There were enough standout moments at our recent North Harbour training that they deserve an article of their own.
As is often the case, I had to earn the respect of the first group. For example not a soul was keen to use their peace sign fingers on the front brake, and two feet were often coming off their pegs for the soft patches.
New skills never come easy, especially with the risk of crashing never far away. It took a little talk about how as a baby I could crawl pretty well, but it would not be very good if I had never changed to walking because I wasn’t used to it. There is also a better way to ride than what they are used to.
The talk seemed to work. Although it also took some extra motivation with the threat of push ups, by the end of the session almost everybody was using the front brake to stop for our little chats. As for keeping their feet on the pegs everywhere possible, it was incredible how quickly their insecurity turned to trust. Don’t be surprised if you see fathers dancing a little jig on the side of the track to remind their child to at least keep one foot on a peg at all times.
The afternoon session began under the mercy of a tent as the rain belted down for twenty minutes. There was no way these kids were going home though. They were keen so we talked through more skills than I would usually fit in to a session like this, including standing work that proved to be invaluable.
There was one downhill patch that they looked particularly unstable on and there was only one answer, so we got to work. This stage began on a grass hill, showing them how to stand low enough that they could get their weight back without straightening their arms. This also involved keeping their knees back enough to grip the seat, but could only come after really bending at the waist. It took a few tweaks, such as pointing their toes more to use the rear brake. Soon enough they were actually looking great and wanting to tackle the bigger hill, so it was time to get back on the track.
I was blown away by how balanced and stable many of them suddenly looked down the slushy, rutty hill. It was a huge improvement. Now it was up to them whether they could do it on race day!