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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.

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.