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Skills Fundamentals

This mountain biking skills section will teach you a set of fundamental skills that will make your riding safer, better and faster. This section's content is brought to you by Julien Lallemand. Julien developed a mountain bike skills teaching method and taught regular mountain bike skills clinics in Hong Kong

Core Skills

All mountain bike moves for trail riding are based on 5 core skills that we can summarize into: perception, balance, braking, steering, and pedaling.

Any obstacle will require you to first identify it (perception) and then take the right action response e.g. balance, brake, steer or pedal. In many advanced riding situations you’ll have to combine the skills, e.g. balance, brake and steer at the same time.

When we say “obstacle” we’re talking about anything that can challenge your ability to stay on the bike: bumps, gravels, tight turns, etc. An obstacle is anything that requires more than standard “riding a bike” skills.

The whole point of looking at mountain biking technique through these five skills is to enable you break down your action response to an obstacle into techniques you’ll have already established. You’ll face an intimidating trail section and you’ll see it as a sequence of moves you’ve done already, but that you may not have linked together yet.

Not being able to overcome an obstacle always comes down to a deficiency in one particular skill. For example: overshooting a curve and falling can be due to not looking at the trail but looking at the drop on the side of the trail (perception), not being balanced on the bike while curving and drifting off (balance), coming too fast into the curve and sliding off while using your brakes (braking).

Graphic: identifying the incoming obstacles, anticipating, taking action

anticipation action

Progressive Approach

The only way to learn how to ride on trails safely is to build up these skills progressively. Start by very basic exercises in a safe environment and progressively increase the difficulty level. The basic skills must be mastered in a neutral environment before being challenged by additional factors such as rocks, steep slopes, ruts and slippery ground.

The alternative would be to skip all this and directly attempt the most difficult trails (like Ho Pui Trail). You may be lucky and survive it without any major injuries; you may also be discouraged by having to push your bike most of the way, or be tense and intimidated by the challenging terrain the rest of the time.

NEXT: Core Skill - Perception

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