If you're reading this article, chances are good you've dropped a fair bit of coin on not only bikes, but new gear and parts as well-a better fork, some lighter wheels, maybe a new drivetrain, you know, upgrades. But have you ever considered investing in a skills upgrade? Gene Hamilton, mountain bike coach and founder of BetterRide thinks you should.
The premise of his business is simple-no matter what level rider you are, you can improve the quality of your riding by doing it better. And whether you're an absolute beginner or world cup downhiller, BetterRide's systematic skills-building program can help you fast-track your personal progression.
In the BetterRide classroom
I took the three-day Core Skills Camp a few weeks ago in mountain biking's birthplace-Marin County, California. Our co-ed camp consisted of five women and three men, and our sessions lasted seven hours each day.
I was probably the most experienced trail rider, but the group was varied with some beginners, XC racers and skilled road riders in the mix. Our common denominator was a desire to gain confidence and build a solid skill set for more technical trail riding.
BetterRide takes a different approach to coaching than other such services. Their philosophy is that whether you're a novice or an expert, the core skills and knowledge required to become a better rider are the same. Their aim is to empower each rider with the physical and mental tools necessary to reach their personal goals.
A unique curriculum
You won't find yourself riding on a lot of trails nor sessioning wooden structures at a BetterRide camp. Instead, the curriculum is delivered through short lectures followed by practice sessions. The information is progressive with each chapter building on prior lessons throughout the weekend.
As an experienced trail rider, I already knew about 80-percent of the material presented. But as I quickly found out, I still had a lot of room for improvement.
The key is to reset your brain, stay open to change and learn everything as a beginner. The sessions can be slow during the basics, but when you look at the big picture and how this camp is structured, it all makes sense.
BetterRide really focuses on the mental aspects of improvement, which makes the subsequent physical techniques more approachable. The method inspires you to practice and continue to build on a solid foundation. As the camp went on I felt immediate improvements in my confidence just from riding short sections of trail.
The face time with a coach and the breakdown of my bad habits were priceless. During our trail session, I got to see myself in photos and videos in key positions. This was a huge eye-opener after learning what I was supposed to be doing on the bike.
I discovered some positioning issues-I neglect to get my chest low enough, I forget to point my hips properly, and sometimes I don't look far enough ahead. With BetterRide's help, I was able to clearly identify my weaknesses and areas for improvement. And through continued practice, I plan to make proper body positioning second nature for me.
Camp costs and variations
The three-day Skills Camp range from $719-749, and is offered at various locations across the country. Downhill-specific camps and cross-country race camps are also offered, as eel as woman's-only camps and private skills coaching.
The camp I took may not be for everybody as it focuses on fundamentals and core skills. If you're looking to learn by shredding and sending big jumps, you'll be disappointed.
The price tag might also seem steep, but when I look at the years I spent gathering information on-line, in books, and out on the trails, and compare it to how quickly I advanced taking the camp, the value becomes pretty clear. It's three days of instruction after all so the cost per hour is quite efficient. And since this is such a professional and organized camp, this comes out to a great value.
This camp takes all those years of experience and delivers it to you in a structured and well organized manner, so that you can actually use the knowledge and improve your skills immediately. You also get instant feedback from a quality coach so you can make changes on the fly and integrate it into your riding style.
- Camp puts emphasis on having fun
- Thorough and meaningful material
- Well-structured lessons and drills that will stick with you for a lifetime
- Great coaches who are excellent teachers
- Wide variety of locations and dates
- Pace can be slow at times
- No opportunity to regroup with folks at your skill level for more tailored instruction
- Cost is somewhat high