Shh! Don't tell everyone

The secret of progression? Shh! The secret is to take small, achievable steps forward… but don’t go telling everyone.

By Alan Milway

We all like to see improvement when we go out on our bikes. While a new piece of kit, or even a new bike, might be a good way of buying confidence or control, the real satisfaction comes from genuinely recognising that you’re getting better. It doesn’t have to be painful or take the fun out of what you’re already doing. Just have a few key areas where you’d like to see progress and keep a track of your progress. Here are a few areas that you can work on with handy tips to always insure that you’re moving forwards.

1. Technical skills

It’s the time of the year where every trail that you ride is covered in features that will lose you control. Wet roots, slippy cambers, polished rocks. They all contribute to an experience that can feel that your riding is going backwards. The trick is to go back to basics. Bend your elbows, keep your upper body close to the bars, and brake where it’s safe to do so, so that you can stay fluid over the tricky stuff. Keep these fairly basic technical key points at the front of your thoughts and you’ll be able to turn around those days where it feels like you’re all over the place. You’re never going to be able to stop the bike from sliding. The trick is to open up a range of motion that allows for the movement so that it doesn’t throw your balance off. Make sure that you’re working on an area of your riding and you’ll be able to do your purposeful practise even in the worst of conditions.

2. Mental attitude

A great way of turning a winter ride into an awesome ride is to deliberately set up a positive mental attitude from the offset. This can be as simple as dressing for worse weather than is forecast so that you have to shed layers instead of wishing you brought more. It could be looking for the places that you have decent grip on a trail instead of getting distracted by the places you don’t. It could even be catching yourself starting to complain about something that’s out of your control and turning it around by focussing your energy on the things that you can control. In any case, you’re far more likely to have a great day if you can focus on the positives.

3. Physical ability

Having a training plan of some kind and sticking to it will really make a difference to your fitness. It’s not the intensity of your workouts that allow you to progress. It’s the consistency. Even just making a few hours a week to ride will mean that you make steady progress. Having a coach to set your sessions, or even just give you feedback on the basics, is a brilliant way of staying accountable. You’re far less likely to miss a workout if you have to explain yourself afterwards. Similarly, getting out regularly with a bunch of mates will also keep you honest. If there’s enough of you you’ll always have someone to ride with, and no one wants to be ‘that guy’ that never makes it and always has excuses. Have a plan and stick to it. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.

ard rock

4. Goal setting

Entering a race or an event is a great way of setting a goal that you can aim for. It’s a great excuse for staying sober on a Saturday night, getting home early, and it might even be just the thing that you need to motivate yourself to get out of bed on a Sunday morning. Making steady progress on a few regular loops will give you the confidence to try bigger challenges. What’s the furthest you’ve ever ridden? The biggest climb you’ve done? Or is there a trail or mountain that you’ve always wanted to conquer? Measuring your total mileage on something like Strava can be a much more useful and better way of engaging with the platform. It doesn’t have to be KOM hunting. Set a goal, make a loose plan of how to get there, then stick to the plan. You might just surprise yourself with what you’re capable of.

Who is Alan Milway?

Alan is the best mountain bike coach in the business. He’s steered riders like the Athertons and Brendog to success, and helps regular riders like us get the most out of our riding.