Happy new year! 2019 has come and gone and now that we're already into the second day of 2020 it's probably about time that I started getting things kicked off again. Like most people, I've been reflecting on the year that was 2019 - which included 350+ hours coaching on the trails with the 790 or so odd attendees of the various skills development programs, clinics, trail rides and 1:1 sessions.
Actually, the particular inspiration for this particular post came from a (now rare) ride that I had with one of my old riding groups. Depressingly, they're all much faster than I am in a straight line or up a hill, mostly because I didn't do a whole lot of riding in 2019 (odd as that sounds). But when it came to cornering, pointing the bike down a hill or handling technical features such as drops, I found it really interesting that other than improved fitness, their riding skills were pretty much the same as they had been before I started coaching. Which is perhaps why I don't ride with them as much anymore - it's the continuous growing part of mountain bike riding that I really love.
In 2019, I had the privilege of helping almost 400 people on their journey to improve their mountain bike riding skills, confidence and ultimately their enjoyment (at least I hope). One of the things I love the most about mountain bike riding is that there is always something to learn to make you a better rider - just like life. And like life, you might plateau and reach a comfortable level, or you can stretch yourself and seek to learn what you're actually capable of.
Also like life, this journey has had its ups an downs. But despite this particular coaching journey itself having its fair share of wins and challenges as is the way of any and all businesses, watching people progress from nervous riders with limited trail riding experience to passionate mountain biking advocates who are out their riding and making new friends every weekend more than offsets the struggles that I've encountered in the last 12 months.
In reflecting on the 2019 mountain bike coaching journey there are a few students that I wanted to highlight. Some for the progression they've made, either from a physical skill or mental confidence perspective, or simply because of their unwavering faith in my ability to help them become better riders.
I think out of all the riders I coached last year I suspect Tarah is the one I've spent the most time with - but it's not because of her skill level, but rather her belief in her riding ability. I've watched Tarah perform the most amazing riding feats, when she's not overthinking what it is that she's doing. In helping Tarah with her riding she has also challenged me to refine my coaching techniques to help her confidence, belief in herself and her mental thought process on the trails.
Kelly has been an amazing rider to work with, starting with converting her to flat pedals (which was the starting point of her coaching with me). Kelly always managed to surprise me (and I suspect herself) with what she was actually capable of doing with a little bit of guidance. And it all started with a conversation about the fact that riding flat pedals wouldn't be a backwards step and that in fact would help her confidence.
Austin joined the Flow Skills programs when his mum asked me to help him crash less (which for those of you that know me well is pretty ironic). A naturally gifted rider with a penchant for pushing the limits, Austin was one of those rare students that I had to teach to pull back a little to become a better rider. He still has the odd mishap - but I'd like to think nowhere near as much as if we hadn't crossed paths.
The first She Rides Confidence group that I coached this year just couldn't be broken up into individual achievements - they are all awesome women with whom I've had the pleasure of coaching in various programs and clinics throughout the year. If any group epitomises what She Rides is about it's these women who ride together, learn together and grow together while having a good laugh all along the way. These days you'll often find their feats used as promotional collateral for 2020's She Rides programs.
Scotty had the misfortune of being on the Flow Skills programs with two teenage boys. Despite only having been on a mountain bike for a few months he proved himself to to be an incredibly fast learner and kept up with them without a problem! He never shied away from a challenge and always managed to amaze with what he was able to achieve.
If there was an award for the quiet achiever I'd have to give it to Rick. Starting at the Grade 1 Intro level (on a completely different bike) Rick really worked on improving his technique and has become a very confident rider out on Nerang's trails, demonstrating great skills that will no doubt see him continue to improve throughout 2020.
I can still remember my initial email exchanges with Grant - about what he and his wife Nicki would learn and how they would progress. An avid learner it was important to him to make sure they progressed their skills in the right way so they would enjoy the experience of mountain bike riding. I think it's safe to say that they've both well and truly fallen in love with being out on the trails.
Like her husband, Nicki has developed a passion for riding. She's proven herself to be fearless out on the trails, often needing to be told to slow down as she roared down chutes and off drops on her little hardtail. Now that she's on a duallie I suspect she's pushing those limits even further again.
I've watched Tasha's mountain bike journey for almost two years now and I think it's fair to say that it's had its ups and downs - and I don't mean riding up and down hills. She's never given up though and has always persevered which in my mind makes her one of the most determined riders out on the trails. She also rocks the coolest flat pedals out on the trails.
Ben is one of the very few students that has gone all the way from the Grade 1 Intro to MTB Riding Program and completed all of the development programs to the Grade 5 Flow Skills A-Line program. It's been fantastic to watch Ben's confidence and his passion for mountain bike riding increase as his skill level developed over the last six months. I don't think he has any problem keeping up with his dad anymore - it's now probably the other way around!
There are some riders that you meet and are surprised by when they come to you for coaching, simply because they seem like they're already very capable riders. Some riders, like Vasily just want to continue to improve and are willing to get the help to do so. Vasily wasn't just passionate about improving his riding though - at one stage I was coaching his entire family! But the desire to continuously improve his riding is what really what has made Vasily stand out in my mind.
I first met Leah on the first She Rides Together program where she went about learning skills without fuss or incident - and it was easy to see she was a very mentally disciplined rider. That didn't mean everything came easily to Leah - there were still some things that challenged her, which included jumping. But as you can see, Leah isn't the type to give up. In between programs she worked on her riding technique to steadily improve, leading to a surprise achievement for her at the end of the year.
I met Sean on a Core Skills A-Line program which he attended with his wife Gwyn (now a poster child for the She Rides program). Quiet and unassuming on the courses Sean just went about the business of steadily improving until he was bunny hopping over decent size logs and launching confidently over gap jumps. He now likes to track how far his jumps are and how long his air time is (who knew you could even do that?).
Kayla's actually just at the beginning of her mountain bike journey, having joined me at an Intro course in September. But she stands out for a few reasons. Firstly, within a few moments of putting her feet on her pedals it was clear that she was going to fall in love with riding. Secondly, I knew it was only a matter of time before the bike that she was riding during that first week of the Intro course would break because of how hard she was pushing it - in fact it happened two weeks later. Thirdly, Kayla has the honour of being the last person I had to catch for 2019 (yes, attempting to catch you if you fall off your bike is part of the service).
Well, I think I'll leave it there - mostly because I have to get to work! There are so many others who have riding journeys that are worth mentioning - too many in fact. But as I mentioned earlier, the great thing about mountain biking is that it's a journey that in most cases doesn't have a final destination so I'll be able to highlight a few more people in a few months time.
As for this year, I'm not sure what 2020 has in store for everyone with their riding journeys. I just know that this year I'll be able to focus on doing the one thing that I wanted to do all along when I started this coaching journey - help people fall in love with mountain bike riding and discover that they are way more capable than they realised.