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Ninja Mountain Bike Performance - Skills Clinics, MTB Jump Ramps and Bike Stands

A personal reflection on “what’s in” and “what’s out” from Ninja’s Captain of Global Development

Regardless of whether you are celebrating 2020 as the start of a new decade, or just another new year, January seems like a great time to reflect, am I right?

This month I’ve been reflecting back on my progress as a mountain biker.  I can’t help but laugh thinking about the spandex outfits I used to wear (I was a recovering triathlete), my too-tight clipless shoes and the rigid seat post on my entry level mountain bike.  Here I am in 2020 and I can’t imagine riding without a dropper post, my bike is worth more than my car, and I don’t hesitate to wear my baggy riding gear out in public. All this nostalgic reflection got me thinking about the riding trends from the past decade.

Me rockin’ my clipless pedals, spandex, rigid seat post and half finger gloves circa 2013.

I decided to ask my fellow instructors for their trend predictions, thinking a trends list would make for a fun article.  So I sent out an email and asked

“What trends are on their way out? And what trends are on their way in?”

Well, I didn’t end up with the list I was expecting. Let me explain.

Responses to my inquiry started rolling in and they were what you would expect if you’ve kept up with the latest bikes and apparel for sale at your local shop…

“Goodbye spandex, hello ‘casual wear’.”

“Goodbye fixed seat posts, hello dropper posts.”

“Goodbye 26” wheels, hello 29ers.”

“Goodbye clipless, hello flat pedals.”

And then a very intelligent someone (looking at you, Eric) chimed in with this….

“Goodbye exclusivity.  Goodbye alienating people because they don’t ride what you think is trendy. 

Hello inclusivity.  Hello creating a culture around mountain biking that welcomes any and all regardless of their bike, gear or ability.”

MIC DROP.


It hit me.  I realized that publishing a list of “what’s old” and “what’s trendy” goes against what we stand for here at Ninja.  Sure, as riders we all have our own personal preferences for tire size, pedals, apparel and trail features. But at the same time, as mountain bike advocates, we all want MORE people riding bikes and more people enjoying the great outdoors.  You don’t need to have a fancy new bike, tip-top fitness or the latest clothes to be a mountain biker. You just need a mountain bike in good, working order. And a helmet. 

Want to enjoy the sport of mountain biking in a no pressure, judgement free environment? Come ride with a Ninja. Want to improve your skills and riding confidence? Ride with a Ninja. And sure, if you want a recommendation for comfortable riding gear or a great bike, ask a Ninja what they like. I’ve never met a Ninja that doesn’t like talking about their favorite gear.

For this next decade, let’s all get out there and be a different type of trendsetter.  Let’s introduce new friends to the sport. Let’s donate old gear to good causes. Let’s volunteer to build and maintain trails.  Let’s help out local youth riding teams. Let’s strike up a conversation with the guy/gal standing alone at the local trail alliance meeting and make them feel welcome. 

If you’ll let me, I’d like to revise the questions I posed to my fellow riders. Take 2…

What if mountain biking culture focused for the next 10 years on making the sport more inclusive and more accessible?

What if we focused our energy on being better stewards of our trails?

What if mountain biking culture sought to build bridges with fellow trail users and surrounding communities? 

What do you think? 

Cheers to a new year (decade?) and new trends. 

– Hannah, Ninja Captain of Global Development

14 Responses

  1. I really love this post! I’m a former roadie turned MTB’er and gravel racer. I love my Lycra even a bit more than my baggies, so It’s good to be accepted regardless of what you where to the trailhead. As long as you have a helmet, you’re good to go! I can’t wait for my next Ninja clinic in Vermont, this coming Spring!

  2. I ride in lycra because it is cooler. Temperature not style. I ride clips because I have been riding clips for 30 years and it is too late to switch now. I do not use a dropper because I started riding long before they were invented (ignoring the Hite-Rite). At that time you learned to bend your arms to lower your shoulders to lower your center of gravity. That being said baggies, flats and droppers all work great if that is the way you like it. I own a 26, a 27.5 and a 29er. All do their own thing. Tight quick twisties is the 26. Stable cruising is the 29er. Most of the time the 27.5 covers everything.

  3. I fantasized about a dropper post for years before I found the first primitive 2-position, bounce-on-it (Gravity Dropper I think) for sale…and haven’t had a bike without one for 15+ years. Ditto for full suspension (20 years) and 29ers (first time I tried either I knew I was never going back!). And I’ve never liked spandex – and let’s just say that it doesn’t flatter my physique – so have been riding in baggy whatever-shorts/shirts ever since my first MTB. But….haven’t switched out from SPDs since ditching the toe-clips back in the dark ages.

    While I dont care much for being trendy, advancing technology has been a great thing for the sport and my enjoyment of it………..who knows, I might even think about an E-BIKE sometime after I enter my 8th decade….

    1. I’m with ya! I’m all about taking advantage of new technology. I’ve seen dramatic improvements in my own riding from simple component upgrades like new wheel set, different tires, a new shifter that better fits my hands.

  4. I ride road, gravel, and MTB. Lycra is always my first choice for comfort and efficiency. Good bibs and a long sleeve jersey (sun protection) with pockets. Clipless and flat for the MTB. I change pedals/shoes for different rides. I could live without a dropper post, but it happens to be on my current ride. I’ve always been a land steward for my “local spot,” first as a rider and then as a member of a local land trust. If you want more people to enter the sport, dare I ask to welcome people on Class 1 e-bikes?

    1. I definitely could not live without a dropper post, but that’s just me! 🙂 I don’t have a dropper post on my winter fat bike and every time I ride downhill, I find myself reaching for a dropper lever that doesn’t exist. As for e-bikes, as long as the venues where we teach permit e-bikes, riders are welcome to bring one to their Ninja clinic. We do ask the participants take responsibility for doing the research to determine if their e-bike is permitted on the trails where we teach.

    1. Hey Bob, I’m sure you can appreciate that a lot of work goes into selecting clinic venues that are conducive to a great clinic experience, with lots of different factors coming into play. We have clinics in 25 states and over 40 cities, many of which are held on e-bike friendly trails. If we can help to direct you to a location near you that is e-bike friendly, feel free to shoot us an email at [email protected].

  5. Finally! I’ve always wanted to take my 125cc supermoto on the local pump track, but those old fashioned “environmentalist trail-builders” have discriminated against “motorized vehicles” and excluded me. Now that motorized bikes are trending, I’m totally going to shred it!

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Fundamentals Trail Application - Women's Only

Here’s What We’ll Cover

The specific skills taught in this clinic will depend on available trail features and will vary between locations. Skills covered may include:

  • Rock / Log Step-Ups 
  • Pedal Assisted Front Wheel Lifts
  • Steep Transitions, Roll-Downs
  • Reading trail and line choice
  • Using trail features for maximum flow
  • Turning (Low Speed)
  • Navigating Trail Obstacles
  • Switchbacks – Optimal Line Choice
  • Ratcheting application – how & when 
  • Track stands
  • Braking for Speed 
  • Shifting – Timing + Technique on Technical Terrain
  • Skinnies
  • Off-Camber Trails 
  • Berms 
  • Water crossings 
  • Roots 

The Schedule*

  • 1:15-1:30pm Meet your instructor  | Arrival at course venue + equipment check
  • 1:30 – 1:45pm Fundamentals Skills | Rapid Review 
  • 1:45 – 3:45pm Coached Trail Ride | Sessioning & Skills Application
  • 3:45-4:00pm Review, questions & next steps | #Ridelikeaninja

*Clinic schedule and skills covered may vary according to location and terrain.

Fundamentals Trail Application

Here’s What We’ll Cover

The specific skills taught in this clinic will depend on available trail features and will vary between locations. Skills covered may include:

  • Rock / Log Step-Ups 
  • Pedal Assisted Front Wheel Lifts
  • Steep Transitions, Roll-Downs
  • Reading trail and line choice
  • Using trail features for maximum flow
  • Turning (Low Speed)
  • Navigating Trail Obstacles
  • Switchbacks – Optimal Line Choice
  • Ratcheting application – how & when 
  • Track stands
  • Braking for Speed 
  • Shifting – Timing + Technique on Technical Terrain
  • Skinnies
  • Off-Camber Trails 
  • Berms 
  • Water crossings 
  • Roots 

The Schedule*

  • 1:15-1:30pm Meet your instructor  | Arrival at course venue + equipment check
  • 1:30 – 1:45pm Fundamentals Skills | Rapid Review 
  • 1:45 – 3:45pm Coached Trail Ride | Sessioning & Skills Application
  • 3:45-4:00pm Review, questions & next steps | #Ridelikeaninja

*Clinic schedule and skills covered may vary according to location and terrain.

Ninja Kids clinics

Here’s What We’ll Cover

Some of the skills taught and practiced in the Kids Fundamentals Clinic may include:

  • Ninja (Ready) Position
  • The Riding Rainbow: Body Position
  • How to use your gears
  • Front + Rear Wheel Lifts
  • Safely getting on/off your bike
  • Getting over trail obstacles
  • Turning + Switchbacks
  • Reading the trail: Red Light, Yellow Light, Green Light
  • When and how to brake
  • The 4 Climbing Positions
  • Descending in control
  • How to have fun and be safe!
  • Safety check, bike care

Clinic schedule, time and skills covered may vary according to location and terrain.

2-Day CAMPS

Sample Camp Schedule*

Day 1 (Saturday)

  • 8:45-9:00 Meet your instructor  | Arrival at course venue + equipment check
  • 9:00-9:15 Let’s get started | Introductions, camp overview, bike safety check, bike set-up review
  • 9:15-9:30 Warm-up ride | Head to skills area
  • 9:30-12:15 Mornings skills session | Ready position, bike-body separation, effective braking, fluid shifting, body positioning, wheel lifts
  • 12:15-1:30 Lunch break | BYO
  • 1:30 – 4:00 Intro to jumping | Manuals, bunny hops + how to safely jumping (and land) your mountain bike

Day 2 (Sunday)

  • 8:45-9:00 Meet at trailhead | Gear up for day 2!
  • 9:00-9:15 Review | Brief review of Day 1 skills
  • 9:15-12:00 Morning skills session | High-speed cornering, switchbacks, drops, rock dodge, technical climbing & descending
  • 12:00-1:00  Lunch break | BYO
  • 1:00-3:45 Trail ride + skills application | Put those skills to work!
  • 3:45-4:00 Review, questions & next steps | #Ridelikeaninja

 

*Clinic schedule and skills covered may vary according to location and terrain.

After camp, you will see an immediate improvement in your riding and a boost in confidence on technical trails. You will be able to tackle rougher terrain and corners with greater control and flow through singletrack, switchbacks, and berms with more speed and efficiency.

Jumping Mini-Clinics

Here’s What We’ll Cover

Some of the skills taught and practiced in the Jumping Mini-Clinic may include:

  • Wheel lift Review
  • Bunny hops
  • Jumping body positioning
  • Anatomy of a jump
  • Speed vs. compression | How and when?
  • Landing with precision
  • Let’s get jumping! | Jump progressions

The Schedule*

Please note, clinics may vary according to location and terrain.

  • 1:30-1:45  Meet your instructor | Arrival at course venue + equipment check
  • 1:45-2:00 Let’s get started | Introductions
  • 2:00 – 2:30  Intro to jumping | Wheel lifts, manual, bunny hop
  • 2:30 – 3:00 Reading the jump | Anatomy of a jump, speed vs compression, landings
  • 3:00 – 3:45 Let’s jump! | Jumping progressions on table tops
  • 3:45-4:00 Review and next steps | #ridelikeaninja

 

*Clinic schedule and skills covered may vary according to location and terrain.

Intermediate / advanced clincs

Here’s What We’ll Cover

Some of the skills taught and practiced in the Intermediate/Advanced clinic may include:

  • Negotiating trail obstacles (i.e. rock gardens, roots, logs)
  • Steep transitions
  • Drops
  • High speed cornering
  • Technical climbing
  • Technical descending
  • Advanced braking
  • Reading the trail
  • Introduction to energy management & flow
  • Pumping for speed & air
  • Technical Switchbacks (where available)
  • Ratcheting & Trackstands
  • Visualization

The Schedule*

  • 8:45-9:00 Meet your instructor  | Arrival at course venue + equipment check
  • 9:00-9:15 Let’s get started | Introductions
  • 9:15-9:45 Accelerated review of Fundamentals | With intermediate+advanced progressions
  • 9:45-12:00 Morning skills session | High-speed cornering, Switchbacks, drops, rock dodge, technical climbing & descending
  • 12:00-1:00  Lunch break | BYO
  • 1:00-3:45 Trail ride + skills application | Put those skills to work!
  • 3:45-4:00 Review, questions & next steps | #Ridelikeaninja

*Clinic schedule and skills covered may vary according to location and terrain.

WOMEN'S ONLY Fundamentals Combo

Here’s What We’ll Cover

The specific skills taught in this clinic will depend on available trail features and will vary between locations. Skills covered may include:

  • The Ready Position
  • Bike/Body Separation
  • Intro to Steep Transitions
  • Effective Braking
  • Braking for speed
  • Wheels lifts – Step-Ups
  • Shifting, Timing & Cadence
  • Negotiating trail obstacles
  • Turning / Switchbacks
  • Climbing + Descending
  • Dismounting
  • Mind skills
  • Steep Transitions, Roll-Downs
  • Reading trail and line choice
  • Using trail features for flow
  • Turning (Low Speed)
  • Ratcheting – how & when 
  • Track stands
  • Skinnies
  • Off-Camber Trails
  • Berms
  • Water crossings
  • Roots

The Schedule*

  • 8:45-9:00  Meet your instructor  | Arrival at course venue + equipment check
  • 9:00-9:15 Let’s get started | Introductions
  • 9:15am – 11:15 Skills & drills | Learn, learn, learn
  • 11:15am – 12:15 Take it to the trail | Apply what you’ve learned
  • 12:15 – 1:30pm Lunch Break | Rest & Refuel
  • 1:30 – 1:45pm Fundamentals Skills | Rapid Review 
  • 1:45 – 3:45pm Coached Trail Ride | Sessioning & Skills Application
  • 3:45-4:00pm Review, questions & next steps | #Ridelikeaninja

*Clinic schedule and skills covered may vary according to location and terrain.

Co-ed Fundamentals Combo

Here’s What We’ll Cover

The specific skills taught in this clinic will depend on available trail features and will vary between locations. Skills covered may include:

  • The Ready Position
  • Bike/Body Separation
  • Intro to Steep Transitions
  • Effective Braking
  • Braking for speed
  • Wheels lifts – Step-Ups
  • Shifting, Timing & Cadence
  • Negotiating trail obstacles
  • Turning / Switchbacks
  • Climbing + Descending
  • Dismounting
  • Mind skills
  • Steep Transitions, Roll-Downs
  • Reading trail and line choice
  • Using trail features for flow
  • Turning (Low Speed)
  • Ratcheting – how & when 
  • Track stands
  • Skinnies
  • Off-Camber Trails
  • Berms
  • Water crossings
  • Roots

The Schedule*

  • 8:45-9:00  Meet your instructor  | Arrival at course venue + equipment check
  • 9:00-9:15 Let’s get started | Introductions
  • 9:15am – 11:15 Skills & drills | Learn, learn, learn
  • 11:15am – 12:15 Take it to the trail | Apply what you’ve learned
  • 12:15 – 1:30pm Lunch Break | Rest & Refuel
  • 1:30 – 1:45pm Fundamentals Skills | Rapid Review 
  • 1:45 – 3:45pm Coached Trail Ride | Sessioning & Skills Application
  • 3:45-4:00pm Review, questions & next steps | #Ridelikeaninja

*Clinic schedule and skills covered may vary according to location and terrain.

Ninja MTB Logo

Women's Only Fundamentals Clinics

Level 1 - Here’s What We’ll Cover

Some of the skills taught and practiced in the Women’s Only Fundamentals Clinic may include:

  • The Ready Position
  • Bike/Body separation
  • Intro to Steep Transitions
  • Effective braking
  • Wheels lifts
  • Shifting + cadence
  • Negotiating trail obstacles
  • Turning / Switchbacks
  • Climbing + Descending
  • Dismounting
  • Mind skills

The Schedule*

  • 8:45-9:00  Meet your instructor  | Arrival at course venue + equipment check
  • 9:00-9:15 Let’s get started | Introductions
  • 9:15am – 11:15 Skills & drills | Learn, learn, learn
  • 11:15am – 12:00 Take it to the trail | Apply what you’ve learned
  • 12:00-12:15 Review and next steps | #ridelikeaninja
 

*Clinic schedule and skills covered may vary according to location and terrain.

Ninja MTB Logo

Co-ed Fundamentals Clinics

Level 1 - Here’s What We’ll Cover

Some of the skills taught and practiced in the Fundamentals Clinic may include:

  • The Ready Position
  • Bike/Body separation
  • Intro to Steep Transitions
  • Effective braking
  • Wheels lifts
  • Shifting + cadence
  • Negotiating trail obstacles
  • Turning / Switchbacks
  • Climbing + Descending
  • Dismounting
  • Mind skills

The Schedule*

  • 8:45-9:00  Meet your instructor  | Arrival at course venue + equipment check
  • 9:00-9:15 Let’s get started | Introductions
  • 9:15am – 11:15 Skills & drills | Learn, learn, learn
  • 11:15am – 12:00 Take it to the trail | Apply what you’ve learned
  • 12:00-12:15 Review and next steps | #ridelikeaninja
 

*Clinic schedule and skills covered may vary according to location and terrain.