If your introduction to mountain biking was anything like mine, you know that there is a right way and a verywrong way to introduce someone to the sport. My first singletrack experience? A backcountry shuttle ride in Utah on a borrowed bike with tennis shoes and an outdated helmet. On the first descent I grabbed a handful of front brake and went over the bars. I didn’t get back on a mountain bike for 5 years.
A successful introduction takes just a little bit of planning, some forethought and a healthy dose of patience. In the end, you will have a new riding buddy and a friend for life.
1. Equipment Check
Get started on the right foot – make sure your friend is riding a bike that is the right size and in good working order. Remember, your spare large hardtail does NOT fit your friend who is 5’2”. Don’t even try. Do a quick bike check to make sure everything is rolling smoothly. Consider picking up a demo bike from a local shop. A lot of shops will apply a demo credit to the purchase of a new bike!
Ensure your friend is wearing a helmet that fits and is prepared with plenty of snacks and water… then throw an extra granola bar in your pack, just to be safe. No one likes being hungry and it’s easy to underestimate how hard they’ll be working on the bike. Do you have a spare set of pads you can loan them for the ride? Offer them up!
2. Picking the Ride
Take a minute to plan the right ride – not too hard, not too long, not pushing daylight, not on the hottest day of the year, etc
Before you head out, set expectations and let your friend know the length / estimated time of the ride. This will help your friend know how much water and snacks to bring, and help ease their fear of the unknown. Keep in mind, a trail that you can lap in 20 minutes may take an hour with someone brand new to mountain biking.
For a first ride, better safe than sorry. Don’t overdue it. Consider having a short and long ride option so you can bail early if that’s best.
3. Cover the Basics
Take a quick minute to make sure you friend understands the very basics of mountain biking. For example, explain the front and rear brake and remind them to “ease the squeeze” with the brakes. Don’t let them grab a handful of front brake! Consider reminding the new rider that it’s best to stand on level pedals when descending. Explain how to work the dropper post.
4. Don’t preach.
You are not an instructor (or if you are, please call us). Even some of the best riders accidentally offer bad mountain biking advice. Keep your riding tips basic – just enough to avoid an OTB.
If you see your friend making a potentially fatal error on the ride, politely offer a little tip to save their as*. Otherwise, don’t turn the ride into a skills lesson unless asked. If there is a feature you suggest they walk for safety’s sake, consider walking the feature yourself, even if you know you can ride it. Set a good example and encourage your friend to ride within their ability level.
5. Set the Pace
You can help to set a good pace whether you are riding in front or taking up the rear. If you are riding in front, don’t pedal off leaving your friend in the dust. Take it easy! On the flip side, don’t ride right on your friend’s wheel. Give them some space so they don’t feel pressure to rider faster than they are comfortable.
6. Take a Break
Remember how hard you were breathing when you first started mountain biking? Give your friend plenty of opportunities to rest. And remember, the break doesn’t start until they get there, even if you’ve already been breaking for 5 or 10 minutes.
7. Check yo’ self before they wreck themselves!
Be humble and patient. Don’t refer to rides or features as easy or short. While they may be for you, to a noobie, everything can feel like a big deal and you don’t want to squash that feeling of accomplishment. Their first handful of miles on a mountain bike should be about fun and your job is to make sure they want to get back in the saddle to do it again!
8. Make Introductions
Congratulations! You are a great friend for introducing your buddy to the sport. Now it’s time for them to spread their wings! Mountain biking is not a monogamous sport. Introduce your friend to other riding buddies and get them connected with a good local shop. Set them up with a group ride and be sure to send them our group riding tips!
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.