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Mountain bike myths

Mountain Bike Myths That Hold You Back. Are You Selling Yourself Short?

There are two big mountain bike myths that hold back many riders. The myth of the “natural athlete” and the myth of the “magic pill” have played a huge role in depressing riders confidence for years. Are either holding you back?

I will start with the “natural athlete” mountain bike myth. You may think (like I did until my late twenties) that the best people in sports are gifted or born with natural talent. This belief can lead you to not giving your all and/or not seeking out the best coaching available because you feel that you will never be as good as those naturals. While we all probably know someone who seems to do well in any sport that they try (which sure can be frustrating) these “natural athletes” were not born that way and sadly they rarely reach their potential. These “natural athletes” were often simply stronger at a younger age (Do you remember that kid who dominated every sport in junior high who had a mustache at 13?) or they got a head start on sports by receiving some great “basic training” in sports (especially those that require balance and coordination) when they were young, giving them more self confidence.

Mountain bike myths

BetterRide Coach Chip assisting students in a cornering drill designed to ingrain the right habits.

Reaching your potential requires work in the form of doing drills (which if done right can be fun) just ask Micheal Jordan. If anyone ever looked like a natural athlete it was MJ, wow, the man could fly. Micheal Jordan was far from a natural athlete though, did you know he got cut from his team in both his freshman and sophomore years? That’s right, Micheal Jordan wasn’t as good as 10 other kids his age in his town yet we don’t know the name of any of those kids who were “better” than him do we? Why is Jordan’s name etched into our brains? Because he worked hard at the fundamentals of basketball and worked hard in the gym and MJ reached his potential. There is an old saying, “amateurs practice until they get it right, pros practice until they can’t get it wrong”. MJ did his drills like a pro!

In the book The New Toughness Training for Sports, tennis great Chris Evert says “I was neither the fastest or the strongest in the game at the time” yet she was ranked #1 in the World! Golf great Tom Kite is legally blind without his glasses, describes himself as an average putter who drives the ball short yet he won the US Open at 42!  Anyone who has ever met me was probably under whelmed at first, I walk funny, have asthma and two massively separated shoulders. Heck I never came close to passing the “Presidential Fitness Test” as a kid. Yet despite not being a “natural athlete” I have done okay for myself in snowboarding and mountain biking.

If I had had Micheal Jordon’s work ethic and more importantly his belief system I would of gone even further in both sports. It was my belief in the “natural athlete” being better than me that kept me from giving a 100% in my training. Yes, even if I had given a 100% I would never be able to beat someone with Ned Overend’s lung capacity in a cross country race but it would of been fun to see how close I could of come. Luckily skills don’t take big lungs. So stop labeling yourself or using the idea that you are just not a natural athlete as an excuse to not do your best (as I did). If you focus on being the best that you can be everyday you will astound yourself.

The “magic pill” or “pros secret” does not exist. So many people think that if they just knew that “one thing” that Steve Peat, JHK, Sam Hill, Ryan Trebon, or whoever their hero is knew they could ride as well as them. Well I hate to break your heart but there is no magic pill or secret skill, the way to the top is the basics. Mountain biking, like martial arts, ski racing, motocross, auto racing, gymnastics, etc. requires mastery and maintenance of the basics to do well. Watch the UCI World Cup Downhill races on Redbull.com, Greg Minnaar, Gee Atherton, Rachel Atherton and Aaron Gwin aren’t doing anything special, they are simply executing the basics, nearly flawlessly.

Greg Minnaar mountain bike myths,

Greg Minnaar demonstrating the BASIC mountain bike cornering techniques we teach (after doing drills on pavement)

Unfortunately, just like in martial arts and ski racing these basics are not intuitive so first you must learn the basics. Learning them is easy with the right teacher, mastering them requires work (even with the best teacher). The Magic Pill? Knowledge and mastery of the basic core skills. If you, a friend of yours and I wanted to become great at Karate what would be the best path? Lets say your friend took those boring “wax on, wax off” lessons from a master teacher for 6 months while you and I “practiced”  everyday by fighting each other who would be better at Karate at the end of the 6 months? Despite having less “practice” time than us your friend would be head and shoulders above us in Karate skill. For more myths that may be holding you back check out our free course on the 10 most common mistakes made by most riders and how to fix them.

A little Zen: Try to look at life with a “Beginner’s Mind”, with a beginners mindset you are open to all possibilities, with an “expert” mindset your choices are very limited. Think how many “experts” have been wrong, experts once thought the world was flat and that no one can run a mile in less than four minutes. Having a beginners mindset really helps you put your ego aside, learn and enjoy life more.

Create a great ride!

mountain bike rocks

Mountain Biking in Sand, MTB Video Tutorial

Mountain biking in sand is a skill that flusters a lot of riders. On my first trip to Moab in 1990 I really struggled with it and it wasn’t until MTB Legend Missy “the Missile” Giove gave me some tips on mountain biking in sand that I figured it out. It is especially hard on flat ground when you have to maintain your momentum or worse yet on an uphill.  If you struggle with riding in sand check out this video tutorial for some help:

An important thing I left out of the video, when riding in sand don’t try to be absolutely precise with your line. As long as you are basically going where you want to go you are doing fine! I call this “fuzzy navigation”, just keep looking where you want to go and making the smallest corrections possible! Any sudden attempt to change direction will end up with your tire crabbing and you stalling out. This includes trying to turn in sand which is nearly impossible. Ideally make you turn (or at least part of it) before the sand and after the sand. If you do have to turn in sand make the biggest, most gradual arc you can.

Mountain Biking in Sand, Fruita mtb trails

BetterRide Mountain bike skills student Ali Fuchs on Joes Ridge in Fruita.

Mountain Biking in sand, coasting

Going downhill and/or coasting in sand is a little easier. When transitioning from a hard surface like rock or hard packed trail to sand there are few concerns, mainly making sure your bike doesn’t stop while you keep going! Here is a second mountain biking in sand video on how to transition to sand at speed:

Of course, these are two minor skills compared with mastering the fundamentals of mountain biking which sadly few mountain bikers have. Until you are always in the right body position and always looking at least 3-5 seconds ahead (100% of the time, even on the gnarliest trail) most skills and tips like this have little value. Remember knowledge is worthless without action!

 

 

how to brake on a mountain bike

How To Brake on a Mountain Bike (supplement to our mini-course)

How to brake on a mountain bike is a very misunderstood subject and I received this great question from a newsletter reader: ”Going down an incline brings up a question. As I’ve seen stated before, it is suggested to apply 80 – 90% front brake going down a hill. (Keep in mind I’m almost 63 and only MTB a few times a year).

Anyhow……while going down a slope with a curve, a drop off on the left, heading toward a narrow bridge crossing a creek. Favoring my front brake I came upon a very small root crossing the trail. This caused the front wheel to lock or catch suddenly on the root. Which also happens on trails with massive mazes of roots coming out of the base of trees covering the trail. Thank God I release the front and relied on the rear brake to keep a slower speed. Thus, the question to you is….explain the importance and how to use the front brake vs the rear as I often see stated.
When I was little, too much front wheel braking would cause the front wheel to lock and the front would slide out sideways, if the area was wet, sandy, loose dirt or gravel, etc….
Thanks!!”
Great question Dan. I love to hear from riders who are picking up sports like mountain biking later in life! This is the problem when “tips” are substituted for actual coaching, there are so many variables in mountain biking (like the root you hit) that you can rarely say, “always do this …..”. This a great example as we cover many of the most common variables like roots, off-camber, rough and loose conditions while braking in our skills progression mountain bike camps. We teach you the how, why and when, demonstrate them, have you do them then give you drills so eventually (with enough structured drill time) these skills become automatic. Impossible to do with the written word (although your question has made me feel I might be able to write the braking part of the mini-course a little better).

We brake for either of two main reasons, to cut speed or to maintain speed (not accelerate). When cutting speed the front brake does most of the work. Where we cut speed is very important, we only cut speed in a straight line, on-camber and where the surface is smooth and has good traction. As 3 time world champion Greg Minnaar has said in our camps, “don’t brake on off-camber and don’t brake on roots.”. Which means all braking happens before or after off-camber or roots. You did the right thing in letting go of your front brake on that root! Had you let go of both brakes before the root it (the root) would have had little to no effect on your trajectory. Few skills are isolated, there are a lot of important vision and body position skills that allow us to brake more efficiently and safer too. For instance in the first part of our mini-course you read about being centered with all of your weight on your pedals, this is really important when braking because if you shift your weight back the front brake can skid instead of hooking up and slowing you down (and if going off a small ledge braking with your weight back can cause you to endo as you will get pitched forward as your arms, hands and chest are yanked down the ledge). See article, Mountain Bike Descending body position 101, video demonstration:  http://wp.me/p49ApH-aT

When our goal isn’t to cut speed but simply not speed up and we are descending a mellow to medium pitch hill using just the rear brake will often be enough to keep us from speeding up (“dragging” the rear brake). There are a few pros (it can keep your speed at a comfortable level, keeping you relaxed, and a few other reasons) and cons (it can break traction and slide sideways, your rear wheel will smack into a bump instead of gently rolling over them and many more reasons) to doing this but again, hard to explain with just the written word. On steeper hills the rear brake alone will not provide enough power to not slowly accelerate so on steep hills you will be using both brakes to simply maintain your speed. The photo below is an example of a steep hill on a cross country trail in Whistler that you must stay centered and use a massive amount of front brake on,  just to get down it! (the scary thing is you have to release the front brake for a second for the off-camber left turn he is about to make which about doubles your speed! Then get on that front brake hard!)

mountain bike braking

Shawn Neer staying centered and using a lot of front brake!

Riding a mountain bike in balance and in control on dirt, rocks and roots, up and down steep and often slippery surfaces is rather complicated. Riding a bike in balance and in control on easy trails or on pavement is also complicated, the difference is when the conditions are easy (on pavement or easy trails) you don’t need much skill and can get away with doing a lot of things wrong. This often gives riders a false sense of competence that gets them scared or hurt when they try more challenging trails! Knowing what to do and even knowing how and why to do something are NOT the same as being able to consistently do something! Being able to do something effortlessly without thought requires a high volume of quality practice (usually in the form of drills designed to make something you know but currently have to think about turn into an unconscious habit). This is true in all physical endeavors, sport, music and art and the only way to truly reach your own potential.

A quick recap of the main new braking concepts (not addressed in our mini-course): 1. Only brake to slow down in a straight line 2. Never brake over roots or on off-camber, brake before or after! 3. Stay centered with weight on the pedals while braking. 4.

I hope this has helped. Good luck with your riding and have fun out there. For inspiration I have attached a photograph of our oldest student, Fred Schmid. In the photograph he has just finished the Leadville 100 in 13 hours and 9 minutes, at 81! The year before he finished in under 12 hours!

Mountain bike racer Fred

Fred was actually 81 at the Leadville 100 mountain bike race this year!

Create your best ride yet,

Gene

 

 

 

Moab Camper Rocking A Tough Switchback

What are Your Mountain Biking Dreams, Goals, Aspirations?

We really want to help you reach goals, live your riding dreams and ride with much more confidence and control. So, what are your mountain biking dreams, goals and aspirations? We have been fortunate enough to help over 3,000 riders achieve their goals and in 2014 we are interested in helping you.

What are you weak points that you want to improve? Is there a specific trail or section of trail you want to ride?

Coach Andy demonstrating how to climb super steep hills.

Coach Andy demonstrating how to climb super steep hills.

Do you want to have more confidence on your bike? Less fear?

Student Jen Hanks working on tight switchbacks

Student Jen Hanks working on tight switchbacks

 

Ride faster? Ride more challenging trails? Crash less?

Enter you first race? Win a World Championship?

Students Ross Schnell and Joey Schusler on top!

Students Ross Schnell in first place Joey Schusler in second!

Go to Moab and conquer “The Notch” and the Portal Trail? Ride the entrance to Horse Thief Bench?

Corner fast and in control like Greg Minnaar?

When Greg Minnaar demonstrates cornering in our camps he attacks them!

When Greg Minnaar demonstrates cornering in our camps he attacks them!

Please let us know (by posting comments) as we are here to help you!