Here is the second installment of the skills coaches round table discussion on skills training for mountain biking. You can catch part one of the series by clicking on this link.

Our second contributor is Katrina Strand. Katrina is a pro DH rider, strength coach, coach at Whistler’s Gravity Camps. She is also heavily involved in the Canadian DH Girls crew. You can find out more about Katrina at

What are the top 3 basic skills that feel all riders should have?

Basic body position, high and low speed cornering techniques, front wheel lifts (from the basic front wheel lift to manuals).

What is the number one skill you see missing from most riders in your camps?

Basic body position.  This includes where your body should be on the bike as the terrain changes, as well as what you should be doing with your elbows, hips, torso, eyes, etc.

What is the number one mistake you see riders make with cockpit set up?

Usually riders will have a cock pit that is too high in the front end.  This forces your torso up and back, which results in too much weight over the back of the bike and loss of control over the front end.  If your front end is really high, it becomes almost impossible to get your shoulders over your handlebars.
What is the number one mistake you see riders make with bike set up (tire pressure, suspensions settings, seat height, etc.)?

Brake set up.  Usually, brakes levers are set too close to the end of the bars so the rider is forced to use 2 fingers for braking.  If you have your levers set up properly, 1 finger braking becomes habitual.  Why is it important to 1 finger brake?  Well, feel how much more control you have over your handlebar with three fingers gripping versus two.  This way, you can always have one finger over the brake lever at all times and still have full control of your bars.

What is your favorite technical skills drill?

High speed cornering!  After all, every trail has at least one corner.

What is the number one thing that every rider should do today to gain more confidence and speed on the trail?

Strength training is key to improved confidence and speed on the trail.  You will be able to ride longer, stronger, faster and most importantly, recover quicker.

I find a lot of people feel that simply riding will make them a better rider.  Of course riding your bike is important as mountain biking is a highly technical sport.  However, relying solely on your bike will result in extreme imbalances.  Strength training will not only make us more balanced, but will also result in more efficient movement patterns, faster reaction times and of course strength gains – key ingredients if you want to maximize your performance on the bike.

-James Wilson-

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