Josh Whitmore bike skills podcast

Josh Whitmore: Mastering Bike Skills And Gaining Free Speed

About this episode:

In this week’s episode, coach Adam talks with CTS Expert Coach and mountain bike instructor Josh Whitmore about all things bike skills and how cyclists from all disciplines and skill levels can improve and gain free speed on the bike.

Guests – Josh Whitmore:

I came to coaching from a racing background, enjoying a brief career as a full-time cross-country mountain bike racer in the 1990s when the sport was at its pinnacle. I retired from full-time racing to pursue a career in outdoor education and mountain guiding, earning a Masters Degree in Outdoor Education. I eventually returned to my love of cycling and currently race as a high-level amateur and masters age category athlete in road, mountain, and cyclocross events. I also still keep a foot in the mountain guiding world, occasionally guiding rock/ice climbing, mountaineering, and backcountry skiing. Since 2010, I’ve focused my professional energies into coaching endurance athletes and helping people of all abilities reach their athletic goals in cycling and alpinism. In addition to ongoing coaching of individuals, I am the company’s most highly qualified mountain bike skills instructor.

Episode Highlights:

  • The skills pyramid
  • 4 dimensions of body position
  • The key to progressing your skills
  • Skills vs maneuvers

Learn More About Josh Whitmore And Connect With Him:

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4 Ranges Of Motion


Ready Position


Line Choice


Hinge Technique

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Episode Transcription:

Please note that this is an automated transcription and may contain errors. Please refer to the episode audio for clarification.

Adam Pulford (00:19):

I haven’t met anybody who rides a bike that would claim that they have no further need to improve their skills when it comes to handling a bike. So that, that goes for the pro tour riders and the world champion mountain bikers and the world champion Ironman athletes out there, and then the weekend warriors and, and the first timers. Right? So that being said, I think that is, it’s a skill that we overlook as coaches in terms of the, the technique of how to ride a bike, how to get on wheels and how to corner, how to descend. And so I brought in Josh Whitmore experts, CTS coach, who is the professional professionals when it comes to teaching how to drive a bicycle, we get into it in this episode. And what we do is we will cue you up to and give you resources to learn more about where to start.

Adam Pulford (01:23):

If you want to improve your bike handling skills on road off-road and kind of anything in between. And so have a listen, I think you’ll enjoy it and also visit our landing page where Josh provides some extra videos and other opportunities for you to connect with him. If you want to do a zoom call over truly distance, a clinic session while we’re in this pandemic, or you know, if you’re listening to this down the road and we got a vaccine and everybody’s high five, and again could schedule something with him and they’re not a ride better. So bear with us. It’s a unique episode because we’re going to talk conceptually about how to do some of these skills and drills, but there’s, you know, there’s our takeaways where you can apply this right away to what you’re doing on and off the bike to better equip yourself when it comes to writing. So everybody, Josh Whitmore enjoy the bike skills in drills episode this week on the train ride podcast. Welcome to the train rate podcast or welcome back today. We have a pretty good episode lined up as we’re going to talk about skills and drills. Like I already mentioned in the intro and we have an expert in house today. He’s a fellow CTS coach and his name is Josh Whitmore. Welcome to the show, John.

Josh Whitmore (02:50):

Yeah, thanks for having me on Adam. I feel quite humbled to be among the esteemed guests that you’ve had so far on this on this show. So yeah. To be here.

Adam Pulford (03:01):

Yeah. Well, thank you for joining us. Before we get into the conversation, can you tell our audience a bit more about yourself,

Josh Whitmore (03:08):

For sure. Yeah. We’ll compare it to all of the famous people that you’ve had on your podcast so far. I’m a much less well known, I would imagine. So yeah, maybe an introduction would be appropriate. Yeah. My name is Joshua Moore and I’m a CTS coach. And the thing that I do is CTS is about two thirds of my work time is coaching athletes just like Adam does just, you know, kind of normal, our normal distance coaching thing. I have a stable of athletes that I coach month a month, you know, write out workout plans and help them through those things to reach their goals. But one of the unique things that I do with CTS is I spend about a third of my work time doing bicycle skills instruction and granted, most of that is mountain bike skills instruction.

Josh Whitmore (03:49):

And some of it is cyclocross skills and road skills as well. But yeah, that’s that’s my niche within CTS. So I work mostly out of our Boulevard, North Carolina office, and we’re really excited here that we’ve got really easy access to amazing train to ride bicycles. Whether it be on road, there’s just miles and miles of quiet roads. It’s snake all through the mountains up and down. And the trails here are fantastic. We’ve got a large variety of trail types and I don’t know, trail conditions and things that you know, we can from beginner to expert and everything in between. And one of the nice things about working out of this office is that we, we certainly can ride year round here most of the time. Sure. There’s some days where you know, it’s not as nice as others, but year round riding is generally good here.

Josh Whitmore (04:40):

So so I, in addition to doing in-person skills instruction in, out of our Bravard office, I also travel a little bit to do some skills instruction. So sometimes I go to with specific athletes that may visit a a course venue that there are training for. And like, I like a course recon, and then we work on some skills on, at the course itself. So, you know to go scout those things, or I may go to work with a cycling club. That’s a common thing to do with cyclocross skills. I might do like a cyclocross clinic for S for a whole team or a whole club or just sort of general working with teams in general may bring me in to do you know, as part of a training camp or something to work on skills.

Josh Whitmore (05:24):

So yeah, all that combined makes up most of my work, new thing hot off the press is Adam, is that I am newly the presses hot off the press here. This is new and new news is that I have just been accepted to become a course conductor for the professional mountain bike instructor association. So I’m currently working with that’s awesome. Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah, I’m excited about that. So I’ll be, I’m, I’m working through the process now of training to, to offer courses, to certify other mountain bike skills instructors. And I’d gone through that organization to achieve the, you know, the higher level certifications myself as an instructor, but training other instructors is also a passion of mine. So I’m, I’m, I’m working towards that at the moment. So

Adam Pulford (06:08):

So cool, Josh. Yeah, it’s really congratulations. We need, we need more people like you in the world that can actually teach these skills and apply it, not only to athletes, but to coaches. So that’s awesome, man.

Josh Whitmore (06:22):

Yeah, well, and I would say that, you know, the whole bicycle skills instruction world has really, you know, come off the ground and to be in like a legitimate profession even you know, fairly recently. And, you know, it’s sort of as mostly Mt by seal instruction was born out of the bike park kind of world where ski resorts, you know, in the winter time transitioned into a mountain bike parks in the summer, and they have this huge infrastructure for ski instruction in the winter. And they just transitioned that right over to mountain bike stuff in the summer. And people, you know, would show up at the resort. You know, and I already had in their mind, like, you know, the, the, you know, sort of like if had gone skiing, it’s pretty accepted to take a ski lesson and like, we’ll kind of take a mountain bike lesson.

Josh Whitmore (07:01):

And so they started really pushing that and developing that. And then now that’s where the crash amount by constructor association kind of was born out of to have a professional organization and a curriculum and you know, a certification standard to ensure that mountain bike instructors are, you know, sort of like have a minimum skill level and, or, you know, can ensure a good quality. So that’s where it came from, but it’s becoming more and more, you’re seeing mountain bikes, clinics and cyclocross skills clinics all over the country now. And it’s, I think it’s, maybe I’ve just become more aware of it, but there certainly seems to be more of them.

Adam Pulford (07:37):

Well, there’s, there’s definitely more of them in a, and I think one of the big premise of this episode, one of the reasons why I wanted to actually do this was to inform people that it is a thing, because a lot of people, you know, we’ve been riding bikes since you’re, you know, three, four or five years old, that’s when we learn. And, and some people, you know, take it beyond their, some people pick it back up or whatever, but it’s a, it’s a thing. It’s an activity. And it’s a vehicle that people are very familiar with. However, very few people know where to go or how to acquire the next level technique to kind of an enhanced their experience with it. You know, it’s a very, it’s a very strange thing in my opinion.

Josh Whitmore (08:21):

Yeah, exactly. And, you know, you think about how you learned how to ride a bicycle or how you learn, how to mountain bike. And most of the time you, you just, you know, learn by doing, you go out and, and trial and error. And you, you kind of pick it up as you go. And maybe you get some tips from your friends, or maybe you’ve watched a YouTube video about a specific thing. I, you know, I got to tell you that a lot of tips that you get from your friends and a lot of YouTube videos out there are garbage for scratch instruction. There’s a lot of good stuff out there too, but, you know, be the ability to weed, you know, between the, the good stuff and the bad stuff is sometimes frustrating. But yeah, to be able to work with an instructor to that can really in on you specifically.

Josh Whitmore (08:56):

And I think that’s what we’re skills restriction really falls in with the CTS model of you’re working individually with a coach and the feedback loop that goes into designing something that’s specifically for you and where you are at, and then having the coach feedback loop as a part of that, to be able to help you develop in the most efficient way possible for the things that you need to develop the most is really important. Yeah, you can watch some good videos and imitate it, but you know, is that what you need? You know, it’s, it’s sort of you know, might be, that might be similar to like buying a static training plan, you know, that could be too easy for you or too hard for you, or what do you do when you miss a day or, you know, that kind of thing. So right. Yeah. So it’s some of the landscape of the skills instruction world these days.

Adam Pulford (09:43):

Yeah, no, I like that. And I think to tell our audience kind of a bit more about yourself, it will make it very helpful because one, one thing that Josh has queued up here in just a second, but he has a very unique background in leading people, teaching people in the wilderness, as well as coaching people with what he does now, which is why I think kind of this teaching of skills on a mountain bike and mixed train type stuff is, this is why I’m interviewing him. So Josh, can you tell the audience, like how you got into all of this just like high level?

Josh Whitmore (10:17):

Yeah, for sure. Yeah, I’ve I tell people that I have, I’ve had three careers in my life and I feel like that the, you know, now my third career of coaching and doing the skills instruction world, and I feel like that my previous experience as you know, coalesced into being you know, lending a lot of, I guess, a background and experience to what I do now. And so I tell people, my first career was I was professional bicycle racer, and this was back in the, kind of the mid nineties. And I was part of the Olympic development program for the mountain biking being introduced to the Olympics in 96. I never made it to the Olympics and I wasn’t, it wasn’t that good, but I did it’s been, you know, several years racing as a professional mountain bike racer and did several guest appearances and pro road race stuff.

Josh Whitmore (11:02):

And I found that my genetic aptitude for racing at the highest level in the country or the world was, was somewhat limited. There, that was, if you know about the sport, that is also a time I sort of a dark time in professional and cycling history. So there may have been other reasons for that. Let’s put it there, but you know so I, I found that I needed to enhance every single aspect other than fitness, including fitness for me to be able to compete at the highest level. And, and I’m not talking about doping, I chose not to be a Dover. However you know, I was, if I could maximize my fitness, that was part of it, but what else makes up performance in general? What other components and you know, you’ve been covering a lot of these, you know, in other podcasts, you know, what are the, what are the different aspects of performance and certainly skills and a skilled drive, bike driving skills, or a big part of that, especially mountain bike racing, and especially in the nineties when we were riding very limited ability equipment.

Josh Whitmore (12:02):

So I’m totally found that I needed to to develop that in myself. And I quickly became known as, as being a really good skills rider. I got out of professional racing and then went into outdoor education. And so I have both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in outdoor education. And I was a NOLs instructor and an hour band instructor. And then I also guided a lot of mountaineering trips sort of work as a mountain guide sort of all over the world. I kind of make the rounds between South America and Patagonia, and then all the way to Alaska you know, in the opposite summers. And so, you know, I think I’ve got over 2000 days in the field on courses of five weeks or more. Well, so which was an amazing opportunity to spend some, a lot of time in really remote places.

Josh Whitmore (12:55):

And you know, and my primary function at that point was to teach students, you know, mountain skills and to keep them safe and keep them from hurting themselves and, you know, in, in really remote and dangerous environments both w those organizations without were bound in with NOLs, I also transitioned into being a staff instructor. So I was training other staff to be instructors. So, and then I also worked at a university for awhile. I ran outdoor programs at a university. But yeah, the full-time field work has its lifespan. It’s amazing to do, but, you know when you’re 300 plus nights a year in a sleeping bag, it’s really nice to eventually transition to a more of a day job, home life kind of situation. So that’s where I am now in my third career is as a coach and back to cycling and and, and really loving it.

Adam Pulford (13:45):

Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. So as our audience can tell, I mean, very diverse background, but it’s been very very honed in, on teaching skills in multiple different environments. And so this guy knows what he’s talking about, but because a lot of you, our audience is tuning into this while listening, I want to talk like high level about these skills and techniques, and then partner it with some videos that we’ll have in addition to this podcast. So kind of the first is getting you to learn how Josh thinks in teaches these skills and then provide additional resources. So like I said, at the very beginning of this, this is going to be a different episode, but like, but, you know, listen in and keep an open-minded as we get going here. So Josh, I’ll say this, like, you know, we already touched on why bike skills are soaring so important, but let’s talk like terrain neutral. And let’s talk about like the main reason of why a better bike rider really improves performance. Yeah.

Josh Whitmore (14:56):

Well, I think it’s probably more obvious in the off-road disciplines. You know, you can think of mountain biking as a prime example of that, that there’s a high level of vice driving skill component to performance that, you know, if you could, you probably can even think of somebody in your brain. We all know this person that is has all the fitness in the world and can go uphill on a smooth road faster than anybody else, but point them downhill on a mountain bike and they’re hopeless. And so, you know, that, that sort of speaks to an example of, of, you know, well, what’s the X factor there, you know, like where, where are they, what are they most lacking? Like they have all the fitness in the world, but you know, don’t have the skill ability to be able to operate the bicycle through the terrain that they’re faced with.

Josh Whitmore (15:36):

So I think it’s pretty obvious to, to, to think about that in a mountain bike world or even cyclocross, you know you know, we, our conditions in cyclocross are pretty variable. And one of the things in cyclocross, it’s pretty fascinating to me is that with the limited equipment, you know, you’ve got a limited tire size and a, in a bicycle that’s not a mountain bike. And sometimes you’re riding it through mountain by terrain where a mountain bike would maybe be better, but you’re limited to that, to that specific equipment. So you’re trying to do a lot with with a tool that’s not quite right for the job. Most of the time it is the right tool, but you even when you get into road and triathlon you know, other, other disciplines you know, there is still a high level of skill and component and, you know, it could be cornering.

Josh Whitmore (16:19):

And, you know, for instance, like analyzing files from race teams in criteriums, you know, professional race teams that are racing criteriums you know, you can tease out differences in power files, even based on people’s skill level. And so, you know, some writers that slow down more in turns and then have to accelerate faster, harder out of the turn versus a rider that goes through a turn and carries more speed and isn’t, doesn’t have to accelerate as quickly out of it. You know, that, you know, a couple of times in a race, isn’t a big deal, but in your criteria, muni may do that hundreds of times and that’s going to add up. And so the rider that’s more efficient with that that transition around a turn is going to be gonna save their bullets for when they need to fire them off when the fireworks are happening and the critical part of the race.

Adam Pulford (17:08):

Yeah, that’s just, yeah. You know, it’s a wonderful example. And I think that to paint that even more, it’s like if you’re in that race setting and there’s the guy that kind of dangles off, anytime that there’s a technical thing, but then you get on the Hill climb or a girl and they’re, they’re coming up and then they actually start leading the charge for a little bit. And then all of a sudden the technical bit comes and then they’re off the back and then they come back up and they keep on dangling back and forth. It’s very inefficient. Right. And, and, and then all of a sudden say they even fade, or they’re not there for that, that time for the sprint or the critical moment. Like, as you said, if you’re one of those people like tune in, right. Because you learn something if, but if you’re one of technical people you know, in that race setting as well, I would still argue that you could S you could bring it back down to the basics and benefit from this, because I haven’t met an athlete where you do some of these basic skills and they become more confident of their own ability with two wheels, you know, between the legs.

Adam Pulford (18:09):

So to speak with just having more fun on a bicycle to realizing that it’s okay to play

Josh Whitmore (18:16):

Bicycle. And there’s a safety aspect to it as well. That’s important in the way that if you are a more competent and stable rider in general, on any bike, you are going to be able to handle a wider variety of scenarios that come your way that may be unexpected you know, in a race scenario or just a traffic scenario, or, you know, you’re flying around a turn and there’s a two by four across your lane. Like, you know, like what do you do? You know? And and so the, the, the more skilled you’re able to do or able to be, you know, you think about like, like Peter Sagan or somebody like that who, you know, like pulls off these amazing stunts, you know, when faced with a crash in front of them, Perry, Ruby you know, like you guarantee that man has some, some bike driving skills to allow him to be able to do this matrix type of maneuver to avoid his face hitting the cobbles. Right. and so I think that there, the, the safety aspect of it is also important, you know, beyond the performance aspect of it.

Adam Pulford (19:20):

Yeah. Yeah. Very good point. Very good point. So, Le so let’s talk about some of these basics and in discussing with you and framing up this conversation. One thing that really stood out to me in the way you teach is when we’re talking about concepts and in there you talk about the difference between a skill and a maneuver. Could you explain to our audience what each is, and then the difference between the two?

Josh Whitmore (19:44):

Great. Yeah, I’d love to yeah. And I think for the, you know, the purpose of this podcast, I would love to introduce folks to some of the concepts that we are typically using in the skills instruction world. And hopefully it will be enough of a teaser that for one, you’ll be able to learn some stuff that you’d be able to do on your own and think about on your own, but then also just kind of have a greater understanding of what you know, kind of the methodology that we’re using in that world. So yeah, the difference between a skill and maneuver. So we, we tend to break things down into individual skill components and a skill itself is really the, it’s a, it’s a fundamental component of, of driving the bike and it can be something that’s, that’s not any combination of movements or anything.

Josh Whitmore (20:29):

It’s a single skill. So things like pushing or pulling on the handlebar at a specific time, operating a brake lever in a specific way, in a specific Mount moving your body in relationship to the bike at certain times. So that, that specific individual component is what we’re going to call a skill. Now we can bind those skills. We can combine those things into a maneuver and a maneuver would be something like cornering and cornering is a maneuver that’s made up of a lot of individual skill components. Yeah. There’s probably braking involved. There’s going to be body movement involved. There’s going to be a whole host of things that’s going, that’s going to happen to go into that maneuver. So what we’d like to do is we pick things, we’ll pick a specific skill and we designed some drills to be able to to work on that specific skill and really hone in on it develop that skill by itself in a somewhat non challenging environment. So we want to do it in a work on that skill where, you know, you’re not afraid for your life, right. And you want to do it in a way that you can actually like, apply it, experiment with it and not be afraid that you’re going to like,

Adam Pulford (21:38):

Not, you’re not like jumping over a crocodile ponder or anything like that while you’re doing these things.

Josh Whitmore (21:44):

No, no, not for like working on this skill stuff, for sure. Crocodile pawns are, are that’s that’s on level three that’s later on. No, got it. Okay. So then we, we can see improvement in those individual skill and give feedback or that individual skill component. And then we started to combine them back into the maneuvers and and then, you know, once there’s some mastery involved with the skill component, then it becomes more I guess, automatic. So, you know, there’s the whole concept of a, you know, conscious competence and unconscious competence and that whole scale. And I’m not sure if people are familiar with that, that model, but, you know, at the beginning, when you’re learning a skill thing, you have to be very, very conscious of how you do it. And it’s, it’s like a you know, it’s a very I guess you know, deliberate and thought pattern you know, it’s like I have to do ABC and D and you have to think through that and operate that. And then once you you’ve gathered, some mastery becomes sort of a, you’ve developed sort of an unconscious competence with that where you you can do those steps without having to consciously think about each of those steps and it just happens. And then, you know, once we start developing that, then we can blend them together into these maneuvers. So that’s the skill in the maneuver business and that in that whole concept

Adam Pulford (22:56):

Got it, got it. So skill is the more simplistic aspect of say breaking, or even somewhat like moving on a bike, whereas the maneuver is the cornering descending breaking and gaps and things like that. That’s, that’s what you’re

Josh Whitmore (23:13):

Yeah. A combination of combination of skills as a maneuver. Sure. So

Adam Pulford (23:18):

Got it. Got it. So just curious when you’re working with an athlete, say face-to-face pre COVID-19 do you come across the breaking of bad habits?

Josh Whitmore (23:31):

Yeah. When you’re teaching some of these skills maneuvers, for sure. Yeah. One of the, one of the common things that I see is that yeah, people have learned a method to use to accomplish that is that works, but it might not be the best way to further progress. So they sort of reach a plateau with it. And then that’s becomes a barrier for them to keep progressing. So, like, let’s say you know, it’s pick, pick a specific skill on a mountain bike, like getting the front wheel over a, over a log or up a step, like a front wheel lift you know, that maybe they they’ve developed a methodology on their own that allows them to get the wheel off the ground a certain amount, but there’s a ceiling to that. And so then they you know, need, sometimes need to unlearn the, there the way that they’ve done it and relearn it a different way so that they can progress farther.

Josh Whitmore (24:26):

So most folks that I started with, even, even when I work with professional gravity athletes, you know, like people that are earning a living going downhill fast on a mountain bike you know, we start right at the beginning with super basics and yeah, they can progress through the progression like very quickly because they, they have a level of a mastery that, that, you know, more beginner riders do not. But the be able to concentrate on that very beginner or I guess the, the entry level piece of it first, you know, build it up kind of like a, like a, you know, a cake basically, you know, like start with you gotta stir a pyramid, you know, start with the base of the pyramid first and layer it up from there. So,

Adam Pulford (25:10):

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s good. And having that open mind, if you want to improve, basically in everything, let alone bike skills is probably the biggest aspect to have when you come in, in, in try to improve on a lot of this kind of stuff. Right?

Josh Whitmore (25:28):

Yeah, exactly. And a lot of it may even be just having a common language around the skills themselves. So, you know, even very accomplished in advanced riders, you know, may have never really thought about how they go over a rock drop or how did they actually get the bike to go over that log that they just wrote over, like, they, they can do it, but if they had to write a paragraph about all of the skill steps that, you know, that went into going riding over that log, they would be, they’d be kinda lost. I’d be like, well, I just did it. It’s like, okay, well let’s back up. And like, let’s analyze each little part and then see if there’s room to improve or feedback to give for each of those little parts.

Adam Pulford (26:10):

So in there you mentioned skills pyramid, and you mentioned kind of this methodology could you, could you tell the audience and myself more about the skills pyramid and in how you build that into your curriculum?

Josh Whitmore (26:23):

Yeah, for sure. So one of the main concepts we work with is sort of an order of priority of, of I guess categories of skills. And if you think about it like a pyramid that you have to build a big foundation or a nice foundation spend a lot of time in the foundation, the base layer of that pyramid and then, you know, the next layer goes on top of that and vice versa, you know, it goes up to a point on the top. So think about that as a, as the skills pyramid now, what are the layers of the pyramid? Well, at the very base, the base of everything, the most important and basic part of all of all skills is body position and balance. So you can get a lot of other things wrong as long as you’re, if your body position is correct, then you can, you can make some mistakes and other categories and still survive and still do quite well.

Josh Whitmore (27:22):

And, but, you know, if you if you body position is not correct, then that’s, that can, is automatically a problem. So so we start, we spend a lot of time thinking about body position and drilling on that. The next layer up from that is operation of controls. So that’s things like breaking and shifting. The third layer up is terrain awareness. So that’s being able to scan the terrain ahead of you and be able to interpret the, the terrain you know, it’s sort of like gathering data and then applying that data, like what, okay, I see that. And so that means that I need to do ABC and D that’s trained awareness. The fourth level up is direction control and, you know, that’s cornering and otherwise, you know, changing direction of the bicycle. And there’s some other ways to do that when, you know, like we’re talking about nose pivots and rear wheel pivots, and just like some different ways to, to change the direction of the bicycle, but direction control.

Josh Whitmore (28:19):

And then the, the top of the pyramid is the fifth layer and that’s timing and coordination, and being able to do things in a coordinated way and in the correct order in know, time it correctly, and the be able to do that, you know, if you’re trying to go for speed and then being able to do that in rapid succession and quickly so those are, those are the layers of the pyramid. And so we, we mostly start, we blend a lot of those together at the same time that but when we’re looking at like I say, I’m analyzing someone doing something, performing a skill or practicing a skill they’re gonna spend a lot of time coaching them on their body position and as the foundation, and then you know, once they get that correct, then we can kind of you know, move up the, up the, the levels to, you know, to the other skill, skill levels of the pyramid. Does that make sense? Okay.

Adam Pulford (29:12):

Yeah, it does make sense. And just to kind of clarify, say an athlete would come to you for a one-on-one or a group or whatever, would you touch on all five of those layers within one session, or would you kind of start with one and two and then schedule another session? Or how would that work if somebody were to come to you and in want that teaching?

Josh Whitmore (29:36):

Yeah, that’s completely custom. So in a lot of that’s going to depend on what level, where they’re at and what they need to work on most. So you know, I always start with a, you know, before the session starts, you know, as some kind of an interview of, of trying to understand what their experiences and what their goals are with it and what they’re trying to do. And then you know, and then start in with some of the basics and then as the, the, you know, which is gonna include a lot of body position stuff. And then as they demonstrate competence or, or demonstrate need for improvement, then we focus on that more or a weekend blend in things from higher in the pyramid depending on where they are. So it’s completely dependent on, on how they master you know, certain aspects of it, but we can’t move ahead to to like really the nuances of direction control if their, if their body position aspect of that is if they, if they’re not able to execute that correctly, does that make sense?

Josh Whitmore (30:38):

So we got to like solve one before we move up, but at that same time, like, you know, there’s blending in there too. And you mean like, when you’re talking about cornering there’s aspects of several things that go into the maneuver of cornering yeah. That you think like, okay, that’s a direction control, but that’s also, there’s a ton of body positioning and cornering, there’s a ton of operation of controls. And that thing, you know, there’s terrain awareness of like, what line you’re going to pick as you go around. You’ve got to time and coordinate all of that with the terrain that’s in front of you, you know, hitting the brakes at the right time and the right ratios and, you know, all this things. So there’s, there’s aspects of all of those concepts are all of those pieces in, in like in every maneuver.

Josh Whitmore (31:17):

But it’s just kind of like what we want to focus on first. And so as they master one aspect of it, then we can you know, so like if we’re in teaching cornering for first, for instance, and we’re going to start with body positioning, get, get some, split that out into its own little skill, work on that, drill that and get that down to looking pretty good. And then, okay, well, we’ll move up the pyramid operation controls. Let’s, let’s talk about breaking for cornering and let’s you know, work on that specifically and then add those two together. Okay. Here’s breaking and body positioning for a corner, you know, so that’s kind of how it works.

Adam Pulford (31:50):

Okay. Well, since you sent, you mentioned body positioning so much, and let’s, let’s drill down a little bit on that because it could be something that our audience members could practice on their own, but let’s first explain it a little bit more. You mentioned that there’s four dimensions to body positioning. Could you explain those to us?

Josh Whitmore (32:10):

Yeah, for sure. And yeah, so this is another concept that’s fairly universal in that maybe to back up one step in that here’s a, here’s a key takeaway for everybody, is that the key to, for any writer at any level, the key for them to progress their skill ability to become more proficient with their bike driving skills is going to be, to increase their comfortable range of motion of bike, body separation. Okay. So we think about the body and the bike being, are you being able to move your body in relationship to the bike in four dimensions? And this is what you’re talking about. Okay. So here are the four dimensions, different ways you can move in relation to your body in relation to the bike, you can move four and a half, so you can you know, you can skew farther forward or, or move your center of mass farther back in relationship to the bike.

Josh Whitmore (33:02):

That’s one second. One is up and down. You can get farther away from the center of the bike or closer to the tires. Okay. It’s a, that’s a, that’s a second one, a third dimension is side to side, or like a lateral motion. So know, moving farther out to the left of the bike or moving farther to the right of the bike. And then the fourth dimension is a rotational aspect. You know, and so, you know, typically when we’re riding and sitting on the, on the seat and have our hands on the handlebars, your hips are square to the bike and the hand, your hands, and, you know, there’s like kind of a box between your, you know, your hands on the handlebars, your shoulders and your hips are all kind of like in this you know, all like right angles are basically, you know, it’s all sort of like a, like a box.

Josh Whitmore (33:45):

But you know, rotational aspect is can you rotate your, your your hips or your shoulders in relationship to the direction of the bike? So that’s the rotational aspect. So we all, no matter your skill level, all of us have a range of motion in all of those dimensions that we’re pretty comfortable. Okay. So we all move up and down and back and forth and side to side and do a little bit of rotation when we are riding all bikes, all different kinds of bikes. However, the, so the back to my like, sort of like key takeaway is that if you can increase that comfortable range of motion you’re going to be able to handle a wider variety of terrain and more you’re just gonna be comfortable in a wider range of scenarios. So basically you know, you think about you know, the bike, the, how the bike steers and how balances changes as you move your center of mass around those dimensions.

Josh Whitmore (34:44):

So, you know, certainly if you lean the bike way over and get your center of mass, like way off to the left of the bike you know, it’s gonna, it’s going to steer quite differently than if you’re sitting square on top of it. You know, the balance of the bike and the operation of the bike in that way. And you’re just stability of it is going to be different. So we all feel pretty stable and, and kind of a small, and usually a small range of motion, but you have to be able to work, you know, expand that range of motion to be more comfortable as the key.

Adam Pulford (35:12):

Yeah. Yeah, it makes, it makes complete sense. And I think for our listeners too, this would be a time where say, if you’re listening to this podcast w at a computer or something like that, now’s the time to start flipping to those videos because Josh will have resources there to start with body positioning and just simple little skills. And, and we kind of joked like doing this in a safe environment, but when I’ve taught these before, and then Josh similar for some of these body positions, so if we’re doing this in the grass, so if there is a tumble or topple over, which is actually a good thing, cause you’re learning, you just fall right in the grassy, my, in my right Josh, that’s the safe environment you’re talking about.

Josh Whitmore (35:55):

Yeah, yeah. Grass is appropriate. You know, basically what, you know, depending on the skill level of the rider, we, we need to make the environment for learning, be conducive to actual learning. So you know, if you are you know, have a fear response in some way then you know, you sort of initiate that, you know, fighter fight, fight, or flight trouble saying that you know, kind of response then you know, what happens to the body when you have that kind of fear response, you get tense your pretense, you get very like conservative, you know and, you know, guess what, how do you think that that works with your range of motion over the bicycle, right? It’s gonna you know, it’s going to limit your range of motion over the bike, and we’re trying to get you to be more free and more comfortable and in a wider range.

Josh Whitmore (36:46):

So so the most important thing is that we gotta, we gotta remove the, there having an environment that is not challenging when, when you’re working on a specific skill and it’s gotta be an environment that is not so challenging that it causes a fear response, and that’s going to look different for different people. You know, for some riders you know, and I’ve worked with some, you know, some road riders that have never written their road bike and grasp before, and that may be intimidating for them. And so then they have it’s, you know, it’s squishy and it doesn’t feel like turning on the pavement or, you know, their handlebars. Don’t like, you know, so that, that may be different enough for them that that’s like, you know, it’d be better to just do it in a pay parking lot or something. So just reading each rider, you know, whereas like you’re working with like world cup, downhill races or something, you know, then, okay, we’re going to work on breaking and we’re going to do it down this like mega chunky rock garden, that’s, you know, a 45 degree slope, you know, and that’s, that’s in their comfort zone. They’re like, okay. Yeah, sure. Whatever,

Adam Pulford (37:45):

That’s the happy spot right there. That’s the happy zone. Right. okay. So for our listeners, like listening to this and they’re like, okay, Josh, I want to try some of this stuff. I’m going to watch your video. Like what, what bike should they do it on? And say, if it is that roadie, did you do it in the pavement parking lot? Like where do people start with this? If they flip, open the YouTube and start watching it.

Josh Whitmore (38:07):

Yeah. You know, I think any bike that any bike works. So you know, I think that some of this stuff is going to be more geared towards mountain biking. But I think a lot of it works on any bike, you know, so their road bike or their gravel bike or, or whatever they can, there’s things that they can do. You know, with fun bike. Yeah. Try bike, man. I’ll tell you what I have. Some of the most scared times I’ve ever been on a bicycle have been like fully tucked on aerobars on a tri bike going like a gazillion miles an hour down a Hill. And like trying to navigate around turns or like a Gusto, like, you know, comes by. And then, you know, you’ve got this huge wheels that, you know, like you can better believe that if you can, if you are stable and comfortable in a wide variety of conditions on a time trial bike, or a T or a tri bike, you’re going to be able to put out power more often or more consistently and not back off the pedals and your time’s going to be less on that bike and the more comfortable, or the more confident you are on it.

Josh Whitmore (39:07):

So so yeah, I’d say, you know, yeah, there’s, some of this stuff is going to be more suited to mountain bike, and you’re not going to be doing like front wheel lifts on your triathlon bike. But you know,

Adam Pulford (39:17):

For sure, that’s kind of my point. Yeah.

Josh Whitmore (39:20):

But there are things, but I would like to in the V you know, in some of the in the video stuff, there’s stuff I’d like to do, that would be kind of like bike. You’re not so bike dependent. So, you know, I think there’s things you can work on, on any bike.

Adam Pulford (39:32):

Okay. Okay. Very cool. And should we, should we do these clipped in clipped out? Like where are we on the attachment to the bike situation? Yeah.

Josh Whitmore (39:44):

In the in kind of the mountain bike world of, you know, [inaudible], you know, click shoes or should I ride flats or what, and so, you know, my answer to that is that you know, it’s essentially whatever you’re comfortable with, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. You know, if you feel very comfortable and unclipping and not falling, you not, not falling over because your foot’s attached to the pedal and you can’t get it out in time, then, you know, certainly staying clipped in allows you to have more control. You can push and pull the pedals or the bike around a little bit more you know, flats obviously allow you to, to jettison your feet off of them very quickly. So I, you know, it could be, it is. So I think, again, that’s situational, I think you can you can make, do with whatever you’ve got, really. I don’t think, I think it’s whatever you’re used to.

Adam Pulford (40:40):

Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s that’s the most appropriate way is like, start with what you’re used to. And if you, if you want to be conservative, you can even, you could take the road bike out on the whatever pedals you have and potentially, you know where your own road shoes to start with. If that’s not feeling good, bring a pair of sneakers and you can quickly convert over something like that. Yeah.

Josh Whitmore (41:03):

Yeah. If you’re doing some, like, you know cornering drills in a parking lot with some cones or something in you, or some like, you know, tight turn kind of stuff on a road bike on a paved parking lot. Yeah. You can do that fine with a, with a running shoe, just on top of a, you know, a road pedal you know, that’d be just fine. And when you start getting into, needing to maneuver the bike a little bit further, then you got to yeah. So anyway, for sure that works fine.

Adam Pulford (41:28):

Yeah. How about should people do this, like pre training ride post-training ride or in addition to a training rider, how should people weave this into their normal training? Or is it just, it, was it just not a training ride? They just need to go out and do it

Josh Whitmore (41:44):

Well again, I think it’s all of the above. So I think there are opportunities to do it at, in, in all, all modes. So one of the common things I find with racers or people that are doing, they’re doing a lot of fitness training, you know, following training plans is that they often don’t spend enough time dedicated to developing skills that it’s really easy for them to go out and do intervals based on their power meter and whatever else, and do, you know, try to go fast and all that sort of stuff. But you know, it’s a little harder for them to have structure built around doing skills drills. So you know, if it’s something that they can add into a warmup or after a workout is completely appropriate or even separate like a, you know, just go out for your training ride in the morning or whatever.

Josh Whitmore (42:32):

And then in the evening, like you set up some stuff in your driveway and play with, you know, the kids are out in the yard and you like dink around on your bike in the driveway with the kids. And, you know, you can, you can do it separately or like a recovery ride. You can make easily make a recovery ride, a skill session and just go to the park and work on specific stuff. Or, I mean, that’s a great use of, of a recovery ride as well. So all that works, but the, the important thing to get out of that, I think is that you’ve gotta be intentional about this is my skills practice time, and these are the things that I’m going to do during that time. Rather than trying to do it kind of like along the way during your interval. Does that make sense?

Adam Pulford (43:13):

Yeah, completely makes sense. So I’ve been doing some of this with my athletes and I just say, lose the spandex, go to the park or go to the parking lot, you know, with the kid and Ian set up some cones and do XYZ, and that’s kind of sets the mental stage too. This is not a workout necessarily, so you can be fully present. So so Josh, like before, you know, before COVID-19 and all this kinda stuff, you were doing a lot of face-to-face skills teaching and whatnot. We’ll talk about that here in a minute, but like, are you doing this virtually right now? Is that a thing? Can people do that? Or how does that look?

Josh Whitmore (43:53):

Yeah. You know, we’re starting to experiment a little bit with that, you know, luckily I think that now we’re getting towards the end of may in near the beginning of June that it’s looking like we’re going to be able to get back to in-person work pretty soon. You know, like there’s companies are, you know, including CTS have been working really hard to develop you know, our own risk management strategies when working with customers face to face. And you know, so we’re, we’re starting to implement some of those policies and as you know, things loosen up with restrictions for travel and that sort of thing, that we’ll be able to implement those risk management practices and start to be able to work with people face to face. You know, I prefer to work with people in face-to-face obviously you know, that it’s much more efficient that way.

Josh Whitmore (44:41):

However, we are starting to do some, I guess, like sort of distance analyzing of folks skills already. And then I’m starting to experiment a little bit with some, some technology that would allow that to happen a little better. So first since my regular coached athletes that I’m you know, coaching month a month, you know, that may live in other places. It’s really easy for them to film themselves, take a video of them doing a specific thing. And then sending me the video and then I can provide some feedback for it. You know, I might even send them out with a specific list of things to accomplish, like do this and this, and this take a video of it, send me the videos, and then I can provide some, some some commentary. There’s a a new software called on form that one of the founders of training peaks has developed that as a video analyzing software package that allows more uses the whole process of video analyzing that can draw on it and measure angles.

Josh Whitmore (45:39):

And I can like do voiceovers and I can do slow Mo’s and record the whole thing and be like, write on it and all that kind of thing. So it, it sort of improves that process a little bit. I got to tell you though, it’s clunky, like the, the distance and skills coaching stuff. The feedback loop is much slower. So the iterations that you can go through, you know, in person, like, okay, do this. Okay, we’ll try it this way next time. All right. And you did it all right. We’ll try and tweak this a little bit. You know, you can go through a lot of iterations really quickly, and you’re like passing video back and forth. It’s like, you know, it’s just slow. So yeah. Yeah.

Adam Pulford (46:11):

Knowing, knowing your Fisher, that’ll probably speed up quickly. So

Josh Whitmore (46:15):

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. There’s some real time kind of opportunities there, you know, that maybe in the future I have had athletes specifically at events do that with me, that they will you know, like I’ll FaceTime video or something, you know, add a section over the course on the national championship mound by course or something, you know, and I have the, you know, their friend, like video of them going through it. And then, you know, then I chat with them on the phone and, you know, that kind of stuff where I’m on FaceTime or something. So there’s some, there’s a little bit of that that happens. But yeah, I mean, face-to-face is, is really the the most efficient at this point. Okay.

Adam Pulford (46:49):

So when this, when this podcast, or when this episode of the podcast launches, it’ll probably be mid to late June and hopefully, I mean, fingers crossed, we’re getting out of this thing with, to where we can with COVID-19 policies in place, do some face-to-face work, but if people hear this and they want to, they want to schedule a session with you how would they do that?

Josh Whitmore (47:11):

Oh yeah. We’ve got a page on the train right. Webpage. so train, And I think it’s under the camps tab and it’s called mountain bike skills instruction, or mountain bikes, skills clinics, or something like that. So that’s the easiest way to do it. You know, just to do, and then eventually I think next year for 2021, there will be, I’ll start to be offering the folks, want to become skills instructors themselves, then I’ll, I’m going to be start offering courses, you know, through the professional amount by instructor association here in the broad area. So that would be on the PM BI website eventually. So yeah, those methods.

Adam Pulford (47:54):

Yeah, that’s no, that’s awesome in, and I will say I am biased to the Bravard area is still one of my favorite places to work and ride working out of the, the CTS center down there for some camps has been it as well as racing the Pisco stage race, which was just amazing all the single track that you could want in six days. So it’s a beautiful place. Josh is in a location to not only just you know, teach all the best skills, but also do it in a pretty darn cool environment. That’s beautiful writings. So I’d highly encourage anybody that is thinking about doing this. I mean, connect with Josh and if, if it’s not Josh, he can connect you with other people that will be well set up with, with the skills and techniques. So just a small plug for that, Josh.

Adam Pulford (48:42):

And then what we’ll do is we’ll also we’ll also link to that landing page for the skills on the train ride podcast. So that’ll be quick for anybody that’s listening, like, okay, let’s just go there. But again, because we’re, we’re talking about something that’s so like different with the skills and drills, I really encouraged people to go check out some of those videos there, but most importantly is like, get, get to the mindset where you realize that getting better, technically on a bike, doesn’t have to be scary. And in fact, it’s kind of the opposite where you get to play, right? And, and I think it’s so fun when you can get somebody who’s been riding in save racing or whatever for so many years to have them take a step back, focus on the basics and realize that doing this is actually going to make them not only faster, but have a more fun experience overall.

Josh Whitmore (49:39):

Yeah, I would say it’s not just for, for performance oriented riders either that I certainly get lots and lots of folks that have no inclination to do any kind of event of any sort or don’t particularly care how quickly they peddle up any Hill, but they want to be able to have more fun on their bicycle or their mountain bike and feel more confident in a wider variety of terrain. And you know, that is an end in itself that their, their improvement and their things that they’re working towards their goals are, you know, riding, you know, more aggressive terrain or being more confident in, in, you know, in a wider variety of terrain and that sort of thing, you know, and aren’t necessarily trying to like win any races or do any events or anything. So, yeah,

Adam Pulford (50:20):

Yeah, yeah. A hundred percent agree. Well, Josh, before we wrap and I let you go, I’ve got three questions for you and some of it’s fun and some of it’s for audience to take something away from this and apply it to their own training and skills and development. So if you’re ready, we’ll, we’ll get right into it. Let’s do it. Cool. So what is your favorite drill to teach?

Josh Whitmore (50:45):

Ooh. I’m gonna, I’m gonna say cornering with that in a way. It’s complicated and there’s a lot that goes into effective cornering, but you know, if you think about any discipline, the faster and more efficient that you can go around corners it’s, it’s like free speed and free time in your, you know, in your, so you think about a cyclocross race, you know, if you can go a quarter mile an hour faster around every turn, you’re going to do 650 turns in a cyclocross race. You know, that adds up to like real time. So yeah. The whole cornering thing is is challenging to teach and it’s challenging to get, but I think that there’s a with, you know, just a a small set, some small sessions, people really tend to gain a lot of see, we see a lot of improvement very quickly with just a few, a few drills. So that’s probably my favorite one to teach

Adam Pulford (51:48):

Courtney. Okay. Quick question too. It’s a bit of a curve ball for you. But what would be one skill if you had to distill it down to one skill that you’d say everybody that you’ve seen and worked with probably needs to work on, or you could even make the blanket statement that everybody who rides bikes probably could benefit from working on this one, what would that skill be? And it could be the same answer as the first. I have no idea. I’m just throwing it out there. So what is like one skill that you think everybody probably could benefit from working on?

Josh Whitmore (52:20):

Yeah. well, I mean, going back to art skills, pyramid, the body position stuff you know, the, you know, I’d say that the end you think about those four D I guess the four dimension of of bike body separation that we talked about, that the rotational aspect of that is probably the one that people most typically need the most help with and, or the most development with, to be intentional with. With that we get pretty locked into our, you know, sort of like square hips to the bike kind of thing. And you know, we started introducing some, some hip rotation into some cornering, even on a triathlon bike and suddenly like, you know, cornering feels like more stable and there’s zipping around turns more, more quickly. So yeah, that would be the be the, you know, working on like a rotational aspect of body positioning. And it’s probably the one aspect I would say, universally that most people will need, need work on.

Adam Pulford (53:22):

Got it, got it. Okay. Final. What is one quick and simple drill that our listeners right now could take away and apply to what they’re doing at home, even if they didn’t reach out to you and schedule a session?

Josh Whitmore (53:39):

Yeah. You know, I like to, if people can do things on their own that sort of like forced them, you know, into wider ranges of motion of bike, body separation. So one quick little thing that you can do is set up you know, I call it a tree Dodge or you know, it could be, you know, whatever other object you want to want to supplement for that, but, you know, have some kind of an object like you know, sometimes I’ll do it in my driveway with my bicycle repair stand, they’ll haul it out in the driveway or in the yard and set it there. You know? So it’s got it’s, it’s a pole, you know, that that you’re trying to, to ride around. And, and so the, the whole idea is you’re gonna ride towards this thing. The wheels are going to go on, on one side of it.

Josh Whitmore (54:18):

And you want to ride clear, try your ideas, that you’re trying to go in a straight line with the tires. But if you did ride in a straight line sitting on the saddle, that your hand would hit them, the object, like, so like you think, like, think about a really narrow trail and the, the line that your tires has to take on a narrow trail puts the, if you’re upright of the bow and sitting on the saddle that your hand would run into the tree, well, how do you, how do you keep the tires on the ground on that line that the tires have to be on and then get the handlebar around the tree? Well, that’s going to involve you to force you to use some of that lateral and side to side movement in that range of motion. So, you know, as you approach the objects, you know, or approach your tree to do the tree Dodge you know, you’ve got to stand up and with level pedals to coast a little bit, or or you could do it sitting down too.

Josh Whitmore (55:08):

But you’re a little more effective if you’re standing up. And then, you know, you’re going to push down on one hand, a bar and or one grip lift up on the other one you know, to, to make the bike essentially Anglais angulate. But your center of mass needs to stay more upright over the bike, if that makes sense. So that the it’s kinda like, you know, your hand is getting ready to hit the tree. You know, you angle the bike over to the side, so that the, the so that the handlebar, your grip, you, your hand moves out of the way of the tree. And then as you clear the tree, then you go back to upper upright. I’m not sure if that was a visual description that people I’m just stipulating wildly with my hands. As I described this,

Adam Pulford (55:48):

I can hear that. I can hear that on that. And I mean, it’s, it’s a movement I do nonstop, nonstop. I mean, you use that so much when you’re in single track. And so, yeah, I totally know what you’re doing. And we do that if you’re, you know, road race and bang and some bars and all that kind of stuff, so I totally get it. And yeah, that’s a very applicable drill. So let’s, let’s be sure to throw that one up on the, on the website, if we go.

Josh Whitmore (56:09):

Yeah. And it, you know, in another scenario that would be like, you know, you’re riding up through the pack and a road on a road bike, and you know, you, you’re riding up beside somebody, you know, your, your handlebar just sort of barely misses their hip. And then it kind of goes into that space in front of their knee, but behind their, and you need to keep moving forward, but you’ve got to, you got to angle that bike over a little bit to be able to clear the, that handlebar, you know, around their bar or at least get it up beside them. So yeah. Yeah. That’s a scenario there. Yeah. Yeah. I’ll make a little video about that. Sounds pretty easy. Okay. Okay.

Adam Pulford (56:42):

Excellent. Well, Josh, I mean, this is, this has been awesome. I mean, I think that our listeners will definitely appreciate even, like I said, even at a high level of starting to think of, you know, how to improve their skills on a bicycle and, and, and hopefully just start to get them going in the right direction and with the proper resources to further that skill development. So thank you for taking time to talk to us on the train ride podcast and be part of the community that we’re growing.

Josh Whitmore (57:15):

Yeah, for sure. I’m glad to glad to be out. And again, I’m humbled to be a part of the your esteemed guest list here. So but yeah,

Adam Pulford (57:22):

I think it’s just become more esteemed Josh.

Josh Whitmore (57:25):

So I do like the, the way that you’re sort of rounding out different aspects of performance. And you know, so I think that, you know, the, the bigger conversation, the big picture of the, you know, the things that are covering in pod in the podcast, you wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t at least spend some time on skills acquisition and, and you know, that part of it as well. So I appreciate the opportunity to explain some of those things. And hopefully it gets people thinking about it a little bit and and getting onto their own path of improvement. And maybe that unlocks some additional free performance for them that they didn’t think that they or didn’t know that they needed.

Adam Pulford (58:03):

Yeah, no, that’s it. No, and I appreciate the kind words. So if if our listeners want to follow you on the socials, we’re, where can they find you?

Josh Whitmore (58:10):

Yeah. I’m on Instagram as I am Josh Whitmore. And you can find me on Facebook too. And that’s, that’s about it. I tend not to Twitter. But yeah, and I, and I’m, I’m not a prolific fate era, prolific social user, but I lurk around there a little bit. All right. Cool.

Adam Pulford (58:29):

Cool. Well, thank you again, Josh, and have a great evening. Yeah, man. Thanks.

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