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 A backcountry shuttle ride in Utah on a borrowed bike with tennis shoes and an outdated helmet.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 your 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 chilling 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!
Everything you need to learn to fully enjoy mountain biking.
Mountain biking is a relatively new sport compared to road biking. So the opportunities to find a good mountain biking...
Mountain biking is a relatively new sport compared to road biking. So the opportunities to find a good mountain biking skill clinic are quite scarce. Richard La China and his team offer such clinic! Richard has the training as a Coach from USA Cycling and the experience as an expert racer to develop in you the skills and therefore the confidence to negotiate the treacherous obstacles on your path as a mountain biker. His clinic has several levels from beginner to expert and is organized incrementally to facilitate the learning of more and more difficult skills. In addition to his and his expert team's demonstrations, I also like his verbal explanations about the why of a specific position or skill to have. Richard and his team have the dedication and patience to teach you anything you need to learn to fully enjoy mountain biking. ~ Anne-Catherine
Probably the best money I’ve spent on mountain biking …
I took the Ninja intermediate / advanced course here in Denver the weekend before last, and it was probably the...
I took the Ninja intermediate / advanced course here in Denver the weekend before last, and it was probably the best money I've spent on mountain biking in quite a while. Aaron tuned the clinic to our skills and needs, putting in extra time and attention where we needed more work and covering a wide range of skills. After mountain biking for almost 20 years, there were still missing pieces (and some bad habits) to my riding that he picked up on, explained, and then showed me how to improve, correct, and practice. Aaron was knowledgeable, patient, and progressed through skills in steps so there wasn't too much to digest at any one time. As the day progressed, he rolled them all together as we moved through different trail features, so I really got a good sense of how to put things into practice. He was also very familiar with the venue, Village Greens Park, so he knew exactly which sections to hit to practice particular skills - it was a great combination of drills and very watchful instruction, then honing those skills on real trail features. And, as we talked about with him during lunch, even experienced riders should consider the "fundamentals" course - I really had no idea that I needed work on some of the basics, like braking. I'm heavy on the rear brake just as a long-established habit - who knew? (Well, apparently Aaron did...) ~Jon Gotow
I would highly recommend it to individuals at a wide range of skill levels.
I attend the 3-day mountain bike skills camp in Mulberry Gap Georgia and it was a great experience. We spent...
I attend the 3-day mountain bike skills camp in Mulberry Gap Georgia and it was a great experience. We spent the first day going over fundamentals and doing drills and the second and third day riding trails. The combination of instruction and practice was very useful. Our instructors, Randy and Erin, are expert riders and wonderful instructors. The explained and demonstrated skills wells and provided helpful feedback. The Mulberry Gap resort was also a wonderful location to hold this event. I would highly recommend it to individuals at a wide range of skill levels. ~Armand A.
Great class! I wish I took this class seven yrs ago when I started mountain biking. Richard & his team...
Great class! I wish I took this class seven yrs ago when I started mountain biking. Richard & his team was awesome. I learned how to approach uphill switchbacks, how to “pre-turn”, & most important, how to descend with confidence. Bottom line: I am more efficient & safer rider. As another review said, “best money spent on mountain biking.” You can have an expensive bike, but if you don’t know how to ride, what’s the point? Highly recommend this class for all ages/skills. I will definitely be taking more classes! ~Rean
Best investment ever. The Ninja mountain bike skill clinics will definitely bring up your riding level a notch or two....
Best investment ever. The Ninja mountain bike skill clinics will definitely bring up your riding level a notch or two. Being able to get instant feedback from the instructor (s) in this case Richard La China and his assistant is invaluable. From getting the correct riding position to improving the skills necessary to have a fast flow through the trails builds confidence and is the key to having more fun when mountain bike riding. Also I've taken one-on-one lessons (with Richard La China) and it really speeds up the learning (in my case it was basic jumping) in any area where you deem to be weak in or just need improvement. ~ Thad 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.