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
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
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
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
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
The BetterRide clinics are well worth the time and
monetary commitment. For more information regarding the camps check out http://betterride.net. Be sure to sign up for the free
newsletter and monthly tips.
Stay tuned for a report on my post-clinic downhill