The missing piece of every training program.

In corresponding with hundreds of riders around the world I’ve noticed that most training plans lack a vital component. While things like cardio and strength training are present, few riders really plan for some dedicated skills training. Learning how to be a technically skilled rider doesn’t just happen on accident and you need a chance to practice the basic techniques you need on the trail.

This is why I suggest that you take at least 30 minutes a week and work on your skills in a controlled manner. Here is a list of skills that you should work on:

1) Track Stand Regular Stance

2) Body Position Regular Stance

3) Track Stand & Body Position Switch Foot

4) Cornering

5) Manualing

6) Bunny Hop

7) Lateral Bunny Hop

I suggest working your way down this list. For example, if you’ve never learned to how to hold a track stand for more than a few seconds then that would be a good use of your skills time. The slow speed balance that you build from track stands will help you feel more comfortable when going slower to practice cornering technique and make you more balanced in slow, technical terrain.

At first I’d just find a parking lot or grassy field to practice in but eventually you’ll want to start practicing the lost art of Urban Assault. I’d have to credit a lot of my progression the countless evenings I spent rolling around looking for staircases, ledges and other things to ride on, practicing my track stands at stoplights and bunny hopping onto and off of curbs the whole way. Today, riding with my little girl to her kindergarten class gives me a chance to practice my manuals.

Eventually you can start to build some stuff to practice on if you have some room in your yard. Pump tracks are the best but even putting up some boards to practice riding skinnies or a ledge to practice wheelie drops can help. The point is that, of most of us, practicing the skills we want to improve is the only way to get better at them.

I’ve got a post on my blog about track stands and cornering to get you started with ideas on what you should be practicing. The best in a sport aren’t necessarily the most talented; they are the ones who have a talent for practicing the sport. Fitness is an important part of trail riding but your skills are an important part ass well so taking some time to practice and then applying that practice to your trail rides is the way to consistent progress.
-James Wilson-

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  1. Rick Beauchamp says:

    After watching the video on cornering I went to my favorite course and worked on it. There was one turn coming off a levee that used to get me every time. Always braked going into it, I will never forget the high I got when I nailed that corner and how much better I am each time I get to that corner. I like my home course near my house because it is a great place to practice skills. The difference between now and when I first road it 3 yrs ago is world apart. Thanks for all your training and education.

    Reply • September 16 at 4:52 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Thanks for sharing, I think a lot of riders need to hear about other “regular” riders who’ve been able to improve through nothing more than having a plan and working hard. Glad that your hard work is paying off, I’m sure you’re having more fun on that trail now than you did 3 years ago as well – which is what its all about!

      Reply • September 17 at 4:08 pm
  2. Matt Mescall says:

    Can you please do a post on bunny hopping? Especially since you do it without being clipped in.


    Reply • September 17 at 11:17 am
  3. Don McKinney says:

    Shocked by how difficult the switchfoot trackstand was. I can hold a trackstand for a couple of minutes but had a hard time holding the switchfoot for 10 seconds! Lots of work needed there. Took your advice about standing on climbs and it definitely raises the heart rate but makes getting over obstacles on climbs easier. Your tip about keeping your hips over the bottom bracket worked wonders for me not only on the mtb but also on the road bike.
    Just ordered the DBcombo and I’m looking forward to more improvements. Thanks

    Reply • September 19 at 1:21 pm
  4. John Kozowski says:

    Hey James just wanted to say a huge THANKS for this website and all that you’re doing for the sport. Your video on cornering has helped me immensely. I think you have a talent for taking complex movements and breaking them down to “large rocks” or “coaching cues”.

    John K.

    Reply • September 20 at 8:46 am
  5. Alan says:

    What exactly do you mean by “switch foot” track stand? Do you just mean, for instance, having your left foot forward with your front wheel canted to the right?

    Reply • January 12 at 11:44 am
    • bikejames says:

      Switch foot means having the opposite of your normal foot forward. I usually ride with my right foot forward so switch foot for me means left foot forward.

      Reply • January 13 at 6:49 pm

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