It's not entirely accurate to describe my opinion of "New Maxwell" as "Pro". From a strictly riding/running/hiking enjoyment perspective, I preferred Maxwell before the recent changes (both climbing and descending). Riding it felt the same way that we all enjoy the few days of riding on dry trails with bare arms and legs we seem to get in January or February every year - it's enjoyable in the moment but comes with the unavoidable thought in the back of your mind that it doesn't bode well for the future. Many of us (especially those of us who remember Maxwell prior to 2013) have seen sections get deeper and deeper every year, have seen the larger rocks slide into the trail, and have seen new reroutes spontaneously appear as a result. It's more accurate to describe my opinion as "What should we think about changes to Maxwell once we remove personal feelings, preferences, and biases, once we remove lies and misinformation, and once we acknowledge what information we don't have." The most important thing, and the only true requirement, for any trail construction or maintenance project, is that it be durable, sustainable, and cause minimal other environmental issues - everything else is a secondary "nice to have." Keeping that in mind makes it easier to understand a lot of the complaints about Maxwell that have been flooding Facebook and Reddit, which can generally be grouped into a few categories.

 

  • "It's more dangerous now because it's faster!" It's still your responsibility to ride safely and not like an asshole. If this is your main argument, sit down and reevaluate your participation in the trail user community.

 

  • "I liked the difficulty level that it was/It was just right for me/I got better because of the challenge."  Many of us did. Many people didn't. It is irrelevant either way; it wasn't sustainable in its previous state. Another version of this is "If you couldn't ride it you had no reason to be out there anyway." Get that elitist gatekeeping crap out of here. Both of these are related to a higher-level flawed argument...

 

  • "They did this just to make it easier which sucks/it's pandering to the lowest common denominator/our society is going to hell by babying people/this is another example of the government socialist agenda to make people softer and more reliant on them." Does anybody actually have any specific evidence that one of the goals of the project was to make the trail easier? A paragraph in the public project description? An official statement from somebody? A leaked email? It's far more likely that the trail becoming easier was an unfortunate side-effect of meeting the goal requirements. This argument has a nastier side too - people gravitate towards this type of thinking because it gives themselves the moral high ground that they can use to justify attacking the people and agencies involved in the project as a way to express what they view as deliberate slight against themselves and what they care about. It's easier for them to believe that there is a "bad guy" who has wronged them than to accept that maybe this is one of the best outcomes of an imperfect situation. I've heard enough hateful, aggressive, borderline violent things coming from people I thought I knew to rethink my opinion of them.

 

  • "They didn't listen to us!/They could have compromised more!/They could have added sweet directional MTB only trails and sick technical feature!" Yes, they could have compromised more or done more for mountain bikers. They also could have done less. That is the nature of compromise with multiple stakeholder groups while also being bound by the reality of budget and geology. They also could have compromised a lot less. We could be riding Maxwell on odd days only right now. It could be closed to mountain bikers completely. It could be closed to everybody indefinitely. All of these things have happened in other communities. Not getting exactly what you wanted isn't the same as not being listened to. Trails also evolve and you can't do everything at once. The first goal was getting the trail routed and rebuilt in a way to make it more sustainable. There is no reason to believe that it can't or won't continue to become more technical or interesting over time, both from natural processes and wear and deliberate updates. We need to wait a little longer to see the blank canvas; too much extra work right now would have been for nothing. Could the city have communicated more about what the planned end result was to reduce the surprise? Definitely, I will give the detractors that one.

 

  • "They ruined a Fort Collins highlight trail! They ruined riding in Fort Collins! No tourists will come and spend money anymore! This was a historic trail!" Things change. Populations grow, recreation behavior changes. Trails have to evolve as well. The way Maxwell was in 2020 was not the way it has always been. Most of the fastest times for Maxwell (up and down) are from 2012. What happened? Did people get slower? Did all the fast people move away? Did 29" wheels and slack headtubes actually slow everybody down? No, record-setting rain and floods drastically changed Maxwell over the course of a week. You may have liked its recent difficulty rating, but it used to be easier. A lot easier, and it will get a little harder again over time. New trails/recently rehabbed trails always seem too easy in rock areas. They have to overfill them to make the work worth it and give a buffer for initial erosion and wear. Reservoir Ridge was intolerably buffed out the last time it was worked on, and that lasted all of 2 months before the rocks started showing up again. Give it time - the way Maxwell is right now is not the way it will be for the future. It may not ever be exactly what it was again, but that's ok. Maxwell had no future as a mountain biking highlight trail, it will probably just have to become a way for lots of different types of people to get where they are going with as little user conflict as possible. There are plenty of other trails close by that we can focus on to make great for mountain biking.

 

 

So once we remove personal feelings, misinformation and lies, and other biases and focus on the actual requirements for the trial and needs of all the stakeholders, what are we left with to form our opinion? Maxwell wasn't going to make it much longer the way that it was. Building, maintaining, and managing multi-use trails is an expensive and thankless job and it's impossible to please everybody. Maxwell is not as much fun as it used to be. But it's still there, it's still open, it will last a lot longer now, and this was probably close to the best outcome for everybody in an imperfect situation. The sky has not fallen and we still have it really good.

Appeasing Everybody: Thoughts on the Maxwell Trail Rework 

Jack Ellmer

Without a doubt, one of my favorite pastimes is observing the Fort Collins cycling community on Facebook. Upon the completion of the Maxwell Trail refresh, this online discussion became more interesting than ever. I encountered talk of trail sanitization, suing the city, and a picture of a tombstone. I knew I had to check it out. 

A couple days later, my dad, brother and rode the Pineridge, Maxwell, Shoreline loop. As we spun up Maxwell, the changes were evident. The trail is wider, it is not as steep, it is much less technically challenging. While the alignment and location feel familiar, it is certainly not the same experience that it was. 

We must first acknowledge the problems with Maxwell that prompted the refresh. Maxwell had serious erosion issues. Each year, the trail became more trenched, allowing water to accumulate, narrowing the usable surface, and encouraging some trail users to step off trail and impact surrounding vegetation. Additionally, this narrowing, combined with increased use and the trail’s bi-directional status contributed to frequent user conflicts. Fort Collins is a friendly community, but when cyclists, pedestrians, and equestrians encounter each other at the rate they do on Maxwell, negative interactions are inevitable. Negative interactions involving bicycles harms the cycling community’s access to trails and involvement in trail management decisions. 

I feel the question worth discussing is: How well did the City of Fort Collins address the issues with Maxwell while preserving the existing user experience and providing for further enjoyable user experiences? 

The City of Fort Collins addressed the sustainability issues on Maxwell. The new design of the trail allows for better water runoff and gives more space for users to pass. However, the decision to use fill dirt to achieve these goals is incompatible with preserving the technical challenges of the trail, unless rock work is also conducted to create new technical challenges. The choice against creating new technical challenges does not align with the City’s goal of preserving the challenging experience of Maxwell. 

The City addressed some user conflict issues through widening the trail and adding rock piles to create a chicane. Thirty-six inches of trail tread width is the standard for single track in modern professional trailbuilding. This width allows users to pass without stepping off trail. The rock pile chicanes, however, do not achieve the goal of slowing downhill traffic as they do not force a cyclist to turn. 

Additionally, the wider, smoother trail encourages cyclists to travel faster in both directions. The choice of dirt is not conducive to stopping quickly on a bike. This in mind, I do not think that negative user conflicts will be reduced on Maxwell after this project. 

Now let’s talk about the berms. The City included the construction of banked turns in their plan to “aid trail users through turns.” These are certainly not the massive bike park berms that many of us enjoy riding, but they do allow cyclists to carry more speed through the corners. Most importantly, they signify a trail feature that was built specifically with cyclists in mind. This is a huge step toward mountain-bike-specific trail design in the Fort Collins area. 

The new Maxwell Trail is different. For some trail users, it is less fun than it was. For other trail users, it is more fun than it was. Ultimately, the City built a sustainable trail that, ignoring what lies beneath it, is pretty fun on a bike. I believe more technical challenges should have been incorporated, but I would have been fine with some challenges being eliminated. My hope is that because this trail is easier, more novice cyclists will use it, join the cycling community, and grow our presence in trail management decision making. 

I will knowledge that increasing accessibility is not always a good thing, such as in the context of fragile ecosystems. In these ecosystems, it is sometimes important to limit access to certain user groups or experienced users to limit damage. Also, restricting accessibility through technical trail features can enhance user safety through ensuring only more skilled trail users venture further into the backcountry. Accessibility is about context. In the context of a front country trail like Maxwell, where a user can travel via bike path nearly all the way to the trailhead, it is important to demand a less extreme leap in ability level. 

We demand a lot of our limited trail network in Fort Collins. Maxwell is expected to challenge advanced riders, accommodate novice riders, support thousands of different trail users, and preserve the natural environment around it. With these conflicting expectations, ultimately compromise must be made.

Selfishly, I want to see more trail built specifically for mountain bikes. Selfishly, I want the trails here to challenge me. Big picture, I want to see as many people enjoying our gorgeous natural surroundings in the way that brings them joy. 

Going forward, we need to express gratitude that the City is doing trail work at all and is building trail features with mountain bikers in mind. We need to provide thoughtful, polite, constructive feedback on ways to improve. We need to continue to grow the mountain bike community in a positive way and involve ourselves in trail management discussions. 

I will always hold fond memories of the old Maxwell. I will allow myself to enjoy the new Maxwell. Most importantly, I will be encouraging novice riders to try it out so they can experience the joy of looking out over Horsetooth and Fort Collins and feeling accomplished. 


 

 Jack Ellmer is a lifelong Fort Collins resident and former Crew Lead for Durango Trails. As long as he's been able to read, he has been living life on two wheels in Colorado. 

As is true for many, Maxwell is my go-to-trail if I want to get a quick ride in. I'm a middle-aged biker with some recent crashes who's never going to get a KOM. Maxwell (pre-refresh) was one of the more difficult trails around. It's not my favorite, but I can get to the trailhead quickly, and though it's often crowded I just enjoy getting out.

Let's be clear: Maxwell needed help. Erosion and heavy use over the last couple of seasons had turned a hard trail into a near-impossible trail in places. I enjoy a challenging climb, but the "shelf steps" in the middle and the top switchback were rarely attainable for me. I often would feel like I had lost a boxing match after finishing a Maxwell-Shoreline ride. There were areas of loose rock and obvious sections where erosion and widening had become issues.

The "refresh" certainly addressed a lot of these issues, but rather than thoughtfully attacking the problem, the city took a scorched-earth approach. The re-route of the gully section with the large rocks, that was tricky both climbing and descending, was totally unnecessary. Sure, that was a hard bit of trail, but I bet it drained better than the re-route will, and I was under the impression that we were trying to avoid new construction to decrease environmental impact. The methodology seemed to have been "pull all the rocks and pour dirt on it," and now we're left with piles of loose soil that are already starting to erode into an off-camber mess. The bermed turns are fun and definitely add "sinuosity" (as the city's summary document states), but bikers will be able to carry much more speed on descent making for more user conflicts than we already had. As a profoundly mediocre mountain biker, I think we need more moderate trails in Fort Collins. But it's a shame that they had to take a beloved, if difficult, existing trail and turn it into a green. 

Even more concerning to me is what seems to be the complete disregard of a growing population of trail users. Mountain biking is gaining popularity, and riders are generally younger, professional taxpayers who support communities that invest in trails. Moab was always going to have droves of tourists, but mountain biking has brought more visitors year-round. Better case-studies are Duluth, MN, Bentonville, AR, and Marquette, MI, where investments have been made in mountain biking trails and the communities are reaping the benefits in revenue. I understand that Maxwell is a multi-use trail. I also get that mountain bikers have a bad rap, which we sometimes (though rarely) deserve. But for the city to continue to overlook this segment of trail users in favor of folks out for an occasional walk is extremely short-sighted. I hike as well, and would much rather have the interesting trail that Maxwell was than a wide avenue of loose dirt to get calf-cramps on.

I hate to dish on the hard-working people that have put effort into Maxwell. I do think that if we (ever) get some rain and as the trail gets more use, we are going to see a lot of the soil settle and the "refresh" will change shape. As someone aptly pointed out on NoCo Trail Conditions, you can still find technical features, you just have to be creative. The "Shoreline" section of Foothills is harder than ever, given all of the use and wash-out, so I still feel battered afterward. And at least the climb is a lot easier now...

What happened on Maxwell is really an assault on the community at large, and more specifically on the mountain bikers that call Fort Collins home. Fort Collins is a mountain bike town, supporting eleven bike shops not to mention a multitude of mountain bike clubs, teams, and bike related businesses (i.e. Fat Tire, a symbol that has become iconic to Fort Collins) . I would also like to remind us that Fort Collins is one of five platinum level Bicycle Friendly Communities in the country and of those five, we are the only city to have an extensive system of mountain bike trails within riding distance of town. Maxwell was a well loved, critical link, and it has now been forever altered. Coupling Maxwell and Shoreline trails offered riders the perfect loop from town, especially for folks trying to stay fit and healthy while also managing everyday life. It was fun and technical and challenging and relatively well maintained; a resource that will be sorely missed. 
I am still not entirely clear of the primary reason for such a drastic redesign of a well loved local trail, but I will offer a brief rebuttal for two possible positions: 
Over-use/Trail user conflict: The new design will only encourage more cyclists and hikers to use the trail. I also predict that the new design will result in faster descending speeds for cyclists that may or may not have the skill set to properly navigate the fast, loose corners. This is particularly concerning as more parents take to Maxwell with their young children, cyclists and hikers alike. With the current design I predict significantly more trail users and exponentially more trail user conflict/risk exposure. 
Erosion: Having worked for a variety of trail organizations over the years, the trail conditions on Maxwell did not appear to be egregious from a soil conservation perspective. The complete redesign/reroute of Maxwell, from my perspective, seems excessive given my understanding of the issues.
Ultimately, this feels like a decision that was made for the people of Fort Collins without proper representation of  the opinions and perspectives of the community. 
I look forward to meeting with Ryan Kobut with Natural Resources in order to learn more details!

A friend of mine who is more of a casual mountain biker recently asked me if the Maxwell trail had been closed. Apparently he had seen a social media post of some kind with a cryptic ‘RIP Maxwell’ caption.

 

My response was that I knew it had been closed because the city was doing work on it but I thought it had since been reopened. I had also seen some cryptic remarks on Strava but hadn’t paid much attention. Full disclosure: I haven’t ridden the new Maxwell trail for the same reason I didn’t often ride the old Maxwell trail; it’s just too busy.

 

I have, however, seen a couple of POV videos of the trail and, of course, have witnessed the pitchfork wielding mob on a local (anti)social media page that shall remain unnamed.

 

My opinion is that it is what it is. I think I understand why Fort Collins did what it did with Maxwell and I am ok with it. I understand that there is a big world with a lot (too many) of (crazy) people out there that don’t share my specific interest in the trail and that’s why I’m ok with what they did. There are also a LOT of alternatives nearby which makes me even more ok with it.

 

Warning: the following is based purely on my unreliable memory...It could be inaccurate.

 

When I moved to Fort Collins 25 years ago, what we now call the ‘Maxwell Trail’ didn’t have a name. Most people I knew called it ‘The A Trail’ and it was a pretty scraggly primitive goat trail up the side of the hill. I’m not even sure Maxwell (or any other Natural Areas) even officially existed at the time. There definitely weren’t parking lots, bathrooms, trailheads, trail markers, etc. (side note: Blue sky, Coyote Ridge/Rimrock Soapstone Prairie, Bobcat Ridge also didn’t exist...at all. Devil’s Backbone was 1 trail (the current hiking trail))

At that time there weren’t a lot of people and there were fewer mountain bikers. The trail was steep and loose and...hard. 

 

At some point the city stepped in and rerouted the trail mainly to help reduce erosion since several parts of the trail ran right down the fall line. This work put the trail into roughly it’s former route that existed up until a month or two ago.

 

The route was a marked improvement but was still loose and technical and quite difficult in some places and also still prone to erosion. During this time period, trail use also started increasing. As Fort Collins grew, official Natural Areas with facilities like parking lots and bathrooms started popping up which increased accessibility to the trail and increased traffic even more.

 

The next major change was when the city, in an attempt to control erosion on the new reroute, armored several parts of the trail. They took out the loose rocks and babyhead rocks and put in rock armor. Social media didn’t exist at the time (This was early 2000s) but I don’t remember anyone complaining. The trail was a little easier in spots but it was also less annoying, more usable, and more sustainable.

 

It stayed that way for years. As traffic grew so did erosion, cheater lines, damage, etc. So here we are, they stepped in again and basically went with a clean slate that has apparently personally offended a large group of folks out there.

 

Here’s my take on the reasoning for the ‘dumbing down’ of the Maxwell trail.

 

First: this is the main access point to what I call the ‘frontside’ trails in Fort Collins. It probably sees more multi-use visitors than any other local trail. This is the trail that people take their friends and family to when they visit for that easy, backyard taste of the area.

 

Because it sees so much traffic and because it sees so many types and abilities of users, it has to be very sustainable and, honestly, reasonably easy.

 

You can cry about the ‘dumbing down’ and the ‘least common denominator’ but it is what it is. 

 

To use a skiing analogy, you don’t have black or double black runs as the only way back to the base area. 

 

To use a driving analogy, I have had high performance driving instruction and track experience in cars and on motorcycles. I wish I could drive up to my capabilities on the way to work and that the road looked like the Nurburgring but since not everyone else has those skills, here we are...dumbed down.

 

I can see that and, as much as I may not like it, I understand the need for it. Maxwell kind of needs to be what it is and that’s ok. Yeah it was a fun trail before but with the kind of traffic that was on it, one couldn’t really use it to its potential which is why I tended to stay away from it  except at times when I knew I’d be the only one out there.

 

There’s not a conspiracy here. The city has to take a lot of variables into account when it plans these kinds of things. It’s not a personal attack. They’re trying to make something that everyone can use that is cost-effective and can last a reasonable lifespan with minimal maintenance. To me it looks kind of ridiculous when a special interest group instantly starts whining about it and even as one who is in that special interest group, it turns me off. By the way, the trail will evolve. If you’ve been riding local trails for any amount of time, you know they evolve and change as they weather.

 

Maxwell was never meant to be a Sick Hardcore(™) mountain bike trail. Maybe it evolved into that a little but that was never the intent. It’s a freeway from the bottom to the top to shuttle the most people as efficiently and safely as possible.

 

Second: It’s not like there aren’t local alternatives. You want technical? go to Reservoir Ridge.

 

 I will admit here that Fort Collins has a weird history when building trails.

 

The route at Reservoir Ridge is great but, yes, the rocks can be annoying. My understanding is that the city told the trail builders to leave the trail ‘natural’ and not move any rocks. They did this and received a load of complaints from mountain bikers about how there was no ‘flow’. Is it at all surprising, then, with the Maxwell reroute they took the rocks out? Oh, but now it’s too smooth! Make up your mind! Maybe you can start to see where they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t. (the rerouted trail to the ‘A’ is rocky like this as well).

 

They did a great job on the Shoreline Trail reroute and recently added in some ledges and drops just for us. Unfortunately, the reservoir is about to swallow some chunks of that trail up so expect some changes there soon as well.

 

If you want a more technical experience there are plenty of trails for that. Wathen, Mill Creek, Spring Creek, Stout, Herrington, Upper Timber, Howard, Ginny, even Sawmill are all local ‘natural’ trails that should challenge you. Want more challenge? Ride faster. 

 

Finally: I’m glad that the City of Fort Collins has all the natural areas and trails it does and maintains them and allows free access (yes, I know we pay with taxes). That’s pretty amazing. In addition, Lory State Park and Larimer County do an excellent job of maintaining some pretty fantastic multi-use trails that are also fun to ride.

 

I can’t really think of any other ‘dumbing down’ trails in any of the local trail systems other than fixing small portions for sustainability sake.

 

A short list of some awesome recent reroutes and improvements: (some with the help of local organizations such as Overland Mountain Bike Club)

 

Lory:         New ‘Quarry Ridge’ trail

                 2020 features added to Kimmons Trail 

                 Switchbacks/ berms improved on lower Timber Trail

                 Expert Alt line on South Valley trail

                 New bike park expansion in progress

 

Larimer County: Sawmill reroute and ‘Skidder Rocks’

                           Nomad reroute to Sawmill north and south

                           Hidden Valley (flowy berm trail...bikes+runners only!) at Devil’s Backbone

 

Fort Collins: Lower Cheyenne Ridge reroute at Soapstone Prairie

                     Features added to Shoreline Trail

                     On The Rocks trail at Bobcat Ridge

 

I’ve been riding this area for a long time and have seen the type and amount of trails grow and grow. I now have to pay for access to some of them but the couple hundred dollars it costs me to have a county and state park pass is totally worth it for the amount I ride and the city natural areas are free! We are very fortunate to live where we do and have the resources we have. Please take a moment to think about this, take a few deep breaths, and get out and enjoy the trails.

 

Epilogue:  I forgot to mention this above but I think that many agree the ultimate solution to the ‘Maxwell Problem’ would be to have a ‘bikes only’ trail, perhaps downhill only that ran next to or near the new reroute. There is some local precedent to this such as On the Rocks at Bobcat Ridge. Some of the newer trails and natural areas also include restrictions to trail use (bikes and runners only, hiking only, no horses, no bikes, etc.) While I think this works well in some areas, my guess is that it would be an enforcement nightmare with the amount of traffic (especially inexperienced traffic) that Maxwell receives.

 

 When the Hidden Valley trail opened at Devil’s Backbone, it was (and still is) runners and bikes only. There were constantly hikers on it despite the signs. This irked me a bit because if I so much as put a tire print on a ‘no bikes’ trail, every Karen in the universe would instantly call 911. It took at least a year, metal gates with signs, and rangers writing a lot of tickets to get hikers off that trail. With somewhere like Maxwell, I think the city may have decided they didn’t want to deal with it. That, and I’m not sure how they weigh environmental factors when cutting a brand new trail, costs, easements, etc. etc. 

 

It is very easy to complain about Maxwell Trail Refresh Project, but it’s very hard to criticize. The resulting trail reflects the goals of the Foothills Management plan, which are logical and methodical. Six of the seven stated goals of the project are related to trail sustainability and durability. It also notes that Maxwell trail was “originally designed for hikers not cyclists”. If you go even deeper into the documentation, it seems the committee was also anticipating the proposed Hughes development, which would’ve brought a lot more traffic to the trail. Who knows if/when that will happen, but I digress.

Before I lose you to the scroll, here’s the bottom-line up front: Maxwell trail was designed and built in a different time with fewer users and more hikers. Over the years, the people of Fort Collins and the environment shaped it until lively contours emerged like a sculpture from stone. I posture that Maxwell trail was well-loved because it was eroded and eroded because it was well-loved. What trail builders might call “a dangerous and un-maintainable trench” others might call the best damn trail in the collective backyard of Fort Collins.

Trail durability doesn’t have to be at the expense of a trail’s fun factor, but as IMBA references in its trail-building guide, “In an era that has been defined by trail-building principles like the Half Rule, 10 percent average grade, and contour trails, it can be easy to miss the mark when designing and building bike trails for the appropriate level of rider skill and challenge.” Fort Collins Natural Areas laudably brought in an outside and very expert trail builder who – I think – suggested a few ways to maintain The Fun while creating a sustainable trail. Something about two trails or additive segments, who knows. I will never know which recommendations were made and which ones were implemented, but from my own jaunt down the new trail, the fun factor was gone. Or at least, very different. More on that later.

Let’s be clear about one thing – the vast majority of the Fort Collins community liked the trail as it was. According to the 2017/2018 survey data, 98% of respondents at Maxwell perceived their overall experience as “excellent”. Wow. That’s a great score. The top reason for that experience was because of natural beauty. The second reason was because of the quality of the trails. If you look at the survey results, only ~20 people voiced concerns with trail conditions, which represents < 5% of survey respondents.

As for conflict and crowding on the trail, most people found that to be tolerable too. Although 40% of people felt that the trail got crowded, 83% or more of all trail users never saw other people being unsafe or discourteous. The data seem to back up what I felt anecdotally as a regular user of Maxwell: yeah, I’m not alone in the wilderness, but this is my community out here. While conflict wasn’t non-existent, the majority of people were courteous and felt respected. As a mountain biker, I never minded pulling over for hikers or trail runners; I was just happy to be there.

Maxwell wasn’t a just throughway to somewhere else…it was the destination. When I started riding it as a mountain biker, I couldn’t do a lot of the technical features. But they were intermittent, and I could still ride the sections in-between. Then, as someone who wanted to get better, I practiced. I rode to the trailhead of Maxwell several times a week. It was a place to unwind mentally and challenge myself technically. I’ll never forget the day I rode up Maxwell and cleared all the technical hurdles. Even after that, the trail didn’t lose its luster. There was always something I could do better, do differently.

I feel sorry for the next wave of beginner mountain bikers who will never cut their knobs on those rocks. To quote a friend who quoted John Assarap: A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there. Pineridge natural area already offered 7+ miles of easy trail. Foothills trail offers another 3-ish miles of relatively easy trail with scenic views. In a chorus of variety, Maxwell was the amicable stepping stone somewhere between the friendly flow of Pineridge and the toothy jaws of Michaud.

My enthusiasm for Maxwell also extends beyond mountain biking. I used to trail run there. I craved the mental sharpness and focus it required to be light on my feet between the rocks. Stresses of life and work fall away when you must focus on what’s right in front of you. As a hiker, I appreciated how it looked at a different pace, and how I could show visitors an interesting trail just miles from my house. What makes a trail feel natural is variety, unevenness, rocks, roots, divots, and curves. This is why we seek them out over sidewalks and gravel roads.

Now, the trail is smooth… and very fast. It’s lacking any technical sections, and there are still some blind corners. Given all this, I’m worried that the new trail will encourage more conflict between hikers and cyclists. Already, 4% of respondents felt that mountain bikers were traveling too fast. That’s a pretty small number, but according to trail building guides like that of Castle Rock, “A slightly wider tread allows users to pass, while technical features reduce speeds and add variety.” Before the refresh, it was quite common to see cyclists stopped going downhill as they evaluated a technical section. Now I fear that cyclists going too fast won’t be able to stop in time.

To all the people who spent hours, months, and years both in paid and unpaid time working on the refresh of the Maxwell trail, let me be clear: I do appreciate you. I appreciate that you’re looking out for the health of our trail systems and the ecological sustainability of our natural areas. But if a degraded trail is loved more for what it became than what it was intended to be, what can we learn from the Maxwell refresh? What can we do to preserve the soul of a trail alongside the soil?

Photo by Paul KummPhoto by Paul Kumm

By Celeste Cannon

Stop riding the struggle bus! Your guide to mountain bike clinics

 

You’ve been riding for a while and there’s a few things you would really like to work on.  Maybe it’s figuring out how to tackle a switchback or conquer rock gardens.  Maybe you want to shred some bike parks and learn to jump.  Maybe you’re just tired of getting passed on technical sections during races. No matter what your interest, there is a clinic out there for you!

 

Mountain bike clinics are a fantastic way to take your riding to the next level.  The coaches have been trained to see what mistakes you're making and offer solutions to help you fix them, unlike your friend or significant other who make unhelpful suggestions like “Stop using your brakes,” “Just go faster!” and over and over, “Look up!”

 

I first started riding in 2003 and racing in 2004.  There were no mountain biking clinics at that time so I created quite a few bad habits that led to a lot of crashes and frustration.  When I think back I’m amazed I kept riding. I have attended several clinics in the last four years, and I give those experiences credit for taking me from a bottom-half expert level cross country rider to Pro.

 

TYPES OF CLINICS

 

Which is the right clinic for you?  It depends on what specifically you’re interested in learning and how much time and money you have to dedicate.  

 

Half-day clinics tend to host a single group with a single instructor and will cover specific skills like general riding, down-hilling or jumping.  They usually cover very broad techniques--some may be too easy or too difficult for you--as they usually try to cater to the “typical” rider.  These are generally reasonably priced (sometimes free) and give a lot of good information, although maybe not as helpful as longer clinics.

 

Full day and weekend clinics or camps will usually break into specific groups based on skill level and number of participants.  Often you will get a survey to get you into the right group with others with experience and interest.  This is the ideal place to try to tackle some of those techniques you’ve been looking to improve like navigating switchbacks or rock gardens.  They generally will have a low instructor to student ratio to give you lots of feedback and opportunities for drills.  The larger clinics will have portable features like step-up boxes and drop-off ramps that will allow you to progressively improve your comfort level.  

 

Although these camps and clinics are pricier than half-day clinics, you can definitely get the most one on one attention for your particular interest.  Sessions are usually divided into morning and afternoon sessions which build on each other.  A second day offers you a chance to learn more and nail those skillsnafter a good night’s rest!

 

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF CLINICS

 

First you’ll need to have a mountain bike (duh!).  Make sure it is in good working order (have your favorite local bike shop check it out), and that it fits you well.  Ideally you’ll have ridden it a few times.  Some camps offer the option to rent or demo a bike, but there’s always a bit of time you’ll have to spend figuring out how that particular bike handles.  If you’re wanting to work descending rough terrain or jumping then having a bike with good suspension is a must.  

 

In addition to the bike you need to have the right equipment.  A lot of clinics recommend using flat pedals to learn the skills properly (no cheating with clipless pedals) and you won’t be trying something scary while worrying about getting stuck in your pedals.  Platform pedals should have traction pins and your shoes should have smooth soles.  Do not bring the plastic ones from your old Huffy or you’ll just be sliding off!  Knee pads, elbow pads and a full face helmet are often recommended and must-haves for downhill/jumping clinics. If you don’t have these try to borrow them or inquire about renting.

 

General skills clinics will have a lot of information for new mountain bikers, but you should have several single track rides under your belt, be able to shift effectively, and have the fitness to ride for a few hours.  The learning curve for mountain biking is steep, so you’ll learn a lot on your own at first; then you’ll have a better idea of the areas you need help with.

 

Keep an open mind.  If you’re a more advanced rider, you may find your initial clinic to be full of information you think you already know, like how to brake, body positioning, etc.  Really listen to your instructor.  They often have feedback or suggestions that may revolutionize your riding and solve a lot of your skills issues. We learn a lot on our own but sometimes we learn and repeat bad habits! Even the Pros bring it back to the basics time and time again.

 

If you are attending a clinic with different skill level groups and you think you’re in the wrong group then be sure to speak up.  Remember, this is your time and money, so make sure you get the most out of it.  At my first clinic, I thought we were covering too remedial skills and I mentioned this to my instructor.  She assured me they were just going over the basics and there would be more advanced skills to come--she was definitely right!  Fortunately I did pay attention while we were covering the basics and found them incredibly helpful for the more advanced skills.   I’ve also attended a clinic where I felt I was in the wrong group, didn’t say anything and felt like I totally wasted my time.  Clinic organizers spend a lot of time going over surveys trying to create the right groups, but riders’ assessments of their own skills are extremely variable so say something if you feel you need more or less of a challenge.

 

One important thing to ask--is the clinic at a location that will help with what you want to learn?  If you’re mainly interested in learning to jump then ski resorts have the best features for learning. On the other hand, a place like Moab, while having opportunities to launch off big rocks, doesn’t necessarily have progressive features to help you learn.  If you’re not sure, contact the clinic organizer before you register.

 

If you’ve never tried a clinic, you should definitely give it a go!  Even if you only have the time or money for a half-day clinic, professional instructors have a wealth of knowledge and experience that can take your riding to the next level.  Plus, you’ll have fun and meet new people who you may find yourself riding with later.  If you have attended a skills clinic, then you already know how much they can improve your riding! Perhaps this is the year you sign up to rocket your skills even further.

 


 

Celeste Cannon is professional XC mountain bike racer who divides her time between training and working for the CSU Veterinary teaching hospital as an equine nurse.  In 2017, she won the “40 in the Fort” and was the first women’s “Tooth or Consequences MTB Festival” winner. This year, she is riding for the Scheel’s Sugar Beets and looking forward to another amazing season.

 


 

Scheel’s Sugar Beets p/b Scrimshaw Tattoo is a new elite women’s race team with the goal of empowering women through riding and racing.  The Sugar Beets will be hosting several rides and clinics this year, and will be attending the Trek Dirt Series in Fruita September 22-23  http://www.dirtseries.com/fruita. Come join us!

Sugar Beets Social 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SugarBeetsCycling/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sugarbeetscycling/

By Dr Jason Barker of the Natural Athlete's Clinic

Originally published on the Natural Athlete's Clinic website. https://www.naturalathleteclinic.com/

PostWorkoutMealNaturalAthlete 2048x.progressive

Nutrition lore has drilled into our heads the ‘importance’ of consuming a post-exercise meal after every workout.

“Your body needs the carbs” they say.

“You need calories to recover” they say.

“You won’t have enough energy to get through the rest of your day” they say.

Much of this info is based on earlier studies that led to the theory of the Anabolic Window. This refers to a brief window of time immediately after workouts where your body is primed to absorb all those good nutrients and put them to work, refueling glycogen stores and rebuilding torn down muscles. They made it sound as if you didn’t get those nutrients in within that small sliver of 30 or so minutes immediately after your workout, all those gains would be lost.

With all new information, old paradigms are tough to shed, especially when it comes to nutritional science.

So, I want to set the record straight on this newer scientific information, so you can better understand how and when you should consider post-exercise refueling.

One caveat to start with however, is that what I’m about to tell you doesn’t pertain to endurance training - training sessions that are greater than 2 hours. That’s a different beast and doesn’t pertain to the anabolic window.

What I am referring to is meal timing after workouts under two hours in length. For many of us, the majority of our workouts probably fall into this category (even endurance athletes have shorter workouts some days!).

Here are 3 reasons why you shouldn’t stuff your face ASAP after a shorter workout:

  1. Protein timing is NOT a factor in the anabolic window.

    True - after an intense workout your body is primed to receive nutrients for refueling and recovery. In the past (and well, it still happens!) there’s been this almost alarmist message that you HAVE to get your protein in after a workout, or it was all for naught and your muscles would shrivel on the vine that day. This just isn’t true - athletes who consumed large amounts of protein immediately post workout fared no better than athletes that consumed the same amount of protein throughout the day in newer studies. 

    So, you can relax and not have to worry about chugging your protein immediately after. You can get your protein replaced throughout the day, using real food if you prefer. By the way, there’s nothing wrong with a protein shake right after your workout. It won’t hurt you whatsoever. All I’m saying is that it just isn’t necessary to have all of your protein right then and there ( your gut will probably thank you). But you do need to get your protein in over the next 6-8 hours, that’s for sure.

  2. Cortisol suppression.

    Cortisol is all too often labeled as the bad guy. Cortisol really isn’t ‘bad’; it’s just a factor we can look to when things are out of balance. By now you’ve probably heard that excess cortisol helps you store fat and gain weight in unfavorable places (i.e. your gut). Oftentimes we’re told (incorrectly) that if you don’t eat immediately after that workout, you’ll suffer the ravages of unchecked elevations in cortisol.

    This isn’t exactly true. We actually want and NEED that acute post-exercise cortisol spike - cortisol oversees the muscle and tissue rebuilding/remodeling process through a complex orchestra of pro-inflammatory mediators. That is where the gold is after a strength workout, and this is where ‘inflammation’ is good!

    Consuming carbohydrates during and immediately after that workout will actually blunt that acute cortisol release, thereby putting the brakes on that muscle recovery process. No, it won’t completely abolish all of your gains, but it definitely impedes the process enough to where we recommended you don't bomb your gut with tons of carbs immediately after.

    Back to the cortisol - as I just said acute  elevations are good for you, but chronic elevations aren’t. This is more of a problem for endurance athletes and stress cadets, whose lifestyle if full of stressors in all forms - it all contributes to chronic elevations in cortisol over time and that’s when you start seeing problems with weight/fat tissue, insomnia, fatigue and overall energy.

  3. Too many calories.

    I’ve said this again and again. Throw out all the sports drinks, bars, gels and fuel sources you’ve been told you must consume during and immediately after your (under 2-hour) workout. You won’t get dehydrated (despite what our friends at Gatorade have brainwashed us to think). You won’t starve to death, and you certainly WILL make it through.

    Think about it. We’re really not that far off from our hunter and gatherer ancestors (No, I’m not going on a paleo tangent here…;) ) We didn’t evolve eating every 2 hours and fueling up during the hunt (aka workout ala 21st century). We’re made to store fuel, to persist and endure. Not much has changed in that realm. You WILL survive the gym for 2 hours, I can assure you of that.

    Despite the nutritional dogma, your body has huge amounts of fuel stored for exercise in the form of carbohydrate (glycogen) and fat (not that you’re going to break into those stores in a short workout). If you replace energy (sports drinks, gels, bars, etc), you’re going to be pushing up very closely to the calories you’ve just burned. If your goal is weight loss, then you need to run from the idea of fueling during your workouts. If you’re looking for muscle gains, you also need to avoid these fuels due to the aforementioned blunting of acute cortisol release.  

So, now what?

To summarize, if you’re working out less than 2 hours, stop consuming anything with calories in it. You don’t need the calories, you want some cortisol to be released, and you don’t have to freak out and chug your protein immediately after. Do your workout. Drink lots of water. Go take a shower, and have your protein now or throughout the day.

You’ll recover just the same, and your goals of either weight loss or muscle protein synthesis will be all the more attainable.


About the Natural Athlete's Clinic:

Website: https://www.naturalathleteclinic.com/pages/its-about-you-a-healthier-balanced-you

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NaturalAthleteClinic

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NatAthClinic

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/naturalathleteclinic/

 

reno2This is an opinion piece by Reno Toffoli. Reno's opinions don't necessary represent the opinions of Your Group Ride or its advertisers but I always enjoy his rants. If you'd like to write an article for YGR, please email me at info@yourgroupride.com


Be sure to check out Reno's 10 Tracks place list here: https://goo.gl/f82hoK

I’m not really sure how to start this out so I’ll just jump in. You may have previously seen articles by me scattered across these (web) pages lamenting the various degrees of how the cycling industry and especially the mountain bike side of the industry seemed to be releasing a never ending amount of ‘improvements’ that, in my mind, had questionable merit. On top of this, other seemingly proven items or aspects of bike design were disappearing…fast.

Now this wasn’t the only thing I wrote articles about but it seems that it’s what’s been remembered, at least by El Presidente of YGR who recently asked me to write this follow up. Why a follow up? Well, it happened to come up that I had pretty much adopted all of the things I had previously rallied against or at least was skeptical of. Why would I do this? How could I sell out my retro-grouchiness and quasi-luddite online persona and become just another mindless sheep who bought everything the evil industry produced? The answer is pretty simple: I found a solution to a problem or a need that these new products fulfilled. And let’s not get ahead of ourselves, I haven’t bought in to everything, just most of it, at least most of it that I have tried.

Catching up with the industry has been part legitimate need, part curiosity, and part domino effect. The progression started when I was coaxed over to 29” wheels which allowed me to ride faster over rougher terrain without hanging up. As I rode faster with big wheels, my riding improved and my riding style started to change. One of the things I noticed was that as I adapted to the new wheel size, my cornering technique changed and my descending style changed. This brought up weaknesses in my technique which I worked to correct but it also became apparent that in some situations I was reaching the limits of my equipment.

The problem with reaching the limits of your gear is that to extend those limits, you need new gear and need to experiment to find the new gear that suits you. That’s a potentially expensive proposition because the only real way to find out if it works for you is to buy it and try it. Of course, reading online reviews can help but there’s only so many times I can handle the adjectives ‘playful’ and ‘stiff’ without wanting to puke. The other thing is that online reviews tend to all be of the 5 star ‘best-thing-I-ever-used’ variety and it’s hard to find real objective, fact based reporting.

For me, function is always greater than fashion and everything has advantages and disadvantages. When I am searching out solutions to the shortcomings of my gear, I’m always looking for that balance that ticks the right boxes of function, price, longevity, weight, etc. What inevitably happens is that I notice that the thing I had previously been skeptical of may really fill a need that I just recently discovered I had.

The thing that sometimes holds me back is a previously bad (and expensive) experience with a certain something new. Good examples of this for me were my initial forays into tubeless tire setups and slack head tube angles. Both were disasters. The tubeless thing was an unreliable pain in the ass that constantly let me down on the trail and my slack head tube bike handled like a school bus. That put a bad taste in my mouth for both of those things and it wasn’t until several years later when both had been better sorted by the industry that they actually worked as intended. I think the most important lesson I learned was that it’s better or at least cheaper and less frustrating to have a semi skeptical ‘wait and see’ attitude toward these kind of advancements. I learned that being an early adopter in the cycling industry means that you’re sometimes as much a guinea pig as a customer.

Another thing that tends to turn me off of new trends is the extremes they inevitably get taken to. It seems that if wider bars and shorter stems are good, then suddenly every stem is 30mm and every bar is 810mm. Folks seem to buy the most extreme versions of new products regardless of whether it will benefit them perhaps because some bro-brah somewhere said it was cool. Never mind that the bro-brah in question was 6’4” and actually needed that 810mm wide bar. In my mind, Moderation is the key to everything. Of course the extremes need to be probed a little bit so that we know where the limits are or where the advantages end. When it comes down to it, though, the best returns are usually not found at the extremes.


Anyway, my progression of catching up/ giving in/ selling out went like this: The 29” wheel gave way to appropriately wide bars and a short stem for my size and bike. As I went faster and faster and was really carving corners up, I noticed my saddle was constantly in the way and limiting my descending and cornering ability. Next up was a dropper and holy cow what a game changer it was. It initially felt a little awkward mainly because my legs weren’t used to supporting my full weight for long descents but once my strength increased, all bets were off. I can’t even imagine riding without a dropper now. If I go down any kind of incline without my saddle lowered at least slightly, I feel like I’m about to go over the bars.

With the dropper freeing up even more speed and handling ability, I decided I wanted more travel so I got it. What came with more travel was a frame that was more slack in the head tube but with a steeper seat angle and a shorter rear triangle. This was another game changing moment. The school bus feel of my previous slack frame was gone. The high speed stability was awesome but the short chainstays helped the bike feel agile and the steep seat tube angle helped it climb and put my weight more in the center of the bike; cornering ability also took a big jump forward.
This bike also came with wide rims which really helped my tires reach the volume I wanted. Improvements in tire and rim design meant that tubeless actually worked now and after a lot of research and pouring over gear ratios and weighing all the pluses and minuses I made the switch to a 1x drivetrain.

The domino effect of all of these changes means that the bikes I own today are completely different in appearance and performance than the ones I had just a few years ago. For me, they handle better, descend faster and smoother, corner better, and make my rides more fun. My riding style has changed drastically due to the changes and improvements in my gear. Because my strengths lie in descending and technical riding, these product improvements have played to my strengths as a rider and improved my experience. I could definitely see where for a different style of rider, things could be different.

My most recent epiphany of sorts was ditching my old steep, XC oriented hardtail for a fully up to date long(ish), low(ish), and slack all mountain hardtail. My new hardtail now rides and feels the same way my 160mm travel bike does and that suits me and my style. At least now I don’t have to slow down or risk going OTB when things get burly like I did with the old XC hardtail.
At this point, I’m making fewer giant steps forward in adopting new gear and looking at more subtle changes to setup. Slamming my cleats as far back as possible in my shoes (and having shoes with extended cleat slots) has changed things for the better. I’m now experimenting with more rebound damping than I used to run and also have really been studying fork offset and trail on my bikes to see how they’re different from each other and how that relates to how they handle.

I haven’t bought in to everything. I’m still pretty skeptical about the whole boost thing. My new hardtail frame is boost and I can’t tell any difference in anything other than I needed to buy a new rear wheel and chainring to build the bike. I’ve been running carbon rims but can’t tell if they’re stiff or not. With 160mm of squishy travel on one end and 2.4” of squishy tire on the other, don’t ask me what’s stiff, all I feel is squish. The bike goes where I point it so I guess it’s stiff enough. I like carbon rims because they don’t dent.

I think the lesson in all of this is be skeptical but still be open to change once the benefits of change are evident. Beware that change can be difficult and expensive and requires experimentation. Your experiment may fail which means you’ll have to sell off your failure on Craigslist for pennies on the dollar. Whatever improves the ride for you is worthwhile and that’s what you should do. It’s good to give it all a try if you can and see where it takes you.

zack3Photo by Peter Discoe

YGR is partnering up with Zack Allison of Source Endurance and Source Endurance Training Center of the Rockies for a new weekly (or monthly, frequency TBD) training article.  The first couple articles are on topics I requested, if you have a specific question for Zack fire it at us via our various social media channels.  YGR links up high, Zack's links are down low. 
First up, 
Top 5 mistakes of the Self Coached Athlete. 


Many towns in the world have some form of a group ride. Having raced professionally, travelled, and done hundreds of regularly occurring group rides, there’s some great aspects of these rides and some negative ones as far as how to use them in training. Shout out to the Oval ride in Fort Collins, The Gateway Ride in Boulder, Swami’s ride in SoCal, The Shootout in Tucson, and Haine’s Point in DC, for being some of the fastest rides around. Each ride as their own format that we can use in training, The Oval ride in Fort Collins is 85 miles of pure drop ride where you will be over 3000 kilojoules by the time you make it to the finish. The Hain’s point ride in DC is an all out criterium style sprint, every 3 kilometer lap, on a non closed course and is about an hour long ride. Both are historic rides that have completely different types of training stimulus, so how do we use these rides properly to train our bodies the best we can? Here’s some do’s and don’ts

Do- go on group rides. These rides offer up a ton of skills and fitness to be gained. Drafting skills, pack skills, and tactical experience can all be gained on group rides of almost any kind. Especially if you’re getting into racing, having done group rides will give you a level of comfort in a group you would need a few races to get if you didn’t go on any group rides.

Do- go hard at times. We know that our best power and speed comes from racing or group rides where we are motivated by those around us. You can’t get that extra 10% of effort just by yourself on a ride. When you have a hard day, go hard on the group ride and you will produce a larger overload stimulus. If you’re advanced in ability or power analysis and you need to do some kind of field test to flesh out your power curve, a group ride may be a good opportunity for that hard effort.

Do - sprint, use tactics, have fun. I hear some people, after they make a tactically poor decision on the ride, say “its just for a workout” yes, we are getting a workout on the ride but the implications are deeper. You can use these rides to learn things about yourself and about racing. If you let yourself get worked over on every group ride and rationalize it as getting in a better workout you are teaching yourself how to get worked over in races. It’s a better workout mentally and physically if you figure out how to win the group ride. If you never sprint in practice or in a group ride, how can you expect yourself to understand that sprint dynamic in a race. You cannot expect to win a race without having to sprint at some point for the finish line.

Do - Put these rides in your training plan. Plan out a fatigue score, plan out when you’ll do the ride. Go hard and have fun on the ride knowing you’re there creating the proper overload stimulus for your training goals.

Don’t - be “that guy”. The group ride can be fast and heated but its still not a race, show compassion for your fellow group rider and don’t be overzealous. Even in a full drop ride there’s time to ride hard for the line and there’s times to be safe and aware of your surroundings. Attack or sprint to the line with panache and respect, after the ride, fist bump your competitor and remember how fun the ride is, you won’t always get to do these things in a real race.

Don’t - go on the ride and think its a rest day. I don’t care how nice the weather is, if you can use this ride to create fatigue, you can’t go on the ride and expect to ride easy and call it a rest day.

Don’t - do the group ride, every week, for the rest of time. If the group ride has been going on for 10 years straight, you will see that guy that has done the ride almost every day for all 10 years. Many times that super consistent rider has been the same speed for 10 years, not faster, not slower. You need to build fatigue to build fitness. If you do the same group ride for months at a time, you’ll see a rise in fitness as you adapt to the hard ride, then you will plateau. You need to change the overload stimulus to get new fatigue and new gains. Once you adapt to the ride, change it up, ride longer before and after, do intervals before or after, ride longer during the week, in some way you have to increase the fatigue to increase the fitness or you will stay that same speed forever.

If you see me out there on the group ride and you’re feeling frisky, I’ll happily lead you out, just tap me on the butt and say “sprint on.”


Zack earned his bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science at Colorado State University. As part of his education, he participated in many hands on exercise science practicum and internships, coaching many types of athletes, specifically cyclists.

Zack’s affinity for cycling started at the early age of 14 racing on the east coast. He quickly moved up the amateur ranks to race on the elite national circuit. This level of competition sparked his interest in exercise science, taking him to Colorado State University. While racing for his alma-mater and on various amateur teams he saw many podiums at the Collegiate Championships and Pro/Am events. Zack is currently living in Fort Collins, Colorado and has raced for Elevate Pro Cycling and currently races for Clif Bar.

Growing up with great mentors and coaches, Zack has a goal of paying it forward. He hopes to use his education and racing experience to bring success to Source Endurance and his clients.

Zack also owns and operated the Source Endurance Training Center of the Rockies, a training and bike fit studio in Fort Collins, CO.  

Follow Zack on online: 

https://www.facebook.com/zack.allison.za

https://www.instagram.com/zacharylallison/

https://twitter.com/ZacharyAllison?lang=en

Follow Source Endurance Training Center of the Rockies online: 
https://www.facebook.com/setcrockies?fref=ts

https://www.instagram.com/sourceecenter/

https://twitter.com/sourceecenter

 

zack3Photo by Peter Discoe

YGR is partnering up with Zack Allison of Source Endurance and Source Endurance Training Center of the Rockies for a new weekly (or monthly, frequency TBD) training article.  The first couple articles are on topics I requested, if you have a specific question for Zack fire it at us via our various social media channels.  YGR links up high, Zack's links are down low. 
First up, 
Top 5 mistakes of the Self Coached Athlete. 


Every so often at Source Endurance we get individualized consults done for the self coached athletes or we get athletes signed on that have been self coached and we get to see what they were up to before they signed on for coaching. There’s a few patterns that we see with self coached athletes along with patterns that us as coaches see when we coach ourselves vs others we would like to share.

 

Self coaching is a great place to start for better fitness. There are a ton of highly educated self coached athletes out there, this article is not meant to discredit hard work and good plans put together by self coached athletes. Self coaching from my perspective is like working on your car or painting your house. Maybe you want to do it yourself and you may do a great job, and it is your car or house, so you take extra time and care, but that service, when done by a professional, ensures quality and sustainability of services. Our clients have a much easier time gaining that fitness and reaching those goals without having to deal with the nitty gritty of coaching outlined below. Here’s some examples of how the profession of coaching can differ from the self coached athlete.

 

Accountability - Even before we look at any sort of quality of training, we can see that athletes with higher workout completion have greater fitness gains and are more likely to meet their goals. If you are accountable to a coach, you have a higher workout completion rate. We all know people that are hard workers and self starters and we know people that can follow directions really well but aren’t so good at getting it done when no one is looking. Having a coach means you’re accountable to two people. Yourself and your coach. A good coach can motivate athletes but training for cycling is a solo task a majority of the time. Being accountable to someone else can have a huge impact on motivation and workout completion.


Tools at hand - Ok you coach yourself, you’re saving that coaching fee per month. You will want to do it right for yourself. Get a training peaks account, $19 per month. Time away from work or other tasks to write workouts, what do you bill at? $30 an hour? Thats cheap. Do you want WKO metrics? $199. Assuming your on a computer system that can handle that. Research articles, books, “training bibles” there’s a few ways to obtain research but its not cheap. Exercise Physiology degree? You get the idea. Your coaching fee can seem like a high monthly cost but if you look deeper at how much that coach is giving you per hour and all the expertise, relevant degrees, and coaching tools that professional coach has at hand to provide a coaching service to you, that fee becomes reasonable and hopefully your daily workouts, feedback, and trainingpeaks metrics show you the value for your fee.


Objectivity - This is a fun and painful lesson to learn for the self coached athlete. Its rare that you will under prescribe fatigue to yourself. When writing your own training plan you’re thinking about getting that result and what it will take to out train your opponent so you can out ride them when the time comes. Your objectivity in what you can do as an athlete is not there. Setting realistic goals and reviewing all metrics takes experience and in most cases an objective viewpoint of your training and ability. For the self coached athlete I’d recommend looking at your Trainingpeaks or WKO account, look at the PD curve for all workouts and start there. Don’t let yourself look at your historical 20 minute power and just assume that it's lower than what you can do. Go out and self test, attempt to be objective and set objective goals.


Manic Training - Along the lines of Objectivity, it's easy to be bipolar or manic in your training. You scroll instagram and some frenemy is in warmer weather getting in big miles, next thing you know you’ve abandoned your objectively written training plan and you blow up 20 hours into an attempted 40 hour week. Then you get sick and have a week of down time. The cycle worsens and there’s no one to call you and ask the hard questions “why did you do that?” Clients frequently call me in February when they are in the largest single gain of training load of the season and they get dropped from a local ride when they think they should be killing it. As a coach I have to reassure them that the work is paying off and that they will be on form, just not right now. I can provide metrics to them to explain this fatigue process and periodization. It's hard to talk yourself off a ledge as a self coached athlete.


Volume vs. Intensity - As there’s more research studies coming out giving more weight intensity in training than pure volume, workout completion, prescribed intensity, and specify become more important in training plans. All the 4 points before this point lead into being able to correctly prescribe intensity vs. volume in a training plan. Self coached athletes tend to over prescribe volume and doubly bad they over prescribe total workout time to what they have physical time in the day for. In general our view of ourselves in many ways is better than our abilities. Its best to have a coach look at your files for objectivity. A coach can prescribe testing, and look at the numbers and say things like “no you’ve never done an effort close to 340 watts for 20 minutes so how why is your threshold set at 350 watts” Most people’s eyes are bigger than their legs and everyone on Instagram is doing 50 hour training weeks so it's easy to overtrain and over do the volume.


Those of you that know me and my coaching situation specifically will now say to your computer screen “Zack I know you coach yourself” and to that I say, I also change my own oil and paint my own house. Honestly, I think I could benefit from personalized coaching, and I have sought out help on a few occasions. I also over trained myself for years to learn these hard lessons. It is still hard to get someone to provide you a service you provide professionally to others.

We at Source Endurance are open to one time consults or personalized coaching so please don’t hesitate to ask for help even if it's just a second set of eyes on your training plan.


 Zack earned his bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science at Colorado State University. As part of his education, he participated in many hands on exercise science practicum and internships, coaching many types of athletes, specifically cyclists.

Zack’s affinity for cycling started at the early age of 14 racing on the east coast. He quickly moved up the amateur ranks to race on the elite national circuit. This level of competition sparked his interest in exercise science, taking him to Colorado State University. While racing for his alma-mater and on various amateur teams he saw many podiums at the Collegiate Championships and Pro/Am events. Zack is currently living in Fort Collins, Colorado and has raced for Elevate Pro Cycling and currently races for Clif Bar.

Growing up with great mentors and coaches, Zack has a goal of paying it forward. He hopes to use his education and racing experience to bring success to Source Endurance and his clients.

Zack also owns and operated the Source Endurance Training Center of the Rockies, a training and bike fit studio in Fort Collins, CO.  

Follow Zack on online: 

https://www.facebook.com/zack.allison.za

https://www.instagram.com/zacharylallison/

https://twitter.com/ZacharyAllison?lang=en

Follow Source Endurance Training Center of the Rockies online: 
https://www.facebook.com/setcrockies?fref=ts

https://www.instagram.com/sourceecenter/

https://twitter.com/sourceecenter