I’ve been around long enough to see a real change in the way most riders think about Skills Training. When I first started riding mountain bikes almost 15 years ago Skills Training wasn’t something I had ever heard of, much less considered an important thing for me to do.

Fast forward to the end of 2014 and Skills Training has become extremely popular. Thousands of riders every year are attending some sort of skills training class or camp. Hundreds of thousands more are watching free Skills Training videos online.

Almost every serious mountain biker now recognized the importance that improving their skills on the trail can play in improving their fun and safety on the trail.

But this also means that a lot of riders are pretty frustrated with their lack of progress in that department as well. It seems that despite more riders than ever knowing “what” to do most riders I talk with still struggle to apply it consistently.

The problem is that these riders are trying to build their skills on a weak foundation. By not addressing the physical qualities needed to improve their skills they can’t get much further.

In the last part of my 5 Fundamental Elements of a Mountain Bike Training Program podcast series I explain how you can avoid this problem and avoid the frustration that comes with not being able to consistently improve your skills on the trail.

Here are the notes from this episode:

- Improving your skills can increase your speed, endurance, safety and “flow” on the trail.

- Skills Training works on being able to apply good movement while on the bike to maintain good balance on the trail.

- It ultimately boils down to a relationship between your center of gravity and your bikes center of gravity.

- If you can’t move well (Flexibility), you can’t produce adequate tension (Strength), you can’t easily do it with speed and power (Speed) and you can’t fuel it (Endurance) then you won’t see much progression with your Skills Training.

- Trouble with executing a skill is usually because you lack a fundamental movement or prerequisite skill, not because you don’t know what to do. Trying to learn how to corner before you really own your Body Position is a good example.

- Beware of “quick fixes” or advice based on a symptom of good technique instead of focusing on the cause of good technique. “Elbows Out” and “Outside Foot Down” are good examples of focusing on symptoms instead of causes.

- Learning how to make the mental connection between how you move in the gym and how you move on the bike is important to getting the most out of your program. This doesn’t mean that exercises have to look like what you do on the bike, though.

- There are 5 basic trail skills you need to work on.

1 – Body Position: This is your ability to achieve and maintain a strong, balanced body position on the bike with either foot forward (regular and switch-foot). It relates to your Horizontal Push and Hip Hinge movement pattern.

2 – Standing Pedaling: This is your ability to stand up and achieve a strong, balanced standing pedaling position. It is related to you Squat movement pattern.

3 – Seated Pedaling: This is your ability to achieve and maintain optimal position while sitting down to pedal. It is related to your Horizontal Push and Hip Hinge movement pattern.

4 – Manualing: This is your ability to use your hips to shift your weight back and lift from the end of your bike. It is the cornerstone skill for other skills like Bunny Hopping and Jumping. It is related to your explosive Hip Hinge movement pattern and requires excellent Body Position.

5 – Cornering: This is your ability to maintain optimal balance and position through a corner. It is related to your lateral Hip Hinge and requires excellent Body Position.

- This is also the order I advise that you focus on the skills. Take 4-6 weeks and focus on one skill before moving on.

- Use parking lot drills to help with the basics and use Skills Focus Rides to apply it all to the trail.

- Use flat pedals when trying to learn a new skill or push the envelope with a current skill to push it to the next level.

- You can’t learn how to do it all in a weekend, Skills Training is a lifelong pursuit that requires focus and a plan.

It is important to understand how you can improve your skill development by filling in the movement and fitness gaps that are really holding you back. And once you see how your fitness and your skills are interconnected it starts to put training into a new perspective.

A good mountain bike training program should improve your fitness and your skills. And the only way to do that is to make sure you have the 5 Fundamental Elements of a Mountain Bike Training Program covered in way that meets our needs on the trail.

With the advice you’ve gotten from this podcast and the rest of them in this series I hope you’ll be able to better do just that.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

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