Bonnie Larson, Fundamentals Lead for the MHSCL Demo Team

The fall season is upon us! For many teams, practices will commence the first week of July. What have you done with the skills and coaching tips you learned in OTBS 101 and 201? Are they dialed in and ready to go?

Summer can be busy time trying to pack in as much activity as possible while the weather cooperates. So, if you haven’t really thought about OTBS since, well, your OTBS session, not to worry. Here are a few ideas to help you work skills practice into your busy lives:

  1. Be a mindful rider. Take time during your regular rides or team practice to work on your ready position, to “low, look, lean” on your corners, and to “look, lock, lean, land” when stopping on an uphill or downhill slope. Get out of the saddle on those sections of trail you usually sit through and work on pressure control, “heavy feet, light hands”, and bike-body separation. If you’re riding with slower riders, this is a perfect time to run through skill key points in your head and practice them on the trail.
  2. Consider riding in flats at the beginning of the season. Early season is all about building skills in your riders. Riding in flats will make you (and your riders) more cognizant of foot position, weighting, and timing. While you may rarely think about the foot wedge while riding clipless, it is essential to conquering many of the skills in flats. In addition, riding in flats will help you to better identify with your student athletes who aren’t ready for or don’t care to move on to clipless pedals.
  3. Ride with someone whose skills you admire. Riding behind better riders is a sure way to improve your own expertise. Notice how they are weighting and leaning the bike, what line they are choosing, and how they approach technical areas. Try to emulate their skills as much as it may apply to your riding style. However, stay within your skill set and in control! Remember your risk management as well as your key ideas!
  4. Work a skill into every ride. Set aside ten minutes after every ride or team practice to rehearse a skill that may be less than demo-ready. Is your track stand a bit shaky or your rear wheel lift lacking some spring? These skills, when used properly on the trail will improve your riding immensely. Practice them in a grassy area before heading home or recruit your fellow coaches (or even better riders) to assist you with either teaching or demoing them.
  5. Session! When’s the last time you went back on the trail to re-do a section? We tell our athletes when encountering challenging sections of trail to “pre-ride, re-ride and free ride”, but do we apply this advice to our own riding? If there’s a rock garden, step-up, or drop that you haven’t quite conquered, spend some time at it! Try different lines and techniques to get through it. Work on weighting and balance and apply those hard-won skills! As always, be respectful of other riders coming through on the trail.
  6. Have fun! It goes without saying that we ride because it’s fun! Take some time during your rides to just enjoy being outside in the woods with friends. As coaches, we spend a lot of time investing in others, but it’s also good to invest in ourselves. Before we get into the busy race season, remember to slow down and enjoy the ride!

Happy trails!