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What Grade Are You In?

Updated: Oct 25, 2020

Austin refining his jumping technique during the Grade 5 Flow Skills A-Line Course

What is the Grading System?

I'm not a fan of labels. Especially ones that categorise people into a specific box. But as people we're used to using categories to help us understand what something means. And so when I found people asking us which course they should be doing because they couldn't tell from the name of the course, I introduced a grading system.

The current system consists of 6 grades from Grade 0 to Grade 5. And the grades relate directly to the current Development Programs - specifically the repertoire of riding skills and techniques taught in each 3 week course. The grading system used is something that was created specifically to the Balance programs and won't align to anybody else's measure of skill level (at least as far as I know). It is purely a measure of your ability and confidence to perform the skills and techniques on each Skills Development Program and doesn't take into consideration fitness levels or riding experience.

The City of Gold Coast's 'Come and Try' Mountain Biking is a Grade 0 program designed for people who don't have any experience riding off-road on a mountain bike and want to start from the beginning.

How Do I Figure Out What Grade I Am?

To be allocated to a certain grade, you should be able to perform all of the skills in previous grades confidently, consistently and safely. To help you figure this out you'll find below a chart of skills that you learn during our Development Programs and which grade they align to. If you can perform all the skills listed in a particular grade, then you belong to the next grade where you're learning new skills.

You may notice that some skills actually span across more than one grade. This is because within a number of skills there are varying levels of competencies that you can have before becoming fully confident at a particular technique.

What If I'm Already Confident In Some Skills Within a Grade?

In a lot of cases I come across riders that are already demonstrating a good level of competency in a number of skills so it's not unusual for riders to skip grades. As an example, most experienced riders that have been riding for a number of years but really want to refine their technique to boost their confidence and abilities tend to start on the Core Skills A-Line program. This helps them work through any bad habits they may have picked up over the years and gets them ready for the Flow Skills courses.

In other cases I'll find riders that have developed confidence in some, but not all skills within a particular grade. When this occurs, i suggest that you have a chat with me about what grade / Development Program will suit you best. This will depend on your goals, riding experience and mostly what I think is best from a safety perspective. Where possible I'll try and put you up a grade. However if I think you'l benefit from reinforcement of skills you can already perform, I may suggest that you remain at your current grade to really nail certain techniques.

Dean is an example of someone that came on the Grade 1 Intro to MTB Skills Course but learnt skills so quickly that we've recommended he skip the Grade 2 program and head straight to Grade 3 Core Skills A-Line Sessions.

I Can't Find The Time to Attend Your 3 Week Development Programs. What Are My Options?

Due to time constraints in my life juggling family and an adult job I'm no longer running regular single session skills only clinics. I did at one stage trial having people join individual sessions of a development program where spaces did exist but found this too distruptive to the students that committed to the entire program, mainly due to the varying skill levels of the people that joined for a single session.

So right now the only option for those that can't do a full three week program is to have 1:1 coaching or organise with a small group of friends for a custom session. If I have time I may put on the occasional single session but this is unlikely to be a regular thing.

While Leah learnt most of the Grade 3 Skills during the She Rides Together program, she joined the Practical Corners, Drops & Rock'n'Roll Skills Clinic to get her Ready for the Flow Skills B-Line Program.

What's Better - Development Programs or 1:1 Coaching?

As much I enjoy working 1:1 with riders, I designed the Development Programs wspecifically progress your riding abilities. The courses introduce riding techniques in a specific order and allow me to work with you over several weeks to ensure that you learn them correctly.

This is probably an important point as there are some skills that can require several weeks of practice to perform them confidently. This is the main difference between completing a Development Program as opposed to 1:1 or small group coaching. Of course you can always have several weeks of 1:1 coaching can progress you much further as I can focus on what you need to learn the most, but it's also more expensive than the development programs.

Bunny hops are a skill that require you to master a number of core skills before combining them to effectively perform this maneuver confidently and more importantly safely.

Beyond Grade 5 - Can I Progress Further?

The short answer to the question above is yes. There are definitely more skills to learn that go beyond the highest level course - Flow Skills A-Line. I just haven't written a program for them because they can be quite challenging to teach in a 3 week program. As it is, the Flow Skills A-Line program has only been run less than a handful of times in the last two years.

But who knows what the future will bring!

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