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Great Story and Photos from a MTB Skills Camp Student

Great email and story of success from student Rich Schmit!
Gene,
I’ve been wanting to pass on a personal success story. Before your mountain bike camp in Indiana with Coach Andy W. I participated in my first mountain bike race in Copper Harbor, MI. I placed 6th in my age group (over 6 min. behind 3rd place) on a very technical course. Considering the field, I was happy with the results. My goal after the BetterRide camp was to be in the top 3 in the same race with a similar field. With my new found skills I placed 1st this time with 2nd place over 7 min. behind. I tore it up! Attached are a couple of pictures. Thanks, I’m always telling people that no matter how much they think they know how to ride a mountain bike, they owe it to themselves to attend one of your camps. A year later I still practice my skills every time I’m out.

Rich Schmit on his way to victory

Notice how he is centered on the bike, arms bent and looking way ahead instead of at the bottom of the rock! Great riding!
BTW, a while back you suggested some reading material. I chose Body, Mind Mastery by Dan Millman. (in audio book form). Not only do I feel it helped my mountain bike skills with things like, how tension is counter productive and how the “opponent is not the enemy, but instead the teacher” it also helped me in my own personal life. Good recommendation!
Keep up the good job, Rich S

Rich Schmit on Top of The Podium

Video: Huge MTB Skills Increases with the Least Amount of Practice!

The idea for this article came from “Slow Practice Will Get You There Faster”, a great book on learning sport by Ernest Dras. In my blog article, “The Best MTB Skills Advice I Have Ever Given. (How we actually “break” bad habits and create perfect ones)” I explained a bit about the Myelin Sheath and how we improve through through slow, deliberate practice. Now I will explain how to practice slowly and deliberately and see huge returns with the least amount of practice.

The first step is know the goal of the skill you are practicing (what is my desired outcome), how to do the skill perfectly (you may not be able to it it perfectly but you understand each individual piece of the skill and how it should be done), how it should feel and what it should look like. Without this knowledge base you are not practicing, you are simply riding and most likely ingraining bad habits.

In this example I will use cornering which is probably the most complex and most misunderstood skill in mountain biking (and road biking for that matter).  The goal of cornering is exit speed, as the faster you can exit any given corner the more efficient you will be. The foundation for cornering is perfect body position and vision, once you have these mastered it takes counter pressure (my phrase for counter steering) to get the bike to lean, weight placement to stay in balance, hip articulation for power and control, proper arm position and weight placement. We spend over two hours on cornering in a parking lot doing drills before applying it to the trails in our camps (and expect the riders to do drills the rest of their life to master and maintain mastery of cornering).

I see so many riders and racers who have studied enough video to have a decent idea of cornering technique and now they are just trying to go faster with a vague understanding of proper technique.  These riders always plateau before reaching their true peak. They plateau because they don’t know, understand and more importantly can not do the “details” correctly, doing something 80% perfect sounds impressive but it means you are doing it 20% wrong! A better understanding of the skill and some good, slow practice would make these riders much better!

Once you have a deep understanding of the skill slow practice will help you fine tune the skill. By doing the skill extremely slowly you will be aware of every small change in pressure, vision, balance, control, etc. You will find “dead spots” (where something is missing, such your weight suddenly shifting), you will understand how a little more counter pressure effects not only the lean angle of your bike but how it effects your balance, your hips, your outside arm, your traction and your trajectory.

Gene Slow Practice on the Road

In this video I am practicing slowly and have my “awareness” turned up and can feel what every little movement does. I am experimenting a bit, pushing a little harder with my inside hand and feeling what that does to the pressure on my feet, to the position of my hips, to the bite of my tires and sharpness of my turn. As I push forward with my inside hand I become aware that I am pushing my body backward, behind the pedals and it is unweighting my front end causing my front tire to push.

MTB Cornering Video from private lesson with Gene Hamilton

All the way from France, Will Burgat working on cornering with Gene the day after his camp in Bootleg Canyon. Check out Will’s eyes in the first corner, he is looking through to the next corner, the toughest and most important skill in cornering. His body position, especially the elbows up and out and hip twist are also very good. He is a little upright but those are some strong corners!

More great cornering from Will. He is still riding a little upright but again, great vision and body position.

BetterRider Wins Pan American Championships in Colombia!

Jackie Harmony on her way to the Pan American Championship!

Congratulations to BetterRide coach and athlete Jackie Harmony on her Pan American title! Making this more impressive, she was on a new bike and suspension (Canfield Jedi and Marzocchi 888 fork) that was assembled just in time to make her flight! So she had to get used to and dial in a new bike and fork in practice, not a lot of time.

BetterRider Mitch Ropelato finished just off the podium in 4th for the highest placing US male in the downhill competition.

Other BetterRiders including Jackie’s husband Dante finished in 63rd place, Michael Buell was 30th and Heiki Hall was 44th.

Feels great to see students I coach doing well all over the world. Keep up the good work!

Two articles about the race:

http://www.vitalmtb.com/photos/features/2011-Panamerican-Championships,2158/Jackie-Harmony-Womens-Panam-Champs-DH-Winner,17134/sspomer,2

http://www.usacycling.org/news/user/story.php?id=6084