Since starting in June, team practices have been a weekly opportunity for our coaches to share their love of bicycles and mountain biking with our riders while facilitating a safe and productive “fun first” approach to skill development. We focus on technical skill building, including numerous riding positions and techniques, instruction for various types of terrain, becoming comfortable with bike/body separation, wheel lifts, wheelies and overall bike control with a smooth, stylish riding style.

Similar to last year, we started out small at Gateway Green before quickly advancing to larger spaces like Powell Butte, Forest Park and L.L. Stub Stewart State Park. This season we’ve also begun to practice on bike ways in the heart of the city, where–although we ride much more pavement than dirt–we still find ways to develop the riders’ abilities on mountain bikes by riding up and down ramps and curbs, down small flights of stairs and along our river-front bike ways, where dodging pedestrians, tourists, e-scooters and other traffic proves to be as good a test as any. It’s also a lot of fun…

Back on the trail we’ve also been working to develop the riders’ “eagle eye vision” which involves being aware of their surroundings, obstacles in their path and changes in trail conditions that they need to be mindful of. Next is “spider senses” which the riders use to anticipate the things that their eyes can’t see…like what’s around a blind corner or what’s over the next drop off.

Off the bike, we’ve been learning to take care of our bodies, learning to stretch, practicing balance, doing some yoga, staying fueled and hydrated…all while getting to know each other. It’s cool that our riders mostly go to different schools and live all over the city.

One of our favorite activities–which we do at most practices–is to play “Foot Down,” aka “Circle of Death.” This game is always a lot of fun! Nobody’s actually died (yet) and it teaches riders the arts of slow speed balance and stability, track standing as well as some strategy…for those who are paying attention. 😉

Now that the riders are making their way to the season’s first race event we’re beginning to prepare for that. We’ve started talking about pacing, and we’ll do some mock race starts, but there won’t be a lot of pressure on fitness or performance. For us, it’s much more about the race ritual including the practical stuff such as rest and recovery, race preparedness, sleep and nutrition, calming nerves, pre-riding the course, enjoying the race day community, challenging oneself, expecting–even looking for–small failures and lesson learning, seeking gradual race-to-race improvement and striving for long term goals.

With any luck, following this program we will be as successful at the races this season as we were last season–which was pretty darn–and in the meantime, we’re just going to keep having a lot of fun on bikes.