Finding a good skills coach


Since I’m not going to make it to CO and it doesn’t appear your coming to New England anytime soon I have one simple question:

How does a rider find a knowledgeable mountain bike instructor/coach in their area?

At face value this seems like an easy questions but the more research I’ve do on local “instructors”, the more questions I have.
There are two or three options within New England. Each of these options have instructors that have long resumes of wins in various events throughout the country. But my experience (from the snow sports industry) is that
being a good athlete doesn’t necessarily make you a good coach.

Do you have any suggested “interview” questions for a potential coach?

In the end, I hate laying down my hard-earned cash for a sub par instruction.

Southern New Hampshire

Joel rips some parking lot slalom in one of my sessions. It’s all about the drills.

Hey Chad,

This is a great question!

Let’s say you’re an adult with a job and a brain. You want to get better on your bike. You’re looking for a skills coach in your area.

Riding abilities

– While a great skills coach might be a great racer, that isn’t necessary. A solid curriculum and great communication skills are WAY more important than great riding skills.

– As a matter of fact: Racing has an internal focus; teaching has an external focus. Very few great racers have the dispositions to be great teachers. (And vice versa. Bummer.)

– Your coach should be able to demonstrate riding skills at your level (to catch you where you are) and higher (to show you where to go). A lot of “elite” riders can’t step it down and meet ordinary people at their levels. If your teacher flies in from the clouds, you’ll just be overwhelmed. It comes back to this basic notion: Is your coach focused on himself, or on you?

Ask these questions

– What is your approach? Listening to him boast then following him down gnarly stuff is not a curriculum. If he (usually he) can’t articulate a clear, logical progression, beware. Some of these guys teach out of my book, which is a decent place to start.

– What makes you an effective instructor? Listen for a deep understanding of riding dynamics, effective communication skills and a personality you can bear. If your suitor spends too much time telling you about the medals he’s won, beware.

– Who do you typically work with? Make sure the demographics match yours. Young dudes are easily impressed. If you’re a more sophisticated consumer with expectations regarding professionalism, make sure your target can work at your level.

– I think you should ignore most rider testimonials on coaches’ sites. The state of the craft is so low most people are impressed with whatever they get. Ask people you trust what they got from the experience. Cut through the “that was rad” and find out what they actually learned — and how that has affected their riding.

Come to class with a dialed bike and an open mind. Have fun!

— Lee

The Boulder Mountainbike Alliance Girls’ Group doesn’t care how fast or cool I think I am. All the care about is my ability to make them better riders.

Know more. Have more fun!

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