Photos by Danielle Baker
Words by Seb Kemp
We aren't people, we are consumers, and every day we are bombarded with glossy sales pitches, nifty marketing ideas and some truly great products that speak for themselves. What makes one product better than another? I hope it's because they are somehow, through feats of engineering and not marketing, the most appropriate and superior ones.
Now whilst these products may be better, they won't necessarily make you better. Sure, a set of tires is better than another for maintaining traction on turns, but if you don't know how to turn, you may as well use the crap set anyway. Maybe that shiny bike is better at ploughing through the technical gnar of the Mont Saint Anne course than that other shiny bike, but if you struggle to take on your local trail's "blue" descent then you are not going to feel the ride quality between one bike and a bag of soggy chips.
To be a better rider you have to make yourself better; buying stuff won't actually make you better. Unfortunately the sirens of the marketeers are louder than all, so sometimes we may give into the hyperbole and forget that we need to improve ourselves first. Really, the truth is often that we suck, rather than the things we choose to project our suckiness upon. If there really was a better bike that would make someone a better rider, don't you think we would all have one?
Instead of spending hundreds of dollars upgrading your bike why don't you spend it to upgrade yourself?
There are more and more coaching professionals popping up everywhere, and most of them are very good and will do amazing things for your riding. These are people that have decided to dedicate their life to understanding the mechanics and psychology of riding mountain bicycles, and more so, figuring out the very best way to communicate this knowledge to people.
The skills required for mountain biking are actually pretty straight forward and logical. However, they aren't always obvious. Sometimes all it takes is someone pointing them out. A professional coach has a very good idea of the faults, causes, and results built up from years of learning and teaching. A good coach, in just a few hours, will teach most people things that could take them years to learn. One session won't teach you everything, but it will help. Perhaps massively.
The benefits will be incredible. Becoming a better rider won't miraculously make you have more fun, but you might enjoy it a bit more. That one sketchy section of trail on your local loop will become a joy to conquer each time rather than something that smears your ride with trepidation and annoyance. Learn to corner properly so you can hold your momentum for the next section of trail. Master jumping so that you don't get those moments of "Oh fuc…! [crash, bang whallop]". In fact, learning the proper riding techniques will save you from hurting yourself, either so much or ever.
So what's the point of lusting over bike porn in the catalogs, magazines and websites if it isn't going to make you better? Well, because your bike is old and past its use-by date, isn't it? Maybe you can have a lot of fun consuming, more than you can on the trail. And let's face it, we need consumption to keep us all in a job, including me. By why not help support yourself and your local skills coach too?
In future weeks we will talk about certain elements of skills coaching (the easy ones to begin to explain through the medium of typed words) but until then, thanks for shopping by.