In early July, 50 riders registered for a month-long Online Practice Jam focusing on the Baseline Balance Skills course. They had the opportunity to work on their track stand, hopping, and rocking skills with each other and several RLC coaches and ambassadors via a private RLC community forum.
This Jam was led by Griff Wigley (Coach) and Kai Ashbee (Ambassador). When they weren't busy running the Jam, they practiced right alongside the other participants.
If you're not familiar with the RLC Online Practice Jams (this was our third), here are the basics:
Here's a short clip of Robbie King at the start of the Jam, practicing ratcheting with momentary pauses:
Towards the end of the Jam, he posted this video clip of a practice session in which he successfully did a series of track stand rollbacks:
Kathy Montgomery was already doing standing track stands with decent rollbacks at the start of the Jam. But she progressed to confidently doing seated track stands by the end of the Jam (full video here):
Yes, Kathy's showing off at the end of her video with the one-hander. But learning to hold a seated track stands is actually a helpful drill for getting better at negotiating steep uphill switchbacks while seated.
Group support, learning from each other, making it fun
One of the benefits of an online practice Jam is the social engagement with one's fellow classmates. It can be inspiring, it encourages everyone to provide feedback, and it can make the whole experience more fun. Here's an example of a conversation thread (minor edits for clarity) from the Jam's Hopping topic (image is a screenshot from video):
Darren Lott: After posting the first (red shirt) version of side-hopping between the lines, Griff asked:
1) Can you hop sideways just as well from the right side to the left? (I only tried left to right)
2) Can you describe what you do to get that much sideways movement?
This new video addresses those two questions. Slow motion reveals useful tips of which even the rider is unaware! In the front slow-motion view I can see that my upper body shifts across the line first during the leap phase, and the bike is brought along afterward.
Griff Wigley: That's really helpful to see, Darren. A very well-done tutorial video. I'm going to tag Michael Stashin and Kai Ashbee in case they have feedback for you. I'm thinking I might be ready to work on big side hops in a week or so after I log more practice time on my rhythmic hopping with better technique.
Michael Stashin: Darren, only praise from me on your technique. Very impressive! I love your explosive quick upward jumps with a full-body extension and solid grip on the pedals at the end of your launch/lift phases to get that significant height as can be seen at 0:28 in the clip. That is some serious Bowl Concept with those feet!
The clip at 1:10 is a nice way to illustrate how you use your hips to get that impressive side to side distance. An important note and what works so well is that you move the hips over during the launch/lift phase rather than during the compression phase. I've made the mistake of moving the hips at the start of the compression phase in the past which compromises the ability to achieve a strong compression. Again 1:10 illustrates some serious Bowl Concept implementation because you obviously have a solid connection with the pedals to pull the bike to the side under the lateral hips. Well done!
Darren Lott: Thanks Michael, for your continued analysis of these skills. Lots of great observations! You make an important point about getting a strong compression first and only beginning lateral movement during the launch phase. That wasn’t a conscious effort on my part, but now I know what to watch for when I get sloppy results.
Kai Ashbee: That is seriously cool, Darren. You are like a kangaroo on steroids. I'm on that lesson now so I will be coming to you for tips. Brilliant work, mate. Well done.
Mark Henderson: Darren, I love the tape on the ground idea and nice hopping!
Ira Weiny: Nice indeed! I’ve not gotten tape out yet but I like the tape idea a lot. One of the many great ideas I’ve gotten in the Jam. Thanks!
RLC coaches are ever-present in a Jam and they often use screenshots from video for feedback, just like in Course Lessons. Here's just the start and finish of a conversation between RLC Member Dogtank and RLC Coaches and Ambassadors.
Dogtank: My rocking is OK - I'm stuck on Lesson R6 as I can only manage around 8 rocks before I feel myself losing balance. When I try to magnify the rocks (R8) it falls apart more quickly. Looking at the vids and thinking about it I think my crank is creeping up and I need to master R7 - drop the crank - but that's hard to get my body & brain to work together on!
Griff Wigley (Coach): Dogtank, here are two images of screenshots of you and Ryan doing the rocking rhythm. What difference do you notice and what's your theory about it? (For now, ignore the fact that your wheels are higher in the air.)
Image 1 of 2 - rear wheel in the air:
Image 2 of 2 - front wheel in the air:
Dogtank: Ah yes, those bent arms give it away. I think that's my innate defence mechanism kicking in and trying to squash the movements. Thanks Griff. I will find a patch of sun today and give it a try with straighter arms.
[Several comment exchanges and after some more practice...]
Jeffrey Neitlich (Coach): Dogtank, looking good! I think you are really figuring this out. This is a minor point, but notice that you're lifting your front wheel higher than your rear when you rock, particularly the first front-wheel lift. As you progress, try to be more even front to back. This will facilitate the feeling of balance, and will actually require less input/energy. Awesome!
Griff Wigley (Coach): Dogtank, wow, that is considerable progress. You're inspiring me. That Jeff guy seems to know which end is up. ;-) And thanks for the tip about ankle pop. I'll investigate.
Michelle Roe: Griff/Dogtank/Jeffrey, this is about where I am at with rocking also. I’ll try to post some vid soon. Great discussion thread and advice. Feeling inspired :-)
Jeffrey Neitlich (Coach): As always Michelle, looking forward to your post-- welcome!
Michelle Roe: Jeffrey, I’ll tag you :-)
We conducted a survey of Jam participants to get feedback on their experience and what we could do to improve. 33 responded. We're especially pleased with the response to Question 6:
Among the many positive comments submitted via the Jam survey:
Initially, group involvement wasn't a significant factor in signing up. But after the jam, I felt that it was one of the most valuable features.
The "Jam" concept is brilliant. While it was on, I shared my excitement with many fellow riders because I think the Jams are the "icing on the cake" of an already excellent learning format. After the last Jam, I now get quite a few positive comments on the trails as I track stand when letting riders pass, etc. Hopefully, that will inspire others to check out the course.
This was awesome because it was a skill I had been working on, and the ability to focus on it with a group of other people with close attention and feedback from coaches was fantastic.
I participated in the Hopping component. I started the hopping lessons last season but never finished them off. This Jam was super important to finally nail the lessons. It made me accountable to something other than myself to finish them off and that was hugely beneficial.
The courses on RLC are awesome, but having a time block dedicated to a specific skill, with almost instantaneous feedback was priceless.
Honestly, that single Jam provided enough value for me to justify the entire year’s membership.
Everyone pretty much experiences the same setbacks and challenges as I do .. good to read and see I’m not the only one!
I wasn't very active - but I really enjoyed the intro thread. Seeing so many of the RLC members backgrounds was great. Seeing how other people were progressing slowly through skills (like myself) gave me great encouragement (so many of the people on youtube and even my local rides are mainly experts, whose skills far surpass mine).
Having an instant connection with a coach was extremely helpful. Being in a group of people that are all practicing the same thing was very motivating, helpful and fun.
Primary benefits? Bike skills: I can track stand! I have a good start on lots of variations to work on (learning is fun). Learning skills: I have a better appreciation for practice and peer support. I have new learning methods to continue with other RLC lessons.
Going through the RLC courses by myself, I was content with half-ass execution before moving forward. Recording video and posting to a group, for comment, forced my skills execution up to another level.
At the start of the month, I was unable to track stand for a sec. I’m now able to track stand for 4-5 secs. I'm still a work in progress but I’m so happy with the progress I’ve made.
Started me learning a skill I only had a desire to learn before the Jam. And I am motivated and do keep practicing it, with the Jam material as reference.