Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bootleg Canyon MTB Camp

It is so fun to learn new things, and learn that most of what you thought you knew is wrong. I know that I have only been riding a mountain bike for about a year and a half and I am completely self-taught, but after doing really well at the Xterra races last year I thought I at least had some of the basic mountain biking skills mastered. Apparently not. Not only that, most of the advice that others have been giving me is also off the mark. I decided after Worlds last year that I really wanted to improve my mountain biking skills, not only to improve my racing but to have more confidence on the trails. A lot of the time I feel like I get by on my mountain bike with good fitness and a lot of luck, rather than really knowing what I am doing. After doing some searches on the internet I decided to take Gene Hamilton's Better Ride mountain bike camp. He is a downhill mtb racer (crazy) and has spent a lot of time and effort learning how the best racers race the way they do. The camp is a three day intensive skills clinic held in Bootleg Canyon in Boulder City Nevada, though, we have been spending most of our time in the parking lot practicing and doing drills. (I will definitely have to come back and do some riding here, tons of great trails including some serious downhill runs - which I won't be riding)

Bootleg Canyon, Nevada

Gene trying not to get frustrated with his class

Day one started with learning how to properly look ahead on the trail by using your peripheral vision. It is much harder to do than you think but seriously works if you can convince your brain that you don't have to look down. Body position on climbs and descents as well as how to do wheelies were also covered. My wheelies definitely need work. Saturday, day two, I managed to get my butt out of bed early and get to the pool for a quick swim before the camp got rolling. We started the day in a pavement parking lot learning how to corner properly. This is one skill that I have never felt comfortable with, even on my road bike, and now I know why. I was doing it all wrong.

Me learning proper cornering technique (smiling is mandatory)

We also learned braking techniques (ie your front brake is your best friend) then headed out to the trails to implement what we learned. It is definitely going to take some time to get used to these new techniques but I can tell they are going to make a huge difference in my riding. The key is going to be not reverting back to my old bad habits. Tomorrow: switchbacks and rear wheel wheelies, oh boy!!! Hopefully I will have more photos of the canyon as it is really spectacular but so far I have forgotten to take any until it is too dark.

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