2014 Skills Camps and Clinics

I hope the most recent burst of cold and snow hasn't iced too many spirits. It's tough to still the fidgets when one of our favorite activities is taken from you. If you haven't tried Cross Country Skiing then I strongly recommend it as a blues killer. I was really looking forward to skiing this year as I had a feeling the snow would be coming after two pretty dry years.

Unfortunately the ACL surgery took me out of that dream. Instead I've been dreaming up more camps and clinics for the coming year. Here is a preliminary taste of what is to come. I'll have registration up soon. So go ahead and mark your calendars. 

  1. February 22nd-23rd: Pennsylvania: Endurance Sports Expo: Free clinics Saturday and Sunday. http://www.endurancesportsexpo.com/about.html
  2. March 7th-9th: Florida; Santos Fat Tire Festival. Free clinics all weekend in the warm Florida winter! http://omba.org/
  3. March 15th-18th: Georgia; Clinics at the Southeast Bike Expo in Conyers GA! These are $10 each. http://sebikex.com/
  4. March 28th-30th: PA; School of Hard Rocks. Michaux State Forest! http://www.fastforwardracingproductions.com/p/michaux-mtb-school.html
  5. April 12th-13th, 19th-20th, 27th-28th: National Championship Camps at Bear Creek. Different Categories catered to each weekend.
  6. Thursdays in May: 8th, 15th, 22nd. Skills Clinics at Bear Creek For Nationals preparation. 
  7. May 16th, 17th, 18th: Dirt Fest. Free clinics.
  8. June Thursdays. Practice races at Bear Creek. 
  9. July 25th-27th: Shenandoah Valley Training Camp. Endurance training to get you ready for long day's in the saddle and stage races. 
National Championships Preparation; Camps, Clinics, and Practice Races

The Nationals Camps are broken down by category to really tackle the needs of each ability level. Expect two full days of dissecting the course. Finding your strengths and weakness. Talking about strategy, nutrition, and of course dedicating lots of times to the skills you want to dial in the most. These camps are designed to give you an edge that will live long after Nationals. 

For people who are on the edge of their categories we can discuss what camp you might want to be in. If you're crushing your group or really just pulling up the rear maybe you'll want to choose a different camp. 

Limited to 6 people per camp. All camps are Coed. Free logo shirt from Club Ride Apparel for each attendee. It'll look something like this.

Cost: $300 per person. Look for hotel room discounts for Bear Creek. 
  1. April 12th-13th: Cat 1: Ideal for you Cat 1/ Elite racers looking to get an edge. It's that 1-2% that makes the difference between spots on the results sheet.
  2. April 19th-20th: Category 2: You've got experience now it's time to find that extra gear. 
  3. April 27th-28th: Category 3: So what if your lungs can't expand a pilates ball in one breath. Your riding might have the most room for improvement to get you free spots through technique and not just muscle!
Skills Clinics: $45 each session or $120 for all three. 
May 8th, 15th, and 22nd are Skills Clinic Thursdays. We'll be meeting at 5:30 or 6 depending on the light and do 2hr skills clinics. Limited to 10 people each clinic. Each session will cover a course specific subject. 

Practice Races: $10 a race
Every Thursday in June and then on Thursday July 10th we will hold a practice race at the mountain. Each race will tackle a different section of the course to really dial in the lines. 

So far thats what we got scheduled! Look for more events on the TakeAim Cycling Meetup group. Registration will open soon. 

Feel free to contact me now about scheduling individual or group clinics for yourself or your group! 

Be well and stay strong. Get in that gym or on those skis. 


Winter Ready?

It's been a bit and I find that we are now into a full-blown fall. Next week the temperatures at night will drop into the 40's and that's only a prelude to the dreaded 30ยบ morning rides. How are you going to prepare?

I figured I throw a few shoe suggestions your way and let you knock them around in your head. The first thing to remember is that winter boots require an investment, but it's likely they'll stick with you for many winters to come.

My boots have been with me since 2007. I don't like them that much, but they work and I couldn't justify buying new ones until they fell apart. In the meantime I've watched my friends slip into many varieties of comfy boots and the general discourse has filtered out a few key pair of boots that are high on my list to buy.

Things to consider; None more important than the other.

  1. Temperature range
  2. Water resistance
  3. Fit: Here is a good chart to reference. http://www2.bsn.de/cycling/shoe-sizing.html
  4. Reputation
These come in regular and Wide. The MX145 are for milder winter riding, but the MXZ303 will be there for you when the temps drop into the single digits. 

Don't hesitate to get your shoes now before the weather gets real. It's pretty common for shops to sell out by the time the harshest weather is here.


Video Analysis

Vision plays a big part in our riding experience. That's why it is so amazing to see people like Bobby McMullen, who was blinded by Type 1 Diabetes in 1993, riding his bike with a guide calling out obstacles. Bobby rides by feel and with verbal cues coming from his lead. 

I can't claim to know what it's like to drop down a rock face with my eyes closed, but on occasion I do like to ride through a wide open field with my eyes closed as long as my panic mode can stay in check. I encourage people I work with to do this because it's a very intense experience but teaches you a lot about the effects of relaxing and absorbing the terrain versus getting tense when you most want too! 

In skills sessions there are two main ways that the visual worlds come into play. One of course is Line Choice, which I often refer to as "Court Vision". The other turns the eye of the rider back on themselves. Like a mirror in the dance studio. Using Video Analysis is one of my favorite tools when working with people. 

Even though line choice is important the use of video analysis starts earlier in skills sessions. I can describe a skill and the techniques to implement in a multitude of ways, but there is nothing as to-the-point as playing back a video of the rider of themselves to see what they are doing. That visual connection makes an instant point. Here is an example of two rides back to back with a quick adjustment in between. The second video shows a rider who's head doesn't get jerked around and has more control on the bike because they are staying in a more balanced attack position with arms and legs engaged as suspension. Her riding skills have improved even more since this, but this illustrates an immediate change in form. 

Video analysis is an invaluable tool for me and the people I work with. Don't be afraid to turn a critical eye to yourself! 

A great video popped up today from Morocco Media today. They are a video sports analysis company and they are doing some really neat stuff. I highly recommend checking it out. 



Race Support at WhiteFace 100k: Prepping for Leadville

Weekend before last I spent at Whiteface Mountain doing race support for a group of guys planning on attending the Leadville 100 agin this year.
The weather was all over the map, but everyone finished a really tough course with style. They were all riding for Kase's Corner. A charity dedicated to raising awareness for those battling diabetes. Check them out!



Where does your suspension start?

When I'm scanning people's form to look for areas that could use corrections it's often easiest to start from the top and move down. Head, eyes, shoulders, chest, elbows, hands, hips, knees, feet.

The funny thing is much of my instruction starts from the feet, so why would I scan top down when the feet are often the foundation of the rest of a persons riding. Pressure control, wheel lifts, and descending  all are very dependent on happy and loose feet and ankles. Learning the importance of activating your bike riding or driving the bike from the feet can change your riding immensely. 

If you want an illustration of how the feet effect your balance and control try this. 

  1. Stand up straight with feet flat on the ground. 
  2. Keeping feet flat and on the ground, try to bounce.  not jump
  3. Now try with the heals a little off the ground. 
Does the second way feel more fluid? 

Here is another demonstration. 

  1. Standing with feet flat on the ground.
  2. Reach forward like you have you hands on your bars. 
  3. Start to squat. 
  4. Try pushing your butt back like you might have it going down hill. 
  5. Try to keep the balls of your feet on the ground.
It's hard isn't it? The heals naturally want to drop. Let them when riding! Especially when descending and braking!

How about another....

  1. Standing again with the feet flat on the ground.
  2. Try to jump off the ground without pointing your toes down. Keep the feet flat in the air. Activating from the knees and hips only.
  3. Now try allowing the balls of your feet to push you off the ground like a normal jump with knees and hips activated. Toes pointing to the ground as you jump. 
Hopefully you'll feel the difference between getting a smoother lift-off and a softer landing. For landing, when the feet are pointing down it's like your suspension is extended and you can absorb more. 

So what is the lesson here? Think of it like this. When you load the bike with pressure, allow the heals to drop, when you want to unweight the bike, push off with the balls of the feet. You don't have to go to extremes pointing or dropping every time you load or un-load the bike, just be aware of your range of motion and think how your feet effect your control over the bike. This allows greater finesse on the small stuff and bigger moves in the gnarly! It broadens your whole range of what is possible. 

When do you load
 Braking, Pumping, Adding pressure for traction, Pre-loading for logs, jumps...etc..

When do you unweight
Exploding to get over logs, absorbing terrain, jumps, floating rock gardens, transitioning between corners....

Happy trails!

*** A note: Not all have the same range of motion! Use what you got, and try to improve on it!

Notice the dogs feet as it takes off over the gate!


So much going on! Skills, skills, skills....Some Training for me too!

This past month has been a busy one. People are really starting to catch on to the benefits of skills sessions.
I've worked with the Delaware Trail Spinners, the women of Wooden Wheels Racing, and several new clients getting solo lessons. Really exciting was the four days I spent in Ohio getting IMBA's International Coaching Program certification. I rode in a video for a commercial last weekend and just put together a three week skills session catered to the National Championships at Bear Creek.

Dirt Fest!
I'll be a Dirt Fest next weekend May 17-19th! There will be three days of great riding, friends and fun. It's on a lake and the trails are really different for Pennsylvania. For three day's I'll be giving one hour clinics.
Here is the schedule. http://www.dirtragdirtfest.com/schedule/

2 p.m. Skills clinic: Take Aim Cycling Hour To Empower: Cornering I. Meeting at the Skills Area. Note: these are co-ed clinics.
4 p.m. Skills Clinic: Take Aim Cycling Hour To Empower: Drops. Meeting at the Skills Area. 5 p.m. Skills Clinic: Take Aim Cycling Hour To Empower: Wheelies and ManualsMeeting at the Skills Area.

1 p.m. Skills Clinic: Take Aim Cycling Hour To Empower: Drops. Meeting at the Skills Area.
2 p.m. Skills Clinic: Take Aim Cycling Hour To Empower: Cornering II. Meeting at the Skills Area.
3 p.m. Skills Clinic: Take Aim Cycling Hour To Empower: Wheelies and Manuals. Meeting at the Skills Area.


10 a.m. Skills Clinic: Take Aim Cycling Hour To Empower: Log Hopping. Meeting at the Skills Area.
11 a.m. Skills Clinic: Take Aim Cycling Hour To Empower: Wheelies and Manuals. Meeting at the Skills Area.

Bear Creek Skills Sessions for National Championships

First off I want to announce the three Tuesday's of skills clinics at Bear Creek Mountain resort. These will be on May 28th, June 4th and June 11th. Each clinic will focus on a specific skill that will benefit riders the most on the technical trails of BC. I scheduled them to be in the evening from 6-8pm so that people can get there after work or maybe leave a little early. 

On May 28th we'll work on Descending since Bear Mountain has a lot of rocks that require good line choice, staying light and balanced on the bike and good braking techniques. The last one might be counter-intuitive but it's important to remember that control is confidence and if you understand your braking power better that leads to great confidence for staying in control while going faster. 

June 4th will be dedicated to Cornering or more specifically the Switchbacks of Bear Creek. You'll encounter them going up and down and if you have problem with these it can slow your race down and frustrate your overall progress. By the end of the session you'll be able to enter and and exit these smoothly with confidence. 

The final session will be dedicated to Rock Gardens on June 11th. Line choice, a balanced body position and good pressure control add up to a smooth flow through those momentum robbing sections. Save your energy for the climbs by flowing through these sections. 

IMBA Instructor Training

A couple weeks ago I went to Ohio to take IMBA's ICP coaching program. It's new to IMBA and run by veteren skills instructor Shaums March. Last year I went to British Columbia to get instructor training through Endless Biking who were part of the PMBI organization. At the time I researched the various companies who were offering training for skills coaching and it seemed the four companies out there were on the same program. IMBA didn't have the ICP program then.

Endless was great and I'm glad I went, but it was a little disappointing to find out that IMBA was now offering a program very similar to the one I just invested in taking. I felt I now had to invest more time and money in something I already had. I knew there would be some variation but the difference seemed small enough to make it hard to justify the cost. Ultimately it was worth it. I learned more techniques for teaching I can bring to clientele and it made it easier for me to get insurance.

So now I'm certified by the Professional Mountain Bike Instructor program and IMBA's International Coaching Program.

Ultimately I like to learn and working with new instructors is always beneficial for expanding the knowledge set. I'd recommend anyone to go take these programs. Just because IMBA has a stronghold on mountain biking in the US doesn't mean you should ignore other options. If you want to coach a lot and have the benefits of IMBA insurance go to IMBA. If you want to learn how to ride and come away with a solid grasp on teaching techniques go to Endless Biking. You'll learn a lot from both programs.

I hope to see you out there! 


Skills session with BikeSport

Saturday was a great day to be outdoors and have a skills session with one of the most well known mountain bike teams in the area. BikeSport super Woman Jill Newman go the ladies of the BikeSport team together and we spend half a day dialing in among other things, logs, turns, and drops. We had an honorary male, but it was okay cause he learned new things too! Thanks Jill, Audra, Kristin and Ryan!

Everyone improved and I even got a message after the session from Audra about her first ride out with her new skills.
"Today was EXCELLENT! Stop at VF to practice what I learned today and it was GREAT!!! Did almost every log over and did one three times to try to get the timing right; chainrings kept catching but I made it over!"

It's great to know people are getting more out of their riding after a few hours of work!

Thanks BikeSport for having me out!