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
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.
My 14 year old son and I (I'm 43) went to the Intermediate/advanced skills clinic at Malibu Creek State Park....
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
My 14 year old son and I (I'm 43) went to the Intermediate/advanced skills clinic at Malibu Creek State Park. We both race and ride at a very fast pace. Getting faster for us is about making sure our fundamentals are solid and we can continue to use those fundamentals to smooth out our flow to increase our skills and confidence. Richard has a way of breaking down all the information to make it very understandable and usable. My son and I have been to other skills classes before and knew what to expect, mostly. Richard was able to coach us to better form riding high speed flat corners! We brushed up on and cleaned up some less helpful habits. We really worked to understand the how and why behind some skills that we already had but didn't know we that we did. All in all we had a blast! Richard was fun and informative. Taylor was helping Richard out for the day. It was fun to watch her demo some skills at speed. Her input throughout the day was informative and light hearted. It was a fun day on the bike with some great people and coaching. This will not be our last Ninja training clinic! Thanks for everything Richard and Taylor! ~Eric Zubick
I have, like many cyclists, been riding bikes since childhood. Feeling like I hit a plateau in my technical riding...
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
I have, like many cyclists, been riding bikes since childhood. Feeling like I hit a plateau in my technical riding skills (because I had), I began searching for a mountain bike skills camp. I wanted to attend a camp that would push me to be a better rider, but I needed it to be in a great location on actual trails. After a fair amount of searching, I decided that spending a weekend at a Ninja Mountain Bike Skills camp would be perfect. It didn't hurt that the camp was in Big Bear. The condensed review: It took only a few hours of trail riding with Richard and Daniel to drastically change my riding for the better. The long review: The camp was broken into morning and afternoon sessions, separated by an amazing lunch on each day. The morning sessions were, in general, based on technique and riding isolated technical features. The afternoon sessions functioned more like a capstone; we rode incredible trails, like Fall Line and Skyline, and put our newly-learned skills into action. Richard and Daniel were attentive to both the class as a whole as well as each individual. The pacing of each individual lesson (I'm a teacher, so I viewed each piece as a lesson) was wonderful. There were constant checks for understanding as well as incremental assessments of our skills on the bike. We were never once, all weekend, bogged down in repetition, nor were we rushed through a skill or concept. I was blown away by the sheer volume of skills that were taught in such an easy-to-grasp manner. Of course, we were not standing by our bikes the whole time listening to a lecture: we were actively riding while Daniel and Richard looked on with critical eyes. Richard was clear in his introduction...
G2 Bike looks forward to many more of these clinics in this area.
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills is a warm and friendly environment to learn new skills and hone ones you already know....
Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills is a warm and friendly environment to learn new skills and hone ones you already know. It's a non intimidating environment where mistakes are welcomed so corrections can be made. I own G2 Bike is Aliso Viejo and this clinic has been ran out of the Aliso Woods area and when I interviewed the clients they had all but great things to say. None arrogant instructors and easy to follow steps. The biggest bang for many was meeting new area riders at their skill level, gaining confidence, and getting the bike set up and fit properly. G2 Bike looks forward to many more of these clinics in this area. Thanks Richard for all you do for the MTB community! ~ AJ S.
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.