Mountain Biking Skills Tips Are Worthless – How to Make Them Work!

I often say, “knowledge is worthless without action” and after writing my post on instincts I realized I great way to explain it. This is the follow up article to this article (http://betterride.net/?p=1837 ) on instincts if you haven’t read it.

There are a million riders out there eager to help their fellow riders but few are qualified. I will use a couple of common tips that are good, correct tips as examples.

One tip you hear a lot is “look ahead” which is correct and vital to riding well. While there is nothing wrong with this advice it does a rider little good. Knowing something and actually doing it are too different things entirely! So knowing to look ahead is unlikely to help as that knowledge is in your smart, thinking brain while action comes from your “reptilian brain” which doesn’t think but simply acts according to instinct. Ever drive home home and not remember any of the drive? That is because you are not using your thinking, conscious brain. You didn’t think, “put on my blinker, slow down, stop, look both ways and turn right on 18th street”, you just did it! Skills need to be the same way!
Fear (and don’t mean terror, just not wanting to crash or slide out) causes your survival instincts to kick in. Did millions of years of being hunter and gatherers and then farmers teach the correct survival instincts for mountain biking?
If you have ever watched the best athletes in the world practice this is what they do. Day after day, even when they have mastered a skill they continue to do drills because if they stop the old instincts will take over. All top athletes spend more time doing drills than actually playing/doing their sport. I don’t expect you to do that but what percentage of your riding time to you spend doing structured drills designed to help you master a specific skill?

The entire BetterRide skills progression is based on explaining a skill, demonstrating the skill and then having you master the skill with carefully designed drills. This is the only way to learn to actually do something. Ask any top ski racer, tennis player, football, martial artist, boxer, wrestler, MMA fighter or basketball player and they will tell you the same. Michael Jordan needed more drills than all his high school peers as he was a lousy basketball player his freshman and sophomore years. Jerry Rice set and holds nearly all receiving records in the NFL yet he was not close to being the fastest receiver in the sport. Jerry Rice’s training and practice is legendary, he would practice running patterns by himself after practice ended. He was determined to make all the movements, skills and patterns instinctual.

Overcoming Mistakes While Mountain Biking

When it comes to riding mountain bikes, perfection is not an option. Whether you are a top professional racer or a green-newbie, you will make mistakes out there on the track or trail every time you ride. How you recover from these mistakes – primarily mentally – will be vital to your performance, and perhaps more importantly, to your level of enjoyment while finishing the remainder of the ride.

Our goal, after we make a mistake, should be – as quickly and efficiently as possible – to mentally deal with the mistake, and then forget about it, and get back into our flow, or “zone”, as its been called, with clear and correct mental focus and proper physical technique.

Even the top racers in the world make mistakes. Whether you are a downhill racer or not, the following applies to you:

What’s the difference and how do we not let mistakes affect us negatively further into the ride?

First, I’m very careful (sometimes hesitant) about dealing with the mental aspects of riding when it comes to other riders before I get to know them. Spotting bad technique and giving advice on how to correct it is usually fairly easy and nearly black and white. But because we all come from different places, with different motivations, different successes and failures, etc, the mental aspect and what motivates each individual rider can be a touchy subject. (I have seen riders get so angry, that they did literally will themselves over obstacles that were giving them problems. It worked in that case. But as I’ll explain, that’s probably not the best mental technique for most of us.)

However, anger and frustration WILL creep into your riding. The only way out is to DO THINGS RIGHT – maintain proper form and technique, maintain mental clarity and focus. But like lots of other things, we know what we SHOULD do, but, often, its difficult to do these things – especially under the stresses we encounter out on the trail. And sometimes this does require us to be (or become) mentally tough. How do we become mentally tough? Every rider is different, but read the article by Gene on this website, titled “Are You Tough? (part 1 http://betterride.net/?p=476 and 2 http://betterride.net/?p=470)” for more techniques that will help you in these situations.

Just like all physical techniques, we need to practice this (these) until they become automatic. Like most of the physical techniques of riding the bike, these aren’t complicated, yet they can still be quite difficult to pull off out on the trail. Use that mental imagery to work these into your program, and then, fortunately (Ha Ha) – now matter who you are – you’ll have plenty of opportunities to use them out on the trail!

Why Our Instincts Fail Us On Our Mountain Bikes!

As a matter of fact our instincts fail us in most sports. Why, because fear and self preservation are much bigger motivators than logic and reason! You will always instinctively move away from danger, if your computer suddenly burst into flames would you stay right where you are or jump back away from it? Intuition also fails us in sports as we tend to use it instead of logic and reason. In other words what feels good often isn’t correct and most people tend to learn by doing what feels good, they don’t spend hours studying how to stay in balance and in control.
Moving your rear end way back on a descent feels good, you are moving away from danger! Skiers, snowboarders and mountain bikers instinctively do this yet it puts them in an out of balance, non-neutral (once shifted/leaned back we can only move or react in one direction, forward) out of control position. Despite all the logic that says we should be centered without practicing staying centered and neutral we will naturally creep back on descents.
Ever put your foot down in a corner?! Putting you foot down inside of you puts you off balance and makes you more likely to slide out yet we all do it. Even world champ Greg Minnaar does it occasionally, because it is instinctive, but Greg will be the first to say that putting your foot down is a bad idea!

If you are tired of letting your instincts put you in out of control and out of balance positions, looking only a few feet in front of you in technical sections (even though you know to look ahead) and want to start riding smoother, safer and faster invest in your skills and take a mountain bike camp from us that is guaranteed (or your money back) to greatly improve your riding.