How to avoid protecting your Ego so you can focus on mastering your art…

Last week I posted an article and video going over the lowly trackstand and why it was the key to improving your Standing Pedaling and ultimately your Switchback riding skills. In the beginning of the post I mentioned something that I wanted to expand on a bit more because it is really important to understand if you want to improve your skills and fitness on the trail.

The key is a “simple practice”, one that focuses on gently nudging our high level skills up through a constant study and refinement of the fundamentals.

One of the biggest challenges I face as a coach is helping people to learn a new high level exercise and/ or bike skill. Getting someone to understand how to do a deadlift in the gym or get into good body position on the bike is one thing but getting them to do a good snatch in the gym or manual on their bike is another.

While I’ve tried to out-coach bad technique in the past over the last year or so I’ve come to realize a simple truth…

Anytime I run into a problem teaching a high level skill to someone there is a problem with one of the fundamental skills that supports it.

If all of the requisite movement skills are there it shouldn’t take much coaching from me to get someone doing a pretty good version of what I want them to do. If it takes me more than 5 minutes to get someone to start grasping what I’m asking them to do then I start to think there may be something more than “bad technique” at play.

Here are a couple of examples to illustrate my point. On the right are High Level Skills we all want to do and on the left are Fundamental Level Skills that are often lacking when someone runs into problems with them…

High Level Skill

Fundamental Level Skill

KB Swing

KB Sumo Deadlift

KB Snatch

KB Swing and/ or KB Shoulder Press

Manualing on your bike

Body Position


Body Position + Lateral Hip Mobility/ Strength


Standing Pedaling/ Descending

Standing Pedaling



Body Position + KB Swing


And the list goes on and on. The problem you run into is that we all want to focus on the left hand colum but it is right hand colum that holds the keys to real progress.

This means that often when we want to improve a high level skill you don’t want to look to a higher level skill or technique, you want  to look back at the fundamental skills and techniques and improve on them.

Again, this gets tough when the Ego tells us that we’re too advanced to go back and work on the basics or, worse yet, that we’ve gotten this far without mastering them so they can’t hold the key to going even further.

This mindset comes from protecting the image we have of ourselves as a “good” rider and not from a sincere desire to master our art at a higher level.

The funny thing is that by focusing on your Fundamental Level Skills you’ll improve your High Level Skills without really trying. Which reminds me of a quote I’ve used a lot on this site…

“If you continue in this simple practice everyday you can attain something wonderful.” – Shunryu Suzuki

The key is a “simple practice”, one that focuses on gently nudging our high level skills up through a constant study and refinement of the fundamentals.

Hope this inspires you to look back and see what Fundamental Level Skills you’ve been neglecting and the courage to start focusing on them again. If you have any High Level Skills you’re struggling with and want some insights into the Fundamental Level Skills you need to focus on post a comment below this post and I’ll get to it ASAP.

And if you liked this post I’d really appreciate it if you would please click one of the Share or Like buttons below it and help spread the word.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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  1. Hi James
    Can you be more specific with what body position areas for the manual?

    Reply • August 5 at 12:23 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Check out his post on manualing and you’ll see how my body position sets up everything. If you don’t have perfect body position dialed in then you’ll have trouble being balanced when you go to manual. The biggest problem is that riders can get into the right position to start but as soon as they go to move and initiate the manual they shift their body into a more familiar position and that throws them off. All the manualing technique practice won’t help if you don’t own your basic body position so well that you don’t lose it when you go to move.

      Reply • August 5 at 4:10 pm
  2. Jason says:

    Good post James! In addition to learning/mastering new skills, your words hold true when coming back from time off. Your ego tells you that you’re better than you’re performing. I make a point to consciously tell myself, you will be weaker today, but stronger tomorrow.

    Reply • August 5 at 12:23 pm
  3. Christina Faust says:

    Great post and interesting timing. I rode a DH race last weekend and had a lot of crashes on a slippery course and lots of trouble in the corners. I keep trying to ride faster and wonder how people ride so slowly without crashing. Started to think I might want to slow down before I try to go any faster. Had a private coaching day on the mountain this past weekend and realized how unbalanced my position had become on a DH bike. Working on my basic position and cornering changed my riding significantly. I only hope I can retain some of the stuff I learned (because I know I was doing some of it before and it dissappeared in going faster!)

    I am curious about lateral hip mobility and strength for cornering. I was riding corners well by the end of the day, but I felt stiff doing it. What exercises help improve this?

    Reply • August 5 at 3:35 pm
  4. WAKi says:

    Good one, totaly agree. I often run into this ego bit, I love the article Gene Hamilton wrote “you’re not that good on your mountain bike”. Also a good mantra that I think you mentioned James is: “how can I do this better?”. Humility is a great thing but at the same time I believe that “Ego” is often mistaken with “self confidence”. It is very hard to be aware of when you feel which one of those. True Self confidence comes from experience, Ego can come out of nothing. I used to have a problem with thinking: “I can do this, I’ve done worse so I don’t even need to try”. I think an awesome way to get rid of ego is to ride with riders MUCH better than yourself. Occasional humiliation is liberating I think.

    If one struggles to deconstruct his ego, look for some youtube lectures by Alan Watts 😀

    Reply • August 6 at 6:16 am
  5. Butch White says:

    This post and the last podcast are both worth re-reading and listening to regularly. I’m not in the FB world and thus can’t “like” the post but rest assured this one and many others are worth those “likes.”

    Reply • September 13 at 3:48 pm

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