Mountain Bike Skills Camps in the Southeast & Mid-west

While both the rider and the terrain in this picture are far from beginner, I explain the pros & cons of body position as demoed in this picture in Ground Control 1.
  • Most camps are limited to 8 participants, so that each student gets quality interaction with the instructor. 

Ground Control part I  (For Strong Beginners to Experts)

It's easy to assume that Ground Control 1 is only for those who are new to the sport.  But I teach cornering in GC 1, and cornering is something that everyone, regardless of ability, can always improve on.  I teach what 2018 American National Champion Neko Mulally teaches on cornering and then sprinkle in what I learned in Whistler and from other instructors.  This makes for some of the best cornering technique out there.  Some of these cornering skills are demoed here: off camber switchbacks

I've seen it happen many times.  A strong sport or expert level XC racer with years of experience finally decides to give a skills camp a shot.  Early in the day, they think to themselves, "I already know all this," but by the time we cover cornering, they tell me, "I really didn't know as much as I thought I did, and what you showed me really helps me get better traction in turns and helps me to feel more confident that my front wheel won't slide out."

I will admit that when I first started paying for coaching, I always wanted to go to the trails that were already the most challenging for me and practice skills there.  But I learned there is little chance of getting the skill right when one is just trying to survive.  Up until after lunch we will be practicing skills in the field and making sure they are perfect.  Then after lunch we will be applying the skills on the trails. 

Most of the following skills and maneuvers are taught:

  • Body Positioning (For those of us who have been at mountain biking for a while, I believe this skill is probably the most underestimated.  It is also the skill that separates the highest level riders from mediocre riders.  More info on body positioning as well as a demo video here.)  Please remember when watching any demo video that my goal is to help you get better than what you are today.  For most of my students that has meant being successful on trails not as difficult as the ones in the demo videos.  But if the techniques I teach work well on more difficult trails, then they will certainly work well on less difficult trails.
  • Crashing--how and when to crash as safely as possible.  ALL THE SKILLS INSTRUCTION COMPANIES I KNOW OMIT THIS VALUABLE LESSON. 
  • Terrain Awareness ( For a "Quick Clinic" on using Terrain Awareness to descend "Blood Rock", go  here.)
  • Braking (Including Braking in Corners and on Steep, Rocky, & Muddy Terrain)  Selective Braking Demo Video
  • Shifting & Efficient Use of a Dropper Post
  • Technical Climbing  Demo Video Climbing Up "Blood Rock"
  • Roll Down Lunge (I've been amazed at how many extremely technical riders who I have coached weren't performing this maneuver nearly as well before we worked together as they were after. (Short Roll Down Video Clip)
  • Tripod (A Nice Tool to Have When Dealing with Exposure, Mud, or Ice in a Corner)

My experience has been that there are many riders out there who are experts in terms of their fitness level.  Many of these riders are extremely fast on a road bike, but their weakness is keeping that speed safely on a mountain bike through the more technical trail sections.  If you are that type of rider, my goal is to add some solid skills to what you already have in terms of fitness, so you can be a force to be reckoned with even when the trail gets most difficult.

If you are a beginner, you have a huge advantage over many of us who grew up where there was no quality mountain bike skills instruction.  You have the advantage of learning skills the right way for the first time; and because of that, you won't have to spend so much of your riding life unlearning bad habits.


Ground Control part II  (For Intermediates to Experts)

In the second part of Ground Control, I will teach most of the following maneuvers:

  • Trackstands (Including where and why you would use this maneuver on the trail)
  • Pedal Wheelie and Front Wheel Lift (as they specifically relate to riding over logs crossing the trail)  Short demo clip
  • Riding a Wheelie (You know for style, like the kids do!)
  • Manual or Coaster Wheelie (Flat pedals makes learning this and riding a wheelie safer.)  For a "Quick Clinic" on Manualing off "the Filter Feature on Lightning", go here.
  • J-hop or Bunny Hop  (J-hop demo video)
  • Nose picks (helpful for tight switchback turns and tight trials-type of singletrack)  "Nose Pick" & "Front Wheel Lift" Demo Video
  • Downhill Drops (additional Info on downhill drops)
  • Pedal Drops (including how to know which drop technique to use) Pedal Drop Demo Video

Maneuvers that involve getting the wheel(s) off of the ground are a focus for GC 2.  Beginner level riders need to be aware of these techniques and understand them, because it is only a matter of time (whether intentionally or accidently) that their wheel(s) will come off the ground.  The more one understands these techniques, the less chance of injury when the wheel(s) come off the ground.  Expert riders can also benefit from continued study of what the rider is trying to accomplish when he or she is in the air and why.  Because as expert riders continue to push their limits, understanding text book form becomes paramount to reduce risk of injury.  

Some bad riding advice that I have heard over the years is as follows: 

  • "Lean back as far as you can on steep technical descents."
  • "Only use your rear brake."
  • "Never use your brakes in the middle of a turn because the wheels only like to do one thing at a time--turn or brake."
  • "Keep your seat high and use it for balance by bracing the inside of your legs against it."  

In both Ground Control 1 & 2, I will help you understand why these  and other myths are wrong and teach you better ways to ride. 


Launches  (For Strong Intermediates to Experts Only)

The ole' saying a picture is worth a thousand words.... well here is a video of one my Launches camps:  Launches camp video  Please remember, we aren't doing everything perfectly; that's the whole point of the camp.  We are all trying to get better all the time!

I recommend that a rider take this camp only after he or she is able to execute both correctly and consistently the maneuvers taught in Ground Control 1&2.  A purpose of this camp is to present new material, but it is also to hone the maneuvers taught in Ground Control 1&2 on more challenging terrain.  I have made exceptions for people to attend this camp who know they aren't able to execute everything from Ground Control 1&2, but who want an introduction to more advanced moves--especially jumping.  One prerequisite for everyone is to be able to ride at least 20 miles with 1500 feet of climbing at a reasonable pace.  We will spend most of the day on the trail and will eat the lunches trailside we each packed.

We will cover many of the following maneuvers:

  • Jumps:  I will introduce step-ups, step-downs, hips, tables, doubles, and pre-jumping.  Probably the most important part of this camp is the introduction to jumping component.  This is important because jumps of all types are becoming more and more common on machine built trails across the country (think Bentonville).  While I have correctly jumped a 40' table top going nearly 40 mph more than once, I'm by no means an expert jumper.  If you are already a good jumper, then I will not be able to help you very much.  This is only an introduction to jumping.  For a "step-down" demo video and a few tips go here.  For a "jumping" demo video go here. 
  • Advanced Lunge Drop: Crucial for drops in steep terrain and drops with a short transition.  For a "Quick Clinic" on this drop, go here.
  • Pre-turns: Used in difficult corners and switchbacks.
  • High speed off camber cornering.
  • Stoppies:  Adding a little style to corners and rock faces.  Stoppie Demo Video Here
  • Bermed Corners found on BMX tracks, flow trails, and in lift-serve bike parks.

A word on jumps and drops:  I don't want anyone hurt during any of my camps for at least two reasons.  1, If you get hurt, then you are guaranteed not to have a good experience.  2, If one person gets hurt, then it ruins the camp for everyone else; and some people have traveled quite a distance to attend a camp.

With this in mind, this is a camp to hone one's skills and learn new information--not a camp to "cut one's teeth" by hitting a big feature for the first time.  For example, we have a drop called "the box drop" at Oak Mountain.  This camp would not be a good time for a student to try the box drop for the first time.  This also allows more time for the new material learned in this camp to sink in and be practiced on smaller features.  I just want to be transparent so that everyone knows that I'm all about safety in progression, just as I was taught and personally held to in Whistler.


Beyond NICA (For advanced NICA coaches & advanced student athletes)


I respect so very much all the volunteer time that NICA coaches give.  Having volunteered coaching jiu-jitsu, myself, I know how much time it takes. 

One thing I can do is help the parents of NICA athletes become better riders themselves so they are not as apt to get injured chasing their students on the bike.  Ground Control 1 and 2 are perfect opportunities for this.

However, the "Beyond NICA" camp is intended for NICA coaches and advanced NICA student athletes.  The NICA program does an excellent job of preparing both coaches and student athletes.  This one day camp is designed to prepare student athletes for trails that are more difficult than NICA race courses.  I want to give as much insight as possible in order to prevent injury to our student athletes who will undoubtedly, whether it be after practice, or during the summer break, or on that family vacation, hit features well beyond NICA standards. 

This camp is also for coaches who would like to learn maneuvers that are beyond the scope of NICA, so that they continue to be more knowledgeable than the students they coach. 

Many of the following maneuvers have been taught:

  • Advanced Body Positioning:  I go into more depth on which body position one would use on more challenging features and why. This is super important as the terrain difficulty and rider's ability increases.  This information is, at times, counter-intuitive, and it is not covered in the NICA curriculum.  A demo video on advanced body position here
  • Drops including the advanced lunge drop  A demo video on downhill drops here
  • Pedal Drops  Pedal Drop Demo Video
  • Jumps.  I will introduce step-ups, step-downs, hips, tables, doubles, and pre-jumping.  Probably the most important part of this clinic is the introduction to jumping component.  This is important because jumps of all types are becoming more and more common on machine built trails across the country (think Bentonville).  While I have correctly jumped a 40' table top going nearly 40 mph more than once, I'm by no means an expert jumper.  If athlete or coach is already a good jumper, then I will not be able to help him or her very much.  This is only an introduction to jumping.  For a "step-down" demo video and a few tips go here.  For a "jumping" demo video go here.  
  • Technical Climbing  Demo Video Climbing Up "Blood Rock"
  • Pre-turns: Used in difficult corners and switchbacks
  • Crashing
  • Tripod
  • Advanced Cornering including off-camber and bermed
  • Advanced Trackstand
  • Stoppies Stoppie Demo Video Here
  • Manuals
  • J-hops or Bunny hops  (J-hop demo video)
  • Nosepicks
  • Advanced Roll Down Lunge Demo video here.
  • Advanced Terrain Awareness Demo Video and Pictures Here.

This camp has been well received by both coaches and student athletes.  It is also possible to split this one day camp into two, half day clinics.  Coaches have prioritized which maneuvers are the most important for them or their team, and then I have started with what is most important to them.

Everything from basic skills to advanced maneuvers, like this "stoppie" on steeps, is taught in safe progression in private lessons and in the "Launches" course.
Maaike, a woman nailing a "foot plant" better than most guys. This maneuver and why a rider would use it is taught in the advanced "Launches" camp.
One of several advanced NICA camps I have led. Good Times!!
Javier, one of my students who I have been working with the longest, nailing a drop on a trail bike that is challenging even to ride up on to, much less off of. The tools he is using for this drop as well as tiny drops are covered in Ground Control 2.
Yeah I know; Strava never tells the full story, for we are never as fast as it says we are or as slow; but it is a fun way to race your buddies on days when the trails are almost empty. My camps increase performance.

Mountain bike skills camps in the Southeast & Mid-west

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