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mtb camps

Inspiring Mountain Biking Students from 20 Years of Coaching, Part 1

Inspiring Mountain Biking Students from 20 Years of Coaching, Part 1

As you can imagine in my 20 years of coaching mountain bike skills I have had a lot of interesting and inspiring people take my camps. Some of these people have gone on to become famous racers, some legends in the industry (more about them in Part 2) but many of the most interesting stories come from my passionate students who simply love riding bikes.

They say that with age comes wisdom and I have definitely learned a lot from some of my oldest students. While most people aged 50 plus are retiring from sports or watching their performance in their sport/s of choice decline many of my “older students” have inspired me to keep learning, improving and getting better for the rest of my life!

My first older student was a 55-year-old grandmother who had learned to ride a bike that year! She never had a bike until she was 55, impossible for me to even imagine how scary and intimidating it must have been for her. Did I mention she had four fused vertebrae?! She said her friends thought she was crazy and that they just sat home and watched TV most of the time. I remember telling her that her friends were the crazy ones, she was smart enough to continue learning, growing and exploring. I will never forget the smile on her face when she did her first wheelie! (unfortunately, I did forget her name, it was 19 years ago!)

Two other “older students” I coached were Nancy Harris (aka Den Mom) and her husband Roger Gutierrez. Nancy and her husband Roger took my first ever Bootleg Canyon Downhill Camp (with Luna Chick Marla Streb as my guest coach) in 2005. Nancy had grown up riding motorcycles and now both of them were into downhill mountain bike racing. While her heart was willing Nancy’s knees were failing her, years of dirt bike riding had left her knees not functioning too well.

Nancy almost hidden (third from left) and Roger (in clear jacket, black hat in back row) and the 2005 Bootleg Crew

Nancy taught me to be tough! Seeing her grimace in pain but keep riding hard made a big impression on me. If she could ride in that pain I could push her bike (and my bike) up the trail to the top during that camp as her knees were really hurting in the cold (yes, it snowed in Las Vegas that weekend!). She has gone on to have both knees replaced, did her painful rehab and his still riding and racing downhill 14 years later! Roger is still riding and racing too, what an amazing couple!

mtb camps

Nancy Harris slaying corners a couple of years ago!

I once coached a 67-year-old student in Fruita who rode up and over this rock on Prime Cut in Fruita (a student is riding down in this photo):

He did it with ease (using the manual and weight shift from this article: http://betterride.net/blog/2018/mtb-manual-over-obstacles-w-overlocked-move-video-tutorial/ ). That isn’t the coolest part though. I was coaching in Fruita three years later and this elderly gentleman walked up to me and he said, “Gene, I don’t know if you remember me but I took a camp from you three years ago and you said that I was the oldest rider you ever saw go up the rock on Prime Cut”. I excitedly replied, “yeah, I remember you, you were 67!” He then, very nonchalantly said, “I just wanted to tell you, I did it again yesterday, thanks for your coaching.” He went up that rock at 70! Wow!

My oldest student so far has been Fred Schmid who was 78 when he took a camp from me in Dallas, Texas eight years ago. Now that alone is impressive, mountain biking at 78! But wait, there’s more, he did the Leadville 100 when he was 80 and finished in under 12 hours earning him the coveted Leadville 100 belt buckle! Fred started mountain biking in his 70’s after being a rancher in Waco, Texas. Last I heard from him he was doing the Telluride 100 at 83 years of age! If that doesn’t inspire you nothing will!

Mountain bike racer Fred

My meme is incorrect this was photo was from 2014 when Fred was actually 81 at the Leadville 100 mountain bike race! Apparently, he had a stomach bug and couldn’t eat enough during the race and was mad that he didn’t finish in under 12 hours to earn is second belt buckle!

I’m sure I have left a few older riders that I have coached but don’t think you didn’t inspire me too! Here’s to all the older riders out there inspiring the youngun’s that they don’t have to grow old! Thanks for the inspiration!

Mountain Biking 10 Ways To Calm Your Fear and Ride at Your Best

Mountain Biking 10 Ways To Calm Your Fear and Ride at Your Best

1.  Create a pre-ride routine to get you in the right mental space to ride your best! Nothing kills confidence liked a busy, cluttered mind. Don’t just a hop than bike after a stressful day, start with a routine that gets you focused on riding your best.  Learn to create your pre-ride routine here: https://wp.me/p49ApH-1g9

2. Go at your own pace and take “baby steps” when progressing. Taking a big leap over your comfort zone is not a good way to improve. This is a case of fear being a good thing! A big leap over your comfort zone likely means you don’t possess the skills to do it (or at least don’t believe you have those skills)!

Have you ever been goaded into doing something that you felt was way above your skill level? Even if you make it you often don’t feel like you have gotten better, you feel like you got lucky. Feeling, “Holy cow, I nearly died, that was sketchy!” does not improve your confidence! If you don’t make it,  the crash will often set you back, decreasing your confidence and raising your level of fear. So be gentle with yourself and progress at a pace that is comfortable for you.

3. Focus on what you want to do, not what you don’t want to do. This sounds simple but pays off big. Our brains don’t understand “not” and “don’t” very well. If you are focusing on not falling your brain has to focus on the concept of falling and then quickly try to refocus on “not” doing what you are thinking about. It is much easier to focus on “getting to that tree” or “ride this section smooth and light” than telling yourself “don’t fall”.

4. Live to ride another day! If you are more focused on “not falling” than you are on getting to where you are going, get off your bike and walk that section. Who knows you might go right through it the next time when you are more warmed up and/or focused.

After/while walking that section figure out what about that section is scaring you then “baby step” your way up to doing it.

Example: If a four-foot drop on an exposed trail is scaring you find a one foot drop with no exposure, get really good a hitting that, work your way up to a four-foot drop with no exposure, then ride an exposed trail with a one foot drop working all the way to a four-foot drop on an exposed trail. This builds on a series of successes, increasing your confidence!

5. Breathe, relax, breathe and smile it is just a bike ride. Breathing and smiling releases tension which improves our balance, coordination and confidence. I mean deep, belly breathes from your diaphragm which is very calming. Smiling releases endorphins which relax you. The simple act of lifting the corners of your mouth, even if it is a grimace it will release those endorphins and relax you!

I read that Navy Seals use “box breathing” for this, breathe in for a four count, hold for a four count, breathe out for a four count, hold for a four count and repeat.

6. As you improve make sure you update your self-concept to match. Remember that the past doesn’t equal the future. You may have wrecked or not made a section last week/month but if your skills have improved since then the section may be easier for you now.

Let’s say there is tough rock section that has troubled you for years, you have never made it (and probably think something like, “darn, here comes that rock that always messes me up” as you approach it. Then you learn the correct combination of skills to get over that rock and wham, you do it! This is when you need to stop, get off your bike, look at that rock and update your self-image. “Wow, that rock used to mess me up every ride, now it is easy, I simply look to victory, manual, shift my weight and off I go! That rock is so easy now, watch, I’ll do it again.” Then do it again and really cement the idea that that rock is now easy and you have the skill to do it consistently.

How to mtb, weight shift

7. Wear knee pads and elbow pads when practicing a tough section are learning a new skill. I have found that having padding on really increases your confidence when learning or trying to push your limits. As a matter of fact, I never ride without knee pads anymore, knees are too valuable and too easily damaged!

I don’t wear them because I expect to fall (I don’t expect to fall), I wear them so I can focus on what I want to do!

8. Write your fears down and then read them out loud! This often debunks your fear/s. Is your fear realistic? Often fear is not based in reality and when we realize this the fear goes away.

I was taking a meditation for sport class and the instructor had us do this exercise, some of the fears were hysterical. One of the students said he was afraid of upsetting his wife if he didn’t do well. Instructor, So your wife really cares how well you do in your bike race. Student, well, actually, while she wants to me to do well she really doesn’t care what place I get.

9. Learn from your mistakes. If you mess up or wreck do your best to figure out why it happened and correct that mistake or improve your technique so it will not happen again. Then update your self-image!

10. Power pose! You might want to add this powerful technique to your pre-ride routine! https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en

Confidence is everything! Not overconfidence which can be dangerous, simply being confident in the skills you possess as a mountain biker will enable you to ride at your best!

Remember to have fun, after all, that is what mountain biking is all about.

I hope this has helped you. What are your mountain biking fears? Let me know in the comments.

Feel free to share this article with anyone you feel might enjoy it.

MTB, What I Have Learned from Working with Greg Minnaar That Can Help You, Part 1

MTB, What I Have Learned from Working with Greg Minnaar That Can Help You

I have been fortunate to do a number of skills camps with three time World Champion Greg Minnaar over the last 12 years and I have learned a lot from him. You can benefit greatly by doing some of the things he does and by not doing some of the things he does.

What? Not do what Greg does. Isn’t he arguably the best rider in the World? Yes, and you are not the best rider in the world so what works for Greg might work for you because he has way more skill than you do! In the following example, do what Greg does!

Lesson 1: Body Position and Cornering

One thing I have always stressed in my camps is being in balance. Greg really doubled down on this point in my camps and this really showed in this camp! I was explaining to the students that if you normally ride clipped in it is a good idea to also practice with flat pedals. Flat pedals let you know when you aren’t being smooth and force you to bump jump and bunny hop correctly. (Greg agrees with this)

Then I said, “it is also good to be confident riding flat pedals for when it is muddy” and Greg, said emphatically, “NO, even if I am using flat pedals for a race, if it gets muddy I always switch to clips.”

He went on to explain that when riding flat pedals in the mud he has the urge to put his foot down and “whenever you put your foot down you are out of position”. In other words, you are not doing what Greg and I teach, being centered over the bottom bracket. See Greg in great form below.

Notice how his hips are above his bike. Bike leaned to the left, body not leaned near as much keeping his center of mass (think belly button) over his bb and weight on the tires! Look how far ahead he looking too, this is cornering done really well!

When putting your foot down, your weight goes from above your bike to “below” your bike, taking the weight off your tires, causing you to slide towards the unweighted side. See a rare photo of Greg in terrible form below.

MTB, What I learned from Greg Minnaar

I have never seen Greg this out of position, in addition to being leaned in with his foot out he is looking down too! Even the best aren’t perfect!

A great example of this is Danny Hart’s world championship winning run in 2011. Watch the video below even though Danny is riding flat pedals he is cornering like he is clipped in  (both feet on the pedals, dropping his outside foot (to put more weight on his tires) and keeping his center of mass over his bb). In one little corner, he takes his inside foot off and puts it down. Then his rear wheel slides out and he nearly throws away that amazing run!

Watch at 1:11 into this video as Danny almost throws away a World Championship by leaning into one corner!

Long story short, don’t put your foot down in corners! Learn to keep your center of mass (think bellybutton or crack of your butt) over your bb while riding to stay in balance!). Sure, when you make a mistake and are leaned in, but your foot down but, remember that you were out of position which caused your foot to go down.

Another great example of this is Aaron Gwin’s winning run at Mont Sainte Anne last year. He rides it like it is dry!

Yes, I know Sam Hill put his foot down a lot in the last EWS. You aren’t Sam Hill, he is an exception to the rule. Sam rolls the dice a lot while cornering. As a matter of fact, he did throw away a world championship in 2008 by leaning in and sliding out in the last corner (see video below at 2:39 into the video he leans in starts to slide out) he still just missed winning by .53 of a second!

Sam Hill crashing while way up at the World Championships in 2008

Watch Minnaar, Hart, and Gwin in the mud, they ride like it is dry! You should too if you want to stay upright! Stay in balance and above your bike!

I hope this has helped you understand this vital part of body position. Feel free to comment or ask any questions below.

If you know anyone who could benefit from this feel free to share it!

Tune in next week to find out a few things Greg does and did in the past that you shouldn’t do!

 

 

How to mtb, weight shift

MTB Manual Over Obstacles w/Overlooked Move, Video Tutorial

MTB Manual Over Obstacles w/Overlocked Move, Video Tutorial and frame by frame break down

Going up and over obstacles takes a lot more than just a manual.  It is all about finesse, not speed (though there is a minimum speed for this, which I found by testing how slow I could do this 🙂  ). Last week I said, “smooth equals fast and efficient” and I’m saying it again. This is all about being smooth!

Watch the video for the 2-minute tip and check out the frame by frame breakdown below. Please don’t think you will never use this by the size of the wall I’m using, I do the exact same thing on obstacles of six inches or more. I used this wall to graphically demonstrate the technique and show how these two very basic skills can achieve massive results.

As you can see it is a really simple but committed technique using two simple core skills I have been teaching for 19 years on the first day of my famous three-day skills camps, the manual and the weight shift. As a matter of fact, I have had several students work their way up to doing this by the end of my three-day camp.

By committed I mean you can’t try to do this! Either do it or don’t because stalling halfway will end badly! So baby step your way up to this. Find something much smaller and/or less steep to start on. Luckily, connected to this wall is a smaller wall that goes from a curb with just to pavers on top and has one paver increments up to this height, perfect for practicing.

First the manual breakdown. The manual isn’t a pulling or lifting maneuver, it all about pushing your bars forward while pushing your hips back (which pushes your feet forward and powers your arms). There is no need to push down and load your fork either (though it appears I’m doing it a bit here, I taught to start with a push down until about 2010 when Andy Winoradsky (one of my former BetterRide coaches) showed me that is was unnecessary, old habits die hard!) that simply wastes energy and could spell trouble on a loose, slippery or off-camber surface (your front wheel could slide out).

Start Low, centered and hinged with knees bent, elbows out (tutorial on this important descending position: http://betterride.net/blog/2018/mountain-bike-body-position-the-fundamental-movement-video-tutorial/ ). Ready to power that handlebar shove with your hips.

Drive your hips back and push your handlebars forward (not up, simply away from you). Notice, my hips are almost

over my rear axle and arms are starting to straighten.

My hips are now further back, bars further forward and I’m looking to the top of the wall.

My front wheel is unweighted and leaving the ground, arms nearly straight hips over the rear axle. Notice my heels

have dropped and legs have straightened out a bit as they push my hips back and pedals forward.

mtb how to manual

My legs are much straighter having driven my hips behind the rear axle and pushed my pedals forward. I’m now

looking past the wall, where I want to end up (looking to victory!).

MTB how to weight shift

Now I’m starting my weight shift. I am going to drive my hips and chest forward and slightly upward to keep my momentum

going up and over this wall (instead of straight into it which a manual without the weight shift would do, stalling the rider out).

How to mtb, weight shift

Look at that weight shift, my head and chest are over my handlebars, my hips have moved 2.5 feet forward and the bike has pivoted beneath me into an almost vertical position. Notice how lightly my rear tire is hitting the curb at the bottom of the wall! This is why the weight shift works, without the weight shift all of my momentum would have slammed straight into the curb, stalling me out and probably pinch flatting my rear tire.

Almost there! Almost done with my weight shift, bike pivoting back towards level and weight almost recentered.

Mountain Bike How to Manual

Victory is mine! 🙂 On top, centered and neutral ready for the next thing the trail throws at me!

I hope this has been a help to you! If it has please let know in the comments below and/or on youtube. If you know someone who could benefit from this please feel free to share it.

Thanks for tuning in, now go practice this!