Mountain Bike Skills Camps, primarily in the Southeast

While both the rider and the terrain in this picture are far from beginner, in "Ground Control 1," I explain the pros & cons of body position as demoed in this picture.

 

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 and 2019 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.) 
  • 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 advanced riders who I have coached weren't performing this maneuver nearly as well before we worked together as they were after. Demo Videos & More Info on the "Steady Head Roll Down."
  • 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, then 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, then 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" for style, go here.  For a more practical use of the manual on the trail, see this short video.
  • J-hop or Bunny Hop Demo Videos & More Info on bunny hops
  • 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.  The more one understands these techniques, the less chance of injury when the wheel(s) come off of the ground.

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."
  • "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!

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 over 35mph 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)

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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 skills and maneuvers from the above three camps have been taught to several NICA teams and many NICA coaches.  Coaches have prioritized which skills and maneuvers are the most important for them or their team.

Everything from basic skills to advanced maneuvers, like this "stoppie" on steeps, is taught in safe progression in private lessons.
Maaike, a woman nailing a "foot plant" better than most guys in one of our "Launches" camps.
One of several advanced NICA camps I have led.
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.
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 primarily in the Southeast

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