An article by Levi Weert: Levi is a certified coach and has been riding BMX, MTB, for over 30 years and has worked with “Shred Academy” at the Lumberyard Bike Park while helping them develop their popular curriculum and even trained other coaches. Levi has coached at Woodward Copper, where he ran his own MTB classes and helped redesign the summer curriculum for their MTB youth. He has also participated in building bike parks in the northwest in order to expand riding opportunities for many communities.
Photo by: @Roo_media
I have been coaching bike riders here in the Northwest for a very long time. Only in the last decade did I decide to make a career out of it. I did not realize for the longest time that my BMX background made me an exceptional MTB coach. By helping MTB riders loosen up and move around a bit more, I was able to understand more about myself, and the things I did growing up that give me the skills I need.
So what am I talking about when I say “Riding in the Box”? Well, I learned that most MTB riders need help with the following maneuvers: Jumping 101, Turning, Bunnyhops, and Manuals. I run clinics that I call “Thinking Outside the Box” where I work with riders on these topics specifically.
Basically, Mountain Bikers ride their bikes as if they were strapped into a go-kart, unable to use their body for control, and only rely on the gas pedal, brake pedal, and steering wheel to navigate the course. Riding a bike requires the use of our body. Often, riders that need help with these topics are not moving much.
For example, stand on the flat ground and jump as high as you can… you probably bent your knees a lot. Most beginner jumpers do not move their lower body at all on a bike. In fact, most beginner jumpers pull the bike up towards their body, mostly with their arms and hands. Think about it… do you jump with your hands? A rider can only lift their bike up to their body, no further. Now, a rider who extends their body to jump, can jump a lot further, and if you are holding onto the bike, it will go with you!
Photo by: @503BMX
PLAY, PLAY, PLAY!
Photo by: @503BMX
I grew up riding BMX in the urban setting of Boise Idaho. The day goes like this: wake up and try to find any human you know who wants to ride with you. Then it's out the front door and pedaling to the meet up spot. I am usually riding wheelies, or jumping up and down curbs, bouncing off walls, and manualing along the way. After meeting up, it’s all about cruising around and finding spots to ride, even if it is just a small manual pad or sidewalk. Sometimes just an open parking lot. From there it's just you and your friends trying anything you can come up with, or challenging each other trick for trick. Laughing at each other if we fell, or cheering each other on when we learned something new, I had no idea I was building the skills I needed to become a Bike Jedi. We would bunnyhop curbs and tag the edge with our rear wheel and get a flat tire. Then we had to spend time and money to fix our flats; the EXACT discipline I needed, to learn how to hop correctly up a curb and avoid the catastrophic and potential day ending flat tire. Now it's on to hoping up a curb and landing in a manual... building your skills is never done.
Photo by: @503BMX
Most of my Mountain Biker clients drive to the trail head. Then head to the trail and shred! They did not get to the trail by bunny hopping curbs and manualing down the street, so when we ride the MTB trail, it's all about following a designated trail and only doing fun maneuvers on designated features if applicable. We only practice turning if there is a turn on the trail and likewise for any other drills. Manuals are short and inconsistent, and jumping is something we watch the younger riders do in envy, wondering why they do not fear death.
I encourage all of my clients to get out and do some urban playing. Even hit a skatepark during school hours when it's less busy. I teach most of my clients everything they need to know about cornering, using only a quarterpipe. I use the half pipe to show riders how to hold a consistent line while always looking ahead.
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Being able to open up your mind to what you can do on a bike and have more confidence doing it. The MTB trail has so much more to offer you than you may think! You will be pumping shadows on the ground and jibbing off of features on the trail that you never thought of before, while making it all look easy and stoking your friends to try the same!
Take a skills clinic next time you see one available. A quick google search can link you up with a local coach. A little bit of help from an outsider can go a long way. Most of what I show people on a bike they can already do, they just didn’t know it. Imagine what you could do with a little help. Imagine how much more fun riding could be, without taking on a bunch of risk.
Remember: a good BMXer can always ride MTB.
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