Stephane Roch | Pro Rider, Team Ninja

The wheelie is really a useful riding skill, particularly for getting over trail obstacles, as well as a great way to practice balance and bike control. But maybe even more importantly than that (for all the attention-seekers out there) it looks cool. Wanna be YouTube-famous?  You gotta learn to do a wheelie.

This skill is often confused with the Manual which is similar in the fact that the front wheel is in the air in both skills. The primary difference is that in a wheelie the front end stays up from pedaling, and in a manual it stays up from just shifting your weight back.  Also, a manual is a standing maneuver and a wheelie done is seated.

Ok, so know you know what it is — here’s how to do it:

1. Lower your saddle, you’ll need to be seated for this skill and the lower your saddle, the lower your center of mass will be and the more stable you’ll be.

2. Select an easy gear, but not the easiest gear.  Usually 2 or 3 from the easiest is a good place to start.  Begin your wheelie at about 5–10 mph.  Using a gear that’s too easy will result in too fast of a cadence which will result in you loosing your wheelie because of excessive pedaling.

wheelie33. If you have rear suspension on your mountain bike, lock it out.  A bouncing rear shock will negatively effect your balance.

4. While keeping your head up and looking forward, lower your torso and crouch down over the handlebars to prepare to initiate the wheelie.

5. With your most powerful foot at the top of the pedal stroke, simultaneously pull up on the handlebars while pedaling down hard.  You’ll have to start with a hard, steady pedal stoke to get the wheel up.  Once it’s up, keep pedaling, but not quite as forcefully.

6. Quickly lean your weight back and allow your arms to straighten as the front wheel comes up.

7. Keep pedaling and keep a finger over the rear brake lever.  If the bike comes up too far, you can tap the brake to bring it back down.

8. Continue to feather your rear brake as needed in order to prevent the bike from flipping over backwards. (Some people drag their rear brake the entire time, just to have some resistance to pedal against.)

wheelie19. Mange the balance of the bike.  If the front starts coming down, lean back more.  If the bike leans right, stick your knee out, or turn the bars to regain balance.   Make these corrections as soon as needed, if you wait to long, your balance will be unrecoverable.

10. Make sure the front wheel is straight as you bring the front wheel back down to the ground.


Absa Cape Epic 2014 Stage 3 Robertson to Greyton1. It’s easier to learn this skill with flat pedals vs. clipped in.

2. The wheelie is never really perfectly balanced, you need to constantly add balance corrections to keep the bike in the wheelie and going in the direction you are intending.

3. It’s easier to learn this skill on a slight slope, preferable on grass.

4. Practice dismounting off the back of the bike so you know what to do in the event you go over backwards.

This is another one of those skill where you’ve got to put the time in in order to really master it.  Keep at it and over time, you’ll see your hang-time increase to the point where you can wheelie across, over down and up anything you choose.

Have fun!

landis_cyclery_arizona_mountain_bike_skillsWe’re heading 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 January 31 and February 1, 2015
  • We’ll be meeting at
    • Papago Park
    • 625 Galvin Bikeway,
    • Phoenix, AZ 85008
  • Clinics range from $149 to $289 (depending on which class and how soon your register)
  • Registration is open now!

We’re also going to be doing our Saturday Night Social at Landis Cyclery!  It’s free, very educationing and a ton of fun.  Snacks and drinks provided by Landis Cyclery.  Find out all about it 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!

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 our upcoming clinic weekend in Arizona, we’re adding a Saturday night social at Landis Cyclery. 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.  Food, drinks and socializing are free for everyone.

 Phoenix Clinics – Hosted by Landis Cyclery

Where: Landis Cyclery (2180 E Southern Ave, AZ 85282)
When: January 31, 2015 at 6:00pm
Cost:  FREE for clinic participants

white_jersey_2015Our ‘Official’ 2015 Ninja Mountain Bike Skills jersey is now in stock!

We worked with Zoca to create a super sweet and super comfy jersey for all your trail needs. The white background, airy cut, and 3/4 length zipper will keep you cool as you explore a new trail or throw down the hammer on a group ride. And, most importantly, you’ll look good doing it! The front of the jersey has a watermarked “Ninja Guy” that makes it look clean and stealthy, and the back of the jersey showcases our favorite sponsors while reminding everyone to “Ride Like A Ninja.”

You can get one of these gems for free when you sign up for any of our Mountain Bike Camps or purchase one (or more) in our online store.

Slope_Saviour-92The manual is a useful skill for lofting  your front wheel over an obstacle. (Yes, lofting as opposed to lifting. See “Note” below.)    Once you know how to manual you will start to see the trail completely differently. You’ll no longer have to ride over small trail obstacles, you’ll be able to effortlessly loft the front end at will and avoid losing momentum. Getting up small ledges will also become much easier as you learn how to use your hips instead of your arms to pick your front end up.

Ride at jogging pace, or a bit faster.  You want to go fast enough to provide momentum, but not so fast that you can not control yourself. Start in neutral position. Then, just before you get to the obstacle, pre-load your front suspension by lowering your center of mass (bending your elbows).  Make sure you have even weight on the pedals (this will results in pedal being level for this skill).

Explode up and back while driving your feet down, pushing the pedals forward and away from you.  Allow your weight to shift back with your arms straight.  Your center of gravity should be right over the rear axle. Make sure to have your legs strait so its easier to stay up.

Note: Shifting your weight back is what brings the front of the bike up (“lofting”), not ‘pulling’ the bars up (“lifting”).  If you just pull the bars up without shifting your weight back, the front will quickly go back down.

Keep a finger over your rear brake at all times.  If at any point in this move you feel you are going to flip off the back of the bike, applying the back brake will bring the front wheel back down.

Once you’ve cleared the obstacle, bring your weight back to the neutral or ready position.  This will bring the front of the bike back down.   Practice this skill by placing a stick on a slight downward (smooth) path and see how long / far you can hold the wheel lift.

After some focused practice on this still you’ll be manually all over the place!


10690234_10152499916792358_7606546168961039480_nThe Ninja Mountain Bike Skills team was thrilled to lead women from the Girlz Gone Riding (GGR) club through a weekend of clinics at Malibu Creek State Park. According to GGR’s website, they’re a “positive, supportive group for all levels of riding,” and after spending a couple days laughing, joking, and smiling with these gals, we couldn’t agree more!

On Saturday, Coach Kris Gross took the lead for our fundamentals session. We enjoyed breakthroughs, teaching moments and “ah-ha” light bulbs while covering skills like the “ready” position, how to corner, and our best tips for how to climb and descend.

On Sunday, Coach Richard led the GGR ladies through a full day of advanced skills including wheel lifts, bunny hops, and switchbacks, as well as a refresher on our fundamentals.

10734178_10152499918227358_773943900824046032_n“I think the more members we have taking clinics, the better it will be for our members’ safety, confidence, and to help them overcome obstacles—whether on the trail, or coming back from an injury,” said Wendy Engelberg, Director of Girlz Gone Riding. “That’s why we’re trying to schedule as many of these opportunities as possible.”

Girlz Gone Riding is a club of female riders (and the occasional male volunteer an supporter) based in the LA area, and now with a chapter in the Inland Empire. They organize group mountain bike rides, special events (like BMX night), skills clinics and the annual riding gala, Rocktober.

Coach Kris and Coach Richard will be back in the LA Area to help Girlz Gone Riding continue to promote fun and safety on the trails with another weekend of skills clinics this February. To find a Ninja Mountain Bike Skills clinic near your, please see our schedule. And to learn more about GGR or join in on their events, please check out their website.

FEB 7 Women’s Basics (8:45am – 12:00pm) Calabasas [GIRLZ GONE RIDING Edition – Morning Session] Los Angeles, CA $149 Special GGR // Register Now!
FEB 7 Women’s Basics (1:00pm – 4:15pm) Calabasas [GIRLZ GONE RIDING Ed. – Afternoon Session] Los Angeles, CA $149 Special GGR // Register Now!
FEB 8 Women’s Intermadiate/ Advanced (8:45am – 4:00pm) Calabasas [GIRLZ GONE RIDING Ed. – Full Day Session] Los Angeles, CA $199 Special GGR // Register Now!

Ninja Mountain Bike Skills has planned an action-packed 2015, and we’re excited to announce that Montrose Bike Shop is joining in the fun! We are partnering with this bike-loving crew to offer and Intermediate / Advanced skills clinic at Cherry Canyon.2015-01-06 10.49.07 amMontrose has been serving cyclists since 1955, and it’s their mission to  “provide a welcoming, helpful atmosphere and develop strong, lasting relationships with our clients and our community.”We also share ties with some of our favorite cycling advocates—like IMBA and the NICA high school mountain biking league—which means we’re already enjoying lots in common with our new friends. We share their vision: Create cyclists for life.

With a shop filled with top-of-the-line gear and helpful, caring, passionate staff; the beauty of the surrounding hills and trails; and a neighborhood full of amenities, we’re excited for our trip to Montrose. We hope you are, 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 Montrose Bike Shop will be ready to help with any mechanical support you need.

Click here to register for an upcoming clinic, or here for more information our entire updated schedule.

The crews at Montrose Bike Shop and Ninja Mountain Bike Skills can’t wait to see you there!


Learning how to corner correctly will make riding a heck of a lot more fun and you’ll be faster and more efficient.   While cornering is a skill we could probably write a book about on its own, here we’ve broken down the basics to help you improve you flow:

cornering_az_practive1. Slow down to a speed at which you can safely negotiate the corner. If you overestimate, use your rear brake only to check speed.  Never use your front brake in a corner; your front wheel could easily wash out.

2. Get in the ready position with your center of mass low and push your handlebar down towards the inside of the corner while your other arm pulls up.  Do not pull either side of the handlebars towards you, or you’ll turn the front wheel, and we want to lean the bike.

3. Enter the corner on the outside. That means, if it’s a left-hand corner, enter on the right side of the entrance and lean the bike into the apex of the corner.  Once you’ve passed the apex of the corner you can start to bring the bike back upright for the exit.

4. Separate yourself from the bike by swinging your hips to the outside of the corner, so your butt is next to your saddle.  If you have a dropper seat post, drop it to allow your leg to easily move over the saddle.  If you have a fixed seat post, bring your butt forward and around the saddle to get your weight to the outside of the corner.

5. Look through the corner. As you enter keep your head up and look at the exit.  As you finish your corner, look down the trail to whatever happens to be coming up next.  Head up, head up, head up.

2014-11-12 01.18.47 pm6. Keep your knees out to allow the bike to lean beneath you.  Your weight needs to be to the outside counter-balancing the bike as you flow through the corner. If keep even weight on your pedals, you’ll notice the inside pedal will come up as you lean the bike and separate from it.

7. Twist your hips in the direction you want to corner.  Imagine you have lasers attached to them and you want to point them through the corner towards the exit.  Initiate your lean as your enter the corner, well before your reach the apex.

8. Remember to relax and breathe.  Smooth is fast.

We recommend practicing this skill on a grassy area around a tree or some cones.  Setting up a 180-degree flat corner about 12 feet wide is a great way to get your cornering on track.  As you improve, reduce the size of the corner, or try adding in speed.

CA_womens_weekend_headerReady Position

 At the heart of every tremendous mountain biking trick you’ve ever seen on the trail, in that sick edit, or read about in a magazine is one common theme: The Ready Position.

 If good riding is a house, then the Ready Position — or “Ninja” position, as we’re fond of calling it — is the foundation. Every other skill is built around this one seemingly straight-forward thing. So let’s break it down, from bottom to top.

 Even Weight on Your Feet

 If you attend a Ninja Mountain Bike Skills clinic, we will never tell you to raise one foot or lower the other. All questions about what your feet should be doing are answered in the same way: Make sure you have equal weight on your pedals. Whether cornering, climbing, descending, or just plain riding along, if you were to put a scale under each of your pedals, the weight should come out equal.

 Knees Bent and Out

 Keep your knees bent to allow the bike to move up and down under you — basically, your legs are your suspension. Your bike moves up and down beneath you and it also needs space to move side to side, as it does if you were leaning into a corner. With your knees out, you can lean the bike that much farther; the other way and you can’t lean it at all.

2014-10-21 01.02.48 pm

Bum Off The Saddle

 The only way your big, beautiful suspension system (your legs) can work is if it’s open and active. Putting your bum on the seat effectively means you’re “locked out.” To keep up with varying terrain, and to work the bike, you’re going to need your bum out of the saddle.

 Torso Down

 The lower your torso, the lower your center of mass, and the more stable you’ll become. Lowering your torso also makes room for your arms to lean the bike into ever-tighter corners. If things start to get squirrely, we’re betting it’s your torso that’s crept up on you.

 Elbows Bent and Out

 You’re much stronger with your elbows out, rather than in. Don’t believe us? Try doing pushups — two with your elbows out, two with your elbows in. With them out, you get to use biceps, triceps, chest, and back to support your riding and share the load. With them in, you have only your triceps to work with. Bending your elbows also helps protect your space, and you’ll get more extension in cornering, too.

 One Finger on the Brake

 Part of being “ready” is being ready to stop. On the trail, whether uphill or downhill, things can change very suddenly so having your index finger on the brake, ready for action is a must. But thanks to the power of modern brakes, you only need one. Save your other three fingers to maintain a good grip on your handlebars. [To learn more about effective braking, click here.]

 Head Up

 “Look where you want to go,” is some of the oldest advice in mountain biking. Also its companion piece, “don’t look where you don’t want to go.” With your head up, you’ll be able to see where you’re going. We recommend keeping your eye on what’s happening 2–5 seconds down the trail. It’s too late to do anything about the obstacles under your wheels. Look — and think – ahead.

 The Ready Position is used any time you’re out on the trail and need to be “ready.” There is one other position we use in mountain biking as well: the neutral position. This one is basically the same as the ready position, but feel free to put your bum on the saddle and even grab a drink or a snack. Ready position is what you use to shred glorious singletrack. Neutral position is how you roll back to your car at the trailhead parking lot.

Balboa Park Set To Host Final Two After-Dark MTB Races Nov 6 and Dec 112014-10-02 02.47.05 pm

SAN DIEGO, CA (October 1, 2014) — Ninja Night Race is proud to announce the final two events of 2014 will be presented by new title sponsor, Loaded Precision Components, and will take place on Thursday November 6 and Thursday December 11 at Balboa Park, starting at 7pm sharp.

“We’re headed back to Balboa Park for its central location, race-worthy trail system and best of all, the awesome feeling and spectacle of starting on the Velodrome,” said Race Director Richard La China. “We’re excited to be back, and thrilled to have Loaded Precision on board, as we welcome the earlier evenings with a little late-season racing.”

Ninja Night Race is the first USAC-sanctioned series of its kind, however Cat 2/3 athletes do not need a USAC license to participate. Pro/Cat 1 podium placers can look forward to up to $100 in prize money for both men and women. The event also includes an expo featuring event sponsors and local businesses, a free tamale for all racers and live music to add to the festive vibe.

2014-10-02 02.52.51 pm“It’s been a busy summer of racing for everyone, but now we get to enjoy some cooler temperatures, and a more laid-back atmosphere, all while still collecting those last-minute upgrade points,” said La China. “We hope that the Loaded Precision Ninja Night Race attracts riders who want to give racing a try, racers who want to give night-riding a try, and of course, the usual suspects in our tremendous community of mountain bikers.”

Look for details leading up to the event, including the course, who will be in the expo, and the famous Ninja Night Race door prizes at

About Ninja Night Race

Ninja Night Race began in late 2013 with a pilot event held at Lake Hodges. Thanks to its success, the series relocated to Balboa Park in downtown San Diego to allow more racers to join in the fun. Participants in the second event became the first mountain bikers in history to set tire on the famous San Diego Velodrome. Ninja Night Race is the first USAC-sanctioned series of its kind and takes place during the week in the fall/winter, adding an off-season option for racers who like to go fast in the dark, or riders interested in trying it for the first time. Ninja Night Race is proud to offer equal prize purses in the Cat 1/pro categories for men and women. More than a race, the event also brings a party atmosphere by including live music, delicious tamales, and an expo featuring sponsors and local businesses. For more information, please visit