4 Ways You Can Challenge Yourself as a Mountain Bike Rider

Progression is an important and satisfying part of mountain biking. Here are four ideas for challenging yourself to get better.
Do you choose the easy trail, or the hard one?

It happens to all riders. We get to a certain level with our mountain bike skills and become complacent to remain at that level, rather than pushing ourselves to go further. If we do not periodically challenge ourselves, our skills will actually diminish over time.

If it has been a while since you have challenged yourself as a mountain biker, consider trying at least one of these four things in order to push yourself to a higher level.

Ride your favorite trail in the opposite direction

A rocky decent becomes a steep technical climb when ridden in the opposition direction.

Most of my local trails can be ridden in either direction. Each direction has its own unique challenges. Descents become climbs. Drops become step-ups. It is a night and day difference, even though it is the same trail I’ve ridden frequently.

Additionally, riding trails in the opposition direction helps riders hone their ability to read trails and find the best lines. That will help when you go to new trails. Furthermore, when you ride the same trails all the time, you don’t gain a lot of strength and stamina because your muscles get used to doing the same movements over and over. Mixing it up will give you gains in both areas.

Ride different trails

Even though we have several different trails here in town, I often ride the same two trails on a regular basis. I am so familiar with them that I could almost ride them blindfolded. There is no real challenge for me, and that’s a bad thing. I can only become a better rider if I diversify my rides, and try out different trails, or at least different sections of the trails I ride.

Are you struggling with your cornering skills? Ride a trail with lots of switchbacks to help you practice cornering. Need more power when climbing? Go for the trails with steep climbs, and hammer them until you can make it all the way up every climb. Having a hard time rolling over roots and rocks? Go for the rough trails to help you conquer such obstacles. You will only get better if you ride the trails that highlight your weaknesses, instead of just playing to your strengths.

Ride the expert sections of trail

A section of trail like this one is scary, but very rewarding to ride.

Once you have mastered the fundamentals of mountain biking, you can challenge yourself to become a better rider by riding the expert sections of trails. Rock gardens, drops, and steep descents and climbs are some high risk/high reward features that will really push the boundaries of your riding abilities. Good judgment is a must when choosing whether to attempt them, along with the proper safety gear. You need to decide how much risk is acceptable. However, if you can conquer expert sections of trail, you will become a much better rider.

Sign up for a skills clinic

We tend to assume we are good riders. In reality, all of us have flaws that should be corrected. A skills clinic affords riders the opportunity to have a neutral third party evaluate their weaknesses. Better yet, a skills instructor can tell you how to correct bad habits, and patiently work with you until you are on the trail to success. Even professional riders use instructors from time to time to help them improve. It is time and money that is well-spent, and will pay for itself in spades.

We should never stop growing as riders

Even though I have been riding for several years, I am still learning new things on a daily basis. I have yet to tap into my full potential as a rider. That pushes me to try new things, and conquer new obstacles. I don’t want to stop growing as a rider, and neither should you!

Challenge yourself each day. The satisfaction you get from doing so is far better than the complacency of staying within your comfort zone.