Even Aaron Gwin Makes Mistakes
By Gene Hamilton
Even Aaron Gwin makes mistakes every now and then.
Watch him almost throw away this otherwise perfect run with a vision mistake:
What to watch and when:
- At 04-06 seconds into his run, there is a mellow corner (large radius, less than 90-degree direction change) and Aaron makes a mistake!
At least it looks like a mistake, watch his rear wheel; it slides out a bit. He tried to push through the corner (load his suspension by pushing into the ground with arms and his legs), but there was not enough traction for that technique and his rear slide out, costing him some exit speed.
However, this happened immediately after the start of his run and he may simply have been testing how slick the track was so he knew how hard he could ride but stay in control. That little slide cost him a little time/momentum, but I think it gave him the confidence to ride hard as he was able to control the slide.
Watch and learn from Aaron’s amazing body position! He stays hinged at the hips with elbows up and out, weight on his pedals, chin up and looking ahead the entire run.
- At 10-12 seconds into the video, he is hinged even while pedaling.
- At 21-29 seconds in, notice how close his chin is to his handlebars (that’s hinged) and notice how centered he is over his pedals. Being hinged at the hips, with your weight on the pedals and your elbows up and out is a very neutral position where you are prepared to handle whatever the trail throws at you.
- At 47-57 seconds watch Aaron’s head. It doesn’t move although his arms and legs are extremely dynamic, extending and contracting through their complete range of motion.
It’s a perfect run except for the one time he looks down and almost throws away this amazing run.
- At 1:19 into the video (3:21.7 in his race time) he glances down quickly like he is double-checking something and he immediately hangs up on a rock. His upper strength saves him from crashing but that little snag costs him more than a second in time which is massive in a downhill race!
The Video Analysis is provided by Gene Hamilton
It was 1997, my third season of racing downhill in the pro class and I spent hours and hours training harder but I wasn’t improving much at all! I was skipping social events and limiting time with loved ones just to make sure I got enough recovery. I changed my diet several times, changed my workout program and read all the info I could but was barely getting faster year after year.
It was this frustration that led me to start looking for people to teach me better riding skills in the late 1990′s. Unfortunately for me, there were no skills coaches at the time. Well, there were a few cross country pros teaching camps but I saw these racers walking sections that I could ride. They didn’t have good technique, they were just really fit.
As snowboard coach and a former snowboard racer this further frustrated me, not only did I not have the skills I needed to go faster but there was no one to teach me the skills I needed. I knew in snowboarding there were specific skills and techniques that were correct, they had been studied and perfected just like a martial art.
Where could I find these techniques for mountain biking? I was sick of just “hanging” on in the corners, hoping I made them and sick of racers who I knew weren’t training as hard as me beating me. Have you felt this way? By the beginning of 1998 I had three years of pro downhill racing under my belt but other than getting a little faster due to improving equipment I was still mid-pack at the big races.
I remember “Pistol” Pete flying by me in a corner in practice and later asking him how we did it and he replied with something like, “you know, just attack the course” or something to that effect. Everybody was happy to give advice but the best racers couldn’t explain what they were doing and they were definitely doing something I wasn’t doing.
Since I couldn’t find a qualified skills coach I decided to take the matter into my own hands. I already had seven years of experience from coaching snowboarding and really enjoyed helping people improve so mountain bike coaching seemed like a perfect fit for me. Thanks to three years spent as the head coach of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and USA Skiing and Snowboarding I had quite an education on how to coach effectively.
I retired from snowboard coaching and put my energy into to learning how to ride mountain bikes correctly and how to teach others to ride with confidence. I read books by top motocross coaches, took my motorcycle skills camps, studied videos of the best mountain bikers in the world and then asked them pointed questions (thank you Nathan Rennie) and worked with racers like Marla Streb and Greg Minnaar to really figure things out.
I have spent the last 20 years perfecting the techniques I have learned (unfortunately many mountain biking skills are not intuitive, you could ride for years and not learn these skills (I was racing professionally for over ten years before I learned many of the skills I teach)) and improving my ability to teach these skills. In the process,
I have been fortunate enough to coach some of the best racers in the sport (Chris Van Dine, Lynda Wallenfells, Mitch Ropelato, Sue Haywood, Ross Schnell, Cody Kelly, Shawn Neer, Sarah Kaufman….) as well as over 3,000 great people who just like riding bikes. With the help of these riders, racers and coaches I have developed a fun and structured way to teach “The Core Skills of Mountain Biking”. I really enjoy helping others and would love to share these techniques and the drills for practicing, getting good at and eventually mastering these techniques with you.
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