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The Better Ride Experience: Part II

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |October 26, 2010 9:54 PM
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Better Ride Clinic

written by: Jen Hanks 

Gene Hamilton’s BetterRide mountain bike clinic is designed to make you a better rider. Not by forcing riders to push the limits or throwing you on endless lift-served downhill runs but by giving each rider the basic skills they need to ride with skill and confidence in any situation. 

Over the course of three days, BetterRide clinic-goers learn through a combination of lecture, demonstration, and hands on practice of the skills and techniques necessary to build a solid foundation for exceptional bike handling. When applied, these skills improve efficiency and help take minutes off cross-country race times.

Most mountain bikers think if they lack handling skills they will improve by simply riding more trails. But just like football players don’t get better by simply playing more games, cyclists need to do more than just ride their bikes. Monday thru Saturday football players are running drills and breaking skills down into their most basic blocks. Mountain bikers need to do the same.

Prior to the start of the clinic BetterRide founder, Gene Hamilton, provides clinic attendees information regarding the difference between expectations vs. goals. 

It’s good to have high expectations, right?  Not according to Gene and his point makes sense.  According to Gene, "Expectations are things we just expect to happen, because we are so darn cool.  Goals on the other hand are things we set and then we work towards them”. 

Gene actually encourages campers to come into clinic with low expectations of themselves; this helps take the pressure off, increase the fun factor, and optimize learning. 

Last weekend’s Fruita, Colorado, clinic taught by BetterRide head coach Andy Winohradsky was sold out. BetterRide founder Gene Hamilton made an appearance with cross-country superhero Sue Haywood 

The riders in the co-ed clinic ranged from recently new to the sport to seasoned racers with years of experience, or as Gene and Andy point out, tons of engrained bad habits to break. The diversity of the group made no difference in what or how skills were taught, as Andy explained, the skills learned in this clinic are the same as what is taught in the pro downhill clinic. Learning proper bike handling skills will allow you to enjoy your weekend rides or rip down the most technical trails in a race situation.    

Day One’s skill set included body position, proper bike set-up, the importance of vision, and getting over small obstacles. Drills were practiced for each component of the skill.  The last couple of hours of the clinic were spent on the famous Kokopelli trail system applying these newly learned skills to real-trail situations.  

Day Two’s focus included cornering and braking. Techniques learned from the previous day’s clinic were applied to these important skills that allow you to go fast downhill. A former professional downhill racer, coach Andy’s cornering skills were especially impressive to watch as he has most certainly perfected railing corners. 

Day Three addressed drop offs, rear wheel lifts, and switchbacks.  Riders practiced these skills in a school parking lot before heading out to the Kokopelli trails for a final afternoon of trail riding.

The weekend was chilly and rainy, but this did not put a damper on the learning. Campers bundled up and supported one another through the emotional highs and lows of learning new skills. 

Coach Andy Winohadrsky proved to be a skilled instructor able to relate well to beginners as well as expert level racers.  He did an excellent job breaking down and describing the basic components of each skill and he was a joy to watch on the bike. 

Even though a tremendous amount of information was covered over the course of three days, and each rider demonstrated visible improvement of skills, attending the clinic is not enough to change poor handling habits and become a better rider.  As Andy pointed out, "You can’t take a Wednesday night class on ‘How to become a Ninja’ and then you’re a Ninja.  You have to practice to become a Ninja”.  BetterRide gives you all the tools you need to become a mountain bike Ninja.

BetterRide coaches realize the importance of post-clinic practice and strongly encourage practicing the skills taught on at least a weekly basis.  Gene also gently reminds campers with post camp emails including some exciting additional tips. 

Overall, the clinic was extremely educational and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have spent last weekend with a great group of like-minded people.  To quote Andy once again, "There is nothing better than grown adults enjoying riding their bikes”. 

The BetterRide clinics are well worth the time and monetary commitment. For more information regarding the camps check out  Be sure to sign up for the free newsletter and monthly tips. 

Stay tuned for a report on my post-clinic downhill run splits.





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