I got this e-mail from a rider last week and it brought up a very interesting question – how do you systematically progress as a rider? It is something that I think every rider has thought about and also lets me introduce a chapter from my past I don’t talk about as much as I should…Pallet City.

“James,

After watching your videos from the “Ranch”, I was wondering about the path you took to gain the confidence to try that big stuff.

I’ve been out to Grand Junction from Denver and ridden the Lunch Loops a few times now. On Free Lunch there seem to be about 4 main, big drop sections; all of these are above my ability.

Where did you go to practice or train for these “all or nothing” sections? I think all of us experienced riders can drop 2-3 feet without too much of a problem. But when the drops hit 4ft and the landing is downhill and looks bigger, there is that mental hurdle that stops you.

Did you find a 3 footer that you could hit all day long, then 4 footer and do the same, then a 5 footer?”

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This is a very interesting question and one I have been asked a lot. It is something I’ve thought about a lot as well.

How exactly do you build the confidence to go bigger and try new things?

I know that for me there was a progression – I wrecked jumping off a curb when I first started riding. The thought of hitting a 40 foot double or a 20 foot drop seemed ludicrous. But, like I touched on in a blog post I did about breaking the mold as a rider, I did spend a lot of time practicing basic skills and I actually carried that over to building confidence on more technical trail skills.

The first thing I did was ride a lot of urban assault missions. If you’ve never done this, it is a lot of fun and really challenges your technical skills. Since there is no “trail” you roll around town looking for interesting things to ride. Stairs, ledges, loading docks, curbs…whatever looks interesting you give it a go.

Of course, this only works if you live in the city, which is what I did for the first 2 years of riding. Then I moved to Kauai and I lost my “practice ground” so I had to get creative. I created Pallet City and used it to hone my skills even more.

I basically took pallets from a local grocery store and used them to build different stuff. I’d string them together with boards to create “skinnies” and stack them to create different size drops.

I could go out there and practice riding skinnies and doing some basic jumps and drops. I studied videos of riders to see how they were holding themselves and then tried to practice that when I was riding Pallet City.

Here are some pics so you can see what it looked like…

SANYO PHOTOLABO V310

SANYO PHOTOLABO V310

SANYO PHOTOLABO V310

SANYO PHOTOLABO V310

SANYO PHOTOLABO V310

SANYO PHOTOLABO V310

SANYO PHOTOLABO V310

SANYO PHOTOLABO V310

SANYO PHOTOLABO V310

On the trail I did similar to what this rider was asking – finding smaller stuff to get confident on and trying to find progressively bigger stuff to try. But the truth is that sometimes have have to make a big leap from riding one feature to trying the next one.

That is where studying your craft and finding ways to practice the basic skills comes in handy.

Hope this helps some of you better understand how to gain the confidence you need to step it up on the trail. Pallet City taught me that taking a systematic approach to building your skills off the trail really helped me make make those big progressions on the trail.

Like one guy who saw Pallet City put it – “you practice that stuff here so you have it in your back pocket when you need it on the trail“.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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