Thanks Andy! Your MTB Coaching gets Some Amazing Feedback!

Maybe I should just let our certified coaches do all the coaching! I did my best to only invite riders who I felt were friendly, patient and good communicators to go through our certification process but they all continue to impress me with comments from their students. Checkout these two comments from the BetterRide facebook page ( http://www.facebook.com/BetterRide ) from Andy’s camp last weekend:

Andy thank you so much! The camp far exceeded my expectations. Learned so much. Time to practice. Great group of people. = ]
Cole Johnson
Andy, thanks so much! Me, my dad, Cole, and Chase had so much fun! I’m so much more ready to tackle the race season and put all my new techniques to use on the courses up here! Defiantly the best coach I’ve ever had in any sport and the most I’ve ever learned in 3 days.
Keenan Charlton

That is the second time students have said that Andy provided the best coaching they have ever had in any sport! I am so fortunate to have such great coaches working for me! Thanks Andy!

How To Ride MTB Trails that Seem Overwhelming

It is easy to get overwhelmed looking at the big picture of some trails (“wow, it is just one challenge after another”) but breaking it down step by step makes it much less daunting!

I just got an email from one of our students about National Trail on South Mountain being rather daunting and it is! However, if you break down each challenging step (which from the beginning of the first climb it keeps throwing at you) and how you can do it seems much more doable.

Remember, to reach any goal there is a series of smaller steps and goals you have to achieve along the way. It is easy to look at the whole trail and say, “wow, 1,400 vertical feet in four miles with a bunch of one to four foot step ups, lots of steep loose sections, turns with step ups in the middle, I will never make it” (wasn’t it Gulliver who always said that?)

Instead of taking this negative approach focus more on being in the moment and tackling each step as and when you get to them. Often we are so worried about something coming up on the trail that we mess up on an easy section because we aren’t focused on the present! Can you wheelie while climbing, can you shift your weight over an obstacle, can look ahead the entire ride? If you have answered yes to those questions you can ride most trails. You simply need to focus on each challenge as it comes and if you do this before long you will be at the top of the climb or end of your ride.

A great example of this is climbing National Trail at South Mountain in Phoenix. Not only is it steep, it starts with a four foot high steeply slanted rock ledge and then throws tricky up and over moves and twists at you while you heart and lungs are redlining. It also has big rock steps on flat and downhill sections. Here is certified coach Chris Skolnick showing how by using four simple core skills (vision, body position, coaster wheelie/manual and a weight shift) he is able to get over a big rock.

Focus on one section at a time, relax, have fun and soon you will have conquered that Overwhelming trail!

Have Your MTB Upgrades Made it Less Safe and Less Fun?

I am often amazed at the mountain bike setups I see! Great bikes, sometimes with great “upgrades” but the wrong upgrades for that rider or that rider’s purpose that day. Then when I ask why did you switch to those tires/bars/pedals etc. the answers I get crack me up! “Because Bob Bobaliny (the fastest local xc racer) was using these tires at 24  Hours in the Old Pueblo”, “I saw World Champ Greg Minnaar using these tires”, “my friend Scott said they are the best”, “I read on mtbr that these were the lightest bars made”, etc. MTB upgrades and components such as pedals, shoes, handlebars, tires, stem and wheel set can have a huge positive or negative effect on your riding! Choose the components and equipment for you, the conditions and your purpose that day.

Would you use this slick, Hookworm tire in loose conditions?

 

Maxxis Hookworm MTB Tire

Why can copying the World Champion’s setup sometimes do more harm than good? The World Champ had those tires on for a specific purpose (in Greg Minnaar’s case winning a downhill race with the conditions the way they are that hour of race day. The mud spike Greg used in the slick conditions at a rainy wold cup in France would be outright dangerous even in the pouring rain at a rocky hard packed place like Bootleg Canyon (in the Nevada desert). Listening to or mimicking other “experts” (in quotes because they are often not experts) can also have a negative effect on your riding and safety. One, because they might not be experts and two, because their purpose is different than yours. On a technically easy trail like the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo course a racer will be concerned more about rolling resistance than control so she runs a semi-slick tire front and rear. The same racer on a more technical course would likely run a knobbier tire that rolled a little slower but gave her more control.

Some things to look out for:

1. Light weight components, light bars, light wheel sets, light tires, light cranks etc.. Our obsession with shaving weight off our bikes needs to end. Yes, given the exact same performance I would rather have a 22 pound bike than a 32 pound bike, but right now that doesn’t exist.

First, what is your purpose? Do want a bike that handles all conditions you may encounter really well or the lightest bike on the market? Often, the two end up being at odds with each other (the lightest bars are narrow, the lightest tires are narrow and have weak sidewalls, light weight seat-posts are not height adjustable on the fly, all compromising control). If you are simply a passionate rider who wants to ride your best, focus on ride quality and control. If you are a cross county or endurance racer you need to really weigh the benefits of weight shaving vs. control, which often means different equipment for different race courses. The more technically challenging the race the more likely you would want to add a dropper post and better tires for more confidence and control. The less technical the course the more you would favor light weight and semi-slick tires.

2. Pedals. Clipless pedals are not an upgrade (see our blog posts on this topic:   http://betterride.net/blog/2010/clipped-in-vs-flat-pedals/ ,  http://betterride.net/blog/2010/interesting-info-on-pedal-stroke-efficiency/) they are simply another way of pedaling. If they cause you to lose ANY confidence on the trail, how can they be an upgrade?!

Clipless shoes, there are two main different styles of clipped in shoes, softer and wider soled shoes for wide clipless pedals (platform pedals with clipless) and super stiff and light xc racing shoes. If you are an xc racer a carbon soled shoe provides amazing power and light weight, tough to beat. If you like to explore when you ride, ride technically challenging trails and want more support and comfort for your foot the softer soled 5.10 type shoe with the platform clip-in is a better bet. For more on each of these pedal types and shoes see Andy’s post: http://betterride.net/blog/2011/betterride-mtb-skills-head-coach-andys-summary-on-pedals-shoes/

3. Seatposts. A light weight non-adjustable seatpost will definitely save a little weight but it isn’t worth it! A  “dropper post” will give you more control and allow you to descend with much more confidence, control and help you to descend faster! You CANNOT get into proper descending body position with your seat at full pedal height! So the 3-6 ounce weight penalty of a dropper post is worth it on trails that have steep descents, fast corners, drops, or technical sections! See my article on dropper posts: http://betterride.net/blog/2010/the-4th-thing-you-can-buy-that-will-instanty-improve-your-bike-handling/

My 6 year old Gravity Dropper

Tires, the sport is called mountain biking for a reason, we ride off-road! So I nice knobby tire will give you much more traction than a semi-slick or tire with minimal tread.

Nice tread for more control!

Figure out the goals for your mountain bike riding and then make sure you aren’t compromising them by using the wrong equipment for your goals! Of course the number one goal is, having fun!

A Frustrating Thing That Often Holds Us Back on the MTB Trail! (video)

Is this frustrating thing (that we all experience) holding you back on the mtb trail?

Are you letting failure hold you back?! Or worse yet, fear of failure? Dan Millman (World Champion Gymnast, Coach and Author) said, “Failure is natural and necessary part of the learning process.” He is not recommending failing for the sake of failing but going for it and when you do fail, learning from it.

Some fear of failure can be good, if more 12-35 year old males with an inflated belief in their skills feared failure a little more there would be a lot less trips to the emergency room! If the fear of failure involves a 40 foot double jump you might want to listen to it. In this case you can use the fear to ask, “why am I afraid to do that” and you might have a great answer, “because I have no idea how to do that in balance and in control”! If the fear of failure is keeping you from doing something less dangerous, such as cornering a little faster when you know proper cornering technique and you have knee pads on, the fear of failure can really hold you back. In this case the answer to “but what if I fail?” is usually, “your pride will be hurt for a moment”.

So let fear of failure protect you when it can, but don’t let it defeat you when there are little or no consequences for failure.

As I was writing this I found this video on you tube, check it out:

A common “failure” in mountain biking is sliding out in a corner. If this happens to you out on the trail, instead of kicking your bike and cursing it, figure out why you slid out and design a plan so that it doesn’t happen again. This exact failure is why I started BetterRide. It went something like this, “Wow, that stinks, my front wheel just slid out and I skinned my knee! It is a loose, gravel corner, maybe I was going to fast. No, Dusty made it through going faster than me, speed wasn’t the issue. ‘Hey Dusty, what tires are you using, I think my tires made me slide out.’ Dusty replied, ‘Dart/smoke combo, same as you.’ ‘Well how did you go so fast through that corner?’, I asked. His reply was something to the effect of, ‘let go of your brakes and hang on!’ Which made me realize, I really don’t know proper cornering technique, I wonder who can coach me?” I won’t bore you with my struggle to find a coach but that is a great example of failure leading to success in two aspects of my life. I eventually learned to corner correctly and founded a company helping others to corner and ride correctly!

Back to your riding and how to let failure inspire you instead of hold you back. Next time you fail on the trail, before just riding off, or retrying whatever it was that you failed at, stop and analyze what happened. Was it lack of proper technique, loss of focus, tension, panic or fear? Once you figure out why you failed you can design a plan to succeed!

My plan to succeed at cornering was to find a coach to teach me how to corner correctly and then use drills to master cornering technique (I realize that isn’t most people’s thought process, I was a former professional snowboard racer and a snowboard team coach at the time). In my case it was because I was doing nearly everything wrong in corners; my vision was off, my balance was off and I thought to tighten up a turn I needed to steer tighter! Looking back on it the main reason my front wheel slid out was my body position. I was going relatively fast into the corner so I was a little tense and scared (not horrified, just a little worried that I wasn’t going to make it) so instinctively (see this article on instincts: http://betterride.net/?p=1837) I shifted my weight back away from danger which unweighted my front wheel so it slid out. This is something I still work on in fast descending corners, I have to fight the urge to creep back on my bike a bit. I am sure the fact that I was looking at the apex of the corner (not through the corner like I should have been), was leaning with my bike and sticking my knee out didn’t help either! In this case simply being centered over the bottom bracket instead of having my weight back over the rear wheel would have been enough to give the front wheel traction and make the corner.

In short, don’t be afraid of failure, make the most of your failures, use them to learn and improve. As Michael Jordan said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. When you do fail, learn from it and use the failure as inspiration to learn and improve!