mtb how to manual

Simple Way to Enjoy Every MTB Ride More (and Your Life)

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:


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

Modern Mountain Bikes

Modern Mountain Bikes are Amazing! Let The Good Times Roll!

As I mentioned in my last post, I love what 30 years of practice and modern mountain bikes allow me to do!

So what exactly do modern bikes allow us to do? Well, one of my readers summed it up well,

“Hi Gene!

Enjoyed your musing on old vs. new mountain bikes. I’m 47 and my first bike was a 1991 Bridgestone MB-Zip which I raced in the 90’s NORBA Expert Class.

I tend to not be overly nostalgic about those old bikes, particularly about the reliability, maintenance, and number of crashes. My steel Bridgestone frame literally snapped in half and had me walking 4 miles out of the woods. Hubs would freeze, spokes would break, and headsets would get gritty. You literally were replacing parts constantly and working on your bike several times per week. These days I ride my mountain bike for months, with nothing more than cleaning, lubing, and pressure adjustments. And I beat the BAG out of it, repeatedly smashing down trails at ludicrous speeds that would definitely break any of my 90’s bikes.

I guess my point is this: I enjoy riding my mountain bike, not working on it. And that is what the modern trail bikes allow!


Jude nailed that! I was on a group ride in Moab last summer and we were laughing at how light our packs were! We used to carry two tubes, derailers, spare spokes, duct tape, a real chain tool, etc. Yes, modern bikes don’t break near as much!

Modern Mountain Bikes

Scott Ransom, Modern Mountain Bike Geometry , 170mm of travel and it weighs less than 30 pounds! Very capable bike.

Modern mountain bike geometry is so much safer too! The long, low and slack geometry I have been preaching about since 1999 is finally available for mtbs designed for all purposes. There are now cross country race bikes with slack head angles, making descending much more fun and less scary while having no affect on most climbs (especially when combined with steep seat tube angles).

In the 90’s we would say it isn’t a great ride if you aren’t bleeding. We crashed a lot. Endos were super common, even among pros! Why? Because bikes were short, with long stems (110mm to 150mm were standard equipment) and steep head angles (70.5 degrees was slack in the 90’s, some bikes were as steep as steep 72 degrees) all of which set you up to endo almost any time your bike came to sudden and unexpected stop. (because the short reach measurement had us standing straight up, the long stem put our weight over the front axle and straightened out our arms while that steep head angle put the front wheel under us instead out in front of us)

Now it is easy to find longer bikes with 67 degree or slacker head angles that not only allow you to descend with more confidence and control but climb fine too! On a bike with a longer reach measurement with a short stem and wider bars we can stay centered and hinged in a lower, more stable and more dymanimic position. This allows us to be able to soak up compressions and drops better and not get yanked forward.

How does a bike with a 64-67 degree head angle and 35 to 50mm stem climb so well? Because riders have gotten smarter about body position (they have learned to slide forward on the saddle and hinge forward at the hips which puts the weight of their chest further forward), gotten smarter about saddle placement (slamming the saddle forward on it’s rails) and many bike companies are starting to produce bikes with much steeper seat tube angles (centering our weight over the BB instead of over the rear axle). More detail on these climbing tips:

We also didn’t have dropper posts in the 1990’s so we either stopped and lowered our seats for the descents, used a Hite-rite which allowed 60mm or 75mm of drop using a coil spring and a quick release or we simply put our butts on the rear tire with the seat smashing into our chest on descents (the position I call the flying catapult). Again, endos were common place!

Mountain bike tires have come a long way too! With thin sidewalls and tubes we had to run 40-50 psi in our skinny 2.1 by 26 inch tires so we wouldn’t flat. This gives the rider no traction and a very harsh ride. Just for fun put 45 pounds of pressure in your tires and go ride a rocky trail! It will rattle your fillings out. 2.5 by 27.5 or 29 inch tubeless tires run with 13-22 psi really smooth things out and give us more traction!

In short, newer bikes with long reach measurements (390mm+, XSmall, 415mm+, Small, 440mm+, Med,  465+, L, 490mm+,XL) steeper seat tube angles (75.5-77), slacker head tube angles (64-67), wider, larger diameter tires (2.4 to 3.0) with low tire pressure (sub 20 psi) and dropper posts have made mountain biking so much safer, more fun and more dependable. If your old bike (more than five years old) is getting a bit worn or you are sick of going over the bars look in to a more modern bike, they won’t turn you into a better rider but they will stack the odds more in your favor!

They aren’t cheap but there are some amazing lower cost options out there. My favorite bike of all time was my Kona Process 153, I had the aluminum model with least expensive build they offered, around $2,600 I seem to recall (review here)

Me, Mike and my trusty Kona Process 153 on Top The World in Whistler, 2015.

Check out this super fun sounding 120mm travel trail bike from Norco, starting at $1,649.00! 66 degree head angle and 76 degree seat tube angle with an XL with a 500mm reach measurement on a 120mm travel bike, finally! Love seeing bikes like this!,3/Norco/Fluid-FS-1-29,24434#product-reviews/3465

Those are just a few of many great, modern bikes, do your research there are so many bikes coming out with this confidence inducing geometery in all categories (xc, trail, all-mountain, enduro and what ever categories the industry has created!).

Most of all, ride your bike and have fun! If you enjoyed this article feel free to share with your riding buddies or anyone you feel might enjoy it.


Challenging mountain bike Trails

Challenging Mountain Bike Trails Should be Ridden with Skills, Not Balls MTB Video

Challenging Mountain Bike Trails Should be Ridden with Skills, Not Balls

Sorry for the use of the term “Balls” but this a common comment on some of my riding videos and I wanted to address this comment (that is often thought or said as a compliment). I will replace “balls” with “nerve” as to not offend those offended by that use of the word.

Does it take nerve to do anything you are 100% confident that you can do easily? Does it take nerve to walk down a crowded sidewalk in the city you live in? For me, things I have great confidence in do not take nerve.

How do you gain confidence without taking risks? Work on your skills in a safe environment. Once you feel you are consistently riding in balance and in control slowly, using baby steps start tackling tougher or slightly more exposed sections of trail.

Things I lack confidence in doing which have consequences that might involve a trip to the emergency room(or worse), would take a lot of nerve and at 52 I choose not to do them. This video demonstrates both of my points. You will see me ride one exposed section of trail with confidence then see me stop right after a little white sign because I am not 100% confident on the next short section of trail.

While I must be on my A-game to ride this section of trail I know I possess the skills to ride this trail. Well, most of it, notice where I stop, the section I stop at I have ridden once but I was following a friend and he made it look easy so I took his line. Having ridden this section of the Portal Trail once before, I know I have the skill to ride it. I am, however not 100% confident I could do it 10 out of 10 times. Therefore, I chose to walk this section because I lack the nerve to do it.

Then there is Darkfest and Redbull Rampage, those events take great skill and a great deal of nerve!

Nothing good comes from riding over your head, if you make it, you feel lucky (not that your skill has increased). If you don’t make it, that can really set you back, physically and mentally. No amount of peer pressure is going to get me to ride something that is dangerous and I am not confident doing.

The Portal Trail is a great example. On that ride I was riding with a rider is both more skilled than me and quite a bit younger than me (and I was hoping to follow him!) but he was tired and not feeling it that day and let me go by. When I stopped and looked back he was walking sections I have seen him ride cleanly. Smart man, as Dave Weins once said in an interview, “sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.”

I Don’t Love My Mountain Bike, I Love Riding It

I Don’t Love My Mountain Bike, I Love Riding It

Over the past few years, I have been really puzzled by social media in the mountain biking universe. It seems like people love their bikes, their bike brand and photos of their bike more than actually riding their bike! This is beyond scary to me.

I love what modern bikes and 30 years of practice allow me to do! But, no one needs the latest and greatest to have fun. In the late ’90s at the end of my downhill racing season, I would go for a ride on my fully rigid Rockhopper with cantilever brakes and 40 pounds of pressure in the flimsy old tires and I would have a blast, on a beginner trail.

Two years ago we were climbing up Porcupine Rim from the river (because the top of the trail was covered in snow) and we encountered a smiling guy coming down the trail. He was on an old rigid bike with V-brakes and an elastomer fork. He was grinning ear to ear and told us the snow wasn’t that bad, only 6″ in places! That guy made our day, that is a great attitude!

The marketing in the mountain bike industry is over the top and like most marketing, it is designed to play on your insecurities and your desire to be part of a community. It really saddens me to see riders hashtagging #iamspecialized, especially when Specialized isn’t sponsoring them! You are you, a unique individual who may own a Specialized bike but please don’t let your bike brand define you. (not a knock on Specialized bikes, I just dislike their slogan)

On that note, don’t let any “thing” you own define you. Let your integrity, personality, and love define you! Yes, I love mountain biking and yes, when I was younger I had moments when I let mountain biking define me. How sad, there is so much more to me than my love for mountain biking and my love of coaching. I love live music, learning, traveling, getting to know people from other cultures, making friends, spending time with friends, getting my mind blown Neil deGrasse Tyson, helping to raise my girlfriend’s children and so much more.

Love yourself, not some company. My degree was in business with a focus on marketing and entrepreneurship and it quickly became obvious that the goal of most marketing was to get you (the consumer) to feel that you aren’t worthy (worthy of love, worthy of respect) unless you own the product being marketed. Marketing is powerful and it affects all of us, including me.

Marketing preys on our insecurities, our idea that if we just had something more we would be happier. Things don’t make us happy, happiness is a choice. Instagram doesn’t make you happy, living your life as joyfully, as challenging and as fulfilling as possible makes you happy.

Speaking of Instagram, does anyone else feel it is sad that the photos I post that get the most likes aren’t the ones of me riding or the ones with incredibly beautiful views?  The photos that get the most likes are photos of my bike! My bike, just sitting there, how sad.

Be happy, be a good person and if it doesn’t drain your bank account buy a great bike and ride it! Post Instagram photos of you riding that bike and having a blast! Here is one of me from 1989:

BetterRide founder Gene Hamilton's first mountain bike

Gene Mountain Biking in 1989, When Bandannas Were Helmets!