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What good are skills if you can’t use them under pressure?

I just received this email from a student:  “Hi Gene,
I’ve really started to feel the effects of your camp and my technique has got a hell of a lot better, when I’m racing i feel so confident and fast in practice

But then when it gets to seeding and race runs this all goes out of the window and i just end up falling off, I’m not riding outside of my limits and i know that i can ride well enough to be threatening the top spot in my category but i just seem to not be able to manage the pressure and the mental side of things.

Any tips on race mentality etc??”

This a tough thing for many racers and as I mentioned a few times in
my camp, what good are all the skills if you can’t use them when
needed?

You need to toughen up your mental game. First, remember there is
no difference between a race and a practice run, same track, same
racer, same bike, same goal.  The only difference between your race
run and a practice run is the pressure YOU but on the run. Treat your
race rub=n as another practice run (especially if you are doing timed
practice runs using a stopwatch)  then read these two blog posts:
http://betterride.net/blog/2010/are-you-tough-part-1/ and
http://betterride.net/blog/2010/are-you-tough-part-2/ and most
importantly ready, study, practice, master one of these books from
your homework assignment:

The New Toughness Training for Sports: Mental, Emotional, and Physical
Conditioning from One of the World’s Premier Sports Psychologists
by James E. Leohr, Chris Evert, Dan Jansen,

Excellent book with work sheets to help you practice what it teaches.

The Mental Edge: Maximize Your Sports Potential with the Mind/Body Connection
by Ken Baum, Richard Trubo,

Excellent book with work sheets to help you practice what it teaches.

Body Mind Mastery: Creating Success in Sport and Life
by Dan Millman,

Really, really great book that goes a little deeper into why you
compete in sports and helps you integrate sport and life (helps you
see and create balance in your life so the sport does not take over
your life).

Most importantly have fun!  That’s what keeps Steve Peat and Minnaar on top.

Mountain Bike Descending body position 101, video demonstration

As you may have read in my mini-course the correct descending body position involves standing and staying centered with your weight on the pedals (not getting way back), legs relaxed and bent (not squeezing your seat) and arms bent in a half push-up position.  Remember, I didn’t invent these skills I have been fortunate enough to learn from the best (World Champions Marla Streb, Greg Minnaar, etc.) and learn from the great riders that I coach (Ross Schnell, Mitch Ropelato, etc.).  I am simply passing on what I have learned.

New Video!

In these videos taken by a student in my Philly mountain bike camp a few years ago you can really see one huge reason (there are many) why centered is good and getting back is bad. 

In this how to mountain bike video, it shows me riding off a curb with my weight back and arms extended. Notice how I get “pitched forward” as my arms are yanked down the curb.  Also notice how my entire body weight drops the same height as the curb, Ker plunk! Imagine if the obstacle was a little bigger and I was on steep hill! Imagine how much worse this would of been if I was  squeezing the seat with my thighs. Have you ever had the feeling of being pitched forward on a descent?  

In this video,  I am centered on my mountain bike with all my weight on my pedals and my arms bent, ready to extend my arms and legs so my entire weight doesn’t drop off the curb. I simply extend my arms and then my legs and the bulk of my weight (from my hips up) just keeps moving forward on the same plane. This is a much smoother, in control and in balance way to descend. Again, imagine if it was a steep hill and bigger drop.

Here is a shot of me staying centered on a much bigger drop in Moab in 2004.

Mushroom Rock in Moab

Gene with Weight centered!

Now go out and do the same two drills yourself and compare the results!

Railing Corners, maintaining body position while braking for corner.

Interesting braking and cornering question asked by one of my students:

“Just a quick follow up question.  I have been having a problem getting out of position before cornering, primarily caused by hard braking (especially if there are rough terrain before the corner or if I come in too hot).  As I brake, my body gets behind the center and lower as well, and by the time I start entering the corner, I am out of the “attack” position.  My front wheel feels light, and it becomes difficult to get in the correct cornering body position.

If you have suggestions as to how to properly transition from braking into cornering (especially under hard braking), I would appreciate it.”

Interesting question, I have been working on the same issue, especially last weekend at Snowmass. The problem stems from getting back while we brake, getting low is good but we need to stay more centered so when we release the brakes and the bike accelerates we are centered and ready to attack the corner.  I was taught the old school, “get way back while you brake” which does help the rear brake a bit but actually hurts the effectiveness of the much more powerful front brake.  Getting back also puts me out of balance and makes it hard to corner correctly.  My entire focus at the last two races has been to stay centered as I brake, use A LOT of front brake and then let off and attack the corner. Believe me, the entrances to these corners are really rough and brake bumped, but you can still stay centered. When working with Greg Minnaar he really stresses this. It sounds scary but once you do it you realize two things: 1. you can brake in a much shorter distance with more control (less front wheel slide) 2. you are in a much better position to corner when you let off the brakes. This is another reason to practice the braking drills from the camp you took.

As always it comes down to doing drills to master skills then practicing with purpose and a focus on quality!

Create a railed corner (or two)!

Email of the week. Another student makes my day!

Hi Gene:

Just a quick note to “thank you” again for making a difference in my riding skill!  I know I’ve taken THREE courses from you…and I felt this past spring that I didn’t quite meet up with my own expectations.  I had in my mind I would ride better!
Oh well, I got over that and proceeded to do the drills and I always have an intention when out riding.

I’m thanking you because I just returned from a week-long mountain biking vacation with an outfitter company that took us to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and I was able to ride all of the singletrack!  We rode about 75 miles in 5 days….lots of climbing and switchback decents on the Arizona Trail and the Rainbow Rim trail…..and I felt GREAT!  In my wildest dreams, I’m not sure I could have imagined experiencing such a fantastic adventure on my mountain bike.   I may not be a “racer, however, I have definitely benefited from your coaching.

Thanks again!  Keep up the good work.  I can’t wait to see where I go next on my bike. :)

Always,
Lynne Hulvey

Lynne on her tour