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Andy’s take on Coming Back From an MTB Crash

Not all crashes have to happen and the old saying, “if you aren’t bleeding it wasn’t a good ride” is nuts. Skilled riders ride hard and fast and don’t crash much. Unskilled riders (like me for the first 11 years of mtbing) wreck a lot, Andy is very skilled, rides had and this was his first hard crash in over 2 years. Check out his article and stay tuned for my article on some ways to come back stronger than before you crashed.

Andy’s Take on Crashing

In almost every camp that I teach, there is at least one student that is there because he or she had a bad crash – possibly got injured – and then decided that if they wanted to continue to do this MTB thing, they had better figure out how to do it correctly.

I explain to these riders, when they ask me how to “get over” their crash, that with the knowledge of riding that they will receive from the camp, and with the solid and proper technique that will be obtained through diligent practice, their skill level will dramatically improve and they will be able to understand why that crash happened (often, riders really don’t know what went wrong and why they had that nasty crash) and what they should have done differently. We talk about working our way back with baby steps. We talk about how to fall safer. I explain that fear and failure are natural and necessary parts of learning and riding – its o.k. to be apprehensive after a big crash – and those things don’t go away when you graduate from beginner to novice, but, in fact, persist all the way up to the top of the game – the best riders in the world experience the same fears, the same trepidation, as beginners (about different and more difficult obstacles, obviously – and probably bigger and nastier crashes!).

 

The riders always understand this – it all looks good on paper to them – but they still look at me and say, “I’m still scared! What can I do?” So for the next three days of camp, I try to impart to them various methods of getting over that fear, that mental obstacle.

And guess what! I recently got a chance to practice what I preach, so to speak!

So the following is a run down of what I did – and am currently doing – to shake off some of my own demons after a particularly scary crash. Everybody’s situation is different, but here’s mine, and here’s what is working for me. If you find yourself in this situation, hopefully some of the following will work for you.

Without going into too much detail, I basically made a mistake in one of the worst places possible while going fast, fell out of the sky and tumbled down the earth a good bit. Aside from some cuts and bruises, being sore all over, tearing my riding kit to shreds and ringing my bell a little, I got away with a couple of pretty jacked-up toes and a severely bruised heal.

 

It could have been way, way worse …

The first thing I try to do after a gnarly crash is figure out what went wrong. And there were a couple of things that were semi-preventable, that perhaps, would have made the difference. But what really went wrong was this: I was pushing myself and my bike super hard in nasty terrain – something that I love doing. And, if you do this often enough, sooner or later, its gonna bite ya!

I know that there isn’t any way around that – and that’s what bothered me.

I don’t believe in lying to myself about the potential dangers of riding. I don’t believe “that it will never happen to me …” I don’t refrain form talking about crashing or injuries (I will knock on wood every once in while!). It is what it is … and that’s part of what makes it challenging and fun! And I believe that I need to understand what the consequences of my actions could be, and then be prepared to deal with them.

Unfortunately, the possibility of having a bad crash is always present – whether you’re a World Cup downhill racer, or a beginner riding off a curb. And bad crashes scare everybody! .. I don’t care who you are! Some people deal with this fear better then others, some people don’t deal with it well at all.

The bottom line is we all WILL get scared. As a rider you will ask yourself, at some point, is it worth it to do this? Whether that means dropping of a 1,000,000 foot cliff, rolling down a nasty ledge in Fruita, or – worst case – even considering quitting riding altogether (I’ve had plenty of students that have taken the camp because they decided they either needed to learn how to do things correctly, minimizing the chances of falling as much as possible, or hang it up altogether).

The question I had for myself was, “is it still worth it to push that hard?” (for some of us pushing our limits is trying to wheelie up a curb – that’s fine, and also plenty scary and dangerous if you haven’t mastered the skill yet). And I wasn’t sure that I still wanted too.

 

I could still teach riding for many years even if I decided to take up playing checkers in the park as a competitive outlet . I don’t need to ride as hard as I do to do my job. Like many of you, my job depends on me being able to function physically. Getting hurt isn’t an option.

 

And, there are tons things to do out there to get your jollies. But, if you’ve read this far, then you probably understand that you get some things from riding bikes that you just don’t get anywhere else.

Besides fitness, the social aspect, a great excuse to travel around, and arguably the world’s greatest job, simply riding the bike hard, bettering myself here and there, pushing that edge, learning … those are the things that I live for.

Riding hard forces me to keep myself in pretty decent physical shape. Could I still teach riding if I stopped working out, running in the trails, riding motocross, and polished off a box of donuts, fast food, and twelever of PBR everyday gaining 30lbs in the process? Sure I could. But would I have gotten out of that crash with only a couple of mangled toes and a head-ache? Hell no!

Riding hard means constantly having a challenge for myself: I always have a ride just around the corner with other riders that want to ride hard and push themselves. I think we all come into these rides both excited and also wondering where we’ll stand with our buddies. That’s Fun!

I believe that BetterRide offers the greatest MTB instruction in the world. Because Gene and myself – even as “old” guys – continue to push ourselves as riders, we continue to improve upon our already great product – with both the riding and teaching. We are able to prove and disprove theories, bounce ideas off one another, and test these things – still – at the upper levels of riding. Is this mandatory in order to teach mountain biking? Nope. Is it extremely important to us? Yep!

 

I believe that it is also extremely important to ours students to see that the basic fundamentals of riding that we may teach in the parking-lot during our camps, are the same exact skills that are used by high-level riders in the most difficult situations when we get out on the trail. Essential? Maybe not. Essential to me in order to provide the best product possible? Yes.

 

I constantly find myself looking into new trails, products, gear, in order to give myself (and my students) that little extra edge. I can get up in the morning and go for a ride, come home and work on BetterRide stuff all day, teach a clinic, then go drink a few beers with a few riding buddies and talk bikes all night, and then get up the next morning and do the same thing. This all stems from the passion of riding the bike.

And that passion also means, to me, pushing it a little bit … sometimes, a lot.

The point is this: big crashes are scary, as they should be! You don’t simply forget about them, and I don’t think you should. But doing what you love, what makes you tick, what makes it all worth while is mandatory in life! And after running through the above list of reasons, among others, that I dig riding, I know that the reward is worth taking some chances.

I think that for most of us, this is probably the case – whether we’re about to send it in our race run at the World Champs, or whether we’re feeling good on the bike and today’s the day we’re going to go for that foot-tall rock ledge that we’ve previously always walked. If we focus on all of the positives – and they’re truly accurate and positive – they will usually out weigh the negatives.

Will I implement the things that I learned from the crash into my riding? Heck yes! Will I ride a little conservatively for a while? Yep. I’ll use baby steps and time to help me get back to where I was. Will I be aware of the level of danger that I subject myself to? Yes. But, I’ll focus on those positives and the fun and the challenge and understand that part of going fast and riding hard is about not getting hurt by doing things correctly and by being smart!

Inevitably, those students in my camps, who showed up timid because of that nasty get-off that brought them to the camp in the first place – after only three days of instruction – see the trail, riding, and themselves as riders, with new eyes. The tools that they gain from the camp are their positives, the feeling that they get from riding the bike correctly and understanding, thus, being able to commit to learning the proper techniques, are also their positives. This is what they are then focused on – not the negative of that bad crash. And this is what gets them out there on the bike, having fun and challenging themselves, again.

And although my situation is different from that of those students – its actually quite the same!

A Big Thank You To All Mountain Bikers, Your Passion Fuels My Passion!

Thanks to all the mountain bikers who make my life fun, challenging and rewarding. Some of you like me and email me about your huge improvements after my camp and others seem to hate me. The riders with the “what could you possibly teach me?” attitude and the guys on the $6,000 mountain bikes who tell me I am ripping people off charging $600 for my 3 day camps as they walk up a section of trail I helped a 67 year old man ride! Well, I love all of you because both sides keep me motivated to keep learning, improving and providing the best coaching I and my team of coaches can provide.  Here are two recent emails from each side:

“Please take me off of your list asap. You have some nerve charging what you do for this!” Some really angry dude who I have never met (his name with held to protect the innocent?).

Gene,
I raced in the Palo Duro Marathon (Pain on the Plain) last Saturday – 46 miles – and employed everything you taught me: vision, cornering, descending, ascending.  It was the best I’ve ever raced.  It was a technical, grueling course, and I finished 15th of 32 in my age group (I’ve been finishing dead last or beating only the DNF’s).  And I attribute it to my ability to clean impediments better, lose less time in corners, descend with more confidence, and ascend with more power (while looking where I wanted to go).  You bet I’m practicing.  Your camp was the best $600 I’ve spent in an already expensive passion…worth every cent.  Thanks again!  jj
Fortunately, I get a lot more like the second one (two yesterday!) but both motivate me in their own way.  I love coaching people and I love mountain biking but probably the thing I love the most is a challenge.  BetterRide has been one challenge after another, from my transmission blowing up on the way to my first out of state camp (3 days after quitting a good, high job to do this full time) to trying to keep a positive cash flow as my overhead went up 500% this year (do to adding both administrative staff and coaching staff to keep up with the demand for our mountain bike coaching). I can’t tell you how many times I have asked myself is this worth it, knowing I could make the same money with less stress and far fewer hours at a “normal” job. Normal jobs however were never as rewarding. I never got emails like JJ’s from people I served at those jobs. Those jobs didn’t challenge me as much to keep learning, reading and improving (both at what I was doing and as a person).
Thank you for what continues to be an amazing journey. I feel very fortunate to live the life I live and to meet and work with so many fun, interesting and inspirational people.  Thank you!
Create a very happy Thanksgiving,
Gene

Big Mountains, Cool MTB Trails, Great Cabins and Meals, in Georgia?!

Just wrapped up my Ellijay, GA camp held at Mulberry Gap (.com) and still can’t get over the size and beauty of the mountains way down South! A great variety of riding from long, smooth climbs and descents, steep rocky trails, fun flowy trails with big water bars to jump to rolling singletrack suitable for beginners all in a great year round riding destination. Spending most of my time these days in Colorado and the desert Southwest it is nice to get back into the woods of the South (I was born in Alabama and grew up in Alabama and Virginia).  If you are looking for a great mountain bike vacation spot in the East definitely check out Ellijay and Blue Ridge, GA.

Mulberry Gap is a great place to stay, start or finish your ride in the heart of North Georgia mountain biking. Less than a mile from the Pinhoti Trail and very close to many other great trails it is a true ride in/ride out destination. Ginni, Diane, Andrew and Jason make you feel right at home and provide great meals, shuttle service and comfortable cabins and camp spots along the creek. They have a really cool and unique place to stay, ride and make new friends. It was the perfect place to hold a camp and I managed to stay and extra day and shuttle the Windy Gap trail with a student on Monday. If you think long, fun, technical then giving way to fast, flowing and bermed mountail bike trails are only found further North and out West you need to ride this trail! Good times!

Seriously, I dig Mulberry Gap and I am a little jealous. This is just what I wanted to create with my house in Fruita (until I realized how small my house was). A fun place to stay, eat, ride and meet other passionate mountain bikers from all over. I will definitely make this at least an annual stop for my camps.

Photos coming soon.

Mountain Bikers Purposely Tear Up Desert and Injure Trees!

On the way home from Fruita filled with mixed emotions.  I have always thought mountain bikers were smart, environmentally friendly people. My friends that ride and students all seem to be great people but there are some selfish mountain bikers out there that seem to only care about themselves.  There are two spots on Rustlers Loop and one on Prime Cut where mountain bikers have gone out of there way to harm a 200 year old (on Prime Cut) and a couple of 100 year old trees (on Rustlers) just so they can ride a section with more ease!  Dumbing down trails is bad enough but harm trees and the desert to do so?! Wow! Please follow the IMBA rules of the trail and walk over (not around) sections of trail you cannot ride.

For the first 10-12 years of Prime Cut there was a rock you had to go over in the middle of the trail, it was a trail feature that greatly added to the fun and challenge of the trail.  Here is a photo of one of my students riding down it about 5 years ago:

Notice the rocks carefully piled to broke off the go around and protect the 200 year old Juniper Tree.  Sometime around 2005 a local rider went so far as too bailing wire in a huge pile of rocks, metal stakes and tree limbs to protect the tree.  It was a constant battle, locals putting rocks/sticks in to save the tree someone/s spending hours tearing out our work that very evening/morning so their precious ego isn’t damaged when they can’t ride the rock.

The shots above were taken yesterday.  In addition to breaking off a couple of limbs someone even sawed off a limb!  What a selfish and sad act.

Now look at that rock, it isn’t that hard, I had a 63 year old rider in my camp go up it on Saturday and Sunday. I watched a 67 year old man clean it in a camp 5 years ago and you know what he told me two years ago?  He walked up to me while I was teaching at Mary’s Loop parking lot and said, “hi Gene, I don’t know if you remember me but three years ago I took a camp from you and you said I was the oldest person you had witnessed ride over that rock on Prime Cut” to which I replied, “yeah! I remember! you were 67! that was so cool!”.  He then said, “well, I just wanted to tell you, I did it again yesterday”.  He did it at 70!  I can’t tell you how many studly guys I have seen not clear that rock, make excuses and decline instruction of how to do it! Too funny!  If you are under 40, in shape and call yourself a mountain biker you should be able to clear an obstacle that a 70 year old and clear.  If you can’t I would love to help as would many of my students.

I hate to post such a negative post but this is sad and must be stopped!