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Sessioning an uphill switchback: how one type of MTB practice can inform another
A fun challenge can point the way on what needs work
Last week I decided to session an uphill switchback on an MTB trail near my house. It’s a switchback of my imagination, i.e., the trail builders didn’t intend for riders to ride it the way I’m riding it.
Intended routes (two-way trail):
My sessioning challenge - a tight or a wide turn for an uphill switchback:
In general, my approach to sessioning a technical section of terrain or an obstacle varies:
“I know how to ride that. It’s tricky but fun. I’m going to ride it X times and move on.”
“That looks difficult, but I have the basic (prerequisite) skills to ride it, so I’m going try it several times and see how it goes.”
“That looks easy for me, but let’s see if I can approach it in a way that makes it slightly more challenging.”
For this uphill switchback, it was approach #2.
In this 90-second video, you’ll see a few of many failed attempts along with the successes, both tight and wide turns, and some different techniques:
What type of practice is sessioning?
Last December, I published a post titled MTB sessioning: Why it's good for your practice regimen and how to do it better.
In February, I published my free Sessioning challenge mini-course:
In that course, I wrote:
Sessioning is like improving your language skills while on a group tour to a foreign country. You practice at every opportunity (ordering food, asking directions, chatting with pet owners, etc.)
In other words, after you’ve acquired some level of skill with a foreign language (taking a course, practicing with an app, or maybe using one of these other strategies), you feel ready to travel and put your skills to use in the real world. Once you arrive, your mental framework of ‘practicing’ the language starts to fade, and you shift to just ‘using’ what you know while paying attention to what else you can learn as you go.
My sessioning the uphill switchback was much the same:
I knew I had a decent level of prerequisite skills to attempt it.
It turns out that I was skilled enough to enjoy myself sessioning it because the challenge was hard enough—many failures—but with some successes.
I learned that my rear-wheel pivot technique sucks, especially pivoting to the right. This 20-second practice video clip proves it (it includes short demos from pro riders/instructors Ryan Leech (from Lesson R9 of the RLC Baseline Balance Skills course) and Aaron Lutze (rear-wheel pivot Super Rider YouTube video):
I plan to devote more backyard practice time to my rear-wheel pivots over the next couple of weeks and then head back to that uphill switchback to, um, put my new ‘language’ skills to use.
Have you done any sessioning lately? Did your experience provide you with the information and inspiration for what needs improvement via a more structured practice?
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