A lot more goes into technical climbing than just “pedal and pray”! Getting your bike up and over technical terrain requires you to use multiple tools in your riding toolbox usually in quick succession, at low speed and with precision. Let’s break down the art of technical climbing and see if we can get you clearing those daunting climbs with less frustration and more success.
1. Set up for success
Set your speedprior to starting the climb. When you first start technical climbing you may come to the conclusion that momentum improves your odds of success. And to some degree, you’d be right. However, the “right” amount of momentum is going to be relative to the length, technical features and grade of the climb in front of you. If it’s a relatively short technical section, you may be able to use momentum to blast up and over any obstacles by relaxing and letting your suspension do the work. However, if it’s a long(er) technical climb where momentum will diminish before the top, you must have the skills to tackle the terrain at low(er) speeds.
Next, choose a gearthat doesn’t have you spinning out of control or that isn’t so hard you can’t turn the pedals over.
Get off your…saddle!If you are seated, you can’t move your weight around to stay centered over the bike as you climb. So, up you go!
Spot your lineby using your route finding skills to spot the path of least resistance and go in with a plan of attack.
2. Stay centered
Climbing is a delicate balance and involves constant movement between the front and back of the bike. Keep your center of mass over the pedalsby subtly moving forward and back to maintain even weight control on both tires. If your front tire starts to lift off the ground, you’ll quickly lose directional control (and that’s when you get off balance and topple over). No one likes toppling over. Instead, quickly bring your weight forward to counteract. On the opposite end, if you back tire starts to spin out, bring your weight back to counteract. Sometimes you might need a big (not-so-subtle) shift of weight to help propel your bike up and over a larger obstacle.
3. Eyes on the prize
Look where you want to go! If you’re staring straight at a rock in your way, guess what? You are going to ride straight into said rock! Really. Instead of resorting to “deer in headlights”, see the obstacles in your path, figure out what skill you will utilize to get over or around the obstacle, and then look past it at your exit. Use your vision to constantly be working out the puzzle in front of you and don’t get caught staring at one spot!
4. Dig into your toolbox
Depending on what you encounter on your climb, here are a few skills you might put to work:
Pedal Assisted Wheel Lift
Sometimes unweighting your front wheel isn’t enough and it gets hung up on an obstacle. In this case, it’s time to pull out the pedal-assisted wheel lift from your toolbox. This is done by timing the your pedal stroke so that the power stroke assists you in getting your front wheel up and over the obstacle. The pedal assisted wheel lift is just like the start of a wheelie.
If you find yourself clipping a pedal, put your ratcheting skills to work! A quick adjustment of your pedal positioning can be the different between cleaning the climb, or not.
It is critically important to be aware of the path of both your front-wheel and rear-wheel on technical trail. Each wheel is likely following its own line, especially as you’re traversing through rocks or roots. Being aware of your wheel tracking takes time and practice. Practicing the rock dodge skill on a flat area will help you be more aware of this wheel tracking so you can better set up for a successful line choice when technical climbing.
The track stand will give you the upper hand in technical climbing! Having the ability to stop, think and potentially change directions or adjust your line can be highly valuable. Mastering a track stand takes consistent practice, you’ll find yourself using this skill regularly and your technical climbing will improve dramatically. You’re welcome.
Still struggling on a technical climb? Not sure what you’re missing?
First, check yo-self. Where are your thoughts? Are you thinking, “I’m never going to make this climb”. Or, are you saying, “I can do this. I’ve got my toolbox of skills and I’m making it to the top today!”. You should never underestimate the power of positive thinking.
Try to figure out what is happening right before you put your foot down. Is your back tired getting hung up on a root? If your front wheel starting to pull up and off the ground? Once you determine the problem, pick the skill best suited the help you fix the mistake.
How can you tell if you are properly centered over the bike? When climbing, if your bike were to magically disappear from beneath you, you should land balanced on your feet. You shouldn’t go tumbling forward and you shouldn’t go somersaulting backyard. Landing means you’ve properly adjusted your body position to the angle of the climb so you are not too far forward, not too far back.
What are you waiting for? Get out there and get climbing!
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.