Welcome to Part 2 of the 6 part series on “How To Become A Better Mountain Biker”. These are tips and tricks that I have used over the years to become a better rider. You may find all or some of these useful, but I can guarantee you that every single one of these tips worked and still work to this day. These should help every rider…from the beginner to the seasoned veteran. If your goal is to become a better rider…read on and keep the rubber side down!
The MTB Art of “Practice Makes Perfect”
- Part 1 – Ride Different Trails
- Part 2 – Sessioning
- Part 3 – Diversify
- Part 4 – Miles…Miles…and More Miles…
- Part 5 – Cross Training
- Part 6 – Heavy Bike Training
Above photo taken by Laurie
What Is Sessioning?
- Have you ever walked a certain section of trail that you found difficult?
- Have you ever looked at a section thinking that you might be able to ride that someday?
- Have you ever gotten frustrated at not clearing a section of trail?
If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions…sessioning is going to greatly improve your riding. The idea behind sessioning is that we are not perfect riders…none of us are. How can we expect to ride every trail perfectly the first time? We can’t…so most times, we mess up and move on. Sessioning is the art of trying it again. Too often…we are satisfied with failure. We get mildly irritated, but in the end…we do not try what we did not accomplish the first time until we revisit that trail in a future date.
Sessioning has been a part of mountain biking since the very beginning. Recently, the idea of sessioning has grown in popularity with the freeride, downhill and big mountain crowd as they try stunts over and over again in the pursuit of perfection. What you may not know is that sessioning is just as important in cross country and all mountain riding as it is in the other disiplines. I would venture to say it is actually more important because it is practiced far less than it should be.
I was on a trail in North Carolina a couple months back where this long extended downhill dumped you into a long, high speed rock garden. We were warned ahead of time that we might not make it through on the first attempt. I came barreling around this sweeping right hand turn and collided head on with the first section. I made it all the way through on the first attempt…to my surprise…but I wasn’t happy with the entire run and other riders in the group didn’t make it all the way through. What do we do at that point?
Ride back up and do it over again!
So that is what we did…and we did this until everyone was happy.
Sessioning In Practice
That is sessioning…picking out a small section of trail and doing it over and over again until you get it right. As the saying goes, “practice makes perfect” and how are you going to become a better rider if you don’t practice? No one expects you to be perfect the first time out, so take your time and get it right. The more you do this kind of “redo”, the better rider you will become. Sessioning is the art of practicing and developing your skills in areas that you are not as proficient in. It is simple as that.
These skills that you pick up through practicing hard sections of trail carry on into every aspect of riding. This is…by far…the #1 tip that has improved my riding ability and skills. Nothing else I have done has jump started my ability to become a better rider than sessioning.
In the example I used above, we sessioned a section of downhill, but in my riding experience…we have sessioned just as many climbing sections as downhills. Technical climbs can be some of the hardest section of trail and if you practice these sections…your climbing ability will go through the roof and you will be a stronger rider.
One Side Effect
There is one side effect to sessioning. It is addicting! As a rider, you will start to look for the climbs, rock gardens, technical features or tight switchbacks that you can try over and over again. When you are with a group of riders, it becomes an event on the trail. A lot of the fun of sessioning comes from the input and encouragement from other riders in your group.
With this side effect, there is some negative. In group rides, there are riders that hate stopping on the trail to try a section over again. For some reaosn, most riders on large group rides want to just continue pushing forward…like you are racing. You might get some grumbles when you want to try something over again.
Some tips to deal with this:
- Let Them Move On – You are not going to convience those riders that this is fun or a great idea if it wasn’t their idea. Let them push on a be the first one to finish. Remember…while group rides are fun, you are still out there to make sure that you have a great riding experience. Let them push forward and try it again after they leave. On group rides, there are multiple “stop and rest” points where you can catch back up again.
- Ask Other Riders If They Want To Try It Again – A lot of the time, there are other riders…just like you…that want to try that same section of trail over again, but they are just waiting for someone else to speak up! Be that person! You might be surprised with the results.
Part 2 Homework…
Get out and session a section of trail. Afterward, take notice and watch how it improves your riding in other areas.
Coming up next…Part 3 – Diversify!