Are you interested in pedaling solo but not-so-sure about the prospect of being out there alone? Maybe you’re wondering – How do I navigate the trails? What happens if I break my bike and can’t fix it? Where should I ride?
Stop worrying! Riding by yourself doesn’t have to be scary – in fact – riding by yourself can be one of the most wonderful and freeing experiences you can have on a bike. There is no pressure, no agenda – just you and the wide open trail.
Here are my tips for making be sure your introduction to solo riding is a positive one.
1. Start Small, Build Up
You do not need to attempt to ride the entire Colorado trail on your first solo ride. Start with a trail that you are familiar with! As you get more comfortable riding solo, start exploring new trails or slightly longer rides. Build up and venture out one ride at a time!
2. Tell Someone
Doesn’t matter if you are riding for 30 minutes or 30 miles, tell someone your riding plan! Where do you plan on riding and how long do you expect to be gone? This might be the single most important step in riding solo. Shoot a friend a text, write it on a sticky note on your fridge – just tell someone where you are going.
There are lots of great tools out there to help you safely navigate trails. I highly recommend having both a digital map AND a paper map when you are out adventuring. Keep a trusty paper map in a waterproof bag just in case you break your screen, your phone battery dies or your GPS goes flying down a hillside.
My person favorite navigation app to use is Trailforks. The app can be easily accessed from my phone and allows me to…
Easily see trail distance and elevation profiles.
Know where I am! A little blue dot will tell you exactly where you are on the trail map allowing you easily to identify intersections and remaining distance to the next junction.
Find suggested riding routes and trail direction
Keep navigating even with no cell service! As long as you’ve downloaded your regional map in advance, the app will continue to work even without service.
Tell people where I am in an emergency. The “Emergency Info” button (found on the main menu, upper left corner) will give you your exact latitude and longitude.
Another popular trail app is MTB project. Checkout both apps to determine which has the most accurate trail coverage for your area.
4. Plan your pack
I have a confession to make. I’m an over-packer. I like to be prepared because….you just never know! I always ride with a pack stocked with more water thank I think I need, extra snacks, a basic first aid kit, extra riding gloves, tools and an extra layer for warmth. Save your minimalist tendencies for decorating your living room – riding solo is about being prepared.
The reality is, more often than not, these extra supplies end up going to random strangers on the trail. Need a bandaid? Ran out of water? Missing a tool? #trailkarma
When it comes to tools, I carry my multi-tool with chain breaker, a spare derailleur hanger, extra chain links, a spare tube and a tire pump. I recommend you know the basics of repairing a flat tire before venturing into the wilderness on your own. Even if you aren’t a master mechanic, just having the supplies with you will allow a nice stranger on the trail to lend a hand in the event on a mechanical malfunction.
5. What’s the weather?
You would think this one goes without saying, but please please please be sure to check the weather forecast before you head out for your ride. There is nothing worse than getting caught unexpectedly in a rain shower when you are our riding. Some trails (especially clay soil) can become simply un-rideable when wet – not to mention how miserable it is being cold and wet. When it comes to you vs. mother nature, mother nature always wins.
6. Ding, ding, ding!
I don’t like surprising other people or wildlife on the trails. To let folks know I’m coming, without obnoxiously yelling or blasting music, I like using my Timber mountain biking bell. The bell can be turned on when I need it, and easily silenced when I don’t with the quick flip of a lever. I’ll use the motion-activated bell when I’m bombing downhill, on a busy trail with lots of users or in bear territory (along with my handy canister of bear spray).
7. Know the risks. Know your limitations.
Mountain biking comes with some inherent risks and that’s okay because so do most things in life. It shouldn’t stop you from hitting the trails. I save the higher risk features for when I have other riders out with me on the trail. If I ride up on a high consequence feature (think: cliff exposure) and I’m not 100% sure I can ride it, I skip it. On the flip side, I’ll try lower consequence features all day long when I’m riding solo. I love trying punchy technical climbs on the trail with zero pressure from onlookers.
8. Don’t ride further than you can walk
I’m not a bike mechanic and while I carry some basic bike tools and spare parts, I can’t fix everything. There is always a chance I’ll need to walk my bike out if something catastrophic breaks. Because of that, when riding solo I never rider further than I can walk back to my car.
9. Smell the Roses
This is hands down my favorite part of riding solo – I can stop whenever I want to take in the sights and sounds of the trail! Don’t forget to give yourself permission to stop for snacks (and photos) or just to take in the scenery.
So what are you waiting for? You don’tneed anyone but yourself to have a great ride. #partyofone
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.
Good clinic. It was helpful to learn, practice with repetition and get critiqued by the coach all at once. I...
Good clinic. It was helpful to learn, practice with repetition and get critiqued by the coach all at once. I look forward to an intermediate level class! Thanks for doing this coach Richard! ~ Sally A.
The best money I’ve ever spent on mountain biking!
Just finished a two day skills workshop in Dallas. To say it was the best money I've ever spent on...
Just finished a two day skills workshop in Dallas. To say it was the best money I've ever spent on mountain biking would be an understatement. Our instructor was Aaron Lucy, a wonderful teacher and just a real pleasure to be around kind of guy. I highly recommend Ninja for anyone from novice to advanced riders as they cover just about anything and everything that will make you a more rounded rider. Thanks so much Aaron for all the advice and coaching! ~Mark Stewart
I'm a 63 y.o. Road and MTB cyclist. I've ridden mountain bikes since 1988. I really wish that I'd taken...
I'm a 63 y.o. Road and MTB cyclist. I've ridden mountain bikes since 1988. I really wish that I'd taken this course 25 years ago and I might have avoided some of the injuries I received over the years. I took only the morning first intro session at Phoenix and I learned a great deal in a short period of time. Richard is a very gifted cyclist and coach with excellent pedagogical skills. The class moved quickly, but covered all the appropriate details needed to handle a bike on technical trails. Richard had two local expert cyclists who demonstrated techniques while he provided a narrative and answered question. We had one relatively new rider who was very wary of some of the steeper, technical descents. By the end of the class, you could actually see a significant increase in her confidence using the skills acquired in the class. I'm looking forward to doing one of Ninja's camps and I hope they are able to expand their clinics to my area (Albuquerque, NM). William 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.