Mountain Biking Skills instruction program ©

A unique mountain bike skills teaching programme, focused on achieving safe, injury-free riding through the establishment and continuous refinement of core skills.

Introduction

A mountain biking enthusiast since the age of fifteen, I began skills coaching in 2005 for the Asia Pacific Adventure international adventure racing team. Around this time I also designed and constructed a professionally run skills course for the Hong Kong mountain biking community. The course addressed the needs of beginner and intermediate riders who wanted to quickly and effectively learn the necessary skills for riding the challenging Hong Kong trails. The teaching methodology conceived for this course has since been further refined into the Mountain Biking Skills Instruction Program (MBSIP) ©. The program’s main objectives are as follows:

mtb course

Programme Philosophy

This programme is unique for its emphasis on achieving safe, injury-free riding through the establishment and continuous refinement of core skills.

Most mountain bikers develop their riding skills by themselves, learning through a long process of hit and miss experiences. This tendency to go it alone is often due to the misconception that mountain biking isn’t too much of a departure from standard road cycling. Newcomers often underestimate the dramatic challenges that mountainous terrain presents to the rider’s balance and ability to maintain control of the bike—its categorization as an extreme sport is not without justification! In the early stages, the most challenging part of mountain biking is setting aside assumptions and adopting an “innocent” approach.

Frequent falls and injuries are common within the first 100 hours of practice; many will experience  injury. For those who go on to become seasoned mountain bikers, such injuries and crashes are regarded as a necessary part of the process. However, many newcomers are discouraged by this and give up on the sport.

Therefore, the earlier a mountain biker is taught proper riding form—core skills— the quicker he or she will acquire the necessary skills and confidence to overcome trail difficulties safely and effectively. More experienced riders also suffer limitations, which again comes back to a weakness in core skills; once these fundamental skills have been reviewed, these riders invariably get to the next level.

Promoting good mountain biking skills will benefit the entire mountain biking community and its riding environment. It will:

Program Overview


Mountain biking relies on two fundamental factors that are applicable to all levels and situations:



In a typical trail-riding situation, it is rare to find an obstacle that requires an action response consisting of a single skill—often it demands the combination of several core skills at once. This requires of the rider a strong grasp of individual fundamental skills, as well as the ability to co-ordinate skills combining to make up the most appropriate action response.

In this program, riders are given the opportunity to first of all isolate and master fundamental skills based on single essential actions such as anticipating, balancing, braking, turning, pedaling power. Riders develop their skills further by practicing on increasingly challenging terrain. For example, isolated turning skills are practiced initially on flat, stabilized terrain. Then, riders move up to sloped terrain with tighter turns, which requires the rider to combine other skills such as braking and balancing. In this way, riders acquire a solid understanding of the fundamentals of proper turning form and technique, refined through practicing the skill on increasingly challenging and varied terrain.

Core Skills

Perception /Anticipation
This describes the rider’s faculties of analyzing the immediate environment, spotting hazards, and understanding the gravitational forces involved when riding over various surfaces.

Balancing / Rider’s Mobility Range
The rider must discover a range of mobility that can be exploited while riding in order to remain balanced as the bike tilts up, down or side ways.

Braking
Braking is an essential skill to explore in mountain biking, since typical riding conditions require more frequent and more aggressive use of the brakes than in regular cycling. Braking, challenges the rider’s balance, and its effects and consequences must be explored.

Turning
Typical riding conditions require turning on much tighter curves than standard cycling. Good riding form is necessary for coping with any kind of trail’s curves at any speed.

Pedaling Power/ Using the gears
In typical trail riding conditions, proper use of the gears guarantees a constant power output that enables a rider to overcome climbs and obstacles.

 

Core Skills Workshops

The following is a teaching sample from the Mountain Biking Skills Instruction Program (MBSIP) ©.

Workshop: Curve radiant, familiarizing with leaning

Aim: Building confidence in tire grip, working on anticipation and focus points, working on balance.

Workshop location:

 

Initial Workshop setup:

This is the initial configuration describing one 180º curve.

lesson set up

Alternative set ups:

Many variants of the 1 turn set up can be designed: Slalom, circles, progressively tighter curves.

Instructions to participants:

 

Instructor must:

  1. Approaching at moderate speed.
  2. Planting the “outside” foot down and standing on the pedal.
  3. Flexing arms and pointing head and shoulder at the inside line of the curve.
  1. Braking from the back brake and drifting sideways.
  2. Braking from the front and loosing balance outward.
  3. Not looking at the curve’s END point but looking at the edge and running into it.

Instructor must check: