stewart-team-mud1After the wet and muddy race conditions this past weekend, I was inspired to share these tips…


First off, mud is going to stick pretty much everywhere on your bike.

Spraying Pam Cooking Spray on your frame, pedals, and tires will help a ton.  Make sure to avoid getting any of this spray on your rotors and brake calipers.

pam_cooking_spray_mountain_bikeThe Pam spray will reduce the mud build-up and give you a better chance of keeping your bike rolling.  Also, if you end up having to run a section of the course, you’ll appreciate the fact that your bike doesn’t have 25 pounds of mud stuck to it.


Use a thick chain lubricant. A thin chain lube can wash away rather quickly, but a thinker one will stay put, even when coated in mud.


Brake a bit early before a corner because brake pads will not be as responsive as in dry conditions.


rainx_mountain_bikeWear a cycling cap under the helmet to shield some of the rain from hitting your glasses. Also, using an anti-fog product (Rain-X) does wonders in preventing you from becoming legally blind on a technical climb or descent.

May 23, 2012 Eagle Ranch Classic VRD Mountain Bike Race - MADOGRAPHYMind Control

Stick with it. Bad weather can cause a lot of racers to mentally check out either before the race even starts (the DNS group) or half-way into the race (the DNF group). This leaves the field wide open for the podium spots for those that simply refuse to quit and/or ride aggressively.


mountain_bike_mudThere are two schools of thought on tire selection.

  • Option 1: Race a wide, aggressive tire that can grab the terrain (while shedding mud).  Problems with this is if you have narrow chain/seat stays (and/or fork), the mud can build up between your tire and the stay eventually slowing you down to a halt.   If you have plenty of clearance, this may be a good option.
  • Option 2: Skinny is better (1.95 or 1.75).  The idea is that the skinny tire can cut through the mud and find some terrain to connect with.  Also, this provides for good clearance between your chain/seat stays thus less mud build up.


When it’s wet, it’s usually cold.   So, the tendency is to wear more clothing.  Be careful, there is a fine balance between wearing enough to keep warm, and too much potentially causing performance inhibiting over-heating.   If you haven’t warm warmed up yet and you’re already warm — you’re probably wearing too much.

Nutrition / Hydration

Just because it’s cooler and you’re surrounded by water — doesn’t mean you don’t need to drink.  Use your water bottle, catching rain drops on your tongue isn’t enough.   Also, this is still a race — make sure you eat as you normally would.  Because of the wet conditions, you’ll want to keep your hands on the handlebars more than normal — with this in mind, make sure you food is easily accessible (pre-opened packages, snacks in foil, PowerBar Gels taped to your top tube, etc.).


If you think there’s a chance you’ll be racing in wet conditions, go practice riding in wet conditions!   However, if the trails are really wet it may be best to avoid them to prevent trail damage.  Use good judgment.  If you’re not sure, check with the park ranger.

wash_mud_mountain_bikeAfter Race Bike Clean Up

Clean your bike as soon as possible after the race.  Bringing a spare gallon of water and soft brush (like a dust pan brush) should workout perfect to get the majority of the debris off your bike.  Be careful not to spray water directly into any part of your bike that has a bearing (bottom bracket, steering tube, hubs) or your fork.  Water can damage bearings (even sealed ones).  Lastly, be sure to lubricate your bike directly after cleaning it.

Have fun!


Climbing – Part 1 of 3

The Seated Climb

The seated climb is used on moderate grade, steady climb with limited technical features like loose rocks, roots, mud and sand.  The secret to the seated climb is to deliver controlled, steady, consistent power to your rear wheel while maintaining proper weight distribution.

mountain bike climb

Proper Weight Distribution

Having your tires weighted evenly is the key — here’s how:


  • Lean your torso forward as you move your rear end back.
  • Bend at the hips.
  • Bend your elbows and keep them flexible.
  • Keep your head up.

This lowers your center of gravity and distributes your weight evenly across the bike. How far you have to lean forward is determined by the angle of the slope and the traction available on the trail. The looser the dirt and the steeper the trail, the closer to parallel your torso will be to your top tube.


Though it’s awkward, you can have your chin right above your handlebar, your back flat and your rear end sticking up in the air. It’s comical, but effective. Learning how far to slide back and how much to lean forward is where the finesse of hill climbing enters. And that takes practice. With time you’ll find how simple, subtle variations in forward-and-back movements can help get you over obstacles and up big hills.


Practice: Find a good stretch of trail with varying conditions and hills. Find a low gear (but not too low) that will allow you to pedal up the hills. Experiment. Move just your weight back without leaning forward. Now lean forward. Try this on various trail conditions and varying slopes.

mountain bike climb

Gear Selection

When you approach a hill, the gut reaction is to click into the lowest gear and attack the slope. This doesn’t work. It’s like spinning your car’s tires on ice. You’ll only upset your balance and cause your tire to slip. Instead, go into a gear that’s just low enough (this will take practice to learn what gear to use) so that you’re neither spinning out of control nor having to stand on the pedals to crank them forward. An ideal cadence will be 70-80 RPM.  Keep your cadence steady and smooth.


As you approach the hill, the tendency is to shift before you actually start climbing the hill. For a beginner this is the best approach. But as you learn to move your weight fore and aft to maintain balance and traction, you can modify your shifting to maintain speed.


Once you feel more comfortable climbing, maintain your cadence on your current gear until you feel like you’re about to have to lift out of the saddle to continue pedaling. At this point, shift into a lower gear. This will help you maintain your speed and make the hill seem shorter, the climb less grueling.


Line Selection

It also helps to pick a good line before you go up the hill. A beginning cyclist has the tendency to pick a line that avoids the most obstacles. Seems logical, but this isn’t always the best route. Turning the handlebar to steer around an obstacle can upset your balance more than just going over the obstacle.


Of course, you’ll have to learn which obstacles you can power over and which are best avoided. Obviously big rocks and large, wet roots will stop any advance and are best circumvented. But you can generally power through the small stuff.


As you ride along a trail, your eyes should constantly scan the trail. Move your line of sight from in front of your tire to about 15 feet up the trail, then back. Look for large rocks, roots, sand—anything that can easily stop your forward motion. You’ll see the general lay of the land and obvious paths where your bike can and can’t go. As you become more experienced, your eyes will spot paths that most people think mountain goats couldn’t conquer.


And like all mountain bike skills… practice, practice, practice.  Enjoy!

USA_Cycling_CoachTo be a good cyclist takes a few certain innate personality traits—determination, perseverance, drive, and a willingness to endure much physical and mental pain. To be a great cyclist, one must have all of the qualities above, as well as an intense curiosity.  A great cyclist always asks, “What can I do better and how can I do it better?”  Great cyclists scour their training and race data, as well as the latest books, magazines, and forums for answers that lead to real, visible results: a podium finish, a personal best, or a qualifying time. For a lucky few, this tactic works. But for most of us mere mortals, an extra ingredient is needed — a cycling coach could be the missing key.

An effective coach can provide you with three benefits: knowledge, objectivity and inspiration.


Experienced cycling coaches have a tremendous amount of knowledge. This can be helpful because competitive cycling is a complex sport. There are many variables that impact your success including the bike itself, bike fit, position on the bike, bike handling, year-round training regimen, diet, motivation, rest and recovery, choice of racing discipline and race selection.

A good coach can be very helpful when it comes to developing a training plan, improving your cycling skills and dealing with problems such as performance plateaus.


Objectivity is another benefit of coaching. A coach can objectively diagnose problems that are impacting your performance. For example, if you are struggling during the season, you may have difficulty determining the cause of the problem, but it might be clear to your coach.

Your coach might notice you’re not resting enough, or may recognize the need for a diet modification. Even more commonly, your coach may point out your expectations are unrealistic for your current stage of development. With their impartial perspectives, coaches can often discern issues athletes overlook.


Third, a coach can be a great source of inspiration. Never underestimate the tremendous psychological benefit an effective coach can provide. No matter how dedicated and committed you are, sooner or later, you’ll need some inspiration. Cycling is a very difficult sport and there are numerous obstacles every cyclist must face. These include injury, illness, difficult training and racing conditions, uncertainty and a lack of confidence, especially when things are not going well.

A coach can help motivate you during these difficult times and can be a source of strength, a shoulder to cry on, a sounding board and a friend. A coach will also hold you accountable. You may buy the excuses you make but a good coach never will.

If you are ready to work hard and need a coach to help guide you, encourage you, and help you reach your goals, we know that we can help you.    We strongly encourge you to set an appointment with our head coach coach, Richard La China, to learn more …

landis_cyclery_arizona_mountain_bike_skillsWe had so much fun in Arizona earlier this month, we decided to head back for another taste of the region’s distinct singletrack. Join us we partner with local shop Landis Cyclery to offer skills clinics at every level.

We’ll be riding at the famous Papago Park — home to beautiful sandstone buttes and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  This venue has features that make it perfect for practicing skills, and you’ll have plenty of photo opportunities too.

Join us and learn to Ride Like a Ninja. You’ll soon conquer your fears on the drops and switchbacks, unlock free speed in the corners and boogie up any climb the trail throws at you. We’ll teach you how to brake effectively, how to perfect your footwork and demonstrate just how much your body position can affect your ride.

Following your clinic, you will see an immediate improvement in your riding and a boost in confidence. You’ll understand how changes in your body position, footwork and where you are looking affect the way your bike behaves.  You’ll be able to tackle steeper terrain, corner with control and negotiate trail obstacles with ease.  And Landis Cyclery will be ready to help with any mechanical support, accessories, parts or anything else you may need for your mountain bike.

A bike rider at Papago Park, Phoenix, Arizona. (model released)Here’s what you need to know:

  • Clinics will be held on May 17 – May 18
  • We’ll be meeting at
    • Papago Park
    • 625 Galvin Bikeway,
    • Phoenix, AZ 85008
  • Clinics range from $99 to $249 (depending on which class and how soon your register)
  • Registration is open now!

On Saturday evening, February 1, we’re also offering a special opportunity to meet with us at the  Tempe location of Landis Cyclery (2180 E Southern Ave, AZ 85282). We’ll work with you to dial in your cockpit so you can brake and shift with ease.  Come at 6pm, and we’ll provide the snacks, drinks and a great chance to meet some of your fellow local riders.  You can find all the details HERE.

Click HERE to register for this or any other upcoming clinic, or to find out more. The crews at Landis Cyclery and Ninja Mountain Bike Skills can’t wait to see you there!

Next Stop: Agoura Hills, CA Coming February 2014

JRA Bikes and Brew | Mountain Bike SkillsThere is something magical about JRA Bikes and Brew in Agoura Hills, CA. Like other high-end bike local bike shops, the hand-picked bikes are drool-worthy, the service is fantastic, and the threads are quality. But what really sets this place apart—what we feel makes it magical— is that it’s more than just a retail store. JRA is a community hot spot, equipped with comfy chairs, a fireplace, flat screen TVs and a full service coffee bar.  Cyclists, their friends, and family come in to the shop and stay to hang out. It’s kind of like a cyclist’s version of Cheers, but with delicious gourmet caffeinated beverages instead of beer. Because of this awesomeness, the team at Ninja Mountain Bike Skills unanimously agreed — JRA Bikes and Brew is the perfect home base for a skills clinic. We’re already trying to decide what kind of drink to get, which we’ll sip while watching mountain bike videos on the flat screens.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Clinics will be held on February 22 & 23rd
  • We’ll be meeting at Malibu Creek State Park
  • Clinics range from $99 to $249 (depending on which class and how soon your register)
  • Registration is open now!

malibu_creek_state_park_mountain_bikingJoin us and learn to Ride Like a Ninja. Erase your worries about drops and switchbacks. Discover the secret to ripping a corner, and add to your tool box with a quiver of climbing methods to suit anything the trail throws at you. We’ll teach you how to brake effectively, how to perfect your footwork and demonstrate just how much your body position can affect your ride.

Following your clinic, you will see an immediate improvement in your riding and a boost in confidence. You’ll understand how changes in your body position, footwork and where you’re looking affect the way your bike behaves.  You’ll be able to tackle steeper terrain, corner with control and negotiate trail obstacles with ease.  And JRA Bikes and Brews will be ready to help with any support — mechanical, caffeinated or moral — you need.

Click HERE to register for an upcoming clinic, or here for more information our entire UPDATED SCHEDULE.

And remember, all the best riding stories begin with “Just Riding Along.” Can’t wait to see you there!

ride_like_a_ninja_logo2_copyNinja Mountain Bike Skills is proud to support the YMCA Bike-A-Thon happening this Saturday, February 8.  Jump on a bike, stop by for health and safety fair, or contribute through the silent auction to show your support for a great local event. There are amazing items up for grabs, including an Electra beach cruiser and Ride Like a Ninja gift cards.

All proceeds benefit children, families and seniors in need in our community and give them the ability to access YMCA programs through financial aid. Find out more by visiting ::


Event details:
Magdalena Ecke YMCA
200 Saxony Rd
Thanks for your support,
the “Kids”


At the beginning of every Ninja Mountain Bike Skills clinic, we talk about ways to improve your riding by improving the positioning and adjustment of your shifters, brakes, suspension, saddle and more.   To really dial in your cockpit, with your rider specific settings, can easily require more time then is available during the clinics.

JRA Bike and Brew with Ninja Mountain Bike SkillsThat’s why we’re excited to announce that for all upcoming clinic weekends, we’re adding a Saturday night social at each of our host bike shops. Join us after class (or evening before class if you’re taking a Sunday clinic) for some yummy refreshments and we’ll educate you as to where your brake levers should be for the best reach and control, how to set up your shifters optimally, how set your your suspension correctly for your riding style and weight and other important fit components to make sure everything is running smoothly so that all you have to do is Ride Like A Ninja.

brake-setup2This is a free event for everyone that participates in one of our clinics.  It’s a great chance to get really comfortable in your cockpit but also to meet other riders from your area, check out these amazing local shops and swap some stories from the trail.

We’d love to see you there!

PS – if you have a friend or family member you think might also benefit from some cockpit tune-age, bring them by.  The cost for the clinic is only $20 for non-clinic participants.  Food, drinks and socializing are free for everyone.

Orange County Clinics – Hosted by G2 Bike

Where: 27101 Aliso Creek Rd. Ste 142, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656
When: January 18, 2014 at 6:00pm
Cost:  FREE for clinic participants // $20 for friends and family

Phoenix Clinics – Hosted by Landis Cyclery

Where: Landis Cyclery (2180 E Southern Ave, AZ 85282
When: February 1, 2014 at 6:00pm
Cost:  FREE for clinic participants // $20 for friends and family

Los Angeles Clinics – Hosted by JRA Bikes

Where: 5019 Kanan Rd, Agoura Hills, CA 91301
When: February 22, 2014 at 6:00pm
Cost:  FREE for clinic participants // $20 for friends and family

San Diego Clinics – Hosted by Zumwalt’s Bicycle Center

Where: 6425 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA
When: TBA at 6:00pm
Cost:  FREE for clinic participants // $20 for friends and family

Second Series-Stop Benefitting San Diego Monarch School Expected To Sell Out

(December 2, 2013 – San Diego) Fledgling cycling club Team Ninja announced today it will host its next mountain bike event, the USAC-sanctioned Ninja Night Race, at 7:00 p.m., January 16 2014 in San Diego’s popular Balboa Park.ninja_night_mountain_bike_race1dafcf

“Judging by the feedback and excitement we had after our first event, the only thing speedier than a ninja in the dark is how fast this event will sell out,” said Team Ninja captain Richard La China. “We’re very proud to be working with terrific sponsors like Zumwalt’s Bicycle Center and Sock Guy to stretch the Ninja Night Race events into a series.”

The first Ninja Night Race was held late October at Lake Hodges and will go down in history as the first-ever USAC-sanctioned after-dark race. Now returning with their second venue, the Ninja Night Race organizing team, as well as the enthusiastic racers themselves, are hopeful more trails will be open to the thrill of night racing.

“The thing we really like about Balboa Park is how spectator-friendly it is,” said Michael Whitehurst, Course Director with Ninja Night Race. “With short laps, a central location and the festive vibe we try to bring to all our events, racers and their friends and families alike can look forward to a really fun night out.

“I had such a blast at the first event there’s no question I’ll be first in line for the next,” said Cat 2 racer and Team Ninja member Kristen Gross. “There’s nothing like the feeling of racing in the dark — cool night air, easy-to-spot competitors, the adrenaline boost you get when your light catches some glowing eyes just off course, and of course, having the tamales at the end was an awesome touch.”

ninja_night_race_medRegistration will open on December 15, 2013 at midnight. To sign up to race or volunteer, please visit Though racers do not need a license to participate, USAC licenses will be available at the venue, or racers can get licensed online by visiting  Licensed racers will be competing for points, and if racing in the Cat 1/Pro categories, there are cash prizes for podium finishers. Proceeds from the event will help support the San Diego Monarch School.

Mountain-bike-jumpby: Richard La China

The biggest mistake I see riders make when trying to jump is the lack of compression and explosion just prior to the the jump.  If you don’t compress and explode, your bike will behave very similarly to a rock.  Gravity will get the best of you (and your bike) and will promptly get pulled down to earth — not typically the desired result.

1. Prior to attempting the jump, get off your bike and inspect the lip of the jump and the landing.  Figure out what the best angle for approach is and exactly where you’d like to land your bike.  Once you’ve determined the best line, stick to it — it’s very difficult (and potentially dangerous) to change your line while flying through the air.

2. As soon as your front wheel gets to the face of the jump, compress your bike into the ground.   Your elbows should be out, knees bent — full Ninja (ready) position.  Note: You don’t need suspension on your bike to compress it — compressing is merely the action of throwing your weight downward.

3. Just prior to reaching the lip of the jump, explode!  This explosion is a quick pull up with your arms and legs. If your timing is correct, you will sail right over it.  If you are riding uphill, throw your weight forward as you go over an obstacle.  If you are riding downhill, you will need to shift your weight backward as you go over it.

4. Once you’re flying, relax and resume your Ninja (ready) position and keep looking forward to your intended landing spot.

5. Push your bike down onto your desired landing spot to increase your traction.  Your arms and legs are your primary suspension when landing — your body need to soak up the impact.  Relaying on your suspension solely tends to cause a hard landing and a potential for loose of traction.

That should be enough to get you started — I recommend starting with a small obstacle at first.  As you progress, experiment with controlling your landing, both wheels, rear wheel first, distance, height, etc.  Note: Avoid landing on your front wheel, that usually doesn’t end well.

As your confidence (and skill) increases, pick bigger obstacles, going up and down hill while jumping, experiment with your air-time and HAVE FUN!