I guess it’s the same with most skill sets. If you could know what takes years to learn on day one of taking up a new activity, you could be an instant world champion so long as you had everything else it takes to reach those heights. But hey, where’s the fun in that? Mountain Bike Skills Training is essential to Sunday riders and those with aspirations for greatness. Like anything else, the more you learn, the more you know, the better you become. To coin a famous Red Bull series, if you want a Life Behind Bars, you will need some guidance. Many of the pros and champions of any discipline will agree with that.
I’ve been riding for. . . ha-ha, a long time and it’s a passion that survives the darkest days. I started riding in rural Germany and relied on magazines for skills clinics. There was not many riders around at that time and the range of available parts and accessories was limited. A lot of trial and error, even more wipe-outs but one thing I did learn was to never fail to help another rider if I can.
How Often Should I Ride?
In short, my answer to that is every day but that’s not a reality for most people. It’s entirely personal and don’t let anybody make you feel bad because you have a family or had a tough day at work. Having said that, there have been times when I have hit the trails after a particularly stressful day and it’s far better than a Netflix or food binge. Healthier too. It never fails to release the tension and stress levels can be measured by the time on the trail; if you’re into that sort of thing.
Of course there are many rides for different scenarios. The best for me is simply because I love it and I can whether that’s alone, with a group or as part of a race pack.
So, the answer to how often really is a personal thing although three days out of seven will see a huge leap in your fitness and skill levels.
Before MTB I was heavily into running and particularly mountain running until late one evening when I mistimed a descent down a few steps and I tore an Achilles tendon. Talk about bad timing. At the time I was waiting for an operation to fix the tendon on the other heel. Dark days ahead but a year later I discovered a very cheap end of line Huffy mountain bike and I fell in love with the freedom it gave me and riding three times each week, I soon rediscovered the fitness I lost.
Mountain Bike riding demands endurance, core strength and balance, So, in other words, if you are an absolute beginner or getting fit after an injury or just getting fit, you will need to start where you are. It might even mean riding alone at a pace that suits your health until you improve your strength. Or, find a ride buddy or two who are willing to help and encourage you.
MTB gives a wonderful lower body workout and does help with upper body too, although I would recommend some off bike focus on your upper body. Someone with little upper body strength will have difficulty maintaining pace and coping with the challenges of the trail.
Like any physical exercise, you will need to ensure that you are in good health before mountain biking and it is not advisable to set off on a long trip if you are not feeling well. Common sense must reign supreme and the strenuous nature of mountain biking never underestimated. If you have any doubts, consult a doctor or sports specialist if you can.
Bike Handling Skills
There are some scary trails out there if you don’t know how to handle the challenges they present. In short, if you or the bike you ride aren’t up for it, don’t do it. A great example of that was a ride I enjoyed with my partner a couple of days ago. It started out on some very old tracks between villages in the French Pyrenees and labeled “no difficulties”. That was true at least for the first ten kilometers until a mountain with 478 meters of climb (1568 feet) became the only way forward. The track was rutted and littered with a lot of fixed and loose rocks, keeping good traction was a massive challenge and it became even more difficult when we entered a forest and due to rainfall of several days earlier adding mud to the rocky terrain.
Without our sound handling skills and overall fitness, we wouldn’t have made it to the top of that mountain and the exceptional view of another (smaller) mountain. Chests heaving, lungs burning and I have no idea what was going on in my legs until everything changed when we started to descend and trail reading needed concentrated focus, especially where some parts of the trail demanded we ride exceptionally narrow lines.
This brief ride report is not designed to put you off. Rather, to outline the need to develop the skills required to handle challenging terrain. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube, Red Bull, GMBN. . . and I will cover some of the most basic skills necessary in my next post.
Brian Gerow at Singletracks published a great link rich article in November 2018
There is no doubt that the best way to get ahead on your mountain bike is to get out there, ride within your limits and practice. Once you have the basics in place you can focus on advancing your fitness and skill sets. Your holy grail of the trail is not mine and never let anybody tell you what to ride. It’s all about you and your personal abilities so, Just Ride. Three rides each week will see huge improvements and can lead to massive enjoyment, so much so that when you don’t ride, you feel that something is missing. Take care of your body, practice the skills, look after your bike and just do it.
- Body Position
Comments & Questions
If you have any of those please leave them below and I will get back to you.
Ride Hard, Ride Fair, Nobody Hurt