|NorCal coaches at our Tahoe summer coach retreat|
Welcome to the pre-season! Coaches, you are thinking about recruiting, bike checks, fun rides, training, and staffing your team. Here are some ideas from my experience, and from other coaches:
- Determine bike check strategy, whether you do it at fun rides, first practices, a team night-time event, or at your local shop.
- Put a piece of colored duct tape or a colored sticker on the bike to show that it’s passed bike check. What is bike check? “Shake, rattle and roll”, check for loose headsets, hubs, thru-axles, etc.; bounce it, roll it and look, listen.
- A, B, C, D: Air – Check that air pressure is appropriate for the rider’s weight, riding style, and riding terrain. Brakes – Check that brakes are properly set-up, maintained, and functional. Can the rider confidently reach the brake levers? Chain – is the chain lubed and moving freely? Derailleurs – does the bike shift correctly and consistently?
- Repeat bike check after the first two races; chains and brake pads wear fast.
- Another idea, get your sponsor shop a spreadsheet team roster, and have them set up bike check with the families of the riders, do the repair if the family wants it, report status to the head coach, ideally via a live, shared spreadsheet.
- Air pressure needs constant monitoring. Teach them how to find it by putting their whole body weight on the palm of one hand and pressing down hard; can they touch the rim? Add air until they can’t. (Coaches, take this one with a grain of salt.) Similarly, show them how the saddle always comes to the same place on their hip, standing next to it, when the saddle height is right; that’s how they can quickly return it to the right height, if they loosen QR or bolt and drop the seat.
- Now is a great time to teach them the names of the parts of the bike, how right and left brakes and shifters differ, (“Raise your right hand. That’s for your rear derailleur. Just remember “R”.) talk about using ‘harder’ and easier for changing gears, rather than numbers, or “big” / “small”, etc. Teach them to “ease the squeeze” on their brakes, learn to module brakes. “If I grab a tube of toothpaste and squeeze it hard, I’m going to make a mess. The same thing will happen if I grab my brakes hard.”
- Take the NICA on the Bike Skills 101 course ( I am offering it at both upcoming Coach Summits), and I’ll show you a trick for teaching your kids to avoid breaking chains.
- Make sure brakes are set up for one-finger braking. Why? Try grabbing your grips with four fingers, with three fingers, with two fingers, with one finger. They should be able to stop confidently with just their index finger, in-line with their hand and forearm. This is important. Adjust those brakes, or have the shop do it. Most have the levers too far outward, and beginners are squeezing the lever near its pivot, rather than at the end, where leverage is greatest.
- Have coaching questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org