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 felt so confident that I recently signed up for the Catalina MTB Gran Fondo!
I participated in the beginner skill clinic at Malibu Creek last Saturday, because I'm truly a beginner who couldn't stop...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
I participated in the beginner skill clinic at Malibu Creek last Saturday, because I'm truly a beginner who couldn't stop falling down during each mtb ride. The class was small and super fun...and the instructors (Richard and Kris) were informative and dynamic. The clinic was small enough for each member to practice each learned skill and receive immediate feedback. I learned many new skills on that day and felt much more confident with my bike-body connection. I felt so confident that I recently signed up for the Catalina MTB Gran Fondo...the 55 mile route! Woohooo!! The next day, as I was road biking (training for the Solvang Double Century), I dodged a bullet on the Snake/Mulholland by applying my learned mtb skills--a long towing truck went over almost half of our lane on a blind turn as we were descending. Instead of fixating on the truck, I remembered the importance of looking for a clear path and keeping my eyes on where I want to go....Now I understand what people meant when they said that mtb will help improve my road riding skills too! I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn, and I look forward to the next clinic! ~ Uyen N.
I was so happy I could transfer what I learned in Sedona to my own trails.
I just rode on my local trails today after taking the Ninja clinic in Sedona. I was so happy I...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
I just rode on my local trails today after taking the Ninja clinic in Sedona. I was so happy I could transfer what I learned in Sedona to my own trails. There is one drop and one off camber downhill section I never have had the courage or skill to ride until today. It was so fun to ride them and not get off and walk. Richard La China and Courtney Cowan were fantastic instructors. Not only did I up my technical skills in Sedona it was also a ton of fun! ~Patty Elliott
Took the mini clinic on jumping skills because I can't resist the urge to get in the air even though...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
Took the mini clinic on jumping skills because I can't resist the urge to get in the air even though I always knew I didn't really understand the mechanics of it, so it was a kind of "huck and hope" affair. The result was that I didn't land about 1 in 5 attempts. The clinic with Aaron was great! He explained the mechanics of how the bike is handled coming into, through and out of the jump and starts with individual small skills progressing step by step in a very manageable way (even for me, and I started this stuff at 45 and I'm not very coordinated). What I feel sets Aaron apart is his ability to communicate his explanations and demonstrate movements in a way that makes them easy to learn even for someone with little experience. He is also very patient and encouraging, which helps when one is starting out and struggling a little with some movements. I definitely intend to do more clinics with Ninja MBS. I feel like it will save me a lot of time and frustration as well as possibly a lot of money in medical bills! ~Jill M.
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.
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.