Coach Me Like You Do... Our Philosophy - Pedal Progression
 

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7 November 2017

Coach Me Like You Do… Our Philosophy

Getting coaching is a sign of weakness for many. Perhaps the idea of having someone point out flaws in your technique is too much? Perhaps hiring a coach would be admitting you’re not as good as you’d like to be, or as you think you are. Ouch! Why have pride deny you the opportunity to get better and have more fun on the trail? Sure, we understand not everyone is chasing race results or Strava times but coaching can help those people too.

A Different Perspective

As well as a rider, I’m an electric guitarist and have been for 15 years. I’m self taught, can’t read music and know no theory. I’ve got 4 guitars, a terrifyingly loud amplifier and a tonne of effects pedals, most of which I keep on one setting, cause it’s ‘my sound’. Truth be told, I’m average at best but it gives me enjoyment to play around old favourites and jam ideas that may or may not become songs at some point. The reason I have ‘my sound’ is because I don’t really know how to use my kit, in order to get the best out of it so I stick with what I know. Sound familiar?

I can hear the music nerd now saying ‘Jimi Hendrix was self taught, so was Kurt Cobain. They did alright.’ That’s true. Natural ability is a beautiful thing. I’ve seen it in music and in mountain biking. In both genres, few have it! A while back, after getting frustrated at my lack of musical progression, I started having guitar lessons. Quickly I realised I was not a great musician. My technique was awful, even down to the fact I held my plectrum wrong. My hands weren’t gliding up and down the neck as my head wanted, because I held the guitar wrong. I lasted a few weeks and walked away frustrated, feeling like I’d never improve as I’d like.

Here’s the thing, what I learned in those lessons has stayed with me and I’ve since been implementing the techniques, giving time to practise them. My guitar playing has improved ten fold which should be unsurprising really! It turns out I could only teach myself so much and most of that, although it ‘felt right’, wasn’t good for my development. The re-learning was really difficult and very frustrating but I’m better for it and am still developing!

I’m sure you can see where I’m going. Most of us learn to ride a bike at a young age, therefore we have a head start in our progression. We feel then, that with time and energy we can learn to slay the trail. Perhaps we can to an extent and then we find a problem. Something like “However much speed I get, I can’t clear that jump” or “Dave said to get my weight back off the drop, so why did I go over the handlebars?”

Take Me To The Jumps

The most popular coaching request we get is for jump technique. Some of the customers that enquire have been riding less than a year, some for 20 years. In our experience the customer who’s been riding a year won’t be jumping 20ft on their first session but they’ll most probably pick up new techniques quicker than the one with 20 years behind them. How does that work then? It’s muscle memory! Your body has learned habits that are going to take time to hammer out. We understand this, which is why we’re very particular about the way we coach.

We’re aware that some people choose not to come to us due to the lack of ‘gnarly’ trails surrounding our shop. I’d argue that those people have a warped view of coaching. Let me explain. Let’s for arguments sake say, you (the reader) either can’t jump or struggle when things get to a certain level. What you want to be able to do is clear massive jumps with big scary pits in between them. Your perception of a coaching session might be a trip to the local jump line, after all that’s what you want to learn, right? What if, like the guitar analogy, you aren’t holding your metaphorical plectrum correctly? Body position is so often over looked and you’re going to struggle to jump without a good understanding and execution of it.

Mountain biking is complex. There can be a whole lot going on all at once! Our experience has taught us that coaching someone to do the very thing they’re struggling with, by asking them to repeat it whilst changing parameters, doesn’t work. It usually leads to real frustration and can be dangerous. Instead, we look to break down complicated techniques into sizeable chunks away from the trail, using well thought out drills to give riders understanding and ability.

There are customers who think they can jump already because they’re clearing the small jumps. They want to progress but have problems on the bigger lines because the skills aren’t there. Often these riders rely on speed, rather than technique. This is common on drops too. We’ve seen the videos about dropping using the ‘push’ technique. That’s fine with speed but has the potential to cause massive problems when riding drops slowly.

Final Thoughts

Learning a to jump a massive double is perhaps like learning to play a Jimi Hendrix song note perfect. It’s not just going to happen through watching a YouTube ‘How To’ video and an hour of practice, unless of course you already have a certain level of skill playing the guitar. Practicing your scales will supple your fingers and help your muscle memory to make sure you hit the right notes. Don’t know what a scale is, or the mountain bike equivalent? That’s where coaching can help you!

Check out our skills coaching options here and have us open your eyes to what you’ve been missing out on!

 

Matt

Written by:

Matt