Learning new skills by yourself can take some time, but when the path to learning is littered with sharp rocks, slippery roots, and gap jumps, a little help goes a long way. If you don't have a riding buddy that is a bit better then you, or you live in a location where you are the entire riding community, progressing as a rider can take a long time. So, what solutions are there for those who are too shy to join a group lesson or those who live where there are no groups of bike riders to learn from?
image: Miles Clark
Online tutorials are anything but new, and a quick YouTube search will provide a long list of free how-tos for any and every bike discipline possible. There are websites like paincave.com that operate much like P90X, where a monthly subscription will get you access to training programs, video tutorials, and other information to help you perform better, while targeted at road cycling and triathlon. Out of all of these online tutors, the best known is Vancouver native and legendary trials rider, Ryan Leech.
Leech has had a 20-year career as a pro MTB athlete, he is a certified bike coach in Vancouver, Canada, and he's a certified yoga instructor as well. Ryan established Ryan Leech Connection* in 2012 as a place to share, by way of mountain bike video training and interactive coaching, the skills he developed. Ryan offers his content as a monthly subscription.
With there being so many free online resources to help you train and develop your skills, we wanted to learn more about who uses these resources and why? We also want to know what the differences were between subscription base programs and the free online tutorials.
Is it practical to expect you can learn MTB skills from video?
First of all, the question of practicality: Can you actually learn these types of skills by video? Ryan says, "absolutely yes!" - if lessons are skill-based and broken down into modules, with each step talked through and shown right in front of you on the screen. This step-by-step and skill based approach makes it easier to learn. Ryan breaks his course up into 2 module streams. Some modules are practical (i.e. go outside and try it on your bike once you have watched the video) and some are theory-based and instructional.
Ryan identifies a broad spectrum of users of his site. He sees professional riders who are looking to work on one specific skill like balance, or busy middle-age professionals who don't necessarily have the time to go for a big ride and just want to work on skills around their home or neighborhood. There is also a healthy amount of beginners who are looking to learn quickly, so it's easy to see that online learning can really be for anybody at any stage of their riding.
Is anyone else doing online video coaching?
Ryan isn't the only one doing bike coaching by video. There are sites like Pain Cave and Sufferfest offering comprehensive training. But is learning from sites like those effective? Ryan's method varies slightly as he interacts with each individual via social media, video uploads, and really any other means of communication to answer questions, coach, and critique people's riding. This is a key difference between a program like Ryan's and just watching video tutorials.
Ryan often pairs his videos with a few key tips which hint at the spiritual knowledge you are yearning for within...
"Even though you're in one spot, you're still moving! Movement is key to balance, both in the bike and body! For track stands, you're actually rolling back and forth, utilizing gravity or body language (instead of relying on a fixed gear like on a track bike). This is the foundation for quality track stands."
What makes a good bike coach?
At the age of 16, Ryan graduated as a skills coach for The West Coast School of Mountain Biking and has become kind of a big deal on the scene. He started trials as a teenager, allowing him to really hone his skills, and since then he has performed in thousands of bicycle stunt shows around the world, including Cirque du Soleil, as well as a few dozen mountain bike films.
What really makes Ryan qualified is his understanding of coaching from a more holistic sense. Ryan credits a dedicated, daily yoga practice for the past 15 years for his thriving and sustainable career as an athlete. He teaches yoga to mountain bikers and insists that it gives him a stronger ability to understand the various levels and mindsets of his coachees, an important (but often overlooked) step in teaching and creating programs.
A coach should also still be insanely passionate about the sport. This passion is infectious and can inspire you to learn. "I have the same giddy enthusiasm for creating my course curriculums as I did when training to become a pro," Ryan says... and you know it's true because he is even certified as an Integral Master Coach™ (you sort of have to read this) to understand the deeper methodology behind what makes effective coaching.
Is there a different or better way to coach and learn online?
Yes and no. While being interactive with your online learning definitely is key, it's a more holistic approach to your mind and body that sets Ryan's approach apart from most others. Having a deep understanding of how the whole body is applied to mountain biking helps a learner in many ways. If you can't bunnyhop due to a stiff and sore back, no matter how much you work on your technical hopping skills it won't be until you address your back that you will see progress. As a certified yoga instructor Ryan walks the talk.
"We believe in mountain biking as a lifelong passion, so care is taken to combine effective skill development progressions with physical and mental fitness practices. Our mantra "Bike-Body-Mind" informs and inspires all the content we produce."
So, if you're eager to finally learn how to properly do a wheelie, manual, or bunny hop from someone who definitely knows what they're doing - check out Ryan Leech Connection*.
* BikeRoar is an independent product resource website dedicated to bicycle enthusiasts. This preceding article is an unbiased and independent work of our editorial staff, however, affiliate links are used and BikeRoar may receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.