Learning to Mountain Bike Over 50: Member Highlight
Ryan Leech Connection (RLC) has been teaching people mountain biking skills online since 2015. This article was written by long time member, and now official RLC coach Jeff Neitlich.
I was a ‘late bloomer’ when it came to mountain biking. I bought my first mountain bike at age 48, and hesitated to get on it for almost a year for fear of getting hurt.
At my age, and with people depending on me to provide for them, I was reluctant. I rode it on the street, but avoided ‘real’ mountain bike trails.
When I turned 50, I finally got up the courage to hit a local Washington State trail, and had a total blast. Bouncing over roots, climbing tight switchbacks, going over small drops— who knew!
However, I quickly learned that I had a LOT to learn, and I still wanted to be safe. I started scouring Youtube for ‘tutorials.’ I didn’t find many of them all that helpful to me.
Learning to do a ‘skill’ from a 5 - 10 minute video of a pro making it look easy just seemed impossible. I did come across some amazing riders, like Danny Macaskill, Hans Rey, Brendan Fairclough, and of course, Ryan Leech.
Seeing not only the breadth of skills, but the discipline, fearlessness and balance was just mind boggling.
Great riders have great passion, and it is tangible and awe-inspiring.
Just before turning 51, I saw a post on Pinkbike promoting a ’30 Day Wheelie Challenge’ by Ryan Leech, who was now somewhat of a hero to me.
It was a skill I thought was impressive but way beyond my reach. This was a trick for the young, or those born with genes I didn’t have. But, I kept revisiting the post, and finally took the plunge!
Well, 30 Days later I could not wheelie. BUT, I could ride for 4 or 5 pedal strokes on my rear wheel, and not fall over. WOOOHOOO!
I was not only hooked, but I was having so much fun that I would sneak away from work multiple times a day to practice. It took me twice through the challenge, over a 4 month period, but in the end— I could wheelie!
Ryan was awesome. The challenge not only provided daily video and written lessons, but it gave me access to the master himself. Ryan was patient, thoughtful, supportive, encouraging, and friendly. He took a personal interest in me and my success— and did the same for hundreds of others at the same time.
He answered my daily barrage of questions, encouraged me when I got stuck, watched all of my video successes and failures, and cheered for me when I finally found what I call my ‘wheelie smile.’
Around the time I was finishing the wheelie challenge, Ryan’s website Ryan Leech Connection (RLC) was launched. At the time it offered a half a dozen skills courses, some yoga instruction, and some philosophy.
My skills on and off the trail were getting pretty decent, and I took every course. Luckily, the website grew as my skills and desire to improve grew— it was a match made in heaven!
RLC brought me from interested amateur to pretty decent mountain biker. I rode confidently, as safely as possible in a potentially dangerous sport, and had FUN!
About a year later, Ryan introduced the ‘Ambassador Program.’ The site had gotten large enough that Ryan thought that both he and the participants would benefit from some help— new perspectives, more contact, and more frequency of responses.
To my amazement, he asked me to be an ambassador. What??
While I had (and still have) a full time job, there wasn’t a chance I was passing this up! I continued to take courses as they became available, honed my skills, and improved my riding through helping others.
Ryan also helped me become a better instructor, giving me and the other ambassadors tips for coaching, and how to communicate his message, vibe and curriculum.
Now, I am 57 years old, and I am the newest RLC coach!
I get to interact with amazing people from all over the globe, help them improve their riding, share in their accomplishments, and be part of an amazing movement.
Furthermore, I get to interact directly and indirectly with one of my personal heroes. It is a dream come true! Now, let me be clear— I am NOT a pro level rider. I have no special gene nor innate talent. Much like my career as a physician, I have to work HARD to learn new skills, and I have to practice A LOT, to make them ‘mine.’
However, through Ryan and RLC I have learned that I can accomplish most things on a bike— I just have to decide what risks I am willing to accept, what challenges are worth those risks, and how much time I am willing to put in to learning them.
I still practice a lot. My driveway has grooves from my tires. If I can do this, most anyone can. You just have to have the desire, the attitude, the discipline— and a method that is as dedicated as you are.
What is Ryan Leech Connection?
RLC is an online mountain bike learning platform established in 2015 by Ryan Leech. Ryan has been a coach and a professional rider for the past 24 years and is currently sponsored by Norco, Shimano and Marzocchi. He's performed thousands of stunt shows around the world, including Cirque du Soleil, IMBA World Summit and Crankworx. Ryan has also appeared in dozens of MTB films, including The Collective and the Kranked series and is credited with progressing the sport of trials into a new era.
Ryan began developing tutorials to share his knowledge and skills with members of his community and quickly began to devote 100% of his time to this platform.
These courses are designed with thoughtful progressions to help every rider assess their current skill, and practice with appropriate progressions. For example, the cornering course contains 49 video lessons and the jumping course contains 76 lessons.
Along with detailed progressions, you also get 24/7 access to a world class coaching team. Ryan’s network of coaches and ambassadors provide detailed and customized feedback to anyone who has a question. If you submit a video, make a comment or send an email, you can expect to get personalized feedback within 24-48 hours.
Online MTB Skills Coaching Actually Works!
Over the last 4 years, RLC has helped thousands of riders reach their goals. We’ve received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from our members and we’ve seen them make some serious progress in their skills.
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