By Amanda Wilks
Weight lifters have trainers and all they do is lift heavy stuff. Mountain bikers are dodging trees at a rapid pace, so maybe it’s not a bad idea to hire a professional before hitting the hills. But if you’re relatively new to mountain biking, you may chuckle at the idea of hiring a coach. What are they going to do? Stand on the trail and yell at you to pedal faster?
Don’t kid yourself. In all reality, an MTB coach will teach you proper technique, essential skills and more importantly, mental preparedness. An MTB coach will take you from “lame to fame.” You’ll develop endurance and skills like you’ve never dreamed of before.
Mountain biking is more than just strapping on a helmet and grabbing your bike. There are skills every rider needs to master in order to ride safely, avoid injuries and really feel the thrill.
1.The Ideal Body Position
At certain points of a trail ride you will be riding in the saddle, at other points standing in attack position.
When the trail is flat and smooth, riding in the saddle will be your main posture, but you will switch to attack position as the trail starts to get rough. The attack form includes specific body placement of feet and arms, and a coach is more likely to help you get the correct position to keep your pedals from catching on tree roots or rocks. They can also teach you how to stand so your body absorbs as much of the rough trail as possible to control the bike.
Lee McCormack of LeeLikesBikes.com had a private session with an instructor and claimed he felt “stronger and more in tune” with his body almost immediately. The trainer taught him how to engage his muscles in ways he hadn’t been doing and It made a world of difference.
2.Climbing Like You Were Born for It
When climbing a hill, balance is very important. Not only side to side but front to back. Like a zen master. You will lean over your front wheel to maintain momentum and power. How far you lean is determined by the grade of the slope. Riding an agile and tough mountain bike will also make your task easier.
Also, you should keep in mind that not leaning far enough forward can lift the front wheel and flip you onto your back, causing you injury and probably a severely bruised ego. Switching to an easier gear before you start the climb can help, and a coach will teach you what gears would be right for you to use as well as help you practice the right amount of weight to place over the front wheel.
3.Sliding Down the Chute. Descending Infinitely
What goes up must come down and in this case, come down quickly. Proper technique at this point of a trail ride is crucial to safety. Just the opposite of climbing, where your weight was over your front tire, descending requires your weight to be shifted over the back tire. With your arms out and the seat in front of you, your pedal position and braking procedure will also be important at this point. Learning how to combine these skills will give you a smooth ride and easy descent.
There is a bit of finesse that goes into proper braking on a trail ride. One hand-brake controls the front tire and the other controls the back tire. How and when you use them on the trail will determine whether you stop gently or flip head-over-heels over the handle bars.
When working with an MTB coach, they will train you on how to read a trail to determine the best places to brake. They will also help you practice brake pressure to slow gently and avoid an abrupt stop. If you do happen to destroy your bike in a massive braking disaster, you can always rent one until yours is repaired and ready to ride again.
Once you have learned the essential skills, a trainer will be able to teach some technical tricks to layer on top of those. Some of these include the Trackstand in which you slow your bike almost to a stop without having to put your foot down. It takes balance and concentration and can greatly improve your slow speed riding.
You may also learn how to do a Roll Down in which you are able to ride over a slight drop in the trail, like a street curb. With proper training and technique, you can master this skill along with many others. Coach Drew Edsell’s goal is to prepare his clients both mentally and physically for any events they’re training for, and get them to their “highest potential level.”
5.Choose Mental Toughness. Develop Grit.
The technical stuff is important, because it lays the ground on which you’ll plant the seeds of your endurance. Chris Carmichael of Road Bike Action says that “misery is a choice”. You must train for mental toughness. An MTB race isn’t for the weak, and a coach will set your mind for success. You’ll see uncertainty and discomfort become your best fellow companions. They’ll be your cue to dare more.
An MTB coach can be instrumental in your riding. Since everybody is slightly different, a trainer can evaluate your current skill set and offer specific advice tailored to your riding. They will be able to detect any bad habits that are developing and teach proper technique from the beginning.
It always helps to have someone watching from a distance, and point out details you cannot see for yourself. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran, or a trail riding newbie, everyone can benefit from the advice and guidance of a professional.
About the author: Amanda Wilks of MountainBikeReviewed.com is a veteran when it comes to MTB rides and races. She’s been scrutinizing the country to find the best trails to practice her skills and simply enjoy the endless trill of catapulting down the perfect hill.