Saturday, October 14, 2006

Skills analysis.

I've been diligently analyzing the breakdown in my skills lately. Both cornering and just general speed threshold have been declining. I've been doing the drills that I learned from Gene at BetterRide off/on since the clinic. It took a few months to assimilate the fundamentals from the clinic and then for a while I was rocking on the corners and the speed at which I felt comfortable going down a trail (speed threshold) had gone up.

But alas, these things just like rasing kids or a growing a garden need constant tending. Practice makes perfect many people say. But Gene says, "Perfect practice makes perfect". What that means is that if you're doing the drills wrong, no matter how much you do them it's not going to work.

That's what has been happening, I believe and I wanted to figure out why. I took some digital movies of myself in the neutral attack position and doing the figure 8 drill endless drill. Very poor form. I should post the vid on You tube for others to see and to learn from, but I almost feel ashamed. I want to someday be a coach. Skills coach, and fitness coaching, and it sort of cuts into you credibility to do things wrong.

But the hallmark of a good coach, IMHO, is the ability to analyze why something is going wrong and to figure out what to do to make it better. There are plenty of fast people out there. But how many can tell you why they are fast? How many times have you asked someone how they cleaned some section and they said, " Dude, I dunno, I just trust the bike." The hardest person to objectively analyze is yourself.

The problems that I realized immediately were:

-I wasn't getting my chest very low. Even though I thought I was, it really wasn't low at all. When I concentrated more, I found my lower back really hurting after a little while. Just like it felt after my clinic and I was practicing the drills correctly. I think, that over the past few months I've been protecting my lower back some by not getting low enough

-When braking, you have to shift your weight back to counteract the braking forces pushing you forward. To accomplish this, I'd lift my upperbody up. When I should have been keeping it low but sliding it back during braking

-When entering the corner my upper body would lift up, and sometimes I'd even slide back. Both these reaction are self preservation instincts. They move COG backwards. I need to keep the chest low and forward in corners to weight the front wheel. The lifting up prior to enter a corner was much more pronounced when making a right hand turn which has always been my weak turning direction.

So I began re-doing the drills with focus and concentration on staying low. And getting my chest to stay low in the corners. I also noticed my right hip flexor became been a little sore, I think cause I've been my upper body low and rotating my hips well when in the corner, both of which put strain on the hipflexor.

Another problem has been vision. Keeping the head/chin up and looking far down the trail. Utilizing peripheral vision. Looking at obstacles and then forget about them and look past them.

Putting the vision together with weighting the front has improved things, though I've still got a long way to go.

Today I climbed Old farm and went back down. I've got an 80mm fork on there which steepens the Head angle a little making the bike a little more squirly. When entering some turns I caught myself shifting my weight back causing the front wheel to get a little light/squirly. Forcing the chest low and forward would glue the front back down.

The VT freeride club had been doing shuttle runs down Oldfarm and I got to chase after them. Actually caught one guy in full face helmet and big suspension travel. Always nice to be on an 80mm fork and 3.5" of tight suspension and be able to roll up on 6" of travel. Just like the guy on the hardtail with rigid fork must feel like when he blows by me on a downhill.

Lesson learned I hope. That skills need continuous tending, and to just go through the motions isn't good enough. Perfect practice makes perfect. If my back isn't hurting I must be doing it wrong. Which means I also need to work on strengthening my lower back and flexibility. Not like I didn't already know that though


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