• Mal

Balance MTB Winter Course Updates - Part 2: The Active & Healthy, Flow A and A X programs.


One of my favourite photos from a time when I just used to ride and take photos - more winter colours.

Well, as usual my adult job has kept me pretty busy of late. But I have managed to progress a few more things so I thought it might be an idea to mention the latest updates in the world of Balance and MTBing. And those updates in particular include yet another Trail Clinic (the success of which is yet to be determined but if I'm being honest, isn't really looking great), the Active and Healthy Program which is very graciously sponsored by the Gold Coast City Council and my thoughts on what to do with the Flow Skills A-Line program.

I'll start with the Gold Coast's commitment to getting more people Active and Healthy, which obviously includes Mountain Biking. This financial year I'll be running a reduced set of programs - the 3 week Come and Try Mountain Biking program for people that have never ridden off road before but want to give it a go with but with a few skills under their belts to keep them safe and the Juniors MTB skills clinic.

Yes, I do as many crazy things with the juniors as I do in the adult programs - including randomly jumping out in front of bike to see how well they can stop!

I've decided to drop the Tweens program this financial year mostly because teenage mountain bikers learn ridiculously quickly and don't need an introductory program, so they rarely ever attend the Come and Try programs anyway. But I've also decided to reduce the number of Active and Healthy programs to three instead of four - mostly because I was finding that over the Easter period people are just aren't around. I have noticed a few juniors coming back to subsequent sessions over the last few sessions though so if that keeps up, I'll consider talking to council about potentially doing more frequent junior / family mountain biking sessions. Unfortunately these things do tend to be planned a year in advance so that particular idea might have to wait until 2022!

The last session of the Flow Skills B-Line course does tend to challenge a few of the riders - but well worth it to show them what they're truly capable of!

Onto the next topic - there is now a third trail clinic, created at the request of someone who technically owes me a case of beer for being proven wrong about their ability to lift their front wheel and realistically both wheels (as in they didn't think they would be able to, but they did). I've created the Core Skills A X - Advanced Extension Trail Clinic with the aim of helping you to refresh all of the Core Skills that you might have gotten rusty on.


As per the ethos in which the Trail Clinics were designed, the Core Skills A X clinic is designed to take all of the core techniques you have learnt, either through the courses that I've run or from whomever you were trained (even if that's YouTube), and show you how to apply them in challenging trail environments. And for those that have been considering going on the Flow Skills B-Line course but are a bit nervous about joining the program, The Core A X program should help give you a bit more confidence. You can check out the program curriculum here.


Finally I just wanted to touch on the Flow Skills A-Line program. It's actually been over two years since I've run this particular course, partially because there probably aren't a whole lot of riders that want to or are ready to do it, but mainly because of the way the other programs have changed over the last few years.


The basics of bunny hopping, originally only covered as part of the Flow Skills A-Line program is now part of the Flow-B course.

A lot of the riding skills and techniques that were covered as part of the original Flow A program have migrated their way into the lower grade programs, effectively making the course in its current guise redundant. I've spent a lot of time thinking about what a new Flow A program should focus on - either more technically challenging skills or perhaps more on the mental part of riding in Flow. When you consider the variety of skill levels that come to the courses (and there is a bit of variation that can't really be helped), what they as riders and I as a coach are trying to achieve, what it is that can be learnt and considering the risk of injury, deciding on what the Flow Skills A-Line program should cover is not an easy thing.


So after much deliberation, I've come to the conclusion that the Flow Skills A-Line course actually needs to be radically different. Rather than focusing on the pure physical skills and techniques of mountain bike riding I'm going to shift the direction of the Flow A program to really centre on the mental aspect of bringing all the skills of mountain bike riding to help you ride in the moment, and flow with speed and grace on most terrain.

To flow is to let go of fear and just be in the moment. It's not an easy skill to master, and many odd faces are pulled while trying to achieve this state.

How's that for fluffy?


Your physical skills will only take you so far if you don't address what goes on in your head. Being able to let go of your fears and ride in the moment is instrumental in being able to ride with flow. And while there are a few more skills to work on as part of the Flow Skills A-Line program that you won't necessarily have covered off or mastered in the other Balance courses, the real challenge is to help you achieve the mental state of being able to Flow. While also minimising the risk of injury to you as well, of course.


If I'm being perfectly honest, I haven't figured out exactly how I'll help you get to that point yet. But don't worry, I will. And when you reach this level of riding, the ultimate goal and the whole point of the Balance program is to help you realise that you can achieve anything that you put your mind to. Hopefully, when you finish Flow A that is what you will walk away with.

The entry into Widow Maker can be a little unforgiving and may not be what everyone is wanting from the Flow A course. I am thinking about a Flow A X Trail Clinic which would include handling steeper chutes and trails.

As much as I think I know what the Flow Skills A-Line program should be about, I also have a suspicion that there are a few of you that may still want some help in how to handle some more challenging situations. So I have been pondering a Flow Skills Advanced Extension Trail Clinic as well, to help coach riders that want to handle those longer, steeper and more technical trails. They are still just thoughts at this stage, particularly since managing the risk of injury at this level becomes a bit more of a challenge. That said, I'm not really one to shy away from something difficult so if this is something you'd like to see as a program, let me know and I'll keep progressing it. So that's the line up at the moment. I hope it covers off on everything you're interested in learning and getting refreshed on. Either way, do let me know your thoughts so I know whether or not I'm on the right... trail.



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