Posts

Is Andy Winohradsky a better mountain bike coach than Gene Hamilton?!

Wow, considering Andy does a few less camps than me each year it is amazing how many glowing emails I get about his coaching! My goal in hiring Andy was to create the best coach in the sport who could duplicate/replace me.  I thought  by fusing his enthusiasm, incredible riding skills and skills knowledge with the coaching techniques I have learned over the last 20 years he would become a really good coach but I am blown away by emails like this:

“Hi Gene,

I was just now sitting at my computer thinking of emailing you when this email popped up at the inbox.  (I had just emailed him the first of many follow up emails to his camp)

Thanks so much for making available such a great bike skills camp.  Like I was telling Andy as we were finishing up last Sunday, I did my research and knew you guys had a good course but it really exceeded my expectations. Your course has given me the foundational skills and empowered me to be the best rider I can according to the effort I put into practicing and working on the skills taught.  Andy is a great person, instructor and bike handler. Also thanks for sending the good info with this email, I really like the figure 8 drill and plan on making it a staple of my practice time.

Thanks—Charles Wallace”

Notice the “great person” comment. Charles is at least the third person this year to mention what a great person Andy is. Hearing this really makes me happy as it has been scary to hand my baby over to other coaches.  It feels good to know I have such a great coach working for me.  It also forces me to step up and continue to improve my coaching as I can’t let Andy beat a coaching, he has already beat me on the race course enough!

Thanks Andy, for you continue to impress me and our students.

Learning/improving takes place best away from riding on trail!

The winter is the best time to improve your skills and take a mountain bike skills camp.  Learning takes place best away from the sport you are learning! That’s right, if you are spending a lot of time doing a sport it is hard to improve. This is true because perfect practice is what builds skill, not simply doing something for hours.  There is a general rule among coaches, teachers and physiologists that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a sport (or a game, an instrument, etc.).  While your goal might not be to master mountain biking the more time you spend doing deliberate practice the better you will get.

When I rider says, “I ride 20 hours a week! I am getting tons of deliberate practice!”  I have to smile as chances are not one minute of that 20 hours was deliberate practice.  Deliberate practice means working on one specific skill (or movement) with a focus on quality, not quantity.  Many skills, such as cornering involve a lot of different movements/components which means practicing “cornering” is not deliberate practice. Deliberate practice would be practicing vision through a corner three times, stopping and analyzing what you did right and wrong then refocusing and doing it three more times. This is hard to do when a beautiful singletrack is beckoning you to ride it!  In season it is hard not to just go out and ride mile after mile with a big grin on our face! The only problem with riding as much as we can is that we get really good at what we already are doing, which is often a series of bad habits.  So to improve we have to step away from the trail, learn the proper techniques and then practice these techniques one at a time with a focus on quality.  This is why you see all the basketball, football, ski teams and pretty much every sport requiring skill teams doing drills more than 70% of their practice time!

Use the off-season to learn the correct core skills and then practice them with a focus on quality and your skills, confidence and enjoyment will soar.  Snowing outside?! Hit that parking garage and spend 20 minutes doing the core skills drills we teach in our camps and then spend 10 minutes imaging perfect technique.  A few weeks of this quality practice (mixed with resistance training and cardio work) will do more than years of just winging it on the trail (according to Ross Schnell who said, “I learned more today than in the last 10-11 years of just riding” (in a rushed 3.5 hour lesson, BetterRide camps are 19-22 hours over 3 days!).

Email from reader about stem length and bar width. (from New Zealand!)

I love getting happy emails from students but happy emails from halfway around the world from riders I have never meet?! That is cool! Feels great to be helping riders all over the planet.  Here is the email:

Hey there
Low, wide bars.

I am 5 ft 8, broad shouldered and ride a medium Ibis Mojo.

Until last week I had an 80mm stem, 670mm bars set at (XC) saddle height.

I had thought this a great setup.

However after pondering your suggestions for a while I finally made the change:

60mm stem, bars 1.125″ below saddle, and 725mm width.
Wow.
Amazing.

No downsides, no oversteering, just way way better stability, agility smoothness and control.

My local trails have heaps of close trees and rocky banks, however the increased stability combined with greater agility means the extra width is not an issue.

And with more practice things will only get better.

My bike loved cornering before (low BB etc) however it settles into a turn much more quickly and is just plain way more fun.

Downhill braking is much nicer, and climbing is uneffected.

And the front end is way better planted over the rough stuff.

cheers!

Rob

BetterRiders on the Podium at the Canadian National Champs Too!

Another cool email from the father of a happy camper:
“Hi Gene,
Just read your newsletter; sounds like you took the “scenic line” down the National Champs course :)  Bummer.

14 year old McKay in 3 Place in U 17 at the Canadian National Champs

I thought i’d add to your list of students on the podium at National Championships.  Mckay (he attended your Bootleg camp with Greg M.) finished 3rd in U17 Expert Men at the Canadian DH Nationals (as a 14 yr old).  2 weeks prior, he raced at the PRO GRT at Northstar, where he finished 3rd in Cat 2 Men 18 and Under (and re-connected with Greg Minnaar, who introduced him to Steve Peat; pretty exciting stuff for a young racer!), so he had a really good two weeks!
best of luck at your race this fall in South America, and we look forward to seeing you at a camp in the future.
Sincerely,
Chris Vezina.