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Progressing Your Riding Skills - A Guide to Our Skills Development Programs

From time to time we get asked if we'll be holding a single session Skills Clinic on how to jump. There is a large market of people that would likely attend a Just Jumps Skills Clinic - we know that. However for the moment, our answer is no.

Harry boosting the gap jump on Pete's trail.
Learning to boost your height to clear a gap jump - it's a difficult skill to teach in one session. Even to a 14 year old.

For most people, mountain bike riding involves learning a number of key core riding skills. While we can teach you the fundamentals of these techniques, what we can't do is determine how quickly your body and mind will learn how to do them. And until such time as you are able to perform certain riding techniques without thought and fear, it can be very dangerous to try and teach you how to do certain skills.

Which is why a Just Jumps Skills Clinic currently doesn't exist. Cindy and I didn't start coaching just as a side gig to make some extra cash. What we're really interested in is making sure people learn how to ride their mountain bikes safely, confidently and with skills that are built up over time. We want to know when we send you out on the trails, you won't hurt yourself attempting something you're not ready for.

Ben practicing his braking technique at the Intro to Mountain Bike Riding Course
Learning to brake in a variety of situations is a fundamental skill that is often overlooked but can save you from serious injury. There's a lot more to it than just simply pulling the levers on your handlebars.

Progressing your skills development over time. Giving both your body and mind time to make something that initially feels completely foreign to you become natural. Ingraining techniques into your subconscious so that you when you're on the trails you eventually just do them without any thought so you flow through the trails - this is what we want to teach you to do.

Which is why we created our Skills Development Programs. Courses that run over three weeks which allow you to have a break in between before moving onto the next level if you choose to do so. Because everyone learns different things at different rates, it's up to you as to whether you spend time consolidating a certain level or if progress straight to the next program.

So the next question we normally get is "Where do I start?"

Ethan practicing his body balance skills and exploring the extremities of his balance.
Introducing you to riding fundamentals and helping you become comfortable with what your bike is capable of is what the Intro to Mountain Bike Riding Course is all about.

Currently we have five Skills Development Programs and grades. However there are actually only three levels (sorry if that's a bit confusing):

  • Intro to Mountain Bike Riding - 3 Week Program (Grade 1);

  • Core Skills - 6 Week Program (Grade 2 and 3);

  • Flow Skills - 6 Week Program (Grade 4 and 5).

The Core and Flow Skills Programs do actually cover a lot of different riding techniques - hence why broken them up into two separate 3 week programs.

For most people the Intro to Mountain Bike Riding is self explanatory: it's for riders that are just getting into mountain bike riding and would like to learn the skills and gain the confidence to ride the trails safely and comfortably. But despite it's name, we still pack a lot into this particular program. The fundamentals of body balance, braking, cornering, climbing and descending are all part of this program and if you're someone who is relatively new to riding and a little bit nervous about being out on the trails, this is a great place for you to gain confidence - by learning the right way to ride.

Faith learning how to lift her front and rear wheel over obstacles.
Learning the right way of getting your wheels off the ground is an important part of mountain bike riding. It's something that affects so many aspects of how you handle features on the trails.

After the Intro program comes our Core Skills Program, which is divided into two 3 week sessions: Core Skills B - Line (Grade 2) and Core Skills A - Line (Grade 3). These programs are about teaching you core riding techniques and ensuring that you come as close as you can to mastering specific skills so you can execute them without thought. Specifically the Core Skills program covers intermediate cornering and braking, technical climbing and descending, wheel lifts, drops and introduces you to the fundamentals of jumping. Once you've completed the Core Skills Program, you should have the confidence to ride intermediate to advanced blue trails.

Our Development Programs currently top out our Flow Skills program, again, divided into two 3 week sessions: Flow Skills B - Line (Grade 4) and Flow Skills A - Line (Grade 5). These programs are about taking all of your Core Skills and teaching you how to combine the different techniques you've learnt to execute more advanced maneuvers. And quite simply, if you haven't become competent at the majority of Core Skills, you're really not going to get a whole lot of value out of the Flow Skills Program. It is in the Flow Skills Program that we really get into learning how to jump, but not until you've mastered a variety of other skills first. Just so we're confident that you'll be able to get your wheels back on the ground safely.

Harry seeing how high he can get his front wheel up.
Learning how to get your front wheel high up in the air using the manual wheel lift technique is essential to being able to bunny hop.

If you already have some of skills and techniques refined, are you able to skip some of the earlier programs? Yes, absolutely.

We often recommend people jump straight to one of the Core Skills or even the Flow Skills B - Line program. Our course outlines are available on our website which can help you self assess whether or not you're likely to learn new skills or refine your riding technique on a given program.

But if you're still a little bit unclear, we generally hold a free Skills Assessment session once a month. These sessions are designed to take you over a variety of terrain and allow us to see where your riding is at. Once we've been able to do that, we'll provide you with a recommendation of which program we believe is best suited for you.

Jumping is a skill that is more than just about getting up in the air as fast as you can - it's a combination of skills that generally need at least a few weeks to be refined.

What do we base our recommendations on? Well, your safety is our most important concern - we won't recommend you join a program if we feel you may injure yourself during the course. Our other criteria is making sure you get value from what you'll learn - we won't recommend a program that we feel would be too easy for you either, even if there is a skill that you haven't quite nailed yet that is covered in a lower Grade program.

Which brings us to the Skills Clinics. We started the Skills Clinics as a way for people to learn or refine a skill that may not be covered in a program that you join. If we feel that you'd benefit from joining a higher Grade program that will challenge you more but identify a skill that you could also refine further, we will often recommend that you join a Development Program and a Skills Clinic or two, enabling you to skip a few Grades.

Steve weaving through cones to practice leaning his bike correctly.
Cornering skills and technique is something that riders of all levels often need refinement in.

It's worth mentioning that while there are specific skills that we want everyone to take away from a particular program, the course outline serves as a guide rather than a fixed curriculum. Every rider is unique, having a different set of skills and riding experiences when they join a course. We will generally tailor a course to the people that are on it to make sure that everyone learns new skills or refines their techniques during the program. Having two coaches for each session enables us to do that much better than if only one of us were present.

By the time you've finished the Flow Program we would expect you to have gained a level of skill and confidence in your riding abilities to handle most challenges that you'll find out on your everyday riding trails. Beyond Flow - well, that's just something we're thinking about at the moment. But one of the great things about mountain bike riding is there is always more to learn. So don't be surprised if we release more programs and clinics in the future!

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