To paraphrase a good buddy of mine who is a life long rider, shop owner, serious racer, and DirtSmart student: If you don’t think you need MTB coaching … and you’re reading this, YOU NEED MTB coaching!
Check it out:
There are two reasons riders seek MTB skills coaching or instruction (and we’re talking skills oriented coaching in this article: dealing with technically difficult terrain on a mountain bike, not fitness training): 1) to get faster. 2) to be safer. We’re going to look at the ‘faster’ part, first, and then address the ’safer’ in a bit.
When trying to get faster, many beginners, intermediates, and novice riders will seek out MTB coaching all day long. They have realized — quite possibly the hard way — that there are way better ways of doing what they’re trying to do on the bike, they just don’t know what they are yet. You know who else will seek out coaching? Professional riders. That’s right! The group of riders that is already The Best will consistently look to reputable professional coaches to get better. Strange huh? (not really). What group of riders are we missing here? The “expert” level rider, the “good” rider.
The “expert” level rider, the “good” rider, is consistently the one who refuses to look at MTB coaching as a means to get faster, even though they’ll spend a small fortune on every gimmick that blips through the MTB retail market. (And, yes, some of these will help bit. I’ll never say that good equipment is a waste of money. But you have to know how to use it!).
Guess who also spends the most time in the ER room? The “expert” level rider. This rider is usually a pretty good athlete and gets to the “good” level on athleticism and fitness, then plateaus. The bad habits and sub-par technique catch up. They’re “good”, but they’re not getting any better. However, continue to try to go faster (with crappy technique and bad habits) and then they get hurt a lot. You know the rider. I have list a mile long in my head. Many are good friends of mine!
Another big problem is, that when it comes to other riders seeking coaching, these “good” riders will tell the other to “just rider more and you’ll figure it out.”
Think about this: In mountain biking (or any sport), who works the hardest? Who practices the most, trains the most, spends the most time on nutrition, has their nose in the latest technologies, methods, etc… is the most current and has the most depth of knowledge when it comes to excelling? Answer: it’s the top participants of the sport. The Best. The cream of the crop. If the top professionals in the world are students of the game, have put way more time into their riding than you ever can or will, and still work with riding coaches, strength and conditioning specialists, nutritionist — even though they’re already the best in world — how are you going to “just ride more and figure it out”? If working with riding coaches helps these riders IMPROVE, how could coaching not help you? How could it not benefit your spouse, kid, friend…
Gonna figure it out on your own? Cool. How much time do you have? Mountain biking is difficult and dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. 10 years of trial and error? 20? Or you can spend a few bucks on good coaching.
If you’re spending money, time, and energy trying to get faster, why not spend a small amount of that on actually acquiring some skills? What’s going to make you faster? Actually knowing how to ride or a new wheel set? (And, coaching is way cheaper than a wheel set… I’ll admit, new wheel sets are nice, though.)
How about safer?
I consistently get students that aren’t really interested in going faster. They come to me because they simply don’t want to get hurt anymore!
Unfortunately, this often happens post-big-crash. Riders get injured and realize that they need to start doing things correctly. They love riding, but they can’t keep doing it if they keep getting hurt.
Better late then never.
Put it this way: if you know what you should be doing out there on the trail, you can make good decisions. If you don’t know what you’re doing — you’re guessing and hoping — you’re going to get into trouble. Plain and simple.
If you know how to read the trail correctly, find the correct line, understand body position, weight placement, understand braking technique (more to it than most riders think), have good cornering technique, do manual wheelies properly (manipulating the front wheel—often at speed. Most riders riders are way off with this and yank with their arms. BAD!) and therefore can move forward with jumping, drop offs, bunny hops, etc., and take care of yourself even at the higher levels and more difficult terrain… you stand a way better chance of not getting hurt.
If you know where you stand in the above progression; know how, why, what you can do to improve… you can up your skill level and stand a way better chance of not getting hurt.
If you know what is correct, but you realize you skill level isn’t quite adequate for the trail feature… you can make a good decision and back down instead of letting ignorance get you in trouble.
So often riders end up hitting the deck and have no idea what went wrong and/or don’t know how to properly fix it. Or — almost as bad — they have success, but have no idea why. Then they continue to just roll the dice — because whatever they did before, worked!… until it doesn’t… whatever it was.
“Well, I’ll just take it easy.” Sure you will. Until you suddenly find yourself in a situation where reacting with correct technique will save your ass and reacting incorrectly will put you to sleep in the dirt for a little while.
I get Thank You emails all the time from previous students stating that if it weren’t for the techniques that they learned from my coaching, if they hadn’t reacted correctly in a certain situation — which they never would have before the coaching — they almost certainly would have gotten injured. You’re welcome.
Look, I get it: there are all kinds of cool things to spend money on, but MTB coaching is cheap compared to really getting hurt. Not just the insurance deductible, but the rattled confidence; the fear of getting back on the bike again; the thoughts of maybe not doing this sport that gives you so much; from now on, loved ones will worry about you every time you go out…
What this is really about is elevating your riding I.Q. And, as they say, if you’re gonna be dumb, you better be tough!
Are there exceptions to all of this?
Of course. If you’ve already been a pro level downhill or enduro rider, and now you just chill and always ride well below your limits, you’re not concerned with getting any faster… you probably don’t need MTB coaching at this point in your riding (although, I bet you’ll admit you wish good coaching was around when you were on your way up. You would’ve been faster and wouldn’t have gotten hurt as much).
Any other exceptions? Not really. If you’re trying to get better, if you’re trying to be safer, you WILL benefit from good MTB coaching.
Get some good coaching. Know exactly who your coach will be (don’t just sign up with an ‘coaching organization’ and hope you get a good one) and what their credentials are. Research them. If you can’t find anything… good chance they’re not the best choice.
www.dirtsmartmtb.com. Thanks for reading!