Mountain biking can be the most joyful form of movement in the world. We get to learn the edge of our strength and endurance on long and steep climbs. We feel the exhilaration of descending them at speed, the wind in our faces and the sun on our backs. We experience a sense of accomplishment, traveling through absurd terrain under our own power and skill. Plus we get to do all of this in amazing places, away from cars and crowds, in the beauty and simplicity of nature.
My favorite aspect of mountain biking, especially in Moab, is what I once heard described as the outdoor arcade: that unique combination of balance, brute strength, finesse, and technique that allows riders to appear effortless as they wiggle, bounce, and sometimes grunt up and down a steep garden of rocks without stepping off the pedals to do it.
Before I came to Moab I fancied myself a strong rider. I liked long hard days in the saddle and feeling the edge of exhaustion. But I was not able to ride a lot of the highly technical trails here because I lacked the skills (and some courage). Over the last few years here I have found deep satisfaction in developing those skills to ride better here, and everywhere. The key is enjoying the process of learning over the product of “being really good”. So, I’d like to share a few lessons gained from my personal process through learning technical mountain biking in Moab.
The Right Tool for the Job
I spent three years touring through the Americas on a heavy steel bike with no suspension. NOT the best tool for learning most hard Moab riding as I found. A mechanic once told me when I brought in my first broken frame: “Moab likes to eat bikes.” So, make sure you have a solid modern mountain bike with working suspension, drivetrain and brakes.
Back to Basics
No matter how long you’ve been riding, the fundamental skills of mountain biking will improve your riding as much as any advanced lesson: Look where you WANT to go. Keep one finger on the brakes so you’re able to gently modulate your speed. Keep your weight in your feet and your pedals level to the ground for balance, control and avoiding rocks. From there consider taking a lesson or two from any of the great local coaches at Rim Tours, Moab Mountain Bike Instruction, and Magpie Cycling just to name a few. Getting some trained eyes on your riding can catapult your skills forward!
Beginner’s Mind: Curiosity, Willingness and Patience
Be curious about your skill. Rather than focus on doubt, frustration, or self-criticism when confronted with something you can’t ride, try to be curious about it. Asking discerning questions like, “What about my approach could I change in order to get better at this?” or “How could I try differently in order to get a different result?”
A willingness to fail is a willingness to learn. I grew up with the mentality that failure was bad and should be avoided at all costs. It took me years to realize the danger of this perspective. You can’t accomplish anything new if you don’t try it first. If you fail, you have gained important information about your skills and the challenge at hand. If you use that information wisely you can do better the next time you try.
Be patient. Little changes lead to big changes over time. Don’t expect instantaneous miracles. If you effectively break down the challenge you’re trying to overcome into the smallest parts possible, you get both the satisfaction of little successes AND you get to see gradual improvement toward your goal.
I came to Moab for the love of mountain biking. I stayed here for the love of learning mountain biking. Every time I go out on a ride I am focused on some aspect of my riding that I am curious to improve, be it speed, strength, balance, technique, or confronting fear to name a few. I have the privilege of living in a place that is not only extremely magnificent in beauty but also continues to be the most fun place I’ve ever ridden a bike. I guide and coach mountain biking here so I can share that love and passion. Come visit, and ride the Moab outdoor arcade!
Scott Pauker is a mountain bike guide for Rim Tours and a skills coach for Moab Mountain Bike Instruction.
Those looking for a beginner or moderate guided mountain biking experience should consider either The Courthouse Loop or Dead Horse Point Singletrack