The FASTEST Way To Improve MTB Skills

Are you actually improving as a rider while you’re riding - or are you just surviving the trail and trying not to fall as you ride from top to bottom? Have you ever thought about intentionally practicing your riding skills during your ride? So many skills and drills that I teach on this channel are easy to do in the parking lot before or after a ride while you’re waiting for your buddies - but in todays video we’re going to show you five different ways to incorporate them while you’re out riding.

You might be thinking “but riding my bike is practice” - and to that I would say : “how much of that riding is focused or repetitive practice?” The way we improve is not by doing something one time, every now and then. We build our control and confidence as riders by repeating a skill over and over until we have it locked in.


One of the best tips that I’ve ever gotten as a mountain biker was this: you can strengthen your bike balance and control by riding super slow down hill. If you’ve watched any other videos on this channel, you know I teach this in a variety of ways, including riding down staircases. Riding super slow forces your body to do more work to keep your balance, and as a result, you start to build muscle memory with all the little ways that your body can help keep the bike balanced. When you speed up again, those same muscles are working to keep you balanced, and you’ll feel a boost of control as a result. Out here on the trail, riding a downhill section intentionally slow can do that exact same function. The slower you ride, the harder it gets, and that’s helping you to become a better rider with more control. You can practice this anywhere on the trail, but on today’s ride, I chose one of the more difficult spots to demonstrate this skill. If you find a spot with technical features like this, it’s even more challenging - but even more fun, too!

Next, have you ever considered getting off your bike and riding a section for a second time? I know a bunch of pro riders that do this when they’re out riding, but it’s not very common otherwise. Riding a section until you get it down is a great way to actually practice on the trail - plus you get a little mini bonus lap while you’re riding. Think about BMX or Trials riders, who repetitively ride the same feature over and over again to improve. That’s exactly what you could do if you pushed back up to the top of a difficult section and rode it a second time. You’ve heard me say that practice makes progress, and that absolutely applies to the trail. Rinse and repeat!

We often use our GoPros to film our POV as we ride down the trail, but one way to use a GoPro - or your phone - to help you improve is to have your riding buddy film you riding through a section of trail. What we think we are doing on the bike is often quite a bit different from what we’re actually doing, and when you see your movements on the bike on camera, it helps give you a better perspective on your technique. Combine this with the practicing advice I just mentioned, and you’ve got a powerful boost to your riding on the trail.

Pro Tip - don’t forget to turn the camera around and film your friends riding, too!

Ok, if you’ve already watched my tutorial on two wheel hops, this will be slightly easier, as this next tip is related to that skill. When you get to a difficult spot on the trail, don’t automatically hop off the bike right away. Try to give your bike a hop or two, and see if just resetting the wheel placement or your balance on the bike will be enough to get you back on track. You can see in some of my clips that I use more than a few of these hops to save the day when I get stuck - which is one way to do it. But you may only need one or two hops to readjust the bike to get back on track. And if that doesn’t work…then you can step off the bike like you had originally planned. But at least try to incorporate this skill before you step off, I think you’ll find it extremely useful!

Another thing to think about as you are riding is something called pedal timing. When you pedal up onto an obstacle, you try to time out your pedal strokes so that you can land on top of the obstacle with your strong foot forward. This is another technique that we’ve gone over in a previous video, which I’ll link to now. To get the strongest results as we pedal, we have to concentrate on when we start pedaling and which pedal is forward. Most of the time, this is an afterthought, but it’s an easy thing to focus on when you’re riding - and you will start to see some patterns developing. When you concentrate on this timing and developing it, you’ll also recognize how powerful it can be to improve your riding, especially when it comes to getting up and over obstacles.

There’s one thing that really matters to me when I’m working on pedal timing, though, and that’s the engagement points of the rear wheel. The reason why you see me running an Industry Nine hub on the back of all my bikes is because these hubs have a ton of engagement, which means that as soon as I start pedaling, the power immediately transfers to the back wheel.

This is the most important upgrade that I would do on any bike - because if you don’t have instant engagement, it can make an impact on your pedal timing when you’re trying to climb up or over an obstacle. You have that extra gap in your pedal where you’re moving but the wheel hasn’t caught up, which can impact your power on climbs. I have Industry Nine hubs on all of my bikes for exactly this reason, and if you spend any money to upgrade your bike, this is always my first recommendation.



Ok, so what else would I change on this bike, now that I’ve ridden it? Hmm, not much. I’m kind of blown away that this bike is $3200 dollars. The suspension is solid, brakes are good, and this frame has a ton of adjustability. You can ride this bike hard, right out of the box, just like I did today.

I think my biggest mistake on this bike was not putting snacks in the bear box that is built into the bike. I could’ve used those on the way home from the ride - and I definitely won’t make that mistake again. I might play around with the high and low bottom bracket options just for fun, but otherwise I think I’m going to leave everything else where I have it. This is the first proper mullet bike that I’ve ridden, and I think I’ll keep the 27.5 wheel in the back for now. Maybe we can do a test video this summer where we swap wheels when we ride, just to see what difference it makes?

This Marin Alpine Trail was just released a few weeks ago, and if you like the way this bike looks - or the way I rode it, you can get one for yourself. This is going to be the bike I ride for the season, and I absolutely can’t wait to get more time with it. It felt capable of everything I threw at it today on the trail, and I’ve got some big things planned with it this summer.