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!
Highly recommended! Essential riding skills are thoroughly broken down making them easy to understand and learn. Coach Richard and Kris...
Highly recommended! Essential riding skills are thoroughly broken down making them easy to understand and learn. Coach Richard and Kris are some of the most professional and pleasant coaches/cyclist/people I have come across. Looking forward to one of their future clinics. ~ Tom T.
This was awesome. Having someone dissect your riding into a few skills that you can focus on is a great...
This was awesome. Having someone dissect your riding into a few skills that you can focus on is a great starting point in order to make you faster. I’m sure everyone including myself experienced a positive feeling in how to improve from this point on. — Don’t expect to be a world champ after this clinic but to learn what and where and most importantly how to improve your trail riding from now on. Richard gives you the tools but you have to put in the work.” ~ Michael A.
I’ve immediately seen an improvement in my riding …
I took the skills camp at Mt Laguna last weekend – it was GREAT. Ok, so I was a bit...
I took the skills camp at Mt Laguna last weekend – it was GREAT. Ok, so I was a bit of a nervous wreck when I realized I was the least skilled in the group – but the instructors didn’t give up on me and gave me plenty of tips, positive reinforcement and new ways to think about my riding. At the end of the weekend, I felt that I had a better understanding how to ride better. I’ve immediately seen an improvement in my riding, am a lot less timid and am looking forward to taking another camp soon! ~Quan Campbell
The Ninja team (Richard & Aaron) were great instructors!
The Ninja team (Richard & Aaron) were great instructors! The training was in Soquel Demonstration Forest & being able take...
The Ninja team (Richard & Aaron) were great instructors! The training was in Soquel Demonstration Forest & being able take our time to session sections of Braille & Flow while having experts help fix any dysfunctions in our riding technique was priceless. I know I've always had to brake-check a lot before hitting the corners, but now I actually feel more planted while carrying more speed around the berms just w/ a slight change in hip position. I can't wait to actually hit Flow again at speed just to see how my time has improved. As for Braille, I know I need to session some of the jumps & drops a few more times before I hit them at speed (instead of bypassing around most of them as I have in the past) but now I should have the tools to know what I need to practice. Technical instruction aside, they also talked about efficient uphill pedaling, gearing choices as well as techniques to build up more mitochondria in your body... all stuff I'm interested in since I know I need to build up my climbing legs. ~Carlo F.
My wife started mountain biking recently and while she enjoyed it, she was lacking some confidence and needed some skills....
My wife started mountain biking recently and while she enjoyed it, she was lacking some confidence and needed some skills. I knew Richard La China from the cross country racing scene and felt confident that he and the ninja team could help out. I bought a woman's beginner clinic for my wife and she really enjoyed the challenge and experience. She is a better mountain biker now with much more confidence and new and improved skills. Mission accomplished! I highly recommend Richard LaChina and the ninja skills clinics for any level. I bought my wife a clinic gift card for Christmas which she will use to take the intermediate clinic. I plan on taking an advanced course to improve my cornering skills. ~ Mark T.
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.