Gearing up for the BetterRide Mountain Bike Skills Camp

Sorella BetterRide Camp

Photo courtesy of Sorella Cycling

Spring arrived early in Atlanta this year with high temps in the 60s or better most days since late February. It’s been great for a fair weather rider like me and Ive been able to hit the trails at least a half dozen times so far this year. I went all out on nearly every ride, leaving the trails feeling satisfied yet exhausted, legs burning, and Camelbak sucked dry. And every time I wished I could have ridden my bike just a little longer and just a little faster. I made excuses like, I need to trim some weight off my bike, and running during the winter just isnt good enough cross-training for mountain biking. Then one of my riding buddies from Sorella Womens Cycling Club mentioned Gene Hamilton, mountain bike coach to many top pro racers, is having a BetterRide mountain bike skills camp right here in Atlanta. Perfect – being totally immersed in mountain biking for three days is just the kick in the pants I need to get serious about mountain biking again!

I signed up for the BetterRide womens mountain bike camp right away and I immediately received some articles with good information to help me prepare for the camp. In one article, Gene explained the importance of imagery or visualization for mountain bike riding (and racing) success. I had practiced positive imagery while training for marathons for years but I never thought to apply it to mountain biking just for fun. Gene says consistent imagery will make a bigger difference in your riding than actually doing the drills if you spend 20 minutes twice a week working on it. This is something Im definitely going to do more of, particularly with respect to the MTB skills I want to get extra help with at camp.

The BetterRide camps cover a ton of mountain bike skills like:

  • Learning correct body position
  • Setting up your bike
  • How to look ahead correctly
  • Climbing & descending techniques
  • How to conquer small and advanced obstacles
  • Cornering & riding switchbacks
  • Braking effectively
  • Mental skills

Personally, I have three main goals for completing the camp. First, I want to gain confidence on downhills. If youve ever ridden with me, you know I don’t mind the challenge of a climb but it’s really all about the downhill reward on the other side. But sometimes I feel like I’m not going as fast as I should be (and therefore not having as much fun as I could be!). Maybe I burn too much energy on the climbs and underestimate how much energy the downhill will take so I slow myself down. Or maybe its just my human instinct to brake when rolling over jagged rocks and between trees that seem mere inches away from my elbows. My point is, momentum is a terrible thing to waste so I want to get faster going downhill!

My second goal is to learn how to control my heart rate during a ride. Most of the time I dont like to stop during the ride so I keep breaks short unless there’s great scenery along the way. Like a 3-foot high log across the trail, an erratic heart rate can just as easily ruin my flow. I dont really care about the actual heart rate number, but I want to know how to handle those heart rate spikes that result from short, steep climbs or powering through hard, technical sections. I want to be able to stop and take a break when I want to, not after every tough part of a trail.

Lastly, I’d love to learn a new trick at the BetterRide camp – to be honest my bike handling skills are terrible! After 14+ years of mountain biking and building a teeter-totter to ride in my backyard, I still get nervous going over some 8 wide bridges on the trails (I cant believe I just admitted that on the internet). Hopefully after the camp, Ill be able to ride skinnies, do a wheelie, or land bigger jumps!

I’m super excited about the upcoming BetterRide mountain biking camp and taking my riding to the next level. There may still be a few spots left in the Atlanta womens camp on April 15-17, 2011 if you want to join me. And for the guys, there are BetterRide camps for you too! Don’t pass up the chance to learn from Gene’s expert coaching at one of the many Colorado camps or other locations around the US. For camp dates and locations, visit

BetterRide Camp Fruita

Photo courtesy of

About BetterRide
BetterRide provides structured skills coaching, designed to get you riding at your best. Coaching sessions range from two hour clinics to three day camps across the US and abroad. BetterRide was founded by pro racer and USA Cycling Expert Coach Gene Hamilton who has over 20 years of coaching experience including 12 years coaching mountain biking skills. BetterRide’s coaching highlights include coaching many top pro racers (Chris Van Dine, Brian Buell, Mitch Ropelato, Joey Schusler, Graeme Pitts,…) and over 1,900 riders who just want to get better. Gene and his certified coaches are passionate about coaching, riding and helping others reach their goals. All mountain bike clinics, camps and private lessons are guaranteed to improve your riding or your money back.