On your bike, the whole world is your playground and we’re not just talking about trails. Parking lots, grass fields, trailheads, driveways; they’re all prime spots for playing on your bike… and progressing. These 8 moves will develop your balance, control, strength, and coordination inching you closer to that feeling of your bike being an extension of your body. Plus, you can work on them anywhere!
Once you practice and perfect these moves, you’ll get out on the trail and see them really come to life. Maneuvering through technical climbs at a near stand still, cleaning that hairpin switchback with an endo turn, effortlessly floating that front wheel up and over a ledge you aren’t even sure you can hike up… followed by the back wheel. Things you thought you could never do become achievable. Let’s do this!
1. Track Stand
Not just for being the cool kid at the trailhead, this skill will elevate your technical ability. Start by riding as slow as you can, keeping the pedals level and fingers on the brake levers. Next try it on a slight uphill, keeping pressure on the pedals to hold the bike still against the upward grade. Once you get the hang of that, take it to flat ground and even declines, further developing your braking, balance and control.
This requires momentum, but not much. Let the bike roll at a walking pace, then lean it way over, practicing your cornering form. “What’s that look like?” Outside elbow up, inside arm straight, hips swinging to the outside and leaning your bike with bike/ body separation. Don’t forget to balance it out by working on both sides! (Lookin’ at you, “I can only turn left”-ers).
Bonus points: Get into the grass and try to knock something like a water bottle over with your handlebar.
Standing or seated, ratchet the pedals and rotate the hips to make a tight turn. Keep a finger on each brake and try to go slower and slower without dabbing a foot. Once you finish a right turn, immediately turn back left.
Bonus points: Try to do a figure 8 fully contained within one parking spot or go around an object with the front wheel and bring the back wheel inside
Time to bust out some props! Use objects to build a course and then ride around, over and through it. Get creative and make it a game of using all of your Ninja skills: bike/ body separation, ratcheting, braking, etc. If you’re in a parking lot, use the points of the parking spaces (the empty ones, doh!) as a slalom course and dial your cornering.
5. Ratchet Wheelie
You want to get better at lifting your front wheel? Do more wheelies! Find a mellow gear, cover your rear brake with one finger, and practice using the power stroke of the pedals to lift the front wheel. Equally, if not more important, practice using your brake lever to bring the front wheel down again.
Bonus points: Once you master that initial pop, try ratcheting the wheelie and modulating the brake to do some crazy-looking low-speed wheelies!
I’ve learned a ton of skills from playing on curbs. Start with front and rear wheel lifts and work up to your bunny hop. Next find a bigger ledge so you can develop a strong scoop to lift the bike higher and higher. You’ll be amazed how often these skills will come out to play on the trail!
Bonus points: Practice your drop technique on the way back
Also known as a level lift, but without any forward momentum (we meet again, track stand!). Use a compression and explosion to hop the bike off the ground, keeping the wheels level. Move with the hips, lock up your brakes and work on bouncing the bike sideways, forward, backwards, and eventually around. Channel your inner trials rider!
8. Endo and Stoppie
Ah yes… we come to the holy grail of technical trail maneuvers. Let’s start by clarifying these two sister-skills. The Endo is standing still on your front wheel while the Stoppie is rolling forward (it’s confusing, we know!).
Let’s try it! Start on level ground at a slow walking pace. With a controlled stop and rear wheel lift, practice finding your balance point on your front wheel. Letting off the brakes will return your rear wheel to the ground. Oh hey, Endo! Move on to the Stoppie by letting off your brakes a bit to keep the front wheel rolling. Remember to keep your arms strong, stay smooth, and scoop those pedals!
Bonus points: Try adding in a pivot and turning the bike to show even the tightest hairpin switchback on the planet who’s boss.
And there you have it – a bag of tricks you can develop almost anywhere before you unleash them out on the trail. Make the most of those sunset sessions or waiting on a friend spending some focused practice time on your bike in the name of fun and progression. Good luck, and stay loose!
He’s a wild man with a wild plan, living the nomad life as a skills instructor and trail builder. With a background in moto and 15 years of mtb experience, he has tips for riders of all levels! You can find him leading Ninja clinics all over the country and on Instagram @vitabrevis
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...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
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...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
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...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
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...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
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.