Reaching a Plateau? Try something Different!

Guest Post by Elaine Bothe

Are you stuck on a lesson or not quite getting something? What have you found helpful to blast through it?

During a recent practice session, I discovered how reviewing other skills and riding on different terrain can help! When you hit a plateau, try these ideas to mix up your practice sessions.

Review or start the Baseline Balance Skills series. These foundation lessons helped me reboot my wheelie and improved a lot of other useful trail skills.

Back up two or three lessons, and practice those skills on different terrain. With some extra caution or more armor than usual, ride your favorite gradual uphill slope when it’s bumpy and dry. Ride when it’s windy! Or practice in a new field. Make your field new by going downhill, or traverse across it! Practice on a gravel road, dust over hard pack, even pavement if you’ve been working on grass. Go slower. Or a little faster! You’ll learn how to adjust your technique and balance in new ways.

Here’s how it worked for me! After plateauing at an iffy four to five-ish pedal stroke wheelie, I started the Baseline Balance Skills series. I eventually stalled out on that too, because, life, and race schedules. One day, I headed to the field where I often practice wheelies but instead worked on “Momentary Pause” from Baseline Balance Skills.

Construction blocked my usual practice area so I rode back and forth across the slope, not up it. This bumpy off-camber slope made riding much more difficult. I also played with brake/no-brake pauses, opposite foot forward, and front wheel to the right and left. Fun! After some hilarious fails but no falls, I got a much better feeling for the ratchet and improved my drivetrain control and balance.

On my way home I went for a couple of refresher wheelie passes. With no particular goal in mind except fun, up went the front wheel, much easier than ever! So I did it again. And again! A lot of times!

Because of my new feel for the drivetrain I got into the float zone quicker. I had several solid, giggle-worthy six stroke wheelies and a couple of seven strokers. “Stokers” I should say since I was so stoked rolling home!

Learning is a thrill, and so is blasting through a plateau. Share your experience in the comments section below!


About Elaine Bothe

Elaine is a lifetime enthusiast, teaching herself to ride on a borrowed bike at age 4. She eventually found her true passion in the dirt learning new skills, racing downhill, pedaling back up as fast as possible and helping others go even faster! Elaine coaches for Wenzel Coaching and holds Level 2 MTB instructor certifications through IMBA and Simon Lawton’s Fluidride program. She can usually be found grinning and kicking up dust or mud on a trail near Portland, Oregon.

By | 2017-10-03T06:32:55+00:00 September 4th, 2016|Guest Post|1 Comment

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  • Vinay

    It is a balance you need to figure out for yourself. I started doing those baseline balance skills but when the trails are this good this time of year, it is so much more tempting to go blasting corners and do everything on those trails. Knowing that when the slop kicks in during fall and winter, it is great time to be working on those skills that could just as well be done on grass or gravel (ratcheting, rollback, manual etc) so that the prospect of cleaning your bike doesn’t put you off going for a ride at the end of a workday. So yeah, I love cornering and I definitely progressed in the past months there. But I’ve now reached a plateau hence actually don’t mind that fall is kicking in. I know I’ll finally be putting the hours in on those baseline skills :). This Tuesday my six year old daughter can have her cast removed (she broke her thumb on her first mountainbike ride with me). She’s allready been riding loads and she’s itching to go riding with me again. But I suppose we’ll take it easy this time and indeed work on those baseline skills. It is going to be fun (and safe). Of course I’ll be hitting the trails a few times every week, but it is nice to have something accessible to do outside the trails as well.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that you avoid repeating the same error. If you find yourself repeating the same mistake you need to get yourself back together before you give it another attempt. Otherwise you’ll solidify the mistake. It can be hard to do that though. So most efficient is to give it a few shots every day and then move on to something else. Of course if you’re a pro rider and you’re on the set filming for a movie segment, you’ll have to fix it that same day. You can’t walk away and try another day. But most of us can. Give it a few shots, them move on. You’ll make most progress in your sleep! When I started mountain unicycling (MUni) I put in half an hour every day, not more. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have progressed faster if I’d have put in one hour a day instead. Of course there is nothing against it if you’re having fun unless you’re actually solidifying your mistakes.