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How to Make the Most of Your MTB Practice Time


You might not realize that some skills have a much bigger return on investment than others.

Here are the MTB skills you should be practicing in order of how much each skill will improve your riding.

With so many coaches and instructors joining the ranks these days, riders are getting flooded with skills information. Much of the information is good, some not so good, but often, even if it is good information it isn’t worth your time!
What you are hopefully searching for is the biggest MTB skills payoff.

I have developed “The Hierarchy of MTB Skills”. This hierarchy is designed to help you focus on what you currently need to improve.

Within the hierarchy, there is also a hierarchy for each piece of that skill. For instance, all skills require proper vision techniques and proper body position.
So they are numbers 1 and 2.

No matter what skills you are working on, the first two pieces of that skill will be vision followed closely by body position. If your vision is off and every other piece of the skill is perfect you will be riding at 50% or less of what you are capable of.

However, if your vision is perfect and everything else is a bit off you will likely still be riding at 90% of your ability. If both your vision and body position are perfect you will usually find that all the other skills just fall into place (provided you have practiced them).


BetterRide student, George Fuller, working on Obstacle Skills

Once you master a skill you must keep practicing it to stay sharp (old saying, “amateurs practice until they get it right, pros practice until they can’t get it wrong”) However, by now you may be able to spend a little less time on that skill and move on how to the next skill in the hierarchy.

Practicing just the two most important skills might be boring so spend some time on all the skills but skew your time to get the biggest payback!

If you get frustrated, get motivated! Understand that if you master the top two skills on the hierarchy you are more than halfway to mastering every other skill.

As for everything in life, the more you put into deliberate practice the more you will get out. Go practice!


Here are the MTB skills you should be practicing in my Hierarchy of MTB Skills.
Use this to see faster improvements in your riding and get the most out of your practice time.
  1. Vision:
    Always be looking ahead correctly! This affects everything: balance, line choice, timing, even body position!
    • Where you are looking
    • Using all elements of your vision correctly
    • Training your vision/subconscious connection
  1. Descending Body Position:
    Goal: to always be in balance, in control, relaxed, neutral, in an athletic stance and be as smooth as possible.
  1. Climbing Body Position:
    • Vision
    • Weight placement 
    • Hinge
    • Arm/shoulder position
  1. Momentum management:
    Working with the trail not fighting the trail.
  1. Balance:
    Always in balance. Balance can be trained.
    • Vision (huge effect on balance!)
    • Body position
    • Balance training
    • Pedal pressure
    • Slow speed balance
    • Trackstands

  2. Braking:
    • Vision
    • Descending body position
    • Foot and hand adjustments
    • Bracing

  3. Cornering:
    • Vision (looking through corner, 5-10 feet past exit if possible)
    • Descending body position
    • Finish cutting speed braking done in a straight line before starting corner
    • Line choice
    • Correct body position for optimum traction
    • Foot placement (down or level). Correct foot placement for goal (is your goal optimum traction in a loose corner or to have traction but want to accelerate by pumping the corner?)
    • Forward foot towards turn direction at the entrance (again, if you’re not perfect on everything above and/or if this makes you less perfect on anything above it is a complete waste of time)

  4. Obstacles skills 1.0:
  1. Switchbacks:
    • Vision
    • Body Position (climbing and descending)
    • Entrance preparation (braking for a downhill switchback, shifting catching breath for uphill)
    • Line choice and turn entry point
    • Uphill, power modulation. Downhill brake control
  2. Obstacle skills 2.0
  3. Riding Off-camber trails and root:
    • Vision
    • Body Position
    • Balance
    • Don’t brake
  4. Restarting on a hill:
    • Vision
    • Body Position (climbing)


Please share this article with anyone you think may benefit and feel free to call or e-mail with any questions.