On your bike, the whole world is your playground and we’re not just talking about trails. Parking lots, grass fields, trailheads, driveways; they’re all prime spots for playing on your bike… and progressing. These 8 moves will develop your balance, control, strength, and coordination inching you closer to that feeling of your bike being an extension of your body. Plus, you can work on them anywhere!
Once you practice and perfect these moves, you’ll get out on the trail and see them really come to life. Maneuvering through technical climbs at a near stand still, cleaning that hairpin switchback with an endo turn, effortlessly floating that front wheel up and over a ledge you aren’t even sure you can hike up… followed by the back wheel. Things you thought you could never do become achievable. Let’s do this!
1. Track Stand
Not just for being the cool kid at the trailhead, this skill will elevate your technical ability. Start by riding as slow as you can, keeping the pedals level and fingers on the brake levers. Next try it on a slight uphill, keeping pressure on the pedals to hold the bike still against the upward grade. Once you get the hang of that, take it to flat ground and even declines, further developing your braking, balance and control.
This requires momentum, but not much. Let the bike roll at a walking pace, then lean it way over, practicing your cornering form. “What’s that look like?” Outside elbow up, inside arm straight, hips swinging to the outside and leaning your bike with bike/ body separation. Don’t forget to balance it out by working on both sides! (Lookin’ at you, “I can only turn left”-ers).
Bonus points: Get into the grass and try to knock something like a water bottle over with your handlebar.
Standing or seated, ratchet the pedals and rotate the hips to make a tight turn. Keep a finger on each brake and try to go slower and slower without dabbing a foot. Once you finish a right turn, immediately turn back left.
Bonus points: Try to do a figure 8 fully contained within one parking spot or go around an object with the front wheel and bring the back wheel inside
Time to bust out some props! Use objects to build a course and then ride around, over and through it. Get creative and make it a game of using all of your Ninja skills: bike/ body separation, ratcheting, braking, etc. If you’re in a parking lot, use the points of the parking spaces (the empty ones, doh!) as a slalom course and dial your cornering.
5. Ratchet Wheelie
You want to get better at lifting your front wheel? Do more wheelies! Find a mellow gear, cover your rear brake with one finger, and practice using the power stroke of the pedals to lift the front wheel. Equally, if not more important, practice using your brake lever to bring the front wheel down again.
Bonus points: Once you master that initial pop, try ratcheting the wheelie and modulating the brake to do some crazy-looking low-speed wheelies!
I’ve learned a ton of skills from playing on curbs. Start with front and rear wheel lifts and work up to your bunny hop. Next find a bigger ledge so you can develop a strong scoop to lift the bike higher and higher. You’ll be amazed how often these skills will come out to play on the trail!
Bonus points: Practice your drop technique on the way back
Also known as a level lift, but without any forward momentum (we meet again, track stand!). Use a compression and explosion to hop the bike off the ground, keeping the wheels level. Move with the hips, lock up your brakes and work on bouncing the bike sideways, forward, backwards, and eventually around. Channel your inner trials rider!
8. Endo and Stoppie
Ah yes… we come to the holy grail of technical trail maneuvers. Let’s start by clarifying these two sister-skills. The Endo is standing still on your front wheel while the Stoppie is rolling forward (it’s confusing, we know!).
Let’s try it! Start on level ground at a slow walking pace. With a controlled stop and rear wheel lift, practice finding your balance point on your front wheel. Letting off the brakes will return your rear wheel to the ground. Oh hey, Endo! Move on to the Stoppie by letting off your brakes a bit to keep the front wheel rolling. Remember to keep your arms strong, stay smooth, and scoop those pedals!
Bonus points: Try adding in a pivot and turning the bike to show even the tightest hairpin switchback on the planet who’s boss.
And there you have it – a bag of tricks you can develop almost anywhere before you unleash them out on the trail. Make the most of those sunset sessions or waiting on a friend spending some focused practice time on your bike in the name of fun and progression. Good luck, and stay loose!
He’s a wild man with a wild plan, living the nomad life as a skills instructor and trail builder. With a background in moto and 15 years of mtb experience, he has tips for riders of all levels! You can find him leading Ninja clinics all over the country and on Instagram @vitabrevis
Had a great class Oct 11. Kris and Richard were very helpful and knowledgeable. They made things fun and easy...
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills
Had a great class Oct 11. Kris and Richard were very helpful and knowledgeable. They made things fun and easy going, even while rolling you off the the lunch table bench. Came away with a bit more confidence which I have already put into practice. I really appreciated the review of what was covered in the class in the follow up email. Looking forward to taking the Jan intermediate class at Balboa, hopefully it will be up for registering soon. In the mean time I have a lot to work on. ~Linda Peterson
Don’t hesitate, sign up for the next skills clinic in your area!
My adult son and I participated in the "Fundamentals" camp on Saturday at Hildebrand Ranch in Denver, Colorado. We were...
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills
My adult son and I participated in the "Fundamentals" camp on Saturday at Hildebrand Ranch in Denver, Colorado. We were both very pleased with the clinic and would highly recommend it to anyone who has recently started riding full suspension mountain bikes. We have already been back out on the single-track trails practicing what we learned in the clinic. Aaron and Richard did a great job breaking down all the fundamentals and honestly amazed at the impact on my riding. Still have a lot to work on but if I follow the instructions I can improve my riding. We are both scheduled to attend a two day clinic in Santa Fe with Richard and looking forward to taking our riding to the next level. If you want to improve your skills, don't hesitate to sign up for the next skills clinic in your area. ~Dan Mitchell
My brain is still swelling with knowledge one month later.
I had a great time at a 3 day camp in Big Bear, CA and my brain is still swelling...
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills
I had a great time at a 3 day camp in Big Bear, CA and my brain is still swelling with knowledge one month later. Not knowing what to expect, I was pleased with the professionalism and detail that Richard and his team brought to camp. They not only take the time to teach you great MTB skills, but when and why you should use them. They begin with the fundamentals skills and reinforce those skills throughout the camp, which I found quite helpful. The skills progress quickly and we covered a lot of ground in three days. I was able to do a few skills I had never really tried before by the end of camp. I recommend highly and plan to attend another camp in the future. ~Joey W.
I'm a road Triathlete that lucked into a XTERRA World Championship slot via the lottery last year. Being a road...
Ninja Mountain Bike Skills
I'm a road Triathlete that lucked into a XTERRA World Championship slot via the lottery last year. Being a road triathlete, I had very little experience and no technical skills on a mountain bike. I took the Ninja beginner and then intermediate classes almost back to back. Richard is a great teacher, and taught the sequential skills that matter most. He does a great job of "breaking things down" with the what and the why, and illustrates the information well with his demonstrations, all the while, delivering it with a sense of humor and enthusiasm. Richard's instruction helped me successfully get through a very technical course in Maui without major injury! Yea, thank you Richard!!. Whether a complete beginner or an advanced rider, I promise you can take a lot away from his classes.... and, let's be honest ...Who doesn't want to be a Ninja! ~ Ray 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.