Mountain Bike Reviews Forum banner
1 - 20 of 65 Posts

·
Out spokin'
In cog? Neato!
Joined
·
13,413 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Which is it?

Learning to drop? Jumping? Riding with a high seatpost? (Ha!) Shifting? Bunny hopping? Cornering? Braking? Weight transfer? Bike maintenance?

While any / all of these skills may be important, there's one skill not mentioned above that exceeds the rest.

The subject of which mountain biking skill is #1 came up a year or two ago here on MTBR. In that thread I bullied my opinion to the front by insisting (frequently and loudly -- sorry about that) that mountain biking's #1 skill is line picking. I've always felt strongly about line picking and I still do. It's fundamental. Skill basics are what the best riders always return to -- understanding & implementing basics is the foundation of skill development & confidence.

Obviously line execution follows line picking but we can't execute what we don't see. First, perceive. Then commit. Then execute.

If you've got 20 minutes, Ben Cathro explains line picking (and execution) really well in this vid, which I was exposed to this morning via Pinkbike.


=sParty
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
437 Posts
Totally agree. While it so intuitive (and often not appreciated) to most of us, carrying momentum (via good line choice) is the foundation for every other skill in mtb.
 

·
Disgruntled Peccary
Joined
·
2,990 Posts
I've been enjoying the "How to bike" series. Ben's humor is pretty much on par with mine.

With that said, yea.. can't really do anything until you can start to read lines.
 

·
Registered
Obsessively progressing
Joined
·
261 Posts
I have a neighbor who used to race road and XC. He currently rides a singlespeed HT on our very-techy loops here in NWA. He does 22 miles in 2 hours flat. He mentioned how precise he has to be with line choice on that SS...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
836 Posts
there certainly is a chicken or egg element to this argument though. you could argue that understanding how to pick lines comes with better understanding of how to ride a bike. especially if you want to bring tough or not at first apparent line choices into the discussion.

i've ridden the same trail system multiple times per week for 20+ years. when i first started riding there were places on some of the toughest trails that i would think: "that's just not possible." and now if i don't clean that line, i'm mad at myself. my line selection didn't get better. my riding did. and i started seeing lines i didn't think were possible before.

that said, i understand your point and think mountain biking is a lot like skiing that way. getting better means looking down the trail and seeing further ahead of your present moment.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
112 Posts
Picking lines is the misunderstood challenge of MTB. This sport requires a combination of fitness, grit, and mental awareness. This is something that is so impressive at the highest levels of the sport. The ability to crank out hundreds of watts of power all while keeping a clear mind and focus on changing terrain. I love the fact that when I am stressed and go for a bike ride, I dont have the capacity to worry about much other than the task at hand. Truly the best / most crucial part of riding the trails.
 

·
EAT MORE GRIME
(ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┻━┻
Joined
·
7,020 Posts
put in a bigger gear and pedaling fast thru the chunk. it all goes better when you get on the rivet
 

·
Always in the wrong gear
Joined
·
2,986 Posts
All of Cathro's PB videos are excellent, this one is no different.
I consider myself a pretty advanced rider, but I still watch them all and practice the stuff Ben presents.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
25 Posts
Like most multi-faceted things; (mountain biking in this case), are we really able to single out the most important thing?
For example, the best line (quickest, safest, etc.) may be to completely avoid some features that would slow you down or lengthen the route buy bunny-hopping or pre-hopping to avoid it entirely. If you can't bunny-hop, can you really take the best line? If your rides include a variety of technical difficulties, you will be using multiple skills to get through it in the quickest way possible. Line choice is important, but so are a lot of other things.

I think even Ben would admit that claiming line choice as the most important does come with some assumptions and context.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
61 Posts
Which is it?

Learning to drop? Jumping? Riding with a high seatpost? (Ha!) Shifting? Bunny hopping? Cornering? Braking? Weight transfer? Bike maintenance?

While any / all of these skills may be important, there's one skill not mentioned above that exceeds the rest.

The subject of which mountain biking skill is #1 came up a year or two ago here on MTBR. In that thread I bullied my opinion to the front by insisting (frequently and loudly -- sorry about that) that mountain biking's #1 skill is line picking. I've always felt strongly about line picking and I still do. It's fundamental. Skill basics are what the best riders always return to -- understanding & implementing basics is the foundation of skill development & confidence.

Obviously line execution follows line picking but we can't execute what we don't see. First, perceive. Then commit. Then execute.

If you've got 20 minutes, Ben Cathro explains line picking (and execution) really well in this vid, which I was exposed to this morning via Pinkbike.


=sParty
it’s definitely an interesting sport... not only does genetics and fitness come into play but so do the technical skills.

I was a collegiate runner and back when I started mountain biking would crush about everyone on the uphill. I was fit. But then didn’t quite have the courage to go to that redline on the dissents. It’s definitely requires a blend of everything to make you good!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,326 Posts
This kind of goes with line selection, but learning to look ahead as far as possible and not down at your front tire. Your peripheral vision takes care of up close. This is the number 1 skill I see lacking in beginner and even intermediate riders.
 

·
BOOM goes the dynamite!
Occasionally Cranky
Joined
·
5,370 Posts
Thanks Sparty. Something useful on the interwebs is a rare thing these days.
 

·
Disgruntled Peccary
Joined
·
2,990 Posts
This kind of goes with line selection, but learning to look ahead as far as possible and not down at your front tire. Your peripheral vision takes care of up close. This is the number 1 skill I see lacking in beginner and even intermediate riders.
"Target fixation" is something that occasionally I still have a problem with. It's like turns, something I'm constantly trying to improve.
 

·
Out spokin'
In cog? Neato!
Joined
·
13,413 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
it’s definitely an interesting sport... not only does genetics and fitness come into play but so do the technical skills.

I was a collegiate runner and back when I started mountain biking would crush about everyone on the uphill. I was fit. But then didn’t quite have the courage to go to that redline on the dissents. It’s definitely requires a blend of everything to make you good!
I agree with you -- there are sooo many minuscule skills & abilities (including fitness) plus experiential knowledge that add up to the well rounded, capable mountain biker.

Just picking the right size frame, for example. Think about that. People say, "Bike fit is everything" and honestly, they're right. It's critical. Is picking the right size frame a skill? Well, maybe.

And tires. OMG. So many tire choices. Knowing which tire works best in your very own varying conditions (summer to winter) on your very own trails plus the optimum air pressure -- which changes from season to season (at least where I ride) -- are tire choice and knowing proper tire pressure skills or are they simply accumulated knowledge based on days in the saddle? No matter what we call them -- skill or knowledge -- these are factors that must be learned and applied -- traction is a huge performance and comfort factor that every new rider simply must learn in order to go beyond wherever they are.

There are myriad nuances that are only brought to fruition by riding. Riding often. For years.

But line picking... if a rank beginner asked me how to progress in this sport as quickly as possible, I'd say there are two things to do.

First, ride, ride, ride.

Second, while you're doing all that riding, focus on seeing lines -- all the lines. The ones you don't plan to take as well as the ones you do. Learn to pick. Learn to pick quickly. It doesn't have to be the best line, it just has to be a line you're willing to commit to. Then, make it work. Learn to commit. Commitment is huge. In so doing, experience will teach you to learn to execute.

Repeat. Ad nauseum.

If that beginner is lucky enough to love this sport, they won't have to force themselves to go out and "practice." They'll be out there riding because they love it. Knowing what to focus on to get to the next level simply helps make the ride that much more fun. The sport that much more addictive.

I probably should have put this thread in the "beginner" forum rather than the "general" forum.
=sParty
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
497 Posts
I'm going to thoroughly disagree. #1 is being able to balance on the bike without falling over.

All kidding aside one thing I noticed when looking at the worn in track on my local trails is that I think the novice riders don't see or understand how to use the structure in the trail for traction. Middle of the trail is obviously worn in from traffic while there are structures on the edges of the trail you can use to aid traction but they are obviously seldom used.
 

·
Registered
Obsessively progressing
Joined
·
261 Posts
This kind of goes with line selection, but learning to look ahead as far as possible and not down at your front tire. Your peripheral vision takes care of up close. This is the number 1 skill I see lacking in beginner and even intermediate riders.
With our NICA kids, the beginners tend to do this: look down and worry about the trail right in front of their tire. The other thing they do is not shift often enough, spinning out on flats and the start of downs, then being unprepared for the climbs until they've lost all momentum. Lastly they won't get out of the saddle often enough for climbs, chunky stuff, etc. They'll stand when they see it's a good bit of downhill coming up, but won't intermittently pop in and out of the saddle.
 

·
Registered
Obsessively progressing
Joined
·
261 Posts
It doesn't have to be the best line, it just has to be a line you're willing to commit to. Then, make it work. Learn to commit. Commitment is huge. In so doing, experience will teach you to learn to execute.
=sParty
Yes! I'm learning this myself, especially on technical climbs. I used to slow down and try to finesse everything like trials (which I've never done in my life nor have the current skillset to attempt) and was constantly having to get off the bike, or fall over. Lately I've picked the best line and just charged it with more speed. Being loose on the bike, unweighting the wheels, and in the right gear have helped me a ton.

We have these big 29ers, after all
 
1 - 20 of 65 Posts
Top