Some random wisdom from the National Champ

This last weekend I got to hang out with my star client Aaron Gwin, the current national DH champ. He had been in Moab doing some promo stuff for Yeti and had one of those freak accidents that make you scratch your head. He wheelie dropped a small ledge about 10 feet from the parking lot and landed in a sand patch. His rear wheel sank in and stuck and he got pitched over his handle bars. His seat was too high to get far enough behind his bike to prevent to full endo and he couldn’t get unclipped fast enough so he went straight to his face.

He popped two teeth clean out of his head and had to come to Grand Junction to get them put back in and set properly. Since I live nearby he stayed with me for the weekend while Yeti finished up their stuff in Moab. I’m bummed that it took him getting a face full sand and gravel to get him here for an extended stay but we made good use of the time. Besides getting him in the gym and getting a solid off season plan put together we had a lot of candid conversations about riding, racing and what it takes to be the best. Here are some random bits of info I picked up from him…

…We both think that flat pedals make you a better rider. Aaron says that clipless pedals do make high level riders faster and on a World Cup DH course they can be a necessity but most riders simply are not that advanced. Starting out on clipless pedals actually teach you bad habits and make you a more timid rider. Flats force you to learn how to ride your bike better, make you smoother and teach you to jump and bunny hop with your legs, not by simply pulling up on your pedals. He thinks that every rider should start out on flats, even the XC and trail riders, and that most riders should use them for the majority of their riding…

…He feels that mental prep is one of the most important aspects of racing at a high level. Being able to control your emotions and focus on the right stuff can keep you from sabotaging yourself. He mentioned a book in our recent interview, Mind Gym, and I’ll be picking up a copy this week. I think that every aspiring racer should do the same…

…Aaron thinks that most DH racers take far too many practice runs. He makes a point of being one of the last ones to show up for practice and only does 4-6 runs. Since the course gets blown out over the course of practice, what you race on is usually much different than what you see first thing on the day of practice. Learning lines that won’t exist on race day and wearing yourself out in the process is not the smartest way to prepare for the one run that really counts…

…Aaron feels that new riders get ruined by going to a big full suspension bike right off the bat. Much like the flat pedals vs. clipless rationale, big bikes don’t force you to learn how to ride smooth and use your body to absorb trail impacts. Learn how to ride fast on a hard tail or short travel bike and then transfer that skill set to a big bike and you’ll be much faster and smoother…

…Aaron thinks that too many riders try to buy performance. You can not make up for a lack of training, mental prep and good nutrition with a slightly better bike. Save the money you would have spent upgrading to XTR or XO and invest in some training…

…Lastly, an observation from me spending 3 days with Aaron. He is a great ambassador for mountain biking and downhill racing. He’s not a party animal and is the kind of guy you’d let your little girl hang out with. In fact, my little girl Shilo was bummed to see him go. It’s good to see someone who doesn’t live the “just pin it and then drink a beer” lifestyle making good on his potential.

I think that as more riders who want to be where Aaron is see his example – that it takes hard work, dedication to training and a willingness to stay away from things that can have a negative impact on your life and performance – we’ll see more Americans standing on World Cup podiums.

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  1. pete says:

    Awesome!! solid advice and great to see such dedication in US DH! My girlfriend will be stoked the the pro’s say to stay on flats (cuase everyone else has been telling her to clip in (except me ;).

    Reply • October 27 at 2:40 pm
  2. Simon says:

    I’m nervous about slipping off flat pedals when the going gets rough, or if I get any air.

    Reply • October 27 at 6:38 pm
  3. bikejames says:

    @ Simon

    Get some good flats and some 5-10 sticky rubber shoes and they won’t slip off. You’re coming off in the air is one of the bad habits you learned from starting on clipless. If the slopestyle and trials riders don’t need them to stay on in the air then us mere mortals don’t either. I’ll have to do a post on the whole flats vs. clipless debate soon…

    Reply • October 27 at 6:55 pm
    • Lloyd says:

      That would be awesome to get more insite on the clipless/ flat debate. Like Aaron, I came from the motocross background, While i appreciate the power I get from clipless, I cant get over the mental advantage I have with my flats when i point my Enduro downhill and in cornering. Loved the point you made about Trails, slopestyle riders not needing to be cliped in to lift there bikes. Thanks for the great info looking forward to lots more.

      Reply • May 31 at 12:46 pm

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