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!