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!
I'm a road Triathlete that lucked into a XTERRA World Championship slot via the lottery last year. Being a road...
I'm a road Triathlete that lucked into a XTERRA World Championship slot via the lottery last year. Being a road triathlete, I had very little experience and no technical skills on a mountain bike. I took the Ninja beginner and then intermediate classes almost back to back. Richard is a great teacher, and taught the sequential skills that matter most. He does a great job of "breaking things down" with the what and the why, and illustrates the information well with his demonstrations, all the while, delivering it with a sense of humor and enthusiasm. Richard's instruction helped me successfully get through a very technical course in Maui without major injury! Yea, thank you Richard!!. Whether a complete beginner or an advanced rider, I promise you can take a lot away from his classes.... and, let's be honest ...Who doesn't want to be a Ninja! ~ Ray S.
Team Eastlake Cycling Team thank you for your time, energy and expertise…
I’ve been coaching road & track riding for years. Got into mtn bike riding because of the terrain near our...
I’ve been coaching road & track riding for years. Got into mtn bike riding because of the terrain near our home AND my daughters like to ride in the dirt. Took classes through the high school league to be more acquainted with the fundamentals skills and acquire more knowledge of the NICA league rules. Coach La China and staff broke down the skills for our team riders in a fun and engaging process. Team Eastlake Cycling Team thank you for your time, energy and expertise to bring our riders to a new level of confidence. ~Ron G.
I really enjoyed the Intermediate/Advanced clinic with Aaron in Palmer Park, Colorado Springs. Aaron made sure that every skill was...
I really enjoyed the Intermediate/Advanced clinic with Aaron in Palmer Park, Colorado Springs. Aaron made sure that every skill was practiced thoroughly. He was paying attention to every move and detail and was very patient. My riding has definitely improved since than and I have been practicing the skills a lot on single track. The best advice I received - visualize yourself doing it! I definitely recommend this class to bikers of all levels. ~Yana Brown
I consider myself a strong intermediate MTB rider; I love highly technical downhill single track trails. A friend suggested I...
I consider myself a strong intermediate MTB rider; I love highly technical downhill single track trails. A friend suggested I take a multi-day skills clinic to help get to the next level. After a brief search I found that Ninja Bike Skills 3 day skills clinic up in Big Bear CA. If you have never taken a class then the old adage "you don't know what you don't know" probably holds true; it did with me. While it the clinic started off simple, the skills taught build on one-another to ensure you have solid foundation basics needed to safely leverage the higher skill stuff taught at the back end of the class. Richard and Aaron brought two great perspectives as one is a XC/Edurance/Enduro rider and the other is dedicated to gravity downhill. The teaching style was simple and actionable. All the Ninja instructors are very knowledgeable and very passionate about MTB which is infectious and make the class fun. I would highly recommend to any level riders who have never had any instruction in MTB skills. Plus if you take the class at a place like Snow Summit Big Bear, you get to ride amazing trails!! ~Greg A.
Woohoo! As good as it gets is appropriate! Richard is not only a great rider, he is a great teacher!...
Woohoo! As good as it gets is appropriate! Richard is not only a great rider, he is a great teacher! I would encourage everyone to stay away from the mind trap that buying a more expensive mountain bike is what you need to ride better. Spend the money on lessons instead, and I know you will be happier (and safer) in the long run. I can't say enough positive things about the Bike Skills clinics. ~ Chris 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.