Sports FAQ
Home / Mountain Biking

Mtb Instruction & Skills

Artista2011-08-26 17:13:02 +0000 #1

Catrin & Indy, which skills did you learn in the clinic? Which skill(s) are you finding to be the toughest?


We practiced neutral and what they called "ready" position, modulated and controlled braking, what they called "window washing," i.e,. getting up out of the saddle and moving our body back and forth over the bike, moving fore and aft over the saddle, ratcheting and tight turns, and getting our front wheel up. At least those are the ones I remember.

I had a bit of trouble with getting my wheel up, although I got better with it as the day progressed, and I still have room for improvement on tight turns. Honestly, I thought I did pretty well during the skills and drills portion; it's simply a matter of integrating it once on the trail. I felt pretty good on the trail itself, too, so long as I wasn't descending. Descending scares me a bit. I think part of it is that I'm having trouble braking with one finger. As I mentioned upthread, DH is going to adjust my levers to a bit easier for me. I'll see if that helps. Part of it is "just" mental. I need practice and exposure to lessen my nerves.


I had no problems with the neutral/ready/fore/aft positions. The sideways, "window washing" technique was challenging and I am unsure that I actually have that down. Hopping over a little stick with my front wheel was also challenging. I did improve a bit on this, but I do not think that I could actually hop over a real obstacle, that is going to take some time and that is ok. More upper body strength can only help

Shifting was something of a challenge on the trail, but that improved when I just put it in the granny gear and worked with the little gears.

The braking techniques were fun, and I found my balance to be better than I expected, so that was all good. We did some sharp turn practices and I did have a little trouble with this. I think the trouble was more from having others so close to me - most of my road riding is solo so I am just not accustomed to having other cyclists in such close proximity. Ever. Of course, one doesn't normally do such tight turns on the road so I need to practice them anyway.

One cool thing that came out of all of the drills. I got so used to the neutral position that I came out of one drill still standing on my pedals and actually caught myself pedaling! Resistance wasn't high enough for that, not really, but I've NEVER been able to do that on my other bikes

The "ready" position is a little difficult for me to separate from the ready position for some reason...but one of the instructors pulled me aside and helped me to figure it out. This still needs practice, but it was a great start!

I started this new thread on skills & instruction to avoid hijacking the thread on Trails. Here goes:

I also decided to invest in a couple of mtb lessons. It seemed that every time I tried to tackle more advanced obstacles on my own, I didn't get any better, I just crashed more.

My instructor was very helpful & it turns out that we covered similar skills in my first lesson as what was taught in the clinic. The best suggestion my instructor made was to do drills. The drills uncovered some weakness in my techniques that weren't easily identifiable on the trails, or even during the lesson. For instance, I can corner to the left with relative ease but tight, right, cornering is far more difficult for me. Who would have guessed that I needed to work on something so seemingly simple as right turns?

The good news is that drilling tight turns, allowing the bike to lean while keeping my body perpendicular to the ground, getting used to pronounced fore & aft positions, & lifting the front wheel is improving my bike handling by leaps & bounds. The drills also allow me to experiment with proper braking techniques, the lack of which I'm pretty sure contributed to several of my crashes. I'm going to stay off the trails & dedicate myself to drilling, (including getting used to being clipped in - but that's another story), at least until my next lesson 1 1/2 weeks from now. My only regret is not getting some good instruction sooner.

indysteel2011-08-26 17:24:03 +0000 #2
Thanks for sharing that and for the good advice!
Catrin2011-08-26 17:33:59 +0000 #3
Thanks for starting this thread! I am going to practice my drills on both mtn bike and Gunnar - I won't try to hop with the Gunnar but I certainly can practice my body positioning.

I found some easy dirt as well, and I've found a couple of people willing to ride the trail I was on Sunday with me - it will just be a matter of scheduling.
kimikaw2011-08-26 18:34:47 +0000 #4
Great idea to start this thread. I really cannot even begin to express what a difference the two real clinics I've done have made on my riding. By real I mean ones who follow a protocol like the IMIC one the Midwest Women's Clinic and the Ray's Women's clinic use. I also did a mini clinic last fall at a local race - was a informal mini clinic. Got me to try riding, but didn't really teach me anything.

I often see guys ( over on mtbr) react to the do a clinic suggestion w/ why spend the money just go ride. Yeah, that's one way...but as you've learned you might never progress. Or as Jonathon ( one of my coach this trip - along w/ TE's own TrekJeni) put it traditionally folks learned by riding with friends, and often getting hurt. Learning the fundamentals the right way ( ESP right off the bat) is HUGE.

And for me, doing so in an all women format even better

Which leads me to drills. I do them every opportunity. This weekend I felt like I had a bit of a breakthrough in my bike/body feel, weight shifting and balance. I think some of that due to practicing ready/neutral/back/forward on my commuter (which is a more MTB geometry hybrid). I have a hilly commute and have been doing major parts standing in MTB stance. On streets.

The other big key for me is really looking forward, not down like road riding. And trusting myself to do it. Plus very deliberately telling myself mentally not to look at the tree, or the rock or the drop off. I have this constant chatter in my head, watch ahead where you're going, where you want to go. Doing that at the clinic in the field on high speed turns had me killing them. Which felt great. I wasn't 't as aggressive yet on the trail, but I'm getting there.

We'll be doing family drills on the skills from this weekend in the yard- even pulling some logs and rocks out of our woods to practice going over. Should be fun!
indysteel2011-08-26 19:08:53 +0000 #5

Originally Posted by Catrin

Thanks for starting this thread! I am going to practice my drills on both mtn bike and Gunnar - I won't try to hop with the Gunnar but I certainly can practice my body positioning.

I found some easy dirt as well, and I've found a couple of people willing to ride the trail I was on Sunday with me - it will just be a matter of scheduling. Thankfully two of the women are instructors, and the other woman is very experienced.

That's cool, Catrin. I'm sure some time out there with Tania (presumably) will be very helpful. I was eyeing a parking lot here in Franklin to practice some drills.
Catrin2011-08-26 18:32:41 +0000 #6

Originally Posted by indysteel

That's cool, Catrin. I'm sure some time out there with Tania (presumably) will be very helpful. I was eyeing a parking lot here in Franklin to practice some drills.

I've been pondering parking lot vs dirt for drills, assuming I can find some easy non-technical dirt. Of course, it should probably be both/and rather than either/or. I am thankful my Gunner has, basically, a rigid mountain bike geometry as it will make it easy to practice on it as well.
Artista2011-08-26 19:31:27 +0000 #7
Just got back from my drills & finished supper. I thought it would be a good idea to share which drills we're doing. Maybe we can get some other ideas, improve our skills, & prevent boredom with our current drills. I'll start

My total drill time is about 45 - 60 minutes. My goal is to do these daily for the next 10 days or so, & then a few times a week after that.The field that I ride in is a 10 minute, gentle climb, from the parking lot. It's a good little warm up. I wouldn't even ride this span clipped in when I first got my SPD's. After a few days, I'm totally confident riding this really easy section while clipped in.
Once I reach the field, I spend a few mintues clipping both feet in & out.
Next comes practice with leaning my bike from one side to the other while keeping my body perpendicular to the ground. I find it more difficult to lean the bike very far now that I'm clipped in. In addition, leaning the bike to the right feels less natural than the other direction, so I spend more time working on the right side.
Then I ride small circles around a large weed in the field. I drew a line in the dirt so that I know whether I'm drifting away from my tight circle. My goal is to do 50 circles in each direction but I sometimes have to stop sooner because my wrists start hurting. Something about riding the circles slowly is really hard on my wrists. I make sure to spend quite a bit of time turning to the right since that's the side I struggle with the most.
I intersperse front wheel lifts & more clipping & unclipping amongst the circle riding.
I end with riding the gentle downhill back to my car with my weight at the rear of the bike. I'm pretty confident with this skill but riding slowly prolongs the amount of time that I hover over the saddle, which is building more muscle in my legs. Speaking of muscle, riding those circles & practicing wheel lifts is giving my upper body a great workout too.
I hope to add more drills after my next lesson. If so, I'll share them with everyone.

Anyone else care to share what they're doing?
Becky2011-08-26 18:35:22 +0000 #8
Wheelie night! Every so often, DH and I will spend an hour popping (or attempting to pop) wheelies in the back yard. My goal is to consistently lift the front wheel on demand, no matter which leg is forward. I'm more successful with my dominant leg forward, so the other one is definitely a bit of a challenge.

I keep meaning to buy a 2x6 board and practice riding along its length...just for some balance and steering practice.



Other posts in this category