What Can Coaching Do For Me? - Pedal Progression


13 January 2021

What Can Coaching Do For Me?

I have been riding bikes for a long time. Starting out blasting footpaths as a youth, I grew up with downhill mountain biking, riding and digging local trails, following friends on questionable jumps and dipping my toes in the race scene.

Over that time I’ve seen bikes change (still dreaming of a Kona Stinky however), trails change and the number of people riding bikes sky rocket. When I started out there was little in the way of coaching with the main technique being learning by doing. This resulted in a few crashes every now and again but overall it seemed to work. After all, this is the approach I have relied on over the last 16 odd years of riding, from an 8 year old clearing my first double to the infamous train gap in Whistler BC a few years ago.

Starting out as a coach last year then, I was somewhat apprehensive. Despite having played countless sports where coaching has huge benefits, on my bike I had never really thought about mountain bike coaching. After all, I got down everything and cleared some fairly big jumps with my previous approach.

As it turned out, there was a huge amount that coaching could do for me. As we went through various bits of training, the penny started to drop. Knowing what basic movements cause what to happen on the bike, is key for getting better.

Take football for example. Whether you play Premier League or Sunday league, your training sessions are not spent playing a 90 minute match. You spend your time practicing a basic skill, passing for example, or analysing micro movements and then have a kick about at the end. This is because by doing the basics well, your match play will improve massively. If you simply played a match and hoped for the best, then there is little chance your game would improve in the same way.

Mountain biking is just the same. If you really do want to get better, then nailing the basics is crucial. Riding every trail flat out is like playing a full 90 minute football match. All you’ll be focusing on is trying to go as fast as you can. I found that as I learnt more through coaching, and took a ride or two where slowing down and practicing was the aim, when it came to giving it full beans my smoothness and speed on the trail increased. This all stemmed from understanding the fundamentals – they give you the awareness so that you can understand how to tackle a tricky section or diagnose that mistake you just made.

Nowhere was this more apparent to me than racing the Tiverton Southern Enduro a few weeks ago. With freshly cut tracks, countless flat corners and constantly changing grip levels, getting a mistake free run was the key to going fast. For me, the parts that it was easiest to slip up on where the corners. The freshness of them meant that supportive looking ruts could turn out to be very not supportive and could have you on the floor in no time. Having nearly slipped up on this a few times in practice, come race runs I focused on riding these corners as if there was no support at all, a technique I picked up from coaching. I managed to stay on the bike and wobbled my way to a podium so maybe there is something to be said for this coaching malarky!

This is just one of countless examples where coaching gives you an awareness that you will not otherwise get. It doesn’t just have to be in racing, it could just be a section of trail you’re struggling with or the reason you can’t quite keep up with your pal. Whatever the reason and whatever your riding ability, understanding what is going on is the key to improvement.

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Written by:

Harry Griffiths