Can I confess something? The first time I showed up to a group mountain bike ride I walked into the hosting bike shop, looked around at all the other experienced looking riders and promptly walked right back out to my car to hyperventilate for a few minutes. What if I was too slow? What if I made a fool of myself? What if no one talks to me? Am I wearing the right gear? What happens if I get a flat tire and I can’t fix it?
I took a few deep breathes, quieted the naysayer in my head and walked back into the bike shop with my chin up. I introduced myself to the ride leader and explained that it was my first time showing up to something like this. Turns out, all those tough looking mountain bikers were actually pretty nice and very approachable.
Are you thinking about showing up to a group ride? Feeling a bit anxious? Not sure what to expect? No problem. It can be nerve-wracking to head out for your first group mountain bike ride and showing up prepared is the best way to calm those fears.
Without further adieu, here are 9 tips to make your group ride adventure smooth and stress-free for everyone.
1. Skill & Fitness Check
Be sure you’re showing up to the right ride for your skill level. If a ride route is listed, take the time look up the trail difficulty in advanced (checkout MTBProject, Singletracks, Trailforks for trail ratings). If you aren’t sure on the skill level, contact the organizer and double check.
This should go without saying but if you are an experience rider looking for advanced riders to shred with, don’t show up to a beginners ride complain about the pace. Okay there, I said it. Phew.
2. Group Ride Definitions
You will frequently see rides listed as “no drop”, which means no one will be left behind and the group will stop occasionally to make sure everyone is still together.
In addition, there is almost always a designated “sweeper” who rides in the back of the group and makes sure no one gets separated from the group. Don’t feel bad if you are in the back and the sweep won’t pass you – it’s their job to be the kaboose!
3. “Hello, my name is _______”
Introduce yourself. Meeting new ride buddies is one of the best parts of group rides so take advantage!
At the end of a group ride, I enjoy inviting other riders to join me for a plate of tacos. It’s a proven fact that all mountain bikers love tacos! #tacosforthewin
4. Don’t delay!
Be ready to go at the scheduled ride time. “Wheels down” means the group wants to be riding at that time, not waiting 20 minutes for someone to lube their chain and braid their hair. Show up early if you need a hand with bike setup, tire pressure, or print-mixing your kit. Pro tip: mountain bikers call outfits “kits”.
5. Be prepared
Bring water, snacks, and a flat repair kit (tube, pump, tire levers). Even if you don’t know how to fix a flat (yet!), being prepared with one makes it easier for someone to help you out on the trail. It’s always better to be over prepared than under prepared!
Consider throwing a jacket or extra layer in your pack. Group rides often include a number of regrouping stops and throwing on a jacket when you are breaking can save you from getting chilled!
6. Get out of the way, please.
If you bail (meaning you can’t ride a trail feature), get off the trail. It’s okay if you aren’t comfortable trying to get over an obstacle, but the person behind you may want to give it a go. If it’s safe, move over to let them by, take notes on their technique and cheer them on!
7. Know the Rules
Make sure to familiarize yourself with the universal rules of the trail! Be sure to leave no trace, give uphill riders the right of way and if you encounter a horse on the trail (hopefully with a rider on top), dismount your bike and allow the horse to pass
8. Chin Up, Buttercup!
The most important part of a group ride is having fun! No one likes the rider who shows up to a group ride and does nothing but apologize the entire time and listing out excuses. If you’ve followed the tips above, you should have no reason to be apologizing on the ride. If you are a little slower than the pack or you don’t clear a feature, it’s all good! Really! Be confident, be kind and go ride your freakin’ bike.
9. Finding A Group Ride
Not sure where to find a group ride in your neighborhood? Checkout your local shop, bike clubs, bike festivals and demo events. Or call up some friends and organize your own group ride!
I'm a road Triathlete that lucked into a XTERRA World Championship slot via the lottery last year. Being a road...
I'm a road Triathlete that lucked into a XTERRA World Championship slot via the lottery last year. Being a road triathlete, I had very little experience and no technical skills on a mountain bike. I took the Ninja beginner and then intermediate classes almost back to back. Richard is a great teacher, and taught the sequential skills that matter most. He does a great job of "breaking things down" with the what and the why, and illustrates the information well with his demonstrations, all the while, delivering it with a sense of humor and enthusiasm. Richard's instruction helped me successfully get through a very technical course in Maui without major injury! Yea, thank you Richard!!. Whether a complete beginner or an advanced rider, I promise you can take a lot away from his classes.... and, let's be honest ...Who doesn't want to be a Ninja! ~ Ray S.
Team Eastlake Cycling Team thank you for your time, energy and expertise…
I’ve been coaching road & track riding for years. Got into mtn bike riding because of the terrain near our...
I’ve been coaching road & track riding for years. Got into mtn bike riding because of the terrain near our home AND my daughters like to ride in the dirt. Took classes through the high school league to be more acquainted with the fundamentals skills and acquire more knowledge of the NICA league rules. Coach La China and staff broke down the skills for our team riders in a fun and engaging process. Team Eastlake Cycling Team thank you for your time, energy and expertise to bring our riders to a new level of confidence. ~Ron G.
I really enjoyed the Intermediate/Advanced clinic with Aaron in Palmer Park, Colorado Springs. Aaron made sure that every skill was...
I really enjoyed the Intermediate/Advanced clinic with Aaron in Palmer Park, Colorado Springs. Aaron made sure that every skill was practiced thoroughly. He was paying attention to every move and detail and was very patient. My riding has definitely improved since than and I have been practicing the skills a lot on single track. The best advice I received - visualize yourself doing it! I definitely recommend this class to bikers of all levels. ~Yana Brown
I consider myself a strong intermediate MTB rider; I love highly technical downhill single track trails. A friend suggested I...
I consider myself a strong intermediate MTB rider; I love highly technical downhill single track trails. A friend suggested I take a multi-day skills clinic to help get to the next level. After a brief search I found that Ninja Bike Skills 3 day skills clinic up in Big Bear CA. If you have never taken a class then the old adage "you don't know what you don't know" probably holds true; it did with me. While it the clinic started off simple, the skills taught build on one-another to ensure you have solid foundation basics needed to safely leverage the higher skill stuff taught at the back end of the class. Richard and Aaron brought two great perspectives as one is a XC/Edurance/Enduro rider and the other is dedicated to gravity downhill. The teaching style was simple and actionable. All the Ninja instructors are very knowledgeable and very passionate about MTB which is infectious and make the class fun. I would highly recommend to any level riders who have never had any instruction in MTB skills. Plus if you take the class at a place like Snow Summit Big Bear, you get to ride amazing trails!! ~Greg A.
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.
We are a group of passionate, dirt-loving, community oriented, world class mountain bike skills instructors committed to helping you reach your personal riding goals through clinics and camps. We are excited to work with riders of all ability levels and share the joy (STOKE) of mountain biking.