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Two Big Mountain Biking Myths That May Be Holding You Back on the Trail.

There are two big myths in the mountain community 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.

I will start with the “natural athlete”. Many people seem to think that the best people in sports are gifted or born with natural talent and that simply isn’t the case. 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. Reaching your potential requires work (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 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. 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!  (from The New Toughness Training for Sports, James E. Loehr) 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, be the best that you be everyday and 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 his 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 most sports, martial arts, ski racing, motocross, auto racing, gymnastics, etc. requires mastery and maintenance of the basics to do well.

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 my 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 Great Fall/Winter/Spring Destinations

Mountain Bike Destinations, Great Fall/Winter/Spring

As someone who spends 12 months a year traveling the world coaching mountain biking, mountain biking and racing I have my favorite spots! I will start with the continental United States and deep winter (Mid-December through Feb.). When 90% of the country is freezing there are a few spots I love to ride in.

The number 1 spot is actually Phoenix, AZ! Before you judge let me tell you about mountain biking in Phoenix, it is incredible. Phoenix is by far the best big city in the country for mountain biking. In Phoenix (not off in distant suburbs) are two great riding areas and one pretty decent mountain biking area. When you add in the suburbs, Scottsdale, Mesa, Cave Creek, Glendale and Black Canyon you could ride for over a month and never repeat a trail (but that would be lame because the trails are so good you will want to repeat them). They don’t have daylight savings  time in Arizona so the sun sets a 5:30 on the shortest days of the year and the winter weather is amazing, warm (mid 60′s are the average high temps in the coldest month of the year, January)  and sunny. If it does rain it just makes for better riding as the rain makes the mountain bike trails tacky and fast.

Coaching World Champ Ross Schnell at South Mountain, Jan. 2010

We will start with South Mountain. At over 16,000 acres (for comparison Vail Resort is the largest single mountain ski resort in the US at 5,289 acres) and over a thousand vertical feet it has great trails for advanced beginners to pros. South Mountain is my favorite place to ride in Phoenix as it has some of the rockiest, most challenging trails in the country that always keep me on my toes. They claim 51 miles of trails but I bet there are double that if you include the super challenging ones like Old Man Trail.  Despite being in the city of Phoenix South Mountain is never that crowded as Phoenix does seem to the most outdoorsy city (this mountain would be mobbed if it was in Denver or Salt Lake City). South Mountain also has great views in all directions and cool cacti everywhere.

Next is the Dreamy Draw/Trail 100/Camel Back/Phoenix Mountain area (locals will use any of those 4 names to describe the area). Although not as big as South Mountain the terrain is pretty similar with fun, flowy, flatter trails and very steep and technical trails. A very fun and underrated area to ride.

Right between Phoenix and Tempe is Papago Park which doesn’t have the elevation or size of the other parks but has some fun flowy trails scattered about as well as a little free-ride jump area.

For great camping and fun advanced beginner/intermediate trails check out McDowell Park. There is $6 day use fee but the trail head has a shower! The main mountain bike focus trails are short loops with a lot of fun corners and dips. Not as challenging as South Mountain but very fun if you crank the speed up a bit. They also have trails that can be linked to form epic rides including the punishing Quadruple Bypass ride that some sadistic locals enjoy.

Sport Loop at McDowell, Jan. 2010 Camp

North of Phoenix off of I-17 is the Black Canyon Trail which has several trail heads and will one day go from Flagstaff to Tucson. It has quite a few fun sections all not far from I-17.

My number 2 Spot for deep winter mountain biking is a tie between Tucson, AZ and Sedona, AZ.  Tuscon has warmer weather and better night life while Sedona has a lifetime of great trails and incredible scenery but colder weather (usually about 10 degrees colder than Phoenix or Tucson). Both Tuscon and Sedona are also less than 2 hours from Phoenix making it easy to hit all three in a week.

My number 3 spot for deep winter mountain biking in the continental US is Boulder City, NV. Boulder City has the famous Bootleg Canyon mountain bike park (known for it’s challenging downhill trails but it also has some fantastic cross country trails). Visit the most well stocked bike shop I have ever seen, All Mountain Cyclery for advice on trails to ride and any upgrades you are seeking. It is also 20 miles from the Las Vegas airport and 30ish miles from the great “Cottonwood Trails” Southwest of Vegas.

Joey Schusler railing a turn at Bootleg Canyon, March 2007 Camp

For late fall and late winter riding (Mid-November through December and mid-February through April) all of the above are great with Sedona and Boulder City warming up quite a bit.

Other favorite late fall and late winter destinations are Austin, TX, Albuquerque, NM, Saint George/Hurricane, UT and most of California.

Austin has friendly people, great music and really good trails. No huge elevation gains or losses but fun flowy trails at Walnut Creek (with a great pump track), one of the most technical trails I ever ridden at City Park and fun trails you can ride right from downtown in the Green Belt. Some famous road racer lives in Austin too!

Albuquerque has trail options in many different environments. Check out White Mesa for cool desert canyon singletrack and Sandia Peak for high alpine wooded singletrack. Be sure to stop in Bike Works for local trail advice.

Saint George/Hurricane, UT is home to the famous Gooseberry Mesa Trail as well as many less famous but very fun trails. Great high desert riding from singletrack to Red Bull Rampage jumps and drops. Say hi to Quinten and DJ at Over The Edge in Hurricane and they can update you on trail conditions and recommend rides.

Although the late winter can be the rainy season in California there are good trails from San Diego all the way to Oregon there. Do some research online before heading out to California. My favorite areas inland San Diego (Nobel Canyon area), the Laguna Hills, the Santa Monica Mountains, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz (I haven’t explored much North of their yet).

I have purposely left out a lot of great trails and areas near those above as we live in a big, beautiful country, go out and explore! If you have a favorite winter spot or two tell us about them!

A Big Thank You To All Mountain Bikers, Your Passion Fuels My Passion!

Thanks to all the mountain bikers who make my life fun, challenging and rewarding. Some of you like me and email me about your huge improvements after my camp and others seem to hate me. The riders with the “what could you possibly teach me?” attitude and the guys on the $6,000 mountain bikes who tell me I am ripping people off charging $600 for my 3 day camps as they walk up a section of trail I helped a 67 year old man ride! Well, I love all of you because both sides keep me motivated to keep learning, improving and providing the best coaching I and my team of coaches can provide.  Here are two recent emails from each side:

“Please take me off of your list asap. You have some nerve charging what you do for this!” Some really angry dude who I have never met (his name with held to protect the innocent?).

Gene,
I raced in the Palo Duro Marathon (Pain on the Plain) last Saturday – 46 miles – and employed everything you taught me: vision, cornering, descending, ascending.  It was the best I’ve ever raced.  It was a technical, grueling course, and I finished 15th of 32 in my age group (I’ve been finishing dead last or beating only the DNF’s).  And I attribute it to my ability to clean impediments better, lose less time in corners, descend with more confidence, and ascend with more power (while looking where I wanted to go).  You bet I’m practicing.  Your camp was the best $600 I’ve spent in an already expensive passion…worth every cent.  Thanks again!  jj
Fortunately, I get a lot more like the second one (two yesterday!) but both motivate me in their own way.  I love coaching people and I love mountain biking but probably the thing I love the most is a challenge.  BetterRide has been one challenge after another, from my transmission blowing up on the way to my first out of state camp (3 days after quitting a good, high job to do this full time) to trying to keep a positive cash flow as my overhead went up 500% this year (do to adding both administrative staff and coaching staff to keep up with the demand for our mountain bike coaching). I can’t tell you how many times I have asked myself is this worth it, knowing I could make the same money with less stress and far fewer hours at a “normal” job. Normal jobs however were never as rewarding. I never got emails like JJ’s from people I served at those jobs. Those jobs didn’t challenge me as much to keep learning, reading and improving (both at what I was doing and as a person).
Thank you for what continues to be an amazing journey. I feel very fortunate to live the life I live and to meet and work with so many fun, interesting and inspirational people.  Thank you!
Create a very happy Thanksgiving,
Gene

Now is the Time to Start Working Towards Your Best Season Yet in 2011!

Now that the 2010 season is over (for most of us) and you have had a few weeks off from serious training, riding or competition it is time to prepare for next season. If you are serious about becoming the best rider or racer you can be now is the time to act. All the knowledge in the world is worthless without action. Below is an abbreviated version of the questionnaire I use with my full-time athletes to evaluate their season and design their training program for the next racing season.  Use this to evaluate your performance in 2010 and help your plan an even better 2011!

Do you keep a training and racing diary? A diary is a big help in the following exercise and though out the season for finding factors that lead to changes in performance. If you haven’t kept a training diary in the past, start now. A training diary helps you learn what parts of your training are working and what parts are not can explain “peak” performances and poor performances and is a great confidence booster by tracking all the hours of training you have put in.

Step One: Assess your racing season and your riding ability. Honestly and objectively answer the following questions about your 2010 season.

Did your skills improve over the course of the season?

What are your strongest skills? (cornering, jumping, steeps, etc.)

What skills need the most improvement?

How did the season go physically?

Did you start strong and get stronger as the season went on?

Did you fade in late July and August? Why?

Did you have the optimum combination of sprinting speed and endurance?

Did you pick 3 to 5 big races to peak for? Were you able to peak for those races?

How was your mental game?

Were you confident and riding to your potential or did you find yourself racing below the level that you know you are capable of?

Why?

What factors helped your confidence this season?

What factors hurt your confidence this season?

Did you a have comprehensive (mental, physical and skill) training program? What part of your program worked? What parts didn’t work?

Did your racing improve as the season went on?

Did you create and write down concrete goals?

Did you reach your racing goals?

Step Two: Use the answers to these questions as an evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses setting the foundation your 2011 season training program.

Set career, three years from now and this season’s racing goals (top three over all in my state series, etc.), physical training goals (decrease my 50 yard sprint time by 15%, increase my maximum squat by 20%, etc.), skills goals (improve balance, improve cornering, etc.) and mental training goals (improve visualization, learn relaxation techniques, etc.) for your 2011 season.

Racing Goals

1. Career goal

2. Three year goal

3. This season’s goal

Physical training Goals, to allow me to reach my racing goals

1.

2.

3.

Skills Training Goals, to allow me to reach my racing goals

1.

2.

3.

Mental training Goals, to allow me to reach my racing goals

1.

2.

3.

Work with your coach or consult a book such as The Mountain Biker’s Training Bible, by Joe Friel and/or James Wilson’s MTB strength training programs to create a training plan to reach all of the above goals. Why a coach? A coach can provide you with a structured training program designed to reach your goals while working around your schedule, an objective eye on your skills and physical training, motivate you and share his/her wisdom speeding up your improvement.

Step Three: Act on your training program! Ride! Workout! Visualize! Constantly update your goals and training program based on improvement or lack of improvement.

Remember, unwritten goals are just dreams, goals you write down you will commit to and strive to reach. Good luck next season and feel free to call or e-mail with questions, suggestions or to start a personal coaching program.