Fresh Product: Today’s Plan Online Training Program

Australian company Today’s Plan have just released a product that we think is incredibly smart and will have huge appeal for racers (of all types), or anyone who’s serious about making real gains in their training.

Today’s Plan is an online ‘coach’ that provides you with a custom training program, based around your goals and other parameters that you can control. There are plenty of ‘off the shelf’ coaching programs out there, but what sets Today’s Plan apart is that each program is completely bespoke and is responsive to your feedback.

The team behind Today’s Plan includes coaching legend Mark ‘Fenz’ Fenner. Fenz has trained, and continues to train, some of Australia’s best cyclists – riders like Jack Haig, Jenny Fay, Josh Carlson and teams like Torq have all been touched by his wisdom – and all his knowledge has been poured into Today’s Plan. Flow recently set ourselves up with an account (it’s free to trial) to see what it’s all about.

After entering all our particulars, we opted to receive daily emails telling us what the next workout in our training plan would be. We were given the option of using either a heart rate monitor or power meter (or both) to measure our effort. This raises an important point; you need either a heart rate monitor or power meter, plus some kind of GPS device, to get the most out of Today’s Plan, or any training for that matter. The system relies on you uploading your training data so it can track your performance relative to your plan.

Select an event from the database as the basis for your plan, or go for a completely custom option.
Select an event from the database as the basis for your plan, or go for a completely custom option.

Next up, is to begin creating our training plan. You can either complete a questionnaire or, and this is cool, pick an event from the event database that you’re training for to get a recommended (but still customisable) training plan to suit that particular event! Of course, not every event is in there yet, but the database is growing, with both mountain bike and road races. Want to smash your time at Capital Punishment? Today’s Plan has the event’s distance, route and profile on file and will create a plan based specifically around training for that race’s conditions.

A number of events are already in the Today's Plan database as the basis for a training plan.
A number of events are already in the Today’s Plan database as the basis for a training plan.

If you opt to create a training plan from scratch, the questionnaire let’s you select a plan from 6-16 weeks in length. You then set the parameters around your usual week on the bike, your goals, your strengths/weaknesses, and then finally you select how many hours a week you’re willing to dedicate to training. The minimum plan is five hours a week, and you can specify how many hours you’re able to train on each day of the week. The exact plan you’re delivered may not 100% match what you’ve specified, but it will work to your daily parameters as closely as is feasible to deliver a workable, realistic training plan.

Setting up a custom plan involves a few basic self-assessment questions.
Setting up a custom plan involves a few basic self-assessment questions.
You can specify how many hours and on which days of the week you're best able to train.
You can specify how many hours and on which days of the week you’re best able to train.

Voila! Your plan is delivered. The system gives you a two week trial, after which you’ll need to pony up some cash, but at $59.95 for a 12-week plan it’s seriously affordable (you try hiring a coach for that little money!).

Your plan is outlined on a clear calendar. Clicking on each sessions will reveal the detail of what that session entails.
Your plan is outlined on a clear calendar. Clicking on each sessions will reveal the detail of what that session entails.

The plan is outlined on a calendar, with the first session a threshold test to set your baseline. Each day is different; threshold sessions, sprints, endurance days, recovery rides, rest days – they’re all woven into your calendar to give you results you’re after. You can move sessions around on your calendar should you need to. For riders like us, for whom training has always been unstructured, it’s a bit of an eye-opener to see what a scientifically sound approach to training actually looks like!

As you complete and upload each session, you're prompted to offer some feedback about how you're feeling. This is used to shape your future sessions.
As you complete and upload each session, you’re prompted to offer some feedback about how you’re feeling. This is used to shape your future sessions.

As you complete (or don’t complete) each session, you mark it as such, then upload the data and fill out a few simple star-rating fields to give your coach some feedback as to how you’re feeling. Feeling too tired to complete a session? Plug in that feedback and it will automatically adjust your training load and calendar to ensure you don’t burn out. #smart

The system is backed up with a lot of analytics power too, which we’ll delve into further down the track.

We’ll be giving ourselves a break over Christmas (we need to be fully fuelled for all our upcoming training!) then hitting the new year with a fresh plan to see how it all works for us. Check it out for yourself: www.todaysplan.com.au

 

Training your Brain: Part 3 – Riding with Flow

As a psychologist I often advise athletes to trust their competence, not their confidence. Competence is about having the real skills to do something. Confidence, on the other hand, is unreliable and can get us in big trouble. If you know what you’re capable of, you can go out and do it. Confidence is mostly bullshit.

If you know what you’re capable of, you can go out and do it. Confidence is mostly bullshit.

So how do you increase your competence? The best place to start is to learn to gauge both your skills and your limits. I always suggest developing a realistic skills hierarchy and to use other riders as a gauge for determining where you sit. For example, for drops, a hierarchy might start with drops or rolls of ½ metre or less with an easy exit, moving up to drops (no rollout option) of up to a metre, then incrementing all the way up to 2+metres with difficult exits. Maybe give each increment a grade (e.g., 1A –really easy, to 5D – stupidly hard) and then determine where you are now and where you could realistically get to (with practice). It’s then pretty easy to rate a given trail based on its features and level of technicality, and to decide whether you can do some or all of it, and what you’d need to improve in order to ride the whole thing.

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Knowing your skills and limits also means that it’s realistically easier to say “no” when you come across a feature that you know is beyond your current skills. It’s worth pointing out that just because other guys make it look easy, doesn’t mean that it is, or that you should even ride it. If riding is about fun, then figuring out the maximum grade of risk you’re prepared to accept, and then working your way up to that level systematically, will result in a lot more fun.

There’s no need to punish yourself or feel like an idiot because you don’t have the skills you want right now – instead of looking at a drop and giving yourself shit about not being able to ride it, use it as motivation to learn to be a better rider.

Most importantly, grading trails and features, and then figuring out your current skills and limits, helps you to be able to ride without letting your head screw it up for you. Once you accept that a feature is beyond your current skill level, it’s a lot easier to simply walk your bike around it, and then work on developing a training program to build your skills up so you’re able to clear that section later on. This is probably the best way to get around the whole “my head won’t let me” scenario that all of us have come across. There’s no need to punish yourself or feel like an idiot because you don’t have the skills you want right now – instead of looking at a drop and giving yourself shit about not being able to ride it, use it as motivation to learn to be a better rider.

Increased competence is by far the best way to increase your enjoyment out on the bike. In sport psychology the term “flow” is used to describe a feeling of total immersion with an activity, where everything goes right, and time disappears. It’s an amazing feeling, and one of the main reason I mountain bike. Flow certainly isn’t guaranteed though, and there are lots of things that get in the way.

Kinross

So how do you get to have one of those rides where everything just works, and you finish up feeling totally buzzed? Here’s my recipe for riding a trail with flow.

1)   Flow is much more likely to happen when you get the balance between your skills and the level of challenge just right. This means knowing your limits and your skill level and then matching it to the trail. A trail that keeps you on your toes, but doesn’t scare the crap out of you is a good match. Go for enough challenge so that you max out at about 80% of your skill threshold.

2)   You can also increase the chances of flow by upping the challenge on easier trails (e.g., focusing on technique, like attempting to keep your hands off the brakes in corners, or getting your balance just right on a drop). Increasing skills levels also helps, because it means you can attempt increased challenges. See part 2 for an idea of how to do this.

When this happens, don’t just balls through it. Stop, take a breath, come back into the present moment.

There are two things that will always kill flow: too much challenge (resulting in fear and overthinking) and not enough skill. The kicker is that, when the challenge is too high and you get a fear response, you’ll probably go into fight or flight (see part 1) which means that you won’t be able to think clearly and your fine-motor control will reduce, meaning you’re more likely to stuff up. In other words, too much challenge gets in the way of skill.

When this happens, don’t just balls through it. Stop, take a breath, come back into the present moment (look at your bike and the trail and the trees), and then get on your bike and ride something that you know is within your ability (ramp down the challenge to match your skill). If your head starts giving you grief, take another breath, acknowledge that your head is giving you shit, focus on the trail, and remind yourself why you’re out there – you’re not there to go big or go home, you’re there to enjoy the ride as much as you possibly can.

 

About the author:

Dr. Jeremy Adams is a registered psychologist and director of Eclectic Consulting Ltd. He divides his time between mountain biking, working with athletes and other performers, executive coaching, and private practice.

In past lives, Jeremy has been a principal lecturer in sport and performance psychology at a university in London, a senior manager in a large consulting firm in Melbourne, a personal trainer in Paris, and a scuba instructor in Byron Bay. He’s also the author of a textbook on performance in organisational management, a large range of professional and popular articles, and a regular blog about how to be human (www.eclectic-moose.com).

Jeremy is based in Melbourne and can be contacted through his website (www.eclectic-consult.com).

Training your Brain: Part 2 – Skills Acquisition

Let’s start with how we learn and what we can reasonably expect to learn. Riding a mountain bike is about programming in a very complex series of fine-motor controls so that we don’t have to think much on the trail. When we program our cerebellum to ride for us, it means we don’t have to think about every obstacle, so we can just ride over them (this is why good riders look like they’re riding without having to think about it – they’re not, at least not consciously). We can do this because our cerebellum reacts way faster than the conscious parts of our brain. The downside is that if you program in crap, you’ll ride like crap – automatically.

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Danny Macaskill; highly tuned.

As you speed up beyond what your conscious brain can process, you’ll be riding on your automatic systems without the ability to monitor or modify.

Learning a motor skill is a slow and frustrating process. When you learnt to drive, you had to think about everything, and it was hard to react properly in real time. Eventually though, you were able to program in these skills so you didn’t have to think about them. The same goes for mountain biking. When you’re learning you rely on conscious processing, and this is slow (reaction speed of seconds rather than milliseconds).

The good news is that while you’re riding under conscious control, you have the option to monitor what’s going on, and to make modifications – if you make the right modifications this means that you’re learning good stuff. In fact, whenever you’re riding under conscious control the conscious part of your brain is programming the automatic control systems (in your cerebellum) so you’ll be more efficient later on. But as soon as you speed up beyond what your conscious brain can process, you’ll be riding on your automatic systems without the ability to monitor or modify.

Annoyingly, most of us don’t learn to ride like we learn to drive. Rather than getting proper instruction and then practising until we’re competent, we usually just ‘go out and ride’. And because we often practise bad habits, we end up with these bad habits deeply programmed into our brains (meaning you’ll ride like crap whenever the trail gets tough and you don’t have time to think).

Because we often practise bad habits, we end up with these bad habits deeply programmed into our brains

So here’s how to program your brain in order to learn or improve a bike skill (whether you’re a beginner or an expert), so that you won’t have to think about it on the trail.

1)   Start by figuring out what you want to improve: braking, balance, cornering, line selection, drops, rock gardens, whatever.

2)   Get some information on how to do whatever it is you want to learn. Maybe from an instructor, a mate who’s good at whatever it is you want to get better at, a website, or a video.

3)   Find an appropriate spot to practise and start basic and slow. For example, for a drop, find a kerb and start by rolling over it, concentrating on getting your weight distribution right. When this feels easy, try going a bit higher and slowly rolling off, focusing on smooth weight transitions and landings. The trick is to make sure that you’re always consciously aware of what you’re doing and in control of your actions. This will be frustrating and the temptation will be to speed up and go bigger. Don’t.

4)   Keep practising until what you’re doing feels easy, and then get some feedback from riders who know what they’re talking about. Modify based on their feedback and keep practising.

5)   Start speeding up and, or adding complexity. Make sure you never go beyond a point where you can maintain conscious control of your bike. As soon as you find yourself reacting rather than thinking, slow down.

6)   If you find yourself freaking out or getting anxious, stop. Go back to a simpler or slower version and practise until it feels easy.

7)   Likewise, try not to overthink. Picture what you have to do in your mind’s eye, and then do it, keeping track of the key factors (like hand and body position). If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to the task at hand.

8)   As your ability increases, try mixing it up and trying out your skills on new sections of trail. Try to stay slowed down and in control.

9)   Remember that skills programming is slow, but not necessarily boring. Whenever you start to get bored, remind yourself that this will make you a much better rider. It’s worth thinking about what riding means to you, and remembering that mastery isn’t about getting to the bottom of a trail, or about having big balls, it’s about being good on the bike. Lots of riders can get down something or huck a big gap, but not many do it well.

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Chris Kovarik. Effortlessly amazing around a filthy off-camber corner.

If the steps above sound strange to you, you’re not alone. Very few of us actually learn to ride this way, so instead of consistently getting better at the thing we love, we just ride the same stuff week by week, making the same mistakes and getting frustrated because we’re not improving!

Obviously, it’d be boring to stop riding and just do skills work. I suggest taking a deliberate 1-2 weeks every 2-3 months (especially when you come up against an obstacle to your riding) and going through these steps.

In part 1 of this series we looked at how your brain helps and hinders your riding. In this section we looked at how to use your brain to program in good riding. In part 3 we’ll look at putting this all together so that you can ride with flow out on the trail.

 

About the author:

Dr. Jeremy Adams is a registered psychologist and director of Eclectic Consulting Ltd. He divides his time between mountain biking, working with athletes and other performers, executive coaching, and private practice.

In past lives, Jeremy has been a principal lecturer in sport and performance psychology at a university in London, a senior manager in a large consulting firm in Melbourne, a personal trainer in Paris, and a scuba instructor in Byron Bay. He’s also the author of a textbook on performance in organisational management, a large range of professional and popular articles, and a regular blog about how to be human (www.eclectic-moose.com).

Jeremy is based in Melbourne and can be contacted through his website (www.eclectic-consult.com).

Training your Brain: Part 1 – Rebooting

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Then I realised something important: I’ve never really learnt how to ride a mountain bike properly. In fact, if you’re anything like me you probably learnt to ride your bike by trial and error with your mates (who were maybe slightly better riders than you). Like me you never learnt the basics, like efficient braking and balancing through corners, let alone the harder stuff, like drops, picking lines through rock gardens, or staying upright on sketchy corners.

Then I realised something important: I’ve never really learnt how to ride a mountain bike properly. In fact, if you’re anything like me you probably learnt to ride your bike by trial and error with your mates.

So I spent the summer going back to basics. I rode easy trails at slower speeds, and forced myself to concentrate on what I was doing. By slowing down I was able to focus on riding my bike properly and, in the process, reprogram my brain so that these gains stayed with me when I sped up.

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But I’m getting ahead of myself. To be the riders we want to be, we’ve got to go back to basics and ask an important question: what controls our riding, our brains or our bodies (hint: it’s your brain)? So let’s start with a bit of neuropsych 101 (I’ll keep it brief).

As a mountain biker, one of the most important parts of your brain is a region called the cerebellum, an area responsible for most of your fine-motor control. Your cerebellum is the part of your brain that keeps you on the bike when things get sketchy before you’ve even figured out what’s going on*. Most importantly, you can’t access it consciously, it’s basically a completely separate system to ‘you’, that responds a lot faster than the ‘conscious’ parts of your brain. Because you can’t access it directly, there’s only one way to train it: lots and lots of practice (see part 2).

This is crap for riding, because it’s hard to ride well when you can’t think.

There are two other brain regions mountain bikers should know about: the limbic system (your monkey brain) and the prefrontal lobes (your human brain). The limbic system contains your ‘fear centre’ – it’s best to think of this part of your brain as a “don’t eat me” system. This fear centre activates a process called the ‘fight or flight’ response, which kept your ancestors alive when bears tried to eat them. When activated, it triggers a cascade of physiological reactions (including increased release of adrenaline and cortisol) that helps you to run away – including a shut down of your prefrontal lobes: the parts of your brain that you think with (you don’t need your prefrontal lobes when bears are chasing you). This is crap for riding, because it’s hard to ride well when you can’t think.

Being a good rider is about learning to use the parts of your brain that help, and getting over the parts that get in the way.

As humans, we’re often the victims of the more primitive parts of our brains (like the limbic system), but we’ve also evolved an amazing ability to learn to do complex and remarkable things. Being a good rider is about learning to use the parts of your brain that help, and getting over the parts that get in the way. So, in part 2 we’ll look at how to (re)program your brain to make you a better rider. In part 3 we’ll look at dealing with your fear systems so you can ride with flow.

* We call this muscle memory. In reality, however, your muscles don’t have any memory: they’re controlled by our brains (specifically by a combination of our motor control strip and the cerebellum).

About the author:

Dr. Jeremy Adams is a registered psychologist and director of Eclectic Consulting Ltd. He divides his time between mountain biking, working with athletes and other performers, executive coaching, and private practice.

In past lives, Jeremy has been a principal lecturer in sport and performance psychology at a university in London, a senior manager in a large consulting firm in Melbourne, a personal trainer in Paris, and a scuba instructor in Byron Bay. He’s also the author of a textbook on performance in organisational management, a large range of professional and popular articles, and a regular blog about how to be human (www.eclectic-moose.com).

Jeremy is based in Melbourne and can be contacted through his website (www.eclectic-consult.com).

Stages Cycling is headed to Australian and NZ

Stages Cycling is proud to announce a new partnership with FE Sports, a distributor based in Queensland, AU, to bring Stages Power meters to riders in Australia and New Zealand.

“Australia is a massive power meter market and they’ve been hounding us for access to our product,” said Doug Crawford, Stages Cycling’s VP of product development. “It’s been tough to ask them to wait, but we’re happy to announce that the wait is over.

“As with each venture into a new market, we have taken our time to find and vet a distribution partner that matches with our brand ethos and will add value to each rider’s experience with our Stages Cycling product; FE Sports has earned our respect and our partnership. Riders in these markets can expect to find Stages Power meters on the shelves of retailers by November 2013.

“When Stages Power was first announced we knew this was going to be a game-changing product for the power category,” said Danny Brkic, FE Sports’ VP of sales and marketing. “We couldn’t be more excited to partner with Stages Cycling to deliver their product and vision to riders in Australia and New Zealand.”

The crank-based Stages Power meter makes power-based training available to all types of riders through unique design, low weight, and economical price. The new meter, which was launched in North America in 2012, is sold factory installed by Stages Cycling, in Boulder, CO USA to aluminum crank arms from Cannondale, FSA, Shimano, and SRAM.

The Stages Power meter uses strain-gages to measure force and numerous sensors including an accelerometer to measure cadence, eliminating the need for any external accessories or magnets.

Technologically, Stages Cycling leads the power measurement category with cutting edge features including ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart radio transmission, and a factory calibrated automatic temperature compensation system.

These design features have been lauded by riders and media alike, many of which call the new power meter a game changer. On the racecourse, the Stages Power meter has been adopted by all forms of riders, from road racer to mountain biker and enthusiast to world champion.

 

Specialized Skill Up Women in Retail

Specialized Australia recently ran a women’s tech training session for female shop staff. It was a world first for Specialized, and is a great show of leadership in this area, Hopefully it’s something we see more of from other organisations as well.

 

As a woman working in a bike store, you’re definitely an anomaly. Last time I worked at a bike shop, every now and then, a customer would ask to speak to one of the ‘guys’. ‘Ask me your question, and if I can’t answer it I’ll go and get some help,’ I’d say.

Things usually went pretty well from there. If help was needed, I’d call on our female mechanic, just to make a point.

In a sport that still attracts a lot more men than women, it follows that female staff in the bike retail sector aren’t as common either. This can sometimes lead to the unfortunate assumption that women aren’t as skilled as their male counterparts, or can’t provide the same level of customer service and advice.

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Megan Scott from Berry Mountain Cycles near Nowra.

This unspoken condescension, coupled with the traditional ‘blokeyness’ of bike shops (particularly the workshop) is an ongoing barrier to more women taking up work in bike retail. And it’s to the detriment of our sport.

Less ego, more attention to detail

Specialized Australia’s training expert, (formally titled, a Specialized Bicycle Components University (SBCU) Professor), Adam Nicholson, came up with the idea for the women’s tech course after a shopping experience for his motorbike.

Impressed with the way that, ‘Women are typically able to articulate technical information with less ego and more attention to detail,’ he saw a massive need to help empower female store owners, managers and sales staff in the bike industry and developed three day technical training course for likeminded ladies.

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We all wished every bike workshop was like this.

‘I wanted to develop a platform where Specialized employees are able to use resources we have, digest the technical aspects of our products and deliver second to none customer service for every cyclist. The course allowed us to do it as a group rather than one on one.’

Empowering experiences

The course is one of a series of workshops Specialized run under their Specialized Bicycle Components University arm. We joined the girls on the final day at Specialized’s HQ in Melbourne where an incredibly impressive training facility has been built. There’s a room full of identically equipped workstations, each suitable for the most involved of workshop task. The group spent the morning bleeding brakes and pulling apart front suspension – the kind of workshop skills that women are rarely taught.

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Each participant had their own workstation (L-R Margot Rupe, Bella Reynolds, Carolyn Lyon).

Next, a test fleet of Specialized’s new women’s trail bike, the Rumor Expert, were loaded into a van and we drove from Melbourne to the You Yangs for an afternoon ride. This was the perfect environment for the attendees to play with the dropper posts they’d pulled apart the day before, and put into practice the suspension setup knowledge they’d learnt to give customers the ride feel they’re after.

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Specialized know how to make a woman feel special. A fleet of Rumor Experts were lined up ready to ride.

Key to the success of the course is hands on technical training, actual riding experiences and ongoing discussion. It enables participants to build skills, digest theoretical information and actually feel what different product innovations mean for experiences had while riding.

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The hands-on was very important. Some of us gain this experience on our own bike while looking at a old manual and to get it in such a professional and formal manner was priceless.
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Margot Rupe from Mikes Bikes on the Gold Coast gets stuck into a nice set of forks.

For Carolyn Lyon, who manages Red Bike in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand, the course motivated her to help customers get more out of the products they own. ‘I have a confidence I never had before in promoting bike maintenance,’ she said afterward.

For someone like Carolyn, who doesn’t have much contact with other female shop staff, meeting likeminded ladies was another critical element of the trip. ‘The women I met on the course are, to me, an extension of our store. They are an important point of contact when making decisions about issues relating to women who ride. We contact each other to solve all sorts of issues and also to share great ideas that work well within our own cycling communities.’

You can’t buy everything online

The women’s tech training was a first for Specialized, but hopefully the first of many courses like it. In fact, Adam, who developed the curriculum in Australia, is now looking to expand this to a global level through the Specialized headquarters in the United States.

The broader context of the initiative is important too. Globally, bike shops have to find new ways to maintain their edge as online retail grows, integrating additional services and points of difference to the once-familiar sales and repairs model. These might include cafes, indoor turbo studios, weekly social rides, exclusive training and racing activities, support at community-based events; things you can’t buy with the click of a mouse or swipe of a touch screen.

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Theory and discussion time were also important aspects of the course. The customer experience is even more important come the online shopping age and any training to re-gain that advantage is critical.

Building the confidence, skills and professional networks of female staff is part and parcel of this; in this day in age, you cannot afford to have staff members who are unable to provide a high level of service across the board. It’s widely recognised that walking into a bike shop can be an intimidating experience too, particularly for women – it’s one of the reasons some people turn to the anonymity of online shopping. Having well-educated female staff who, as mentioned by Adam previously, generally approach sales with less ego helps make bike shops a more welcoming environment.

As the bike industry continues to reinvent itself we look forward to seeing what additional opportunities become available next. Especially if it means better experiences for customers and staff, and helping riders of all types get even more out of their time on the trails.

Meanwhile, the next time you receive help from a staff member of either gender, take a moment to consider the passion for products, servicing and ongoing learning they bring to the shop floor. Working in a bike shop is a lifestyle as much as a job.

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Thanks to companies like Specialized there’s a growing group of women more involved in all aspects of our sport.

 

Junior Development and Coaching Camp for Mountain Biking in Western Australia

The Perth Mountain Bike Club are holding a Junior Development (JDC) and Coaching Development camp specifically for mountain biking in Pemberton on the 12 – 14 July 2013.

The idea behind the camp was to bring mountain bike specific coaches from the Eastern States and Northern Territory to train our U15 – U19 juniors to National level. PMBC would then mentor these riders over the rest of 2013 and form a junior state team to take to the MTB Nationals in 2014.

With fantastic support from the Department of Sport and Recreation (DSR) this idea has grown to running a coaching development camp at the same time. The interest in both of these camps has been overwhelming with both camps filling the quotas of 20 juniors and 12 coaches well before the cut off dates.

The camp is based at the Pemberton Camp School and the beautiful Pemberton MTB park. This venue enables us to deliver every aspect of a coaching camp and JDC without having to move people around in a car or bus from venue to venue.

A big part of the coaching camp will be the real life experience our coaches will get in being part of the JDC while doing their level 1 MTB coaching accreditation. This will be a massive bonus for the coaches and juniors alike.

Cycling Australia and Mountain Bike Australia have been extremely helpful and supportive in logistics of the coaching development camp. On top of that, Westcycle and WAMBA have also been very supportive in this great initiative, the first of its kind in Australia.

Trek Bicycles, The Target Trek MTB team, Bontrager and Shotz Sports Nutrition have all gotten behind the JDC camp providing gifts, prizes and give aways for every participant.

Tim Ellison, is directing the training and assessing of our coaches. He is a national MTB coach and national XCO selector from the NT. Jenny King is a level 2 coach, she is a current multiple National Champion from Vic and is really excited to be part of our JDC. We also have local downhill legends Dion Baker and Rex Dubois to show the juniors how to corner, jump, rail and nail every obstacle.

Why no U13’s you ask, PMBC already have an awesome partnership with local MTB development company “Rock and Roll MTB”. Rock and Roll have a program to develop and nurture the U9’s and U13’s all the way from very beginner to racing at state level.

Mountain Biking is certainly in a massive growth stage and is a very popular sport all the way from the weekend warrior to the elite racer. Initiatives like the JDC and Coaching Development camp will only help grow our sport and hopefully provide our WA juniors with a pathway to international stardom.

Gravity Oz Camps – A Student’s Tale

It’s 3 o’clock on a relatively hot Wednesday afternoon in Melbourne. I’ve just moved over from Perth and I’m staring at my fairly sparse apartment that’s still littered with packing boxes. Of course I have my priorities right, unpacking and setting up my apartment…but I can’t help gazing at my freshly assembled, but neglected downhill bike, sitting on the balcony.

I’m jonesing to get out for a ride but don’t know anyone to go shuttling with. Back home in Perth we have neither mountains nor ski lifts, but on the east coast you have the option of Mount Buller or Thredbo. By comparison, downhill trails in the west are around 1 to 1.5 kilometres long but at Buller most are at double to triple that length.  With Thredbo’s cannonball run at 4.5km and over 6 times the vertical drop of anything in Perth, it makes a compelling argument to make a journey.

The big mountains of Victoria are a dream for mountain bikers.

A quick search on the Buller website enhanced the argument. It says there will be a Summer Gravity Camp being hosted on the weekend. So I call the number and speak to a guy named Shannon, who turns out to be the owner of both the Mansfield and Mt. Buller bike shops and chief instructor for the weekend. He gives me a brief outline on the skills they’ll cover but to be honest I was thinking it was expensive. Their 1-on-1 training sessions are a bargain at $70 for 2 hours in comparison to the $795 for the three day camp, but it does include food and accommodations. By the end of the weekend though I found it a worthy investment.

I’m hesitant to put my name down since I’ve been downhilling for 15 years and slightly skeptical as to what they can teach me. I ask who their target market is while hoping he doesn’t say something generic like they ‘cater to everyone.’

Sure enough, I could have scripted his answer.

‘We’ve got a couple of cross country riders, some up-and-coming downhillers, a 55 year old doctor who rides quite a bit and can patch you up if you fall off and a BMXer,’ explained Shannon.

His sales pitch didn’t instil confidence in me but faced with the choice of unpacking the rest of my apartment or shirking responsibility and going riding for three days the choice was clear. So I was on my way to Mt. Buller. Fortunately, as I would later discover, this little overview was just Shannon’s usual understated style.

“The BMXer” turns out to be 22 year old Caroline Buchanan, 3 time World Champion and Olympic Games finalist, who was out to brush up on her skills ahead of her return to downhill racing. Also, one of the “cross country riders” would be World Cup rider Katherine O’Shea.

Both Caroline and Katherine went to the Gravity Oz Camp as students. Caroline went on to finish 1st in the women’s downhill a weekend later and Katherine won the XC eliminator. Both of the girls acknowledged that the Summer Gravity Camp improved their skills to help them win.

As for Shannon, I learned his last name was Rademaker, a former pro BMXer who would be teaching the camp along with Australian World Championship team mechanic Tim Chadd and top Elite downhill racer Rhys Atkinson. It quickly became the who’s who of the Aussie riding scene.

Gravity Oz instructors (l-r)  – Rhys Atkinson, Shannon Rademaker, and Tim Chadd

On Friday morning the group assembled in the second floor lounge of the lodge to be given the rundown of events for the next few days. There were 18 of us in total and we were split up into three groups of six with one instructor per group. That morning started with a free ride session to get us warmed up and to blow out the cobwebs followed by a cornering class in the afternoon.

Before we head out though, there was a massive continental breakfast waiting for us in the kitchen that’s wafting through to the lounge while we do the introductions. The first breakfast also gave the group the opportunity to meet and greet and I met my roommate Paul, who’s another Doctor in his mid 30’s. Paul explains that he’s got two young kids at home and his wife has let him out of the house to come riding. We put in our best effort to devour all the food in front of us but come out well short. Catering 1, Team 0.  We gear up and hit the hill.

My first run was good but the altitude was killing me. It was either that or I had more cobwebs to shake than I thought after not having a proper downhill session in 4 months. Either way that combination was doing me no favours. That afternoon we break up into our groups with Shannon as my first instructor discussing lines through berms, entry, exit, apex and clipping points. His main technical critique of my riding was to “get my arms out”.

‘What?’ I asked puzzled.

‘Like a chicken,’ he explained.

With my freshly opened stance and new positioning more over the bike a few clumsy berms later I could get the bike low enough to scrape pedals. Maybe he was onto something. We finished up that afternoon when the ski lifts closed at 4pm and headed back to the lodge. Our chef cooked up a feast so large that no one touched dessert… Catering 2, Team 0.

That evening, while everyone sat in the lounge retelling war stories of hitting gaps that earlier in the day were only 5 feet and have now become 50, I was putting ice and anti-inflammatories on my swelling fingers to keep them at bay.

While trying to minimise movement I talked with Shannon for a while.  Turns out he studied outdoor education at the university and is a lecturer at TAFE for MTB instructor and guide course. He also instructs at the Gravity Oz camps and tells me that his favourite thing is running into ex students from the camp and seeing their improvements.  Clearly what he says holds some merit.

Being taught by some of the best in the business help everyone on the camp improve their skills and confidence.

Shannon bids us all goodnight and pretty soon everyone clears out leaving the lounge vacant at a mere 9:30pm. Everyone was exhausted, happy and sound asleep by 10pm. The only downside I can see was the lack of an in house masseuse – I was hurting!

Day Two, Saturday

A huge continental breakfast started the day again and was now convinced that catering would win on all counts. Next Tim gave a talk on bike maintenance and setup. Then we were on the ski lifts for first runs. We had free ride for the first few runs then get into hitting jumps – setting up, bike control and landing.

For the Saturday afternoon activities we piled into a shuttle bus and headed down to Mansfield to a private property owned by one of Shannon’s friends. On arrival we grabed our bikes for a big air session followed by a pump track course, which inevitably turned into a competition.

Graham (the 55 year old doctor) had lent Paul a GT hardtail for the afternoon, which he had nicknamed ‘Chucker’. I asked how the name came about and he explained that it’s the bike they use as a dam jumper, which is something I’ve always wanted to try. Graham extended me an invitation but I felt like I couldn’t leave the group. Then he extended an invite to everyone – none of us realising he lives on the property right next door.

What a fun afternoon it was.

Chucker getting a workout.

After Chucker got a good workout and we all got a chance to cool off we headed back up the mountain to the lodge in the same spirits as the afternoon before, equally exhausted. After another spectacular meal prepared by the chef, Paul and I climbing into our bunks. He mentions that he found some cheap dirt jumpers online and now is tempted to pick one up. Paul had that much fun on the pump track and dam jumper.

We switch out the lights and a few minutes later his phone rings – it’s his wife.

‘You can’t buy another bike!’ she expressed.

Confused, we had no idea how she knew we were just talking about it. No she wasn’t hiding in the closet, as it turns out they share an eBay account and she had just seen his search history.  Caught!

The Final Day (Sunday)

After one last continental breakfast, it was off to the ski lifts for the final day. We started off with a free ride for the first few warm up runs again. Sunday’s session was on rock gardens and picking lines to link it in with our previous sessions on berms and jumps.  Rhys shows us a line that made me think he’s ADD and been given a bottle of red creaming soda to wash down the bag of sugar he just ate. He did a demonstration run that showed why he’s a top Elite male in Australia, it was spectacular.

Rhys Atkinson showing us how to corner like a pro.

After lunch we were given the last couple of hours to practice and work with the instructors 1-on-1 for any extra help we needed. Before heading back to the lodge everyone got a bag of goodies, a free tyre from Specialized, and the guys picked winners for a pile of extra high ticket giveaways.

They say you should never acknowledge it’s your last run of the day because it’s the one you always crash. Sure enough my one and only fall for the weekend was on my last run. I was actually in better spirits after the crash because I’ve figured out just how fast I could hit that corner – only 150 more offs and I would have that whole run dialled.

Would I recommend the camp? For sure. They have a high rate of satisfied riders as evidenced by the fact that more than 70% of their business is referrals from previous customers and because many people come back two or three times.

I might be one of them.

Mt Buller is a perfect place to improve your skills with all kinds of terrain and obstacles to progress your riding.

 

 

 

Gravity Oz Camps – A Student's Tale

It’s 3 o’clock on a relatively hot Wednesday afternoon in Melbourne. I’ve just moved over from Perth and I’m staring at my fairly sparse apartment that’s still littered with packing boxes. Of course I have my priorities right, unpacking and setting up my apartment…but I can’t help gazing at my freshly assembled, but neglected downhill bike, sitting on the balcony.

I’m jonesing to get out for a ride but don’t know anyone to go shuttling with. Back home in Perth we have neither mountains nor ski lifts, but on the east coast you have the option of Mount Buller or Thredbo. By comparison, downhill trails in the west are around 1 to 1.5 kilometres long but at Buller most are at double to triple that length.  With Thredbo’s cannonball run at 4.5km and over 6 times the vertical drop of anything in Perth, it makes a compelling argument to make a journey.

The big mountains of Victoria are a dream for mountain bikers.

A quick search on the Buller website enhanced the argument. It says there will be a Summer Gravity Camp being hosted on the weekend. So I call the number and speak to a guy named Shannon, who turns out to be the owner of both the Mansfield and Mt. Buller bike shops and chief instructor for the weekend. He gives me a brief outline on the skills they’ll cover but to be honest I was thinking it was expensive. Their 1-on-1 training sessions are a bargain at $70 for 2 hours in comparison to the $795 for the three day camp, but it does include food and accommodations. By the end of the weekend though I found it a worthy investment.

I’m hesitant to put my name down since I’ve been downhilling for 15 years and slightly skeptical as to what they can teach me. I ask who their target market is while hoping he doesn’t say something generic like they ‘cater to everyone.’

Sure enough, I could have scripted his answer.

‘We’ve got a couple of cross country riders, some up-and-coming downhillers, a 55 year old doctor who rides quite a bit and can patch you up if you fall off and a BMXer,’ explained Shannon.

His sales pitch didn’t instil confidence in me but faced with the choice of unpacking the rest of my apartment or shirking responsibility and going riding for three days the choice was clear. So I was on my way to Mt. Buller. Fortunately, as I would later discover, this little overview was just Shannon’s usual understated style.

“The BMXer” turns out to be 22 year old Caroline Buchanan, 3 time World Champion and Olympic Games finalist, who was out to brush up on her skills ahead of her return to downhill racing. Also, one of the “cross country riders” would be World Cup rider Katherine O’Shea.

Both Caroline and Katherine went to the Gravity Oz Camp as students. Caroline went on to finish 1st in the women’s downhill a weekend later and Katherine won the XC eliminator. Both of the girls acknowledged that the Summer Gravity Camp improved their skills to help them win.

As for Shannon, I learned his last name was Rademaker, a former pro BMXer who would be teaching the camp along with Australian World Championship team mechanic Tim Chadd and top Elite downhill racer Rhys Atkinson. It quickly became the who’s who of the Aussie riding scene.

Gravity Oz instructors (l-r)  – Rhys Atkinson, Shannon Rademaker, and Tim Chadd

On Friday morning the group assembled in the second floor lounge of the lodge to be given the rundown of events for the next few days. There were 18 of us in total and we were split up into three groups of six with one instructor per group. That morning started with a free ride session to get us warmed up and to blow out the cobwebs followed by a cornering class in the afternoon.

Before we head out though, there was a massive continental breakfast waiting for us in the kitchen that’s wafting through to the lounge while we do the introductions. The first breakfast also gave the group the opportunity to meet and greet and I met my roommate Paul, who’s another Doctor in his mid 30’s. Paul explains that he’s got two young kids at home and his wife has let him out of the house to come riding. We put in our best effort to devour all the food in front of us but come out well short. Catering 1, Team 0.  We gear up and hit the hill.

My first run was good but the altitude was killing me. It was either that or I had more cobwebs to shake than I thought after not having a proper downhill session in 4 months. Either way that combination was doing me no favours. That afternoon we break up into our groups with Shannon as my first instructor discussing lines through berms, entry, exit, apex and clipping points. His main technical critique of my riding was to “get my arms out”.

‘What?’ I asked puzzled.

‘Like a chicken,’ he explained.

With my freshly opened stance and new positioning more over the bike a few clumsy berms later I could get the bike low enough to scrape pedals. Maybe he was onto something. We finished up that afternoon when the ski lifts closed at 4pm and headed back to the lodge. Our chef cooked up a feast so large that no one touched dessert… Catering 2, Team 0.

That evening, while everyone sat in the lounge retelling war stories of hitting gaps that earlier in the day were only 5 feet and have now become 50, I was putting ice and anti-inflammatories on my swelling fingers to keep them at bay.

While trying to minimise movement I talked with Shannon for a while.  Turns out he studied outdoor education at the university and is a lecturer at TAFE for MTB instructor and guide course. He also instructs at the Gravity Oz camps and tells me that his favourite thing is running into ex students from the camp and seeing their improvements.  Clearly what he says holds some merit.

Being taught by some of the best in the business help everyone on the camp improve their skills and confidence.

Shannon bids us all goodnight and pretty soon everyone clears out leaving the lounge vacant at a mere 9:30pm. Everyone was exhausted, happy and sound asleep by 10pm. The only downside I can see was the lack of an in house masseuse – I was hurting!

Day Two, Saturday

A huge continental breakfast started the day again and was now convinced that catering would win on all counts. Next Tim gave a talk on bike maintenance and setup. Then we were on the ski lifts for first runs. We had free ride for the first few runs then get into hitting jumps – setting up, bike control and landing.

For the Saturday afternoon activities we piled into a shuttle bus and headed down to Mansfield to a private property owned by one of Shannon’s friends. On arrival we grabed our bikes for a big air session followed by a pump track course, which inevitably turned into a competition.

Graham (the 55 year old doctor) had lent Paul a GT hardtail for the afternoon, which he had nicknamed ‘Chucker’. I asked how the name came about and he explained that it’s the bike they use as a dam jumper, which is something I’ve always wanted to try. Graham extended me an invitation but I felt like I couldn’t leave the group. Then he extended an invite to everyone – none of us realising he lives on the property right next door.

What a fun afternoon it was.

Chucker getting a workout.

After Chucker got a good workout and we all got a chance to cool off we headed back up the mountain to the lodge in the same spirits as the afternoon before, equally exhausted. After another spectacular meal prepared by the chef, Paul and I climbing into our bunks. He mentions that he found some cheap dirt jumpers online and now is tempted to pick one up. Paul had that much fun on the pump track and dam jumper.

We switch out the lights and a few minutes later his phone rings – it’s his wife.

‘You can’t buy another bike!’ she expressed.

Confused, we had no idea how she knew we were just talking about it. No she wasn’t hiding in the closet, as it turns out they share an eBay account and she had just seen his search history.  Caught!

The Final Day (Sunday)

After one last continental breakfast, it was off to the ski lifts for the final day. We started off with a free ride for the first few warm up runs again. Sunday’s session was on rock gardens and picking lines to link it in with our previous sessions on berms and jumps.  Rhys shows us a line that made me think he’s ADD and been given a bottle of red creaming soda to wash down the bag of sugar he just ate. He did a demonstration run that showed why he’s a top Elite male in Australia, it was spectacular.

Rhys Atkinson showing us how to corner like a pro.

After lunch we were given the last couple of hours to practice and work with the instructors 1-on-1 for any extra help we needed. Before heading back to the lodge everyone got a bag of goodies, a free tyre from Specialized, and the guys picked winners for a pile of extra high ticket giveaways.

They say you should never acknowledge it’s your last run of the day because it’s the one you always crash. Sure enough my one and only fall for the weekend was on my last run. I was actually in better spirits after the crash because I’ve figured out just how fast I could hit that corner – only 150 more offs and I would have that whole run dialled.

Would I recommend the camp? For sure. They have a high rate of satisfied riders as evidenced by the fact that more than 70% of their business is referrals from previous customers and because many people come back two or three times.

I might be one of them.

Mt Buller is a perfect place to improve your skills with all kinds of terrain and obstacles to progress your riding.