This weekend I joined a group of friends for a skills clinic with the talented Lee McCormack. Lee is a devoted rider, award-winning writer, self-proclaimed “decent racer”, and instructor. Some of my best cycling friends have had previous skills clinic sessions with Lee and when the idea of having him come to Illinois to put on a local clinic was presented, I was in! The day was bittersweet because I had an incredible time and gained a lot of knowledge and practicable skills but the good friend who set up the clinic was unable to attend due to an injury.
I’ll admit, I was skeptical of what I would get out of the experience, not because of Lee’s skills, experience, or ability to teach techniques, but rather I doubted my ability break bad habits that have become second nature over the years. It wasn’t long into the clinic that I realized this was probably the best money I’ve ever spent on cycling. Concepts and theory that I’d only thought over were quickly put into physical practice allowing my body to safely experience these techniques.
We practiced a range of skills including cornering, weighting the bike, drops, and worked with rock gardens and other technical features. Some things like cornering were skills I thought I had down before the session but it was eye-opening how much improvement was on the table when following Lee’s mountain bike Kung Fu! I by no means have all of these skills dialed in after this one day session, but I feel like I have the tools and knowledge I need to continue to make progress.
We rode and sessioned a variety of trail and features at Farmdale in Peoria Illinois. The drops, jump sections, downhill course, and other features make practicing a variety of skills easy and enjoyable.
Lee talked us over the technical features of the trail and showed us how to cleanly traverse them. I found this very helpful as it allowed me to watch, process, and attempt myself. I heard times when Lee would give the encouraging feedback that a rider had demonstrated the skills needed to nail the feature at hand and also when a rider should practice a skill in a safer manner until it is dialed in for consistency. I really liked that I could put honest trust in him as he wasn’t a “you got it” guy. When Lee said I had something, I trusted him, and that made a lot of difference to me.
My new Stumpjumper has been great so far. The ride is plush and the trail-oriented geometry provides confidence and soaks up my mistakes.
The group all seemed to take a lot away from the day. I half jokingly said that if I could do the four plus foot drop in the skills area by the end of the day I’d be overwhelming happy with the day. Others and I were doing this about an hour and a half into the day. Furthermore, I wasn’t just hucking my bike off the ledge and hoping for the best. I felt completely in control and confident in my ability. Seriously different feel and experience from how I’ve felt in the past.
By day’s end I was extremely happy with my progress and what I had learned. Lee is a seriously fast and talented rider. He is a great teacher and is very easy to work with. He can explain and translate theory to you with demonstrations on your local terrain. That was huge for me. He evaluates your ability to safely and successfully attempt new skills which providing confidence. I’d highly recommend working with Lee if you have the opportunity. For me after today, it’s not a matter of if but when I’ll be signing up for more.
For more info about Lee McCormack and his books and classes you should check out his site http://www.leelikesbikes.com/
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