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
Make sure you have equal weight on your pedals. Whether 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 in 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.
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.
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.
“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 head up and looking down the trail while making quick scans to what is immediately in front of you. It’s too late to do much about the obstacles under your wheels. Looking — and thinking – ahead are key to flowing down the trail.
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, sit up, relax 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.
Richard La China is a Professional Mountain Bike racer, USAC Certified Cycling Coach and a IMBA Certified Mountain Bike Skills Instructor who coaches beginner to pro cyclist. Currently working with mountain bike XC, Endurance and Enduro racers and other competitive and non-competitive mountain bike riders seeking to become their best.
Woohoo! As good as it gets is appropriate! Richard is not only a great rider, he is a great teacher!...
Woohoo! As good as it gets is appropriate! Richard is not only a great rider, he is a great teacher! I would encourage everyone to stay away from the mind trap that buying a more expensive mountain bike is what you need to ride better. Spend the money on lessons instead, and I know you will be happier (and safer) in the long run. I can't say enough positive things about the Bike Skills clinics. ~ Chris G.
Within one hour we we clearing a 5 foot jump easily and with confidence!
Wow, a friend and I just did a one day private lesson with Richard and I can’t believe how much...
Wow, a friend and I just did a one day private lesson with Richard and I can’t believe how much we learned. I’ve been riding for over 10 years but with all self taught skills. We wanted to learn fundamentals the right way and Richard took us through all of that (along with critical bike setup) and the intermediate stuff that they teach in one day plus he spent an extra hour at the end to teach us jumping which I had always been nervous about. Within one hour we we clearing a 5 foot jump easily and with confidence, we even learned to move the bike in the air on a crossed take off and landing. I think my favorite part though was riding fast on the very gnarly technical descent. We will be booking up more private lessons during the summer at Big Bear. Thanks Richard you are a very good teacher! ~John U.
I took a Fundamental Skill clinic last weekend and learned so much! I've been riding for a few years and...
I took a Fundamental Skill clinic last weekend and learned so much! I've been riding for a few years and felt stuck and was not improving at all. Aaron was a great instructor! Very patient and broke down everything step by step and we repeated the skills until we felt comfortable. I look forward to mastering the skills I learned and taking another clinic in the spring. ~Jody Hachenberger-Amend
Special thanks to Santa Fe Fat Tire Society for bringing you in!
My wife and I had the privilege of attending the skills 2 day camp in Santa Fe New Mexico August...
My wife and I had the privilege of attending the skills 2 day camp in Santa Fe New Mexico August 20th and 21st. Richard and Aaron and Catherine where fantastic trainers and teachers they brought new light into basic skills of riding each person in the group was able to excel in what we were doing before we moved on to some other awesome skill or task individual attention was felt by all in the group and visible Improvement was seen in all Riders when we have you back next year you should plan on doubling or tripling the number of riders thanks for a super fun weekend and special thanks to Santa Fe Fat Tire Society for bringing you in and of course thanks to Richard and Aaron and Kathryn. ~Bruce Hamby
This past fall I finally broke down and upgrade my mountain bike. I was riding a hard tail bike mostly...
This past fall I finally broke down and upgrade my mountain bike. I was riding a hard tail bike mostly for the workout. After racing in an Xterra, I realized that a new bike was in my future. ( I could tell a huge story about the process of purchasing a new MB and the massive amount of miss information you can obtain from bike shops. Especially when you know nothing about bikes. ) Not long after I purchased the new MB, I had my first over the handle bars wreck. I still cannot remember the actual crash. I can see the rut that I am about to hit on the downhill, and then I remember waking up on the trail barely able to breath. The crash gave me some time to catch up on email. One of those emails was a beginners MB clinic hosted by Richard and the Ride Like a Ninja crew. I swallowed my pride and signed up. To date I have done everything I was taught. I made every adjustment to my bike that was recommended. I then had the bike fitted. The skills taught that day are priceless to me. For the first time I understand what position my body needs to be in for each type of terrain. I am not perfect by any means, but in my mind I am shouting the word NINJA to remind myself. I practice the techniques ever time I ride. ~ Hal N.
This truly life changing gift will be greatly appreciated by the recipient and is the perfect choice for birthdays, holidays, or any other gift-giving occasion!Gift Certificates are available for all Mountain Bike Skills Clinics, Camps, One-on-one Sessions and Ninja Gear. Order yours here.