Posted August 2, 2004
A quick lesson with Shaums March

While I was in Whistler I hooked up with Shaums March to chat about some upcoming projects (more on that soon). After our breakfast meeting he taught a clinic with the gang from They let me tag along, which was super cool.

Shaums is a top pro downhiller and freerider. Lots of guys ride well, but Shaums has the special gift of teaching. He conducts group clinics and teaches one-on-one. Everyone I know who's studied under Shaums says they learned a ton. Shaums has put a lot of thought into his lessons, and he has an innate ability to communicate with riders of different levels.

He began our session with some cornering drills on a flat fire road, then we went up the hill. Shaums started in front to let us watch him, then he dropped behind each of us in turn, yelling tips as we went. It turned out my right turns were good, but I wasn't leaning the bike enough in left turns. In just a couple casual hours, I learned to look at my riding in a few new ways:

Lean the bike in the corners. We all know this, but Shaums told us to really accentuate it, to make sure our saddles touch our inside thighs. In the beginning, you should ride with your knees spread apart. When you get the hang of this, you can keep your knees close and point your hips into the corners. Every time I consciously leaned the bike like this, I railed a corner.

Photo: Duncan Riffle, one of Shaums' proteges, leans his bike against his inner thigh and points his hips where he wants to go in 4X practice.

Weight your pedals evenly. In corners where I drop my outside pedal, I always weight my outside pedal. The problem there, Shaums says, is if you're leaning just a bit, your weighted pedal tends to stand the bike up, which limits your cornering. This will take some practice, but I noticed the bike felt easier to maneuver with my weight on both feet. Also, I was able to carve corners at a 1:30 and 7:30 position and accelerate faster than if I was at 12:00 and 6:00.

Elbows out. This gives you greater leverage and support, and it keeps your elbows from hitting your body when you try to steer sharply. Wider bars help. This will take a lot of practice as well, but I'll say this: In the switchbacks I struggle with, I feel my elbows hitting my torso.

Judging by testimonials and my brief experience, I'd recommend a training session with Shaums March. I'll bet a one-on-one session will make you a new rider. For more info check out


One last thing: Shaums got behind me on Duffman, a pretty flat, very turny singletrack. I leaned my bike into the corners and hammered out of them. I pumped like a maniac and pedaled everywhere I could. Maybe it was the workload, or maybe it was the pressure of an insightful coach on my tail, but my heart rate was about 10,000. As I reached a clearing, Shaums rolled to my side and said, without a hint of effort, "Lee, you know what? I still haven't pedaled once."

That shows what smoothness and pump can do for you. But, you know, he didn't have to rub it in like that!

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