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This Email from a BetterRide MTB Skills Student may Make You Mad!

A warning to you, if you have a big ego you might not want to read this. I heard from many people the Whiskey Off-road had super technical sections and half the field or more walked a lot of the course. Well Elaine and many of my students rode right by the walkers. They weren’t more daring, just simply in balance and in control, way to go Elaine!
Elaine’s email:
Hi Gene,

My husband, Zac, and I took your DH camp at Bootleg back in March and wanted to give you an update. I had been working on the skills on my local XC trails (Fantasy Island and Starr Pass). I figured otherwise if I only practiced on DH runs I’d hardly get any practice in.

Earlier this year I did the Whiskey off-road in Prescott. I was doing the 25 miler for fun, as I had never done it before. Took my camera along to take pics during the ride and everything. At the pre-race meeting they said we would have 2 really long downhills to ride in amongst all the climbing. So I was really looking forward to that! The trail was super crowded and I stood in line on the climbs for about 15 min before the stream of people got going again. Good thing I was only doing the event for fun and wasn’t racing and worried about a time.
I got to the first downhill and it was awesome! This was the first time I had to practice the new body position I learned in camp. No more stretching out over the rear tire. I had the elbows out, back flat, chest down and even though it felt a little strange because I was still getting used to it, I told myself to trust it and stay in that position. The trail was very loose with scree, but my rear tire was planted. Everyone in front of me was steering around the water bars and I was going straight over, passing when I could. I was watching the XC riders in front of me and it was scary. They were twitchy and all over the place and I just stayed in my body position, at some points at almost a track stand while I waited for them to get over an obstacle.

At one point the trail opened up onto a ridge down the mountain. Everyone in front of me was walking but I stuck to my guns and started down the hill. I called out to those down below “rider up” and they moved off the line as I rode down. Everyone was standing with their bikes as they hiked down and I rode by, and it felt like I was in my own personal World Cup and they were spectators on the side of the trail. It was awesome! I totally cleaned the DH and felt like a rockstar as the other riders watched.

Anyways, that has been my highlight moment so far. We have a couple of trips planned this year up to Sunrise and a week at AngelFire, so I’ll be practicing more skills.

Hope all is well with you!

Take care,

Elaine

If you want to ride like Elaine or simply improve your mountain bike riding, invest in yourself instead of your bike and sign up for a camp today.

Updates from BetterRide students w/photos!

First two emails from a students with some great photos and then some updates from all over the world!

Gene,

Here’s a couple of pictures that I mentioned I would send from Joe and my trip to Moab two weeks after our Palo Alto camp.  The first one, hopefully, is demonstrating the uphill body position, and the second one shows me looking way ahead.

Cymantha centered on her bike and looking ahead!

And here’s a link to a short video that was taken on the Sovereign Trail.  Notice how I do a little pedal wheelie on the second rise of the rock!
http://youtu.be/lHFPQ7pKuvc

Thanks again for the camp.  I recently road a local trail in Auburn that I
hadn’t yet ridden since the camp and I rode the downhill sections faster and
in more control than ever!  Pretty cool.

Cymantha Fredrickson

 

Hey Gene,
Saw the pic you posted from NJ. Looks like a great turn out. Matt and I finished 24 hours in the canyon at Amarillo TX. Yesterday  We won first place in the 2 man 24 hr Category. I think we finished out with 21 laps.  My ride went well need more time with night riding. That 3am lap was tough to get started. It was a blast met some great guys from Austin. Next race in two weeks in the Enchanted Forest near Gallup. Never been out there but the guys from bike works say it’s great riding. Talk with you later take care. Rick  (Rick is 6’8″ and just started mtbing this winter! He decided to master the basics first my taking 4 camps this winter and it seems to be paying off as he now rides many sections of trails much more experienced riders can’t and he is winning races against much more experienced riders (and being 6’8″ and over 240lbs he isn’t winning on fitness alone!)

Mitch Ropelato won the US Open GS, earned 11th in the downhill and then went to the World Cup in Scotland and took 47th in the DH! Not bad for a 19 year old!

At the same races Pan American Champion Jackie Harmony took 3rd in the GS and 4th in the Downhill!

Meanwhile at the Chile Challenge in Angelfire, NM BetterRides also did quite well.

Gene,

Just thought I would let you know I won my Cat 2 age group at the Angel Fire XC today.  Half the course was downhill and I am sure that your instruction last week helped get me down the mountain in first place . . . I kept saying “look” to myself to remember to look through the corners.

thanks for the help.

Philip Hantel

In the Downhill, BetterRiders were all over the top 20! Joey Schusler took 3rd, Brian Buell was 5th, Trevor Trinkino was 7th, Naish Ulmer 9th, Andy Proctor 14th, Jon Widen 16th and Sam Stevens 17th

Congratulations to all the Betteriders out there exceeding their goals!

BetterRide MTB Skills Coaches Earning High Praise from Students

It really feels great when students thank me for creating the BetterRide skills progression and training great coaches to teach our curriculum. When expanding to more coaches  leading camps I was really concerned about keeping the high standard that has made our camps so sought after. This has meant slower growth than many students would of liked (we can’t always meet the demand for camps in their area) but it has paid off with our certified coaches getting enough training (in our camps and then our certification school) and experience (assisting me and Andy) to become confident, inspirational coaches.  Here are a few of many recent emails:

Hello Gene,
I wanted to personally tell you what a great job Andy did with me and the rest of the group.  We all came in as experienced riders that knew we still had much to learn and your teaching methods along with Andy’s top notch  demonstration and presentation skills open us up to what we really can achieve.
The real key for me was how  very inspirational Andy is!  For someone with that much humble talent to be able to teach at such a high level with passion really brought the camp’s and my goals together for me and my fellow riders!  I will be practicing (hopefully) with some of that same exuberance to continue to improve my skills.  It was the best money I have ever spent on biking!
Hope to see you gents soon and good luck in spreading the BetterRide Word!  You and Andy really make a great Team!
Best regards,

Ken Gauthier, May 16, 2011

Hi Gabe (Gabe is BetterRide’s Operations Director),

I had a great experience at the Camp this past weekend with Dylan and my fellow students.  Your curriculum made some problem areas that I’ve always struggled with (e.g. cornering) seem much less confusing/intimidating.  I now feel like I have the tools (i.e. the drills Dylan taught us) to go out and work on my weaker skills in a structured and safe way as opposed to just “riding it” and hoping for the best.

Dylan was a great teacher, he made sure everyone felt comfortable and explained the concepts in a sensible, friendly manner.  Could I get his email address for any follow-up questions I have about the class and topics we covered?

I also look forward to receiving any follow-up materials or tips to remember that you send to participants after the class.

Thanks Gabe.

Alan Ting May 23, 2011

Gene,

The Bend two day camp this weekend exceeded my expectations.  We had a group with a very wide range of ability and riding experience.  Jeff was perfectly patient and framed the information in language that we could all understand.
The techniques we learned truly were counter intuitive and many of them would have taken me years to figure out on my own if I ever discovered them at all.
Once again, thank you for offering the clinic and give my regards to Jeff.

Terry Keele May 23, 2011

Terry riping some Bend, OR Singletrack

 

How to Descend a Steep Section, Mountain Bike Body Position

BetterRide head coach Andy Winohradsky explaining in further depth why being centered is so important, even on a steep hill. In Andy’s words:

In this update, I’ll explain proper weight placement while descending steep terrain, why this is so important and how it relates to controlling your bicycle, and I’ll also dispel one of the most infamous myths about body position and weight placement while descending.

It is EXTEMELY IMPORTANT that you remain centered and balanced on the bicycle in steep terrain, and this means having ALL of your weight on our feet. Not 50% on your hands, and 50% on your feet, not 70/30 … ALL of your weight needs to be on your feet***. The best way that I’ve heard it explained is like this: if the bike disappears, do you land on your feet? Keeping your weight on your feet is the only way to keep your body centered and balanced on the bike. This also keeps your weight over the bottom bracket of the bicycle which is essential in employing the bike’s handling characteristics.

BetterRide Head Coach Andy Winohradsky on steep, sharp turn

In the photo, I am definitely not leaning forward on the bike. Because the bike is pitched forward with the of the angle of the terrain, the my hips (the body’s center of mass) are above the rear tire, but, my weight is still on my feet – despite my relationship to the bicycle – and directly over the bottom bracket. If my bike disappears, I will land on my feet!!!

Now we’ll talk about why it is so important to maintain this position.

The particular section of trail in the photo is a nasty little spot on one of the most difficult trails on Colorado’s front range. Though it looks like it could qualify as a switchback and does require some of the technique similar to that of negotiating switchbacks (switchbacks are tough and require proper technique in order to consistently pull them off), from a technique standpoint, it is simply more of a very steep and short rock slab with a ninety degree left turn at the bottom (the trail runs along the left that fence). Speed control is essential. While many riders can drop into a near-vertical cliff face, hold on for dear life, and ride in a straight line, scared to death and completely out of control, until the trail levels out (providing that it does), the sharp turn at the bottom of this one forces a rider to control his or her speed with proper braking. This “move” in the photo is performed at about 2-3 mph, slower then a normal walking speed. In this case, a quite advanced degree of front brake control is necessary and this is impossible to execute this without proper body position.

If the rider’s weight is too far back on the bike and there is not enough weight on the front wheel the front wheel will lock up and skid (perhaps this has happened to you – scary, huh?!). At this point the rider has a few choices: release the front brake and accelerate rapidly with no hope of making the sharp turn at the bottom, skid the front wheel to an inedible crash, or, (the correct choice) – and this one better happen instantaneously and perfectly – shift weight properly onto feet, regain control, control speed …

If the riders weight is too far forward, it will be impossible to apply the front brake without taking a trip over-the-bars, thus, no speed control and no chance of making the sharp left.

The rear brake, though still useful for controlling the bike in various ways that we won’t discuss right now, is pretty much useless when it comes to slowing or stopping the bike on terrain that is this steep.

Another reason that you need to maintain this body position with your weight on the pedals on steep terrain is because – though you don’t want this to happen – there’s a very good chance that your bike will slide or skid a little bit (sometimes a lot!). If you are not centered and balanced on the bicycle, you are out of position and will not be able to effectively control the slide. The tiniest mistake can lead to big problems on steep terrain if it is not immediately and effectively dealt with, and this means having rock solid, near perfect technique in these conditions.

There are other reasons why you need to keep your weight on your feet when descending: among them, your upper body simply isn’t strong enough to support your body weight for any length of time and the balance sensors of you body reside in your ankles – let your body do the things its good at doing!

Now to dispel one of the oldest, most wide-spread, and straight-up dangerous myths/advice about riding a MTB down steep technical terrain. The Myth? Lean back when things get steep.

Lets define leaning like this: an object, other then your legs, is supporting your body while your feet are still on the ground – I can lean against a wall or I could lean my body away from a fence but hold myself up by grasping the fence with my hands. In either case, if you remove the object (wall or fence), I fall down.

When we talk about leaning back on our bicycle, the handlebars are supporting our body. If the bike disappears (the handlebars disappear) we won’t land on our feet … we will land on our butts.

We’ve already determined that if a rider is “leaning back” it will be impossible to use the front brake effectively (very little weight on front wheel), and, thus, impossible to control his or her speed. It will also be extremely difficult to control sliding or other drastic movement of the bicycle because the rider is not in a balanced and neutral position.

The funny(?) thing is, riders lean back because they don’t want to go over the handlebars while descending steep terrain, when actually, leaning back WILL CAUSE a rider to go over the handlebars in many cases.

Here’s how it works:

In the photo, the my front wheel is approximately two feet lower then my rear wheel. Because I am maintaining proper position, my arms – though out-stretched – are still not straight, allowing the front wheel to drop even lower (if it were necessary) before the bars would get so low in relation to the rest of my body and bike, that in order to maintain contact with the handlebars, I would actually be pulled forward, out of position. In this scenario, I would no longer be able to keep my weight on my feet and it would shift on to my hands … and I’d be in big trouble.

What happens when a rider leans back is they hang their butt of the back of the bike and support their weight with out-stretched, straight arms. They are already at the END OF THEIR RANGE OF MOTION when the front wheel needs to drop two feet. When the wheel drops, their body must get pulled, or yanked forward (or “bucked” forward, as its often called) because their arms are already straight. Their weight gets thrown onto their hands, they can’t control their speed, and when a rider is this out of position, contact with even the smallest of obstacles can be detrimental. (see Gene’s video explanation of this in this post:

http://betterride.net/blog/2010/mountain-bike-desending-body-position-101-video-demonstration/

Obviously, there is a lot more to descending steep terrain then simply keeping your weight on your feet:

proper use of vision, bike set-up, proper braking techniques … the list goes on and on … All these things – and then some – are essential to successfully navigating steep descents.

But now, hopefully, I shed a little light on where you want your weight to be and why (and where you don’t want it to be and why) when the going gets steep …

*** Of course, there are techniques where you will make weight shifts and/or manipulate the bicycle in order to negotiate obstacles where your body weight is temporarily off of your feet. You WILL be temporarily out of position while performing these techniques, and you will need to return to your centered and balanced position on the bike before you actually contact the obstacle that you’re negotiating – we won’t address those techniques right now.