I've been mountain bike racing for about 7 years now, really getting into the sport when I moved to State College, to go to... you guessed it, college. It wasn't until last weekend that I got proper skills coaching. Sure, there has been many a conversation, often strained on my end, about "flow" or how "technical" a trail was, or what line is best, but never much about how I should be riding. All subjective, not much underlying truth to any of it. The shop team I used to race for was backed by some pretty damn solipsistic dudes, so there was no way I was getting any feedback from them (not that they were the ones that had the know-how to be giving). The common philosophy among the riding scene I was in was that the more you rode, the better you got. Never mind if you're doing things all wrong. Just keep beating your body up, throw that bike around that may or may not fit you, pedal and contort yourself in awkward ways until you get to the end of the ride in a faster time.
To be honest, it worked. To a certain extent. I've certainly become a better rider over the years and can tackle some pretty gnarly stuff, so I suppose I figured some skills out on my own.
What this past weekend did for me was confirm what I've been doing right, bring in best-practices from other exercises I already knew, and demystified a sport that pretty much gets on because of it's mystification.
I showed up to the last day of a two-and-half-day NICA coaches summit as a prospective coach without a team really. I'm hoping to have some involvement with the local high schools team here in Estes (not my school), but who knows how things will unfold this summer. The summit was a bit chaotic but when Lee McCormack was making a point it all made sense.
It's all just physics after all.
And poof. There goes the shroud of mystery.
Fancy that. You should keep your weight on the pedals and should match that thing that is meant to roll to the angle of the terrain. Keep loose hands and eyes where you want to go. And with these and other simplifications NICA is creating a whole new generation of mountain bikers. Hell, a whole new crop of cyclists. Ones that better know how to use that beautiful machine known as the bicycle and better interact with the world they ride.