Mountain biking requires a combination of strength, endurance and skill. To get that combination right, you need to train, and how hard you train depends on how serious you are about the sport. Most of us are weekend riders who need little more than the right gear, some practice and a good warm-up, but that doesn’t mean we should get complacent with learning skills and techniques.
Riding with confidence not only makes you a better rider, but it enhances your experience on the bike and means you’ll have fun no matter what trail you’re on. By implementing the below tips to improve your mountain biking skills, you’ll become a stronger and more confident rider—
- Start training early. We’ve all uttered the words “I’ll start working out next week/ next month”. The problem with telling ourselves this is that we take on a lot of pressure, and in the end, cram in way too much training in a very short period of time. Giving yourself plenty of time (at least 2 months) will help your body adapt and progress without increasing your risk of injury or exhaustion in the process.
- Maintain your bike. It’s difficult to focus on the trail when you are listening to strange noises coming from your bike. Basic bike maintenance only takes a few minutes and can save you a long walk, or worse, a trip to the hospital. Click here for our Mountain Bike Maintenance 101 Guide
- Warm up. Each time you ride, take at least 10-15 minutes beforehand to warm up. This increases blood flow to your muscles so that you’re less likely to injure them. Start with pedalling fast but with low resistance. After about 10 minutes, add a bit of resistance. Then get off your bike and stretch your muscles.
- Ride more corners. Getting better at cornering is something that only comes with practice. Practice your entrance speed, exit speed and body position across a range of different turns to improve your technique. You should find you’re more confident and faster over time.
- Ride with people better than you. Not only will this help you push yourself a little harder, but it will help you learn some of the riding habits of people who have been doing it for longer. Watch how they position their bodies when going up or downhill, how they handle rough sections etc.
- Ride easier, but for longer. Increasing training volume rather than intensity is a great way to improve fitness long term. The best way to increase volume is more low intensity time. Low intensity allows you to ride for longer and is relatively less stressful mentally and physically, promoting sustainable and consistent training. Try dialing back the intensity of your long rides in favour of a bit of extra duration.
- Practice looking ahead. Another training tip is to develop your ability to look ahead and scan the trail. This is something that we all know we should do, but many don’t actively practice. Try some technical skill rides on your mountain bike and include some drills where you focus on looking further down the track. Use your peripheral vision to alert yourself to obstacles in close proximity, and then use your central vision to assess what’s further ahead.
- Ride multiple surfaces. Ensuring you ride on a multitude of different surfaces regularly is key to building confidence. Making sure you know how to ride in everything from mud, to sand, to gravel will put you in a better frame of mind when out riding. Turning up on the day of your big ride and trying to learn how to tackle an alien surface from scratch is far from ideal.
- Mountain biking is meant to be an enjoyable activity so remember to breathe and keep your body loose. The best suspension you have is your arms and legs so stand up, relax and let them absorb the bumps and dips of the trail. Once you learn to let the bike move beneath you, you will be able to float over most obstacles.
- Cadence, or the rotation of your pedals, is an important aspect of cycling. If you pedal in squares or with jerky downward strokes you are actually throwing yourself off balance and working harder. Good cadence incorporates peddling in circles and being in the right gear. If you are geared too high, it will be difficult to power over things, and if you are geared too low, you’ll spin out and jerk the bike around.
- Take a Brake. Better braking will allow for better bike control. Many new riders think there are only two brake settings – locked and not in use. By learning how to use both brakes effectively you’ll not only have more control, but you’ll save the trail from excessive erosion.
- Ride everywhere. The more time you spend on your bike, the better you will get. Ride to the shops, to the coffee shop or anywhere within a reasonable distance instead of taking the car. This will help reinforce your riding skills as you ride up and down curbs, dodge potholes etc.
You can read about cycling as much as you want but nothing replaces saddle time. So with that in mind, gear up and get out and ride. I’ll see you on the trail.
Anna – Inspiration Outdoors Guide
After a fully supported mountain bike tour then click here for more information on our 6 Day Munda Biddi Bike Tour?