Every one of us experiences progress in the sport of mountain biking (or biking in general for that matter) differently, learning new skills as they become relevant and sometimes stumbling through the process. The Mastering Mountain Bike Skills series has been around for over a decade now, and provides a guide for those seeking to start, improve or master the sport with a reference to alleviate some of the mysteries that stall us along the way. When my journey on two wheels began, I discovered quickly that riding with someone better than me was the fastest way to improve. Likely much to the dismay of my riding partners, I was full of questions on every ride. Half of my experiences went something like:
Me: “Why can’t I turn faster?”
Friend: “Cause you’re slow.”
Me: “Sweet. Thanks, dick.”
Not very helpful, I realize, but motivating in its own way somehow. Other friends were more helpful and genuinely tried to help me get in their heads to understand technique and how they turned faster, or hit a jump a certain way. I would try to visualize their advice, and eventually I learned to understand what help I needed and what I would have to figure out on my own. Had I known about the Mastering Mountain Bike Skills series when I first started, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble, and saved my friends a lot of breath.
The first edition of Mastering Mountain Bike Skills was produced in 2005, with the 2nd in 2011 and the 3rd in 2017, by Brian Lopes and Lee McCormack. Brian Lopes is a professional mountain biker with a long list of titles and accomplishments to prove his experience and his co-author Lee McCormack is a professional mountain bike coach from Lee Likes Bikes. Together, they have created a manual for the determined beginner, stagnant intermediate and advanced riders with room to grow. At first, I thought I might just poke around and find sections that I thought were the most relevant to me, so I started in the jump section.
I don’t want to get into the specifics of the material, but I can say that within a few pages of reading on Brian and Lee’s take on the subject, I already started to think about jumping differently and feel the urge to get on my bike and practice. They have a very down to earth, positive and realistic view on progressing mountain bike skills. They lay out what skills they think build up to the abilities it takes to become a high-level rider and their voice is entertaining and easy to follow. Beyond just giving technical advice, they highlight the mindset and outside factors that need to be considered, e.g. learning to jump in a place that makes you comfortable and matches your skill level.
By the end of the jumping section, I had learned (or relearned) quite a bit and ended up leafing through other sections to get their perspective. From choosing your bike type, to bike setup and body position on a bike, there is certainly abundant good material available for the true beginner. As the book progresses, it covers each in every basic skill that builds into the greater achievements on a bike and truly lays a path forward for anyone looking to become a Master on the mountain bike. With a realistic and supportive tone, anyone who feels they have room to improve can pick up Mastering Mountain Bike Skills and learn a little bit more about the bike and maybe a bit about themselves. Check out the book and more here: brianlopes.com.
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