I have a confession to make. When I first sat down to write this list, I came up with 18 things. EIGHTEEN! And that’s the problem. The well-meaning friend or loved one who’s encouraging you to mountain bike is so dang stoked about you riding bikes, they FIREHOSE you with information. Tips, tricks, specs, gear, so much unsolicited advice that you can’t even begin to digest it all.
I’m here to give you a distilled sip from the firehose in the hopes that you don’t have to learn these the hard way.
1. Saddle Fit
Saddles and butts come in all shapes and sizes and the saddle that comes with your bike may or may not suit your derriere.
My first years of riding included a series of saddle-related issues (ahem, super painful sores) that kept me from riding for weeks and months at a time. In fact, it almost caused me to give up mountain biking altogether. Finally, a friend suggested I go to a bike shop to get my sitz bone measured – what the heck’s a sitz bone? Turns out my saddle was way too narrow. I found a saddle that fit my butt and we rode off into the sunset to live happily ever after.
Pro Tips: Don’t wear underwear under your padded shorts and chamois cream is your friend! If you have saddle sores or chaffing issues, apply the stuff liberally and enjoy the ride. I go through two tubes of Chamois Butt’r per season.
2. Fear isn’t the enemy.
Fear is, in fact, healthy. If you’re feeling fear as you approach a rock or feature in the middle of the trail, perhaps you don’t know what you’re supposed to do to safely maneuver over or around it? Fear, in this case, seems pretty darn rational to me. If you find yourself wrapped up in intrusive thoughts… “I can’t do this. I’m definitely going to crash. I suck at this” … that’s just your brain’s way of protecting your body.
How do you combat that fear? Arm yourself with knowledge. Take a skills clinic, read skills articles, watch videos to learn what skills and techniques good riders are utilizing on the trails. Then go practice, practice, practice and progress at your own pace. Don’t forget to laugh at yourself, celebrate small victories, and enjoy the process!
3. Tire Pressure
Having the correct tire pressure can make all the difference in your ride. It can be the difference between smooth and silky, klunky and chunky, fun and not-so-fun. Tire pressure isn’t one of those one-n-done kinda things. It’s also not a one-size-fits-all. You should be checking your tire pressure before every ride and adjust your tire pressure to the conditions of the trail. Don’t stress! It’s (slightly) less complicated than it sounds.
Tire pressure can range anywhere from say 15 – 32lbs. If you aren’t sure where to start, take your bike into the local shop and have them give you a “starter” pressure for your weight, tires, and next ride. Play around with a little more and a little less pressure to see how it affects your ride. Eventually you’ll feel for yourself what tire pressure works best for the current trail conditions and your setup.
Pro tip: You’ll want a tire gauge and pump. After a while, you’ll start to get a feel for the “sweet’ spot and might be able to ditch the pressure gauge.
4. Dropper Post
Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t need a dropper post. Doesn’t matter if you’re cruising in the flatlands or only doing short, green trails, if your trails change elevation – at all – then get yo’ self a dropper post. Here’s why – being able to lower your seat on a descent, even a short one, makes it that much easier for you to lower your center of gravity. Say hello to more control, stability, and confidence – the recipe for a good ride.
5. It Gets Better
If you’ve been urged to mountain bike by a friend or loved one, you’ve witnessed this “sport” become a “lifestyle” for them. Maybe your first experiences weren’t great. Maybe you fell, you were left behind, you were exhausted and felt discouraged. And while everyone else was smiling and high-fiving, you were collapsed in a dirty, sweaty pile wondering “what the heck about this is FUN for you?!”
Well… it gets better. When you first start riding, every single thing on the trail requires more effort and you don’t have the skills, fitness, or confidence to “find the flow” (yet!). That flow (what your friends are experiencing) comes with time. As your skills toolbox and fitness improve, you won’t be stressing “OMG, how am I going to get up/down this mountain?!” You’ll begin to feel what all the buzz is about and catch yourself firehosing your own new-to-riding friends with advice. Just send them this article instead. 😉
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.