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. 😉
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.