Better Riding

This season I have been climbing purty fast but lose time on the guys around me when the course heads downhill. I’ve been working on my skills all year but yesterday they made a huge jump forward when I took a private lesson with mountain bike skills coach Gene Hamilton. Gene loves to ride, loves bike and knows skills from years working as a snowboard coach, pro downhill racer and downhill mountain bike coach. Here he is:

The first thing he looked at was how my bike was set up and how it fit me. My Yeti got a big thumbs up. He likes the short stem-long top tube combo. Next up we did a ton of drills on pavement around cones and off curbs. Gene likes to teach skills in a non-threatening environment. His belief is you learn faster and better when you can pay attention to the skill rather than a death ravine two inches to the left of your front tire. At first it was annoying to be riding around cones instead of out ripping the trails but at the end of the lesson I went home with a solid understanding of the basics. It will take me some time to put together everything he taught me off-road.

The value in this lesson will be how many times I practice his drills and how much thought I put into implementing the skills when I am riding. A few magical things happened to my riding during the lesson when he changed minor things in my head or ride position but the real magic will seep in slowly over months. I liked it a lot I left the lesson with a clear picture of how to continue to improve beyond the few hours I spent with Gene watching and coaching me.

Gene taught me a set of what he calls core skills. Some of them I did well already – I have been mtb racing for 17 years! A few of them tho’ I was sketchy with and a couple of things I was flat out doing wrong. Gene never tells you when you suck. He is such a positive guy that everything he says is full of encouragement and praise. He can make even the biggest f-up look like a stepping stone to the big prize – I like that!

The biggie I was all mixed up with was cornering. He changed where I put my weight, hips (which contain most of my weight anyway ;-) and tracked my vision. My eyes were getting stuck on the apex of the turn which made me slow down and come out of the turn with a low exit speed. Exit speed is key.

I practiced a set of drills he taught me this morning then did my 60 min L3 climb. On the big descent back down the corners didn’t feel as fast and loose as normal but I was flying. Spacing out I went into one corner faster than I thought and immediately clenched up and reverted to my old style, I wasn’t going to make it without a big haul on the brakes but caught myself, changed all the things he taught me – lean the bike, elbows out, weight on feet, hips over bb, counter steer, chest down, eyes 30 feet past the exit – and carved the turn without touching the brake levers – dandy!

He taught me how to fly off ledges too and that is a super cool skill to get dialed a week before 24 hours of Moab.

That’s all the secrets I’m gonna divulge. You’ll just have to go and see Gene yerself for more  He is based in Fruita, CO and runs camps, clinics and does private lessons all over the US.

On the home front Wesley is learning to read. He gets better every day. It is impressive to watch. Watching these kids learn is inspiring. Today he set up Emma on the sofa, chose a book and read it to her. It was a really cute thing to see. Sometimes he can be so big brotherly…