Fear when mountain biking is good!

Mountain Bikers, How to Brake More Effectively, Video Tutorial

Using your front brake effectively is one of the most important skills on a mountain bike. Proper use of the front brake gives you much more control making you safer, faster and more confident. Now, when braking to cut speed (the main reason we use our front brake) you also want to use that weak rear brake to assist that powerful front brake. Watch my video tutorial and then read below for more detail on this important mtb skill.

An important piece I left out of the video is that you always want to cut speed in a straight line! Using that front brake and cutting speed in a corner is a recipe for disaster!

Your body position while braking is crucial and this often taught wrong (I taught it incorrectly from the start of BetterRide in the spring of 1999 until the fall of 2005)! What I taught and what I recently read from one of the best downhill racers in the world is, as you are braking get your weight back. This is terrible advice for a number of reasons (that I will address in a moment), so why did one of the best downhill racers in the world recommend this position? Because it feels like you are getting back when you are braking hard, what he is actually doing is bracing really hard so he doesn’t get tossed forward.

Granted, I used to get my weight back while braking and because it was such an ingrained habit! I still start to scout back sometimes when braking hard. It is also human instinct to move away from danger so it feels good to scoot back (until you crash :)).

There are a few reasons pushing your weight back while braking is bad (or pretty much any time except when manuling) :

  • It puts you in an off-balance and non-neutral position that I call the flying catapult! As your arms straighten and your butt goes back you end up at the end of your range of motion, with no “sag” in your body’s suspension. In this position, if your front wheel were to suddenly descend (drop or roll) more than a foot you will get yanked forward and downward causing your weight to get tossed forward. If you have ever had an endo where it felt like your bike catapulted you into the ground, it did (catapult you into the ground). Please check out this blog article on the importance of neutral, centered position on your bike:
  • It greatly decreases your control and increases your braking distance (by taking weight off of the front wheel, not allowing you to use as much of that powerful front brake. This is easy to test (though a bit scary), simply to do the braking drill in my video on a dirt road or looser surface with your weight back. Instead of quickly coming to a stop, your front wheel will skid! See 6 second video below.
  • Usually, you are braking for a trail feature, most often on the straightaway into a corner, do you want to enter a corner with your weight back (no weight on the front wheel?). If the top downhill racer who recently said that you should shift your weight back while braking actually did that you would see him scoot back as he was braking for the corner, then, all in one motion, let go of the brakes, shift his weight forward and initiate the turn!
  • For more on this please read this article:

Speaking of the importance of using your front brake and braking in a straight line before a corner, a few years ago Cody Kelly ( was really excited to tell me that he is wearing out two sets of front brake pads before one set of rear brake pads! After hearing this I bowed to him and he said, “why are you bowing to me, you taught me to do that”. I replied that I may have taught him that (he took 5 or 6 of my camps) but I have 20 years of bad habits to overcome so I don’t exactly do that. In other words, I wasn’t practicing enough! The idea of wearing out two sets of front brake pads before one set of rear pads did inspire to practice more and while I don’t have Cody’s ratio for the last two years I have been wearing out one set of front pads before wearing out my rear pads!

Are you wearing out your front brake pads before your rear pads? Feel free to comment and/or ask any questions below.

Please share this article with anyone you feel could benefit from it.



MTB Skills

MTB Skills, How We Actually Learn/ Why “Experts” Often Make Poor Coaches

There has been an amazing amount written about MTB skills and our students are always asking me to write a book on mtb skills. My book is in the works but it is taking a lot of time because I want the book to actually help you become better, not fill your head with knowledge. Knowledge is worthless if you can’t put that knowledge into action on your bike!

Why is so hard to actually do a skill you understand? You read a well-written article on the skill, you know Exactly how to do the skill, yet you still struggle, why? Put simply that is because the wrong part of your brain understands the skill. The part of your brain that read that MTB skills article has absolutely zero input in doing a physical skill, a completely different part of your brain handles physical skills. What you need to do is train the correct part of your brain to do the skill, which is hard/impossible to do by just reading or listening.

The book “Choke” covers this well and I will explain what 28 years of coaching people just like you and what Choke has taught me. I have always noticed a disconnect between “knowing” something and being able to “do” what you know (both in me and in our students). Choke explained the reasons for this better than anything else I have read on the subject and they actually use riding a bike as an example!


mtb skills

When Greg Minnaar works with us he makes me sign a contract saying that he is not a qualified mtb coach as he realizes he isn’t the best at coaching.

According to “Choke” as an expert gets better and better at doing a skill they start to forget stuff. Their example: “Think about riding a bike. How exactly do you do this? Well, yes, first you have to get on a bike and pedal. But there is a lot more to it than that. You have to balance, hold on to the handlebars, look at what is in front of you. If you miss any of these steps, falling is a real possibility. This usually doesn’t happen when proficient bike riders are actually riding, but if you were to ask a bike rider to explain the “how-tos” of this complex skill, he would forget details. This is because the proficient bike rider is trying to remember information about bike riding that is kept as a procedural memory, as we psychologists term it.”

“Procedural memory is implicit or unconscious. You can think of procedural memory as your cognitive toolbox that contains a recipe that, if followed, will produce a successful bike ride, golf putt, baseball swing… Interestingly, these recipes operate largely outside of your conscious awareness. … because when you are good at performing a skill, you do it too quickly to monitor it consciously. …”

“Procedural memory is often distinguished from another form of memory: our explicit memory that supports our ability to reason on the spot or to recall the exact details of a conversation we had with our spouse the week before. … Simply put, explicit and procedural memories or largely housed in different parts of the brain …” More on those different parts of the brain in this article: You Aren’t Doing What You Know You are Supposed to Do!

So, how do we train our “procedural memory? Drills, with a focus on quality, not quantity! Remember, perfect practice makes perfect! Not just any drills, of course, drills designed to get you doing the correct recipe. My free mini-course has quite a few of these and my three-day skills progression camps are designed around specific drills to get you actually doing what we teach you.

What gets in our way when learning the correct way to do something? Our experience! If we are experienced but doing things incorrectly we have solid (but incorrect) procedural memories. In this case being a complete beginner is better than an experienced rider when learning as the complete beginner has no procedural memory. The experienced rider has to weaken their incorrect procedural memory while strengthening the new, correct procedural memory.

So, do the drills from our mini-course and/or take a skills progression camp but most importantly do your drills!

Lastly, this is why “skilled” athletes rarely make good coaches, they can’t access their procedural memory to articulate what they are doing. Think of the great athletes who have made lousy coaches, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Magic Johnson, Mike Singletary, Ted Williams, Mike Ditka, Isiah Thomas, etc. as a matter of fact google “why “skilled” athletes rarely make good coaches” and there are a lot of articles on the topic!

Mountain Bike Much Better in 2 Minutes!

Mountain Bike Much Better in 2 Minutes! A quick, easy and fun exercise you can do pre-mtb ride that will make you ride at the best of your ability level. The “Power Pose”?

A student just forwarded me a skydiving article that covered a mental tip I have been teaching our students to do for years! I never new the exact science but I knew it worked (thanks to something I had learned from Tony Robbins).
Read more

Shout Out To BetterRide Certified MTB Skills Coaches!

I am so proud of our coaches! Glowing reviews from our students keep pouring in on the BetterRide facebook page and email in box. It feels great to be helping so many riders greatly improve their riding and meet/exceed their riding goals.

As you may or may not know becoming a BetterRide certified mtb skills coach isn’t easy. It takes a lot more than decent riding skill and a two day certification camp to coach for us! Our coaches are well trained, patient and passionate about coaching, which is why they get reviews like these:

“Awesome skills camp in San Diego taught by Dylan Renn. Learned more in a weekend than I’ve learned in 15+ years of mountain biking. In fact, 1/2 of the techniques I learned from magazine articles turned out to be totally wrong. Had fun riding with a great group of fellow students. Why didn’t I do this earlier?”     Len Prokopets (from our facebook page)


Dylan getting some coaching from World Champ Greg Minnaar!

“Gene…. I’m STOKED…

I just had the best ride I’ve EVER had!

Mammoth from the top down to the village non stop. Hit every table top, every gap, railed every berm and turn.

Funny thing, Chip will laugh every turn if I even started to look down I would here Chips voice… “look at me” eye would go up and looking through the turn.

Not once did fear get me or did I feel out of control.

This is what I took away from both camps with Chip and put all the figure 8’s in the street for.

First time it all actually came together at once on the mountain.

Thanks to both you and Chip for what you do!!!”

Doug Williams

Chip coaching in Bend, Oregon.

“Hi Gene. I took the camp in Austin this past weekend and it was great! My confidence has gone to new heights. Coach Andy Schabo is awesome and very patient. After I get minor adjustments done to my bike,I will set up the cones and only get better from there ! My money and time was well spent. Thanks Gene for all that you do for us riders!!!!!”    Sandra Martinez

Coach Andy Shabo out for an epic adventure in Crested Butte, Colorado.

Why do our coaches get such great reviews?  Coaching is a skill that takes a lot of patience, a small ego, a great attitude and a fair amount of training and experience to do well. First our coaches must attend a three day skills progression with us then spend weeks/months doing their drills so they become very good at the skills we teach. Next they take a three day coaches camp to learn how to break down and explain the skills in our curriculum, deal with a wild range of personalities and learning styles  and get students to understand and do each skill we teach. Once they have completed their three day skills progression and three day coaches camp they are certified to assist me. Once they have assisted me at at least four camps and taught each part of curriculum under my supervision only then can they lead a BetterRide skills progression on their own.

Our coaches are simply the most passionate, patient and skilled coaches in the sport.