then practice or practice what you have already learned.

This “good enough” attitude slowly kills your riding stoke. When you are thinking, I’m not getting better. I rode that last month but now I’m struggling. Plateauing is really frustrating and can be avoided by spending a little less time riding aimlessly and a little more time focusing on doing your drills and mastering the core skills of mountain biking.

This “good enough” attitude happens at all levels of riding from advanced beginners to top pros. I will use some pros I have been fortunate enough to coach as an example. Some of my most famous students practiced with intense focus for months/years after their camps and a few got 95% as skilled as Greg Minnaar (based on comparing their race times and watching them ride). Once getting that fast young athletes often start focusing on becoming faster instead of becoming better. Their results are plateauing (granted finishing in the top 10 in an EWS race is pretty impressive) and they are starting to look a little sloppy. They need just 10-20 minutes a day of practicing to get their techniques back to 100% because 95% doesn’t cut it at the EWS and World Cup Level.

I realize you might be quite away from riding as well as someone like Greg Minnaar, my point is no matter where you are, with a small amount of practice time you can greatly improve. As a matter of fact the further you are from perfect execution of a skill that that bigger and faster your gains will be with practice.

If they are 95% as skilled as Greg Minnaar, no matter how much they focus on speed they will never be as fast as Greg (after all he is 5% better than them and very confident!). Watch a World Cup race and compare the super fast guys in 20th place or further back. These guys are just outside of the top 20 in the World yet they look sloppy and almost out of control as they are at the edge or beyond their skill level. Then watch Minnaar, Gwin and Luca Shaw they make it look easy! They are so completely in control and so smooth they almost look slow. They put skills practice before speed!

Go out and practice and have fun getting better! Just 20 minutes of structured, focused practice done three days a week will pay off big. Set your mindset to, I am getting better with practice!

Video tutorials of skills to practice:

Mountain Bike Body Position, The Fundamental Movement Video Tutorial

MTB Manual Over Obstacles w/Overlooked Move, Video Tutorial

 

Mountain Bikers, How to Brake More Effectively, Video Tutorial

Mountain Bike Steep Rock Rolls, Video Tutorial

Please feel free to share this article with riding buddies or anyone you feel that could benefit from it. Create your best ride yet!