Why you NEED Mountain Bike Skills Coaching

from IMBA ICP coach Lindsay Beth Currier I didn’t always think I needed skills coaching for mountain biking.  Having started out riding at a very young age, and growing up living, breathing, and dreaming mountain biking, I thought I already had all of the skills I needed to emulate the amazing feats of freeriders and downhillers I had seen from the sides of race courses and in the VHS tapes (those are videos kids!).  Besides, I had all the guys at the bike shop to tell me how to ride, right?  Around the age of 16, I really thought I knew everything.  Just send it was my moto.  I would just keep practicing and trying, over and over again.  I broke my collar bone, chipped a tooth or two, bit my tongue, knocked myself out, permanently damaged my beautiful knees and elbows…  But I just didn’t care. No pain no gain right?

Past LBC: Young, dumb, and full of FUN!  Today I recommend ALWAYS wearing your helmet!!!
Past LBC: Young, dumb, and full of FUN! Today I recommend ALWAYS wearing your helmet!!!

After years of just going for it, I broke my back in 2008 (age 23), and it became clearly apparent to me that just utilizing speed and momentum, not touching my brakes, getting my weight far off the back, and rubbing my lucky rabbits foot before take off and blasting rock sections, was just not enough.  Sure I could “make it” through most sections and would try anything once,  but to quote Gene Hamilton of BetterRide.net, “If you are bleeding, it wasn’t a good mountain bike ride.”  And after interviewing Jacquie Phelan and learning that she had only broken one bone (and on a demo road bike) in her entire career, I began to understand that I was riding more like a Missy  Giove (no offense to the Missile, my dear shero).  If I wanted to keep riding, and reach all of my goals with mountain biking, I needed to assess my current skill level and then learn to master the core skills of riding.  I knew that if I did not take a new approach to my riding, I would continue to put myself in unnecessary danger, have lots more un-needed hospital vacations, and probably not get to mountain bike for the rest of my life.  I knew that this need to learn would evolve and progress through my entire life, that there would always be something new for me to learn and share.  I would have a whole lifetime to progress my mountain biking.

A titanium mesh basket replaces my burst fractured L1 vertebrae.  Kind of like a permanent string on my finger to remember to use SKILLS before SPEED!
A titanium mesh basket replaces my burst fractured L1 vertebrae. Kind of like a permanent string on my finger to remember to use SKILLS before SPEED!

In 2012, I invested in a 3 day Mountain Bike Coach training and certification program with Shaums March, and the International Mountainbike Instructor Certification (IMIC), which is now the IMBA ICP.  Throughout my time with Shaums, I learned not only how to teach others how to drop, jump, corner, and brake, like a pro, but which skills I personally needed to work on to be the best rider and coach that I could be.  Both Shaums and Gene stress that to be a great coach, you must be able to not only verbally communicate skills to your students, you must be able to demonstrate the skills with 100% accuracy.  People learn both verbally, visually, and by doing (thats practice).  They also need factual feedback, from coaches who have mastered their observational skills.

Finding truth, and learning which skills I needed to work on,  at first, seemed to take years off my riding.  Realizing I was not doing with my body what I was visualizing in my mind, brought me right back to a beginner mindset, something I had not felt with mountain biking since I was getting off training wheels, or fresh off the coach from my big back injury.   Realizing I had much work to do on my own riding was frustrating at first, but the self-progressions I committed to in my first year of coaching, ultimately helped me re-connect and empathize with the student in all of us.   I spent a long time breaking down my own skills, breaking bad habits, and using everything I had learned from experience and training, to be the best demonstrator that I can possibly be.  When I mastered my fundamental skills, I sought out situations that made me uncomfortable (ex. jumping and dropping on a 29er, clipping in for super rocky and steep downhills again, hammering up really techy climbs, etc.).  To be honest, my lifestyle took me to all of the right places and connected me with all of the right people, to almost force me into riding these uncomfortable situations.  I am super grateful for my life and all of its twisty turns,  even if I have fallen on my face a few times… learning the hard way.

IMBA ICP coach Lindsay Beth Currier demonstrates how to smoothly and safelt roll a drop in San Diego, CA. photo credit: Ian Hylands
IMBA ICP coach Lindsay Beth Currier demonstrates how to smoothly and safely roll a drop in San Diego, CA. photo credit: Ian Hylands

When I learned to let go of what I thought I was, and get real with my current situation and abilities, I felt my confidence explode.  It was incredibly empowering to know what I could do really well, and what I truly needed to work on.  Even what I could do well still could be progressed.  I had a life long trail of mountain biking ahead of me!  I would never be bored, or not know what to do with my riding.  Every rider could be improved.  Every rider will always have more to learn.  This sport will continue to change and grow, just like humanity.   This really stoked me out, because to be honest, for a while I believed one day I would be too old to ride or coach.  Its going to be a whole lifetime baby!

LEARN MORE ABOUT SHINE MOUNTAIN BIKE SKILLS SCHOOL

Why LIVE coaching, why not just buy a book and/or watch videos?

Today there are lots of great books, videos, and other educational materials available, for a fee and  some 100% free.  While these items are great for improving your skills knowledge, they lack the interactive nature of live coaching.  Whether you choose to enroll in a clinic with Shine, Sweetlines, BetterRide, Endless Biking, Sacred Rides, Midwest Mountain Bike Clinic, or with other great certified coaches, the value you are paying for is the GUIDANCE & OBSERVATION of a real live coach.

Here is what happens when you have a real live coach to teach you:

1.) VERBAL You listen and learn about the different factors and components of a skill (you could read a book or watch a video or listen to a podcast)
2.) VISUAL You watch your coach demonstrate skills (in real life, you can see your coach from many angles, and request demonstration adaptations to increase your learning rate)
3.) PRACTICE WITH GUIDANCE  (This is what you are paying for with a skills clinic or camp) You try your best to emulate your coaches demonstrations.  Your coach will observe you and give you corrective guidance to help you master the skill you are working on.

Most students find coaching on trail to be the most effective way to learn.  Shine Riders Co. offers private skills sessions for one-on-one fast-paced learning. photo: Chris Demere
Most students find coaching on trail to be the most effective way to learn. Shine Riders Co. offers private skills sessions for one-on-one fast-paced learning. photo: Chris Demere

Sure you can practice all on your own.  You can practice with your friends.   You can have your mom watch you. You can video yourself and watch that too.  But without a real live coach to give you qualified and credible guidance and feedback, you wont know if you have really learned the skill and you wont know if you are executing that skill correctly.   No body will be there to give you qualified and credible feedback as to what you need to do differently.  Its sort of like cutting your hair by yourself and hoping the back came out straight.  Or having a 6 year old help you out with that hair cut.  You just wouldn’t do that right?  You go to a professional to get a hair cut, why  not take your mountain bike skills training to a professional as well?

Some people like to learn the hard way (or have to and learn to like it, like I did).  However, with the advancements and progressions in mountain bike skills coaching, why wouldn’t you want to learn the easy and faster way?  Learn to mountain bike the right way, with certified and qualified coaches, no matter which coaching operating you take your business to.  You are going to have a great time!