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 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.