Preparing for Launch

A long winter of focused training and lots of dreaming is about to meet reality.

The first races of the season are coming up with the Moab Enduro Cup on May 3 followed by the Gunny Enduro, here in Grand Junction, on May 10.

These races mark my entry to the pro ranks and I've got high hopes to improve upon last year. The stress and anxiety from wondering if I've trained right, have I done enough, am I ready, etc...haven't left my head in this week prior. Tire choices, suspension setup, nutrition. It's all ever present in my thoughts.

Just gotta beat my times from last season and not get caught.

Don't forget the fun. As much stress as a race brings, it truly is fun. I enjoy the focus, the questions, examining the details, the constant drive to get better.

To get better.

This is the reason for the hours spent on the trainer watching snow fall. The reason for passing on ski days, climbing days, friendly group rides. It is also the reason for recent session with mountain bike skills coach/guru Gene Hamilton.

Gene Hamilton, the owner/founder of Better Ride, was in town doing a 3 day skills clinic and Eric Landis managed to secure a short private session afterwards. Gene specializes in on the bike skills including looking ahead, cornering, climbing, pumping, and descending. He has coached a number of the sports top riders, including Greg Minnaar, Mitch Ropelato, and local hero Rad Ross Schnell, how to go faster with more control. The foundation of Better Ride are 3 day clinics that really hammer in the skills and drills needed to erase bad habits and form the correct habits.

Playing in the street
Knowing that I've never had any skills coaching and have a number of areas I'd like to improve on, the clinics were very appealing, but the timing hasn't been right. With races quickly approaching, a couple of last minute hours with Gene in a parking lot was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Gene asked us what exactly we wanted to focus on for the session, and after some back and forth banter, Eric and I agreed that cornering would be the day's topic.

What were we doing wrong and how do we work to improve the skill? What tricks does Gene have to empower us to take control?

It took about 3 minutes to figure out that I sucked at turning right. As in, wow, you need training wheels to turn right. After a laugh, 2.5 hours in an empty parking lot working on some basic drills, and some assigned homework (all punctuated with some great stories) we were on our way.

Evening pump work
Gene is a fantastic instructor. Even though he was admittedly exhausted from the weekend's camp and lack of sleep, he was super psyched to talk about and ride bikes. Many of the basics he teaches may not be overly exciting, but his stories and enthusiasm make them more than bearable. More importantly, his instruction is easily understood, executed, and remembered.

I've been working diligently on the drills and techniques that Gene taught and can say that after 2 weeks, I'm substantially more confident and comfortable on the bike in general,and specifically, with both left and right cornering. The evenly worn out side-knobs of my tires will attest to that. It's really quite amazing how much my ability has changed due to a 2.5 hour lesson. I can promise, that come this winter, I will be in one of his 3 day Better Ride clinics (I'd love to bring my wife, too). I can't even begin to imagine how much of a difference 3 full days of skills work will improve my riding.

If you want to improve your ability, spending the money for some quality instruction will make a much bigger difference than any new frame, shock, tires, fork, or whatever. Plus, you won't look like a joey flailing on a $7,000 bike. Gene is super cool and I'm feeling confident that his schooling will help me reach my season goals.

Eric railing
 The only thing I didn't like? The time was too short, went by to quickly, and I didn't get on the Better Ride band wagon sooner. Can't wait till next winter....


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