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Aug 19, 2022Liked by Griff Wigley

While I had two practice specific sessions on bike this week, I find almost every time I get on my bike is an opportunity for practise. Sometimes it’s just conscious focus on a particular element of form while riding a trail segment, sometimes it’s stopping to session a tricky bit a dozen times. This week though, one session was spending an hour in the parking lot practicing wheelies, manuals, cornering and hopping. Another required a two hour drive to an indoor bike park to session jump lines.

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Michael, I'm glad you mentioned sessioning obstacles along a trail as that's something I plan to write about soon. It's a type of practice that many riders don't consider. And I've found that once they get introduced to it, some get interested in trying to up their skill, eg, "I really want to learn how to get over that log!"

I'm interested in knowing more about the hour you spent in the parking lot practicing those four skills. Was that time spent trying to "stay sharp" on skills you've already learned but want to get more consistent? Or was it time spent trying to fix flaws? Or was it time spent trying to learn some new aspect or reach a higher level? Or some combination of all three?

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Aug 19, 2022Liked by Griff Wigley

Hi Griff,

I get a lot out of sessioning on trail. A long time ago someone mentioned that if you just try the obstacle once as you are riding along and you only ride that trail say a half dozen times a year then you only make a half dozen attempts and they are so spread out that it’s ineffective practice. Instead, if you stop and give it three goes then suddenly you’ve gone from 6 to 18 attempts in a year and the practice is more effective due to the recency of practice. Scale that accordingly for number of attempts versus times per year. The trails local to me have some very challenging technical features. Sometimes I win, sometimes I miss. Just about every time I miss, I stop and session until I get it. There’s one feature in particular that has been very stubborn and most times I end up getting it, but attempts number 6 to 12 per ride. I’ve ridden it 7 times this year, so that’s somewhere between 42 and 84 attempts. Fortunately the number of attempts to achieve success is dropping! Sometimes the sessioning is just brute repetition to get the timing right, sometimes it’s reevaluation of line choices and others it’s experimenting with different approaches or technique or just remembering to plan where to focus my vision.

As for my focused parking lot practice, it’s a combination of all three.

Wheelies and manuals have been a stubborn challenge for me to get consistent. I’ve been working on them for, checks calendar, nearly three years – gulp. By most measures they are pretty good, but consistent they are not – any given wheelie or manual could last a couple of seconds to 10 seconds, a couple of pedal strokes to 60. Practice of these is about repetition and trying to pay attention to differences. Occasionally I unlock a clue and things improve, but it’s just loads of work. Learning to jump, wheelie/manual and planting trees have something in common unfortunately – the best time to learn them/plant them was 10 years ago, the second best time is right now. In my case 30 or 40 years ago!

I’ve been working on cornering and scalloping to alternately load and unload through long sketchy corners. It’s a fairly new skill so it’s practice and video review to identify differences between what I perceive myself to be doing and actually doing and tweaking technique to narrow the gap.

With hopping, it’s a combination of refinement and expansion of skill/height. I identified through video review and making a portable bunny hop bar that I have a pretty good hop of 18". What I also discovered is that I tend to be quite late initiating my hop so that peak height is beyond the target bar. In the past I’ve set up cones as a timing gate but I found little success from that. This week, it occurred to me that I don’t have trouble timing a hop to strike a small bump in the trail to amplify a bump-jump. I thought, maybe I can hack my brain here with this knowledge. I set out a cone not as a gate, but as a false bump. Hot dang if that didn’t work! Now I need to discover optimum locations for given heights of bar and practice the heck out of it.

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Michael, that's a comment that's crammed with good stuff to discuss. I'll devote this reply to your first paragraph on sessioning.

You've mentioned some benefits to sessioning that bear repeating:

* Tracking the total number of attempts of an obstacle on a trail over a year

* Experimenting with alternate line choices

* Practicing where to focus

* Experimenting with different techniques

* Keeping track of success rates

With your permission, I'd like to include those in my upcoming post about sessioning.

I sometimes try to make an obstacle that's easy for me more difficult. There are some benefits to doing this (I'll explain in my post) but I'm curious if you've done it much.

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Aug 19, 2022Liked by Griff Wigley

Griff,

For sure, include away.

As for making an obstacle more difficult, sure, not by physically changing a trail feature, if that’s what you meant. But yeah, if something has become easier, I’ll look for other lines that are harder or were out of reach before, or try to creep something real slow. For example’s a boulder on a trail I ride frequently that I have always rolled up and over that I now see is shaped just like a sharp roller so I’m trying to pop up and over it like a little jump.

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Yes, that's exactly what I do, especially finding a harder line (eg ride it backward) or making a sharper turn on the approach of an obstacle. And once I got better at track stands, using them to remove momentum.

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Michael, that's a helpful and in-depth analysis of the different approaches to your parking lot practice sessions. Great examples of:

* Difficult skills that you've learned but that need constant attention

* Using video review to get immediate feedback on learning a new skill

* In-depth problem-solving to refine/expand a skill

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Aug 19, 2022Liked by Griff Wigley

I agree with Michael H - I use every ride to practice - whether it is climbing a difficult/technical switchback, going over obstacles or down steep/loose section, etc - I just ride, but try and learn something from every ride, the whole time, improving all the time.

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That's great to hear, Wynand. Not many riders do that.

Is there one or more skills that you'd like to get better at?

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