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Bike Skills Clinics: Cheaper than Divorce Court and Emergency Room Visits

This guest post comes to us from Martha Leman. Martha is the advocacy director for the Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists, IMBA's Tucson, Ariz.-based chapter and has spent her entire adult life working cycling-related jobs. She has been teaching mountain bike skills for more than 15 years in the Tucson region, and recently became certified through the IMBA Instructor Certification Program as a member of its inaugural training class.

Are you new to mountain biking or thinking of introducing someone to this great sport? Consider this:

Almost no one thinks of skiing down a mountain for the first time without any lessons, yet many new mountain bikers are exactly the opposite. Very few seek out even basic skills instruction before going out on their first, big mountain bike ride, often with painful results.

If you're new to our beloved sport and think riding a mountain bike today is "just like riding a bike" when you were a kid, you have a lot to learn about this awesome sport and the bikes we ride. Mountain biking today is nowhere near what we did as kids growing up 20 (or so) years ago. Modern bikes are much more technologically advanced and sophisticated, and today's trails have a lot more "gnar" (technical challenge) compared to our old neighborhood stomping grounds. Riding effectively, safely and with all of your blood and bones remaining under your skin where they belong requires much more than holding on and pedaling.

"Okay," a newcomer to mountain biking might say, "but my friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse can teach me all I need to know about riding, right?”

Maybe, but only if they know how to teach using phrases more descriptive than, "Just do what I do!" or, "This trail is easy; trust me!"

A certified mountain bike skills coach can easily explain the bells and whistles of today’s bike, make suggestions on proper bike fit and an appropriate setup, use multiple methods to teach a person how to ride, and get a new rider up to speed rapidly by teaching efficient riding skills and techniques.

The investment a mountain biker makes when hiring a skills coach today will save them money and keep their relationships intact in the long run. Let me count the ways:

Skills lessons are way cheaper than divorce court or couples' counseling. An objective, non-related instructor keeps experienced riders (the friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse) out of the doghouse. Saying to your significant other or buddy, "Just follow me and do what I do," is NOT teaching! That kind of riding often results in precious body fluids spilling onto the trail—from blood to tears—and secret plots of death (don't say we didn't warn you, experienced rider). Wanting to show off is understandable, but seasoned MTBers should leave skills instruction to the pros and enjoy riding with their other when that person is more comfortable and confident.

Skills lessons are also way cheaper than a visit to the emergency room. Mountain bikers who have been riding a long time, and who can handle obstacles with ease, often forget what it’s like to be an unsure beginner and regularly take their newbie friends riding on an inappropriate trail. Crashes happen, and given the nature of the terrain, stitches or broken bones are often a result.

Mountain bikers don’t know what they’re talking about when they say, "Crashing is just part of the fun of mountain biking." A skills instructor teaches riders how to be balanced and centered on a bike, eliminating most unwanted DNA donations made to trailside rocks and trees. Yes, crashing happens, but the frequency and severity can be greatly reduced by learning proper technique and form from a pro instructor who has the words and ability to efficiently teach.

Experienced riders often fall into the category of "wanting someone they know and love to start riding, but that someone is intimidated/unsure/afraid/unenthused." Find them a clinic being offered by a certified mountain bike skills instructor. Or, better yet, if you want to teach, get certified yourself! Check out the IMBA Instructor Certification Program to find out how.

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