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 would encourage anyone of any ability to take a class with these guys.
I recently attended one of the Intermediate/Advanced Efficiency and Flow clinics. Even though I have been riding for many years...
I recently attended one of the Intermediate/Advanced Efficiency and Flow clinics. Even though I have been riding for many years I learned a lot from this clinic. The techniques covered ranged from reviewing basic skills such as basic body position to practicing more advanced techniques like switchbacks, bunny hops, and cornering. I was able to recognize, get instruction, and practice some skills where I was weak and instantly improve them. Even skills I thought I was pretty good at I was able to pick up useful tips. I also realized that deliberate skills practice is not something I incorporate into my riding, but now that I understand what I should be doing I will make sure to add this in! After taking the course my comfort on the bike has improved and I am more aware of my body position and movement of the bike. I would encourage anyone of any ability to take a class with these guys. The instructors are knowledgeable and easy to work with. There is a lot of one on one help and they will make sure you understand the skills being taught and are able to perform them successfully. Plus the clinic was lots of fun! I highly recommend and hope to work with these guys again soon. ~ Michelle A.
The course was very fluid, engaging, and I would highly recommend it.
I took the intermediate/advanced course in Balboa Park after having ridden for just over 2 years on my own. It...
I took the intermediate/advanced course in Balboa Park after having ridden for just over 2 years on my own. It covered a wide breadth of skills, some of which I already felt aquatinted with and others I had little to no experience with. I found all of the material useful. I was able to improve skills I already had and was able to learn new skills. I also feel confident leaving the course that the instructors have provided all of the information for me to practice and improve outside of the course setting. The environment of Balboa Park was perfect for learning and sessioning the skills covered. The instructors were friendly, fun, and attentive to all of the participants. They spent more or less time on certain skills based on how the entire group was grasping them. They also gave individualized attention to participants that required more help with technique. The course was very fluid, engaging, and I would highly recommend it. ~Alexandra Rose Brysiewicz
Taken the 3 day Skills Camp out in Mulberry Gap GA. Outstanding weekend. We had a small group of about...
Taken the 3 day Skills Camp out in Mulberry Gap GA. Outstanding weekend. We had a small group of about 8 people with 3 Ninja Pro's. Richard and the instructors were attentive and always helpful. The course had you work on your base fundamentals, advanced skills, along with bike setup,maintenance, nutrition ,This was a very comprehensive course. After learning the skills, we'd hit the trails and the training didn't stop. Instructors would get to a technical portion of a trail and have us all stop and they would show us how to use the skills we just learned. Everyone learned at their own pace. So no one felt pressured to keep up with others. Having fun was always top priority. Arriving back home, I was practicing all the skills i've learned like an excited little kid with a new bike. I hope to take this course again when they come back to this side of the country -- it was well worth it! ~Vic D.
Enrolling in the Intermediate/Advanced clinic was the best thing I’ve ever done to improve my speed and ability on the bike.
Hands down, enrolling in the Intermediate/Advanced clinic was the best thing I've ever done to improve my speed and ability...
Hands down, enrolling in the Intermediate/Advanced clinic was the best thing I've ever done to improve my speed and ability on the bike. I am so much faster on singletrack and through technical sections/jumps that even if people are more fit than me, I still keep up with them (and kind of love watching them do a lot more work than they need to). Richard and Kris are fantastic and break things down in a way that makes sense and is manageable. By the end of my first clinic, I was jumping off ledges and power climbing up sections that I couldn't drive a car up. You could buy a $5,000 carbon bike and do 10,000 ft rides every day, but you will get the best return on any investment you make in your riding by attending a Ninja Skills Clinic. ~ Regina J.
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.