Biking in the Bosch with Jo Dobinson
08 December 2016
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Hello and thanks for downloading another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast, I’m Gerald de Kock. We talk all matters mountain biking in this beautiful country of ours where the sport, well, it has created something of a cult around the country with so many different events to ride and outdoor environment second to none in South Africa.
The opportunity to ride our bikes, well, it’s all there for us to go and do and to enjoy the trails. Enjoying the trails means, I suppose, feeling confident on the trails and getting out there to really give your best and get the best out of your bike. For some people it might come naturally, but for most it’s something they have to work at, either themselves or with the assistance of a coach.
There are more and more around the country who are doing their bit to help us get better technically and I’m sitting alongside one, drinking a lovely looking cappuccino after a session of coaching this morning. Joanna Dobinson from Biking in the Bosch here in Stellenbosch. Jo, thanks for joining me. Biking in the Bosch, tell us about it.
Joanne Dobinson: Biking in the Bosch, I’ve got my own skills coaching company here in Stellenbosch. I absolutely am very blessed to be able to do what I love doing every day of my life, coaching people, teaching beginners all the way through to expert riders, how to get more out of the trail and more out of the bike, like you just said.
A passion born on the trails of Howick
GDK: It’s one thing, I love riding my bike, a lot of people love riding their bikes, clearly you do too, but where did it all start, mountain biking and getting on a bike?
JD: Gerald, I grew up in Howick and many of you have ridden the Howick trail network created by Ken Pascoe. He’s even got a bike named after him now called the Pyga Pascoe and obviously Hilton Turvey is very busy creating trails that side. I grew up on my bike.
I started when I was 16, so I’ve been training on bikes now for 20 years and that all started there in the Howick trails. I’ve even got a trail named after me called Jo’s Dib Dib Dob, because I bunny hopped a snake on that trail and Ken called the trail after me, or named it after me.
I grew up riding the Howick trails with my brother, Daniel Dobinson and he’s the creator of I Ride Africa, where he brings a lot of Europeans into South Africa. He exposes them to the best trails that we’ve got in the Western Cape, on cycling holidays. He and I used to just ride and we got pretty good pretty fast.
We’re first generation mountain bikers in South Africa, so we started racing and we got to the top of the national racing circuit in SA with cross country lap racing. We just raced our bikes for about five years between 16 and the age of 21 – I did – and got exposure to the World Champion circuit. I got the opportunity to go to Canada.
I didn’t go because it was my matric year, I think I had my matric exams or my matric dance and I didn’t want to miss it. At that stage I was sponsored by IMC Reaction with Paul Cordes and Alan Cordes and Fritz Pienaar was my teammate and we just had a jol.
We travelled the country racing bikes, but to be honest, I never had that racing head that it takes, that so many of my professional friends have. They really love racing and I never really loved it. But I did really well at it and then from there I came to university and I studied sports science. I became a personal trainer and I actually stopped racing, but I never got off my bike. I stayed on my bike.
GDK: Therein is the, I suppose the key that turns for you, the racing perhaps isn’t for you, but the fun of the riding is what it’s about and I think that’s what is the essence of what you do?
It’s all about the fun
JD: Absolutely Gerald, that’s actually my hashtag on social media is ‘Fear Out, Fun In’ because it’s all about the fun for me. The more skilled you are, the more fun you can have on the bike and it’s all about the fun. I do do the odd race, but I still have a lot of fun. You’ll hear me whoop-whooping everywhere.
GDK: Where did you see a need, what drew your attention to the fact that hang on, there’s a gap here?
JD: Well, because in South Africa mountain biking has completely exploded in the last five years and you’ve seen it. Just everybody wants to be on their bikes, it’s the new golf. I noticed that and I just was on the trails here in Stellenbosch and I just saw how many people needed help, technically.
How many women were getting into the sport because they wanted to ride with their husbands and keep up with their boyfriends. You know how many hour’s mountain biking takes out the day and they want to enjoy that with their husbands.
GDK: It’s easier said than done that isn’t it? Getting the message across? Did you have to find ways to do that?
JD: Yes, definitely. It’s one thing being a good rider. I felt that 20 years of experience has given me the ability to be quite good, technically. But you always learn, never forget, even you guys listening who are skilled riders, you can always learn from a technical skills coach, always. I’m still learning.
Yes, you can be a really good rider, but not a very good coach. So, I had to figure out how to actually break down the skills, how to progress people correctly. Because people have very negative experiences with coaches and they go out and do things that are way out of their comfort zone. The coach actually forces them to do it. So I’ve really had to, I love. Because I’ve got a sports science background and a love for human movement, I really love breaking down and analysing people’s movements. Figuring out ways to do that for my clients, to make it really applicable for their riding.
GDK: Is it one or one coaching or do you do group sessions with riders?
Focused on helping up-skill women
JD: Yes, I do both. One on one’s are awesome, two hours of intense coaching, which is custom-made for each client. But then I also travel the country now, Specialized sponsors me to go around the country. I do group coaching, up to eight women, still quite a small group. I don’t go bigger than eight women at a time, around the country now and I’ve really gotten that down. Group coaching is a lot of fun and the girls really encourage each other in the session.
GDK: You talk about women, it’s predominantly women that you coach, is that by intent, the way you want to go?
JD: Yes, I think women get women and I started my company in the sense that I only wanted to coach women. Because I’ve had a background, personal training with women and I owned a little business called Adventure Boot Camp for Women for 8.5 years. So I’ve got a real heart to train women and get them excelling, but, I’d say I think through social media, I’m very active on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, men see that I can jump and berm and enjoy gap jumping, so I train a lot of men as well.
GDK: Everyone in this country wants to ride all these stage races, the marathon races, there’s this backburner bubbling away quietly called trail riding. Is that a space you’re looking at?
JD: Of course it is, that’s my passion! As soon as I got onto a trial bike, for instance my brother said: Jo, you’re on the wrong bike, come on. I was on marathon bikes for 16 years and he kept on saying: Jo, you’ve got to get onto a trail bike. I got onto one and it completely transformed my riding. The fun really came into my ride.
I was having a lot of fun before on marathon bikes but the geometry around trail bikes and the head angles, they’re all just so pro. Having fun and taking jumps and taking riding to the next level. The bike just wants to do technical stuff, which has really increased my skill level on the bike and it’s really created a lot more fun on the trail. Definitely trail riding is on the rise in South Africa and I absolutely love it and I love getting people onto bigger bikes and into baggies.
Tips on how to tackle a few obstacles
GDK: Right, baggies is the way to go and that’s a growing thing as well, so think about that one. Now, we’ve got someone who has never done a jump and has never done a very tight switchback, angled switchback, give us how they should approach that.
JD: Okay, let’s start with a switchback. To be honest, that’s everybody’s bane, everybody asks me to teach them about switchbacks. I came across some seriously steep switchbacks now in Switzerland, I’ve just come back from a trip in Switzerland and that made me feel like a beginner.
I’ve had to apply these principles. So the key to riding a switchback is first of all, line selection. You need to always take the switchback from the outside line and then when you’re at the apex of the switchback, it’s very important to look out of it. To look out of the corner to where you want to go. The key is to take the outside line and try and cut onto the inside line, if it’s not bermed.
If it’s bermed, you just ride the berm. But what really is going to help you with your switchback riding, if you’re descending, is to look out of the corner when you’re halfway through it. Your bike goes where you look and then riding up a switchback, same principle.
You ride on the outside of the switchback to try and create a space and then when you’re halfway through the corner, look to the exit and you’ve got to get. I say to the girls: You’ve got to get your boobs to bar, they’ve all got stickers on their top bar saying: Boobs to Bar. The guys, you’ve got to get your chest to bar, so your front wheel doesn’t lift. So you take the outside line, chest to handlebar so your front wheel doesn’t lift and then you look to the exit of the corner. You actually cut onto the inside line again. That’s the switchback.
Then a jump, you know what, you need to start right at the beginning. Jumps become very dangerous and can go very wrong. So the way I progress people is first of all just doing a little drop off a pavement and actually using a technique called Pre-Load. Where you do not pull on your handlebars, you don’t pull up on the handlebars, you always actually push down. You approach a flat pavement, say you’re at a park and you’re riding off a flat pavement. You actually push down on your shock, just before you get off the pavement and that pre-loading action lifts your bike, so you land both your wheels on the road at the same time. That’s the first step in jumping.
GDK: We’ll leave it right there, boy, there are two lessons for you that cost you absolutely nothing, coming from an expert like Jo Dobinson, fantastic. You see, if you listen to the Old Mutual Mountain Bike podcast you’ll get it all! Jo Dobinson, fantastic, lovely stories and a great enthusiasm for the sport and a passion for it, which obviously infects your students as well.
JD: Definitely Gerald, I’m very passionate about biking and because it’s such a beautiful sport and it’s really on the upward curve in South Africa. I believe it will continue to do that for many more years. I’d love to pass on that passion of single track riding because I believe that mountain biking isn’t really mountain biking until you’re on a single track. I love passing that on to my students.
GDK: And where we can we find Biking in the Bosch?
JD: I’ve got a website, www.bikinginthebosch.co.za and then Instagram is actually @Joanna_dobinson, that’s my Instagram handle and my Twitter handle is Biking in the Boch, not B-O-S-C-H because it didn’t fit when I tried to do it!
GDK: Jo Dobinson, Biking in the Bosch, it’s fantastic and you’ll get a lot of laughs if you go and ride and do a session with Jo. So do so if you’re in the area. Look her up and she’s coming around the country as well courtesy of Specialized. She’s on her way to Johannesburg and all over the country, so look up Joanna Dobinson on Biking in the Bosch.
I hope you’ve enjoyed that little insight into what it takes to be a coach and some tips as well right here on our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast. If you enjoyed it, download once before because you’ll learn even more. Thanks again for downloading, until next time. Cheers.