Obstacle Cost Versus Return

Should you ride over, through or around that obstacle?

What is the cost associated with each of these options?  The reality is, we may be  hitting the trail with different objectives; a casual ride with friends, working on our technical skills or perhaps racing to a finish line.   The nature of your ride should impact how you read and subsequently ride the trail.  Riding for speed is different than learning how to feature over obstacles, snagging the best Instagram shot or maintaining energy for an endurance race.  Picking the right line on the trail is up to you.

Here are a few key things to consider:

Amount of Energy Required – Do you need to save energy for something else coming up on the trail / course?

Fatigue Level – Are you trashed tired?  Perhaps an easier, but longer line would be a better choice?

Risk of Mechanical – Are you miles and miles away from the trail head and don’t want to get stuck walking out?  Or, ending your race early?

Risk of Crashing – Do you have the skills required to tackle the more challenging line?

FUN! – Would you rather soar through the air over the obstacle,  or rip around it?

Time – Is time a factor?  Perhaps the most direct line is best?

While a straight line is the shortest line, it may (over time) result in fatigue and may increase the risk of mechanical (flats, etc.).  If you are a proficient jumper, it may be best to use the obstacle to feature (jump) over the obstacle.  Or, perhaps — go around the obstacle or walk the obstacle.

In this video you can see Ninja Instructor Cory Rimmer featuring off the first root in this root cluster to sail over them.  This line option allowed Cory to maintain his speed AND snag a wicked video for his Instagram feed.  Did anyone notice Ninja Instructor Shanna Powell — known for her slogan “I’d rather be rad than fast.” — supervising on the bench behind Cory?  What do you think, did Cory take the “rad” or “fast” line?

Next time you head out to your favorite trail, pick a strategy….any strategy!  Try riding a different line than your usual and see how it feels.  Perhaps you will surprise yourself!  Maybe that root sections that you used to power through is actually more fun to sail over.  Maybe dismounting and walking your bike up that gnarly technical rock garden means you have more energy at the end of the ride to enjoy the flow section.


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.

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