Fox Racing Canada Presents Stories Revisited- Are You Ready For The Season?

Spring is now officially upon us and are you ready for the 2024 riding season?

By Chris Pomeroy, Todd Schumlick and Scott Donkersgoed

After our cold Canadian winter, there are few things better than the first signs of spring and another new riding season. Spring arrives at different times across our great country so just because people are riding in say BC, that doesn’t mean the tracks are ready on the East Coast. We are such die-hard riders that during the early stages of spring we will ride in just about any condition. As long as the temperature is above zero and the ground isn’t frozen, as soon as the calendar flips to April we’re ready to hit the track. However, as excited as we are to get that first ride in, there are a few important items to keep in mind to be prepared.

Todd Schumlick knows how to get a rider prepared for a challenging but fun riding season.

First we have trainer to the stars Todd Schumlick of PerformX Training sharing some tips on what you can do physically and how to work on our mental toughness as we get ready for the start of a season.

On the bike prep side of things, we have legendary mechanic Scott Donkersgoed.

Both of these individuals are riders themselves and have built up an incredible amount of knowledge over the years. They also know that to have a fun and safe start to a riding season, a rider must be completely in sync when they head to the track for the first time in the spring. A rider should have a decent physical training base from their winter workouts, they should have their machine in perfect working order, and also, they should be in a good place mentally before they twist the throttle.

In motocross and all types of off-road riding there are so many variables that riders have very little control over. In the early part of the riding season, the tracks aren’t always in the best condition. So while we’re trying to get into riding shape in those first few rides, we’re also stretching our mental capacity as we navigate mud, ruts, water, and also other riders on the track that are dealing with the same things. As we’ve all experienced, some of our early season rides can feel hectic at best and when you throw in some extreme track conditions, the last thing we want is for our bodies or our machines to let us down.

So before we get to Todd and Donk, here are a few other helpful tips that can help make those first few rides of the season as safe as possible. Well, in my experience, and trust me, I’ve had the first few rides of a new season go well, but I’ve also had them go completely sideways.

However, the two things I’ve learned are to force yourself to be incredibly patient during your first few weeks of riding. Even if you get on the track and you feel great it can still take your brain and body a few weeks to assimilate, so take it easy and try and not go above 80% of your speed and your ability for at least the first 5-10 riding sessions.

Second, when you are on the track riding keep the first few sessions short and try and not get too fatigued on the track. You will have plenty of time to work on longer motos after you’ve built up some endurance. Don’t get discouraged if after ten minutes you feel tired, and also if you’ve had a good day of riding, know when to load up your bike and call it a day. How many times have all of us said the words “I’m just going to go out for one more ride” and then had it go wrong. So be patient and leave your ego in your pit. We all know the incredible feeling of those initial rides after a long winter. It feels like you’ve found true freedom again and you want more. But let’s keep it safe and most of all let’s all have fun. Now, I’m going to turn this over to Todd and Donk for their perspectives.

Todd knows that you have to be both mentally and physically prepared to endure a full riding season.

MENTAL TOUGHNESS By Todd Schumlick / PerformX Training

During these unique times, with all the uncertainty and various challenges in our world, I truly believe our mental toughness (or state-of-mind) is being tested more than ever. For a competitive athlete/rider, the current challenges further increase the need for mental toughness, as one attempts to achieve their highest level of performance. 

Most of my inspiration and practice comes from my 25+ years of experience working with action sports athletes (including Canadian moto competitors Blair Morgan, Jean-Sebastian, Doug DeHaan, Heidi Cooke, Marco Dube, Colton Facciotti, Shawn Maffenbeier, Tanner Ward, Jared Stock, and more). After all these years, there’s one thing that always stands out and that’s the importance of mental toughness. Without it, all the training, nutrition, mental development, race preparation, coaching, etc., could be wasted. Think about it, you’ve witnessed fit and well-coached athletes fall apart during training and competition. You’ve also witnessed not-so-fit and under-coached athletes, who can often rise to the occasion when it counts. Much of this is due to mental toughness, or lack of.

So what is mental toughness? It is having the natural and/or developed psychological edge that enables you to cope with the many demands that competition, training, practice, and day-to-day life places on an athlete. It is remaining determined, positive, focused, confident, and in control under pressure. For most of you, that’s already understood. So let me go a step further and explain how you can better develop mental toughness. 

Much of developing mental toughness comes down to self-regulation, a psychological term that means regulating your mental state relative to a given situation. Meaning, no matter how demanding or high pressure the situation, you must maintain or regain a POSITIVE MENTAL STATE. This will then help you build motivation, confidence, and focus for the task at hand. A positive mental state is not something one can simply ‘turn on’ either. As it is often said, we are a product of our environment. Meaning, we are influenced and affected by our surroundings (family, friends, peers, etc.). But I also believe we can choose to have a positive (or negative) mental state. Not always easy, but often a matter of decision. Want proof of the power of a positive mental state? Why do most winners continue winning? Are they just simply better than their competition? I don’t believe so. With success (winning) comes a positive mental state, at the highest of levels. This then leads to further success (continued winning). This is why ‘sports’ create multi-time champions. The reverse can be said about losing (or less than desired results) as well. Not every champion won entirely throughout their career either. As an example, look at the career of motocross athlete Ricky Carmichael, who had a couple of tough years before becoming a multi-time champ. So it’s not simply winning that can create a positive mental state either. As all of you have experienced, from training, proper nutrition, mental development, practice, etc. comes a positive mental state as well. Knowing you are putting in efforts equal to (or greater than) your goals has a positive effect, physically and mentally. Again, we have a choice, and it’s within our control. 

Tanner Ward is one of Todd’s athletes and after a great off-season of training he’s ready to go. Photo by Brandon Rodwell

Ok, let’s get back to developing mental toughness. From my experience, the following are the four most important elements in building mental toughness: 

  1. Motivational Climate: An athlete needs to focus on the process rather than the end result. There must be a persistent focus on doing the work and mastering the task at hand, rather than the dream of winning. Results can never be controlled, only your effort and level of skill can. Going into a race with one goal, to race as hard as possible and to the best of your ability, can alleviate much of the pressure and dread that competition can stir up in your mind. “Success is knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” 
  2. Key People: Coaches, trainers, parents/family, team members, and fellow athletes play a significant role in developing the values, goals, and mental skills that lead to success. By posing structured questions (example: race debriefs) that help athletes gain a higher degree of clarity and insight into their own reaction patterns and motives, one can sharpen mental toughness. Asking athletes how they react to high-pressure situations, helping them determine what they can do to change unwanted behaviors, and helping them hone in on what their dreams and goals are will increase their mental preparation and motivation to do the work, endure the pain, and remain level-headed at all times. This is a role I take very seriously with athletes I assist. 
  3. Challenging Experiences: In sport, and life in general, challenging experiences also seem to aid in the development of mental toughness. If you have ever overcome any obstacles in your life, you can use it to gain insight into your own reactions to difficult situations, and help you gain perspective on racing. (Take a moment and read the above line again, and reflect on what is said.) You can also take on and create challenges equal to, or greater than, race events themselves. Sometimes the best way to prepare yourself for a fist fight….is to go to war. This is why at PerformX training, we prescribe our athletes various training challenges, so within their physical development there is a certain level of mental development as well. 
  4. Hunger To Succeed: In many ways, this is the most important element in developing mental toughness. Athletes from Third World countries or poor neighbourhoods perhaps see sport as their only way out of poverty and thus are deeply committed to success, no matter the costs. This is an environment that has proven (in research study) successful both in sport and life. Other athletes are driven to gain their very ambitious parents’ recognition. Some are driven to satisfy ego, fame, and fortune. And others, a fascination with where their body and mind can take them. One’s hunger to succeed revolves around very deep mental structures that are often forged in childhood, and it is thus hard to develop. While difficult, it is not impossible. By developing a passion for training, proper nutrition, mental development, and practice….the hunger will grow. 

In conclusion, the mental side of sport is CRITICAL. It’s also vast, subjective, and overwhelming to outline (and develop!). But like when asked “how do you eat an elephant?” “One bite at a time”. The same can be said about covering the mental side. So what can you do NOW? In short, get to work! Keep in mind, I am also a fan of the phrase “Train smarter….not just harder”. So this means don’t assume anything (ie. “I’m fit”… “I eat well”… “I’m confident”). Drop your guard… let go of the ego… and do your research. With the internet, you have a vast amount of information about training, nutrition, psychology, etc.. If it still seems overwhelming (and it is), simply reach out to trainers (fitness and nutrition) and coaches (on-bike skill development, and possibly sports psychology), and see what they suggest or can offer. Also reach out to other athletes, and see what has worked or not worked for them. From it, I believe you’ll find the path right for you. Again, you got to START the car, if it’s going to move… so get started!   

I’ll have additional ‘mental development’ (and training) advice in future.
All the best in 2024
Todd Schumlick
“You don’t get what you wish for. You get what you work for.” 
Website: www.performxtraining.com
Instagram: @performx_training
Facebook: PerformX Training

Once your body and mind are ready, Donk has some tips about how to get your bike ready! Photo by James Lissimore

Bike Preparation With Scott Donkersgoed

If you’re riding your bike from last year, hopefully, you did a few things before you tucked it away for hibernation. Such as added stabilizer to the fuel tank and ran the bike, gave it an oil change and preferably had the bike on a centre stand. Hopefully, you gave it a good wash and were able to attend to a few maintenance issues and give it some TLC. If your bike lacks a kick starter, pulling the battery and putting it on a battery tender for the winter is a huge benefit. If not, hooking up a charger that can save and recharge the battery is your best option, but it may have decreased the lifespan by having it go completely dead.

When it’s time to wake it up this spring, bleed the forks before you pull it off the stand. Temperature variances may have built up pressure inside. Install your charged battery and warm it up and drop the oil and change the oil filter. Any condensation built up inside the engine will be flushed out with the oil and having fresh oil and a new filter to start the season is always a good thing. A freshly oiled air filter is a good idea so it’s not all dried out and potentially allows dirt through. Take care of any issues from the prior season to start off on the right foot. Perhaps a hydraulic fluid system flush and bleed is necessary, especially if you’re still on stock fluid.

With how complex our modern day bikes are, you cannot just put fuel in them and go. Photo by James Lissimore

If you’re fortunate enough to have a brand new shiny steed sitting in the garage waiting for the snow to melt, here are a few things to check over before you load it up for the maiden voyage.

First, have a check over the cable routing and kill and start button wire routing and ensure free movement with no binding and there are no wires hanging or being pinched from stop to stop. Have a good look behind the front number plate and try to neatly tie up the wires. Sometimes a new bike gets put together quickly at the dealership and things like that are mistakenly overlooked.

Pull your battery and get it on the charger to make sure you’re working with a full charge. While that’s charging, throw the seat back on, and sit on your new bike and adjust the bars, perches and levers to your liking. Hopefully you were able to have the steering, swing arm, and linkage bearings properly greased prior to riding the bike to allow them to start their lives with a fighting chance rather than rolling around in there dry. Fresh fuel, clean fluids, clean filters, set your sag, check your tire pressures, and load er up! 

Chris Pomeroy

1989 Rookie-of-the-year and former nationally ranked pro racer who turned into a dirt oriented scribe

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