Bike Better: Hire a Mountain Bike Coach

Bike Better: Hire a Mountain Bike Coach

Mountain bike coaches are there for you, every step of the way.

Hardtail Canada is publishing a series of Mountain Bike Coach articles in collaboration with YYC MTB. If you are located in Calgary or Southern Alberta and want to bike better, check out YYC MTB.

YYC MTB is a group of passionate riders who are PMBIA certified coaches.

PMBIA governs mountain bike coaching worldwide. This is their mission: “The PMBIA trains and certifies mountain bike instructors and guides to effectively teach and guide in both cross country and downhill environments.”

Our first article discusses what mountain bike coaching is and why you need it.

Mountain biking isn’t just cranking out miles. There is much more to mountain biking than simply staying on two wheels. The bikes are complicated and mountain biking is a full body workout.

Off-bike skills are just as important: judging new terrain, trying new trails, buying the right gear, and preparing for unexpected mishaps.

In this article we cover all the ways mountain bike coaching makes you a better mountain biker.

Table of Contents

Mountain Biking Fundamentals

mountain bike fundamentals
Coaches watch your movements and give helpful advice.

Like any sport, mountain biking has its own set of fundamentals.

Establishing strong fundamentals is key, especially when you first start mountain biking. They save you time, money, frustration, injury, and prevent bad habits that hinder your progression.

A coach’s goal is to help create lifelong mountain bikers. It’s not a sport you can only do in your younger years. With a solid set of fundamental skills and a safe approach to progression, you can ride well into your “down-hill” years.

With a coach you’ll learn how to avoid “beginner mistakes.” You won’t develop bad habits. These will make a big impact on your mountain biking enjoyment.

Body Positioning

One of the most important aspects of mountain biking is body positioning. Whether you are climbing, descending, floating over roots or staying on-line in technical terrain, it all comes down to body positioning.

If you don’t properly shift your weight, you’ll severely limit your bike control and traction. Proper mountain bike skills start with using your body.

Developing strong body position fundamentals is even more important with today’s modern full-suspension mountain bikes. These bikes do so much work, and compensate for poor technique, that it’s easy to develop bad habits.

These bad habits may not seem obvious to you, but over time they’ll lead to more crashes (and potential injury) compared to a rider with strong body positioning.


This skill is closely tied to body positioning. Proper balance on the bike gives you control, traction, and efficiency.

Everything–climbing, descending, braking–is more difficult without steady balance. Mountain biking is a constant process of positioning yourself on the bike in a way that maintains balance.

Great balance will make you more efficient. An un-balanced rider shakes and wobbles all over the trail, wasting energy. A balanced rider keeps their bike steady, maximizes every pedal stroke, and saves energy.

Has a 60+ year old ever buzzed past you on a longer loop? That’s what a lifetime of refined balance and efficient skills gets you!


Cornering combines body positioning and balance. Proper cornering teaches you to maintain traction and balance though a turn, which dramatically lowers the chance of a wipeout. Many riders struggle with cornering, especially at the beginner and intermediate levels.

It takes careful timing to approach a corner, judge your braking distance, then aggressively steer and shift your weight through the turn and pop out the other side with speed and momentum.

It takes skill and body awareness to corner well. Even more so if the corner is steep—uphill or downhill—and has rocks or roots on the entrances or exits.

Coaching also teaches you how to use your tires, suspension, and body weight to maximize traction and momentum in corners. Even if speed isn’t your ultimate goal, cornering is important for safety and efficiency when riding.

Great cornering is a complex skill that is difficult to master on your own. Even with a coach, it requires plenty of practice and repetition. Hiring a mountain bike coach helps.

Operation of Controls

Modern mountain bikes have plenty of mechanical controls: shifting gears, lowering or raising your seat, braking efficiently, knowing when to adjust your suspension for climbs or descents.

That’s a lot to figure out. Messing up one of these operations almost always has immediate effects.

Late shifting gear before a steep slope? You’ll have to walk your bike up that hill. If you don’t shift properly, you risk damaging your drivetrain. At the very least, your bike will produce a horrible “crunch” sound that will turn heads and wake bears.

Don’t drop your seat in time? The downhill will be more precarious. Don’t raise it soon enough? You won’t have the power to blast out of a corner or up a hill.

Not braking well? You risk either not stopping in time and blowing off the trail, or putting too much power into your front brake and going over the handlebars.

Not adjusting your suspension? You risk a bumpier and more difficult descent if you don’t switch to “downhill” mode. You’ll have a tough time climbing and waste energy if you forget to switch back into “climb” mode.

Proper mountain bike coaching will teach you how to do all of these skills quickly, efficiently, and safely.

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Coaching Teaches You to Ride Safely

mountain biking safely
Mountain bike coaches teach you skills for technical terrain.

Would you rather be cruising past friends, or losing control and crashing in the bushes?

Proper mountain bike coaching gives you the tools to ride safely. Mountain biking is a complicated sport and there are many small skills to master.

While you’re busy learning new skills you have to make sure you’re doing it safely, for the sake of your body and your bike. If you damage your bike, that’s money down the drain having to fix it.

If you break yourself, then you won’t be mountain biking at all.

Coaches experience plenty of riders, even at intermediate skill levels, who struggle with basic bike controls–hesitation about using front brakes, not knowing how to balance between front and back brakes, bad shifting, the list goes on.

A proper PMBIA certified coach will help you master these basic skills, which will do wonders for your bike confidence and enjoyment.

Coaching Teaches You to Ride Confidently

mountain bike confidently
Coaching gives you confidence riding new terrain.

Mountain biking can be overwhelming and intimidating. There are plenty of different bikes and trails. How do you know what you need? How do you know where to start? Mountain bike coaching answers these questions.

A coach is there every step of the way. They are not bike shop employees trying to sell you something. They’re not that friend of a friend that says you’ll be OK on the Black trail they’ve dragged you out to.

With a proper mountain bike coach, there is no guess work. Everything is explained. They are there for you and will support you through every step, at your own pace.

You’ll gain the confidence over not only mastering the basics, but in choosing your own trails and exploring outside your comfort zone.

If you already have mountain bike experience before hiring a coach, you’ll gain the confidence to move out to new riding areas.

Mountain bike coaching will also decrease your progression time. You’ll become a confident, skilled rider far quicker than on your own through trial and error.

Coaching Creates a Framework

After learning basic skills, you need an idea of where you fit in the bike world: the kinds of trails you like, the style of riding you prefer, the kind of gear you need.

A mountain bike coach, even after the learning is done, will provide you with the right information to make sense of it all.

Coaches see a ton of riders and have experience judging a person’s capabilities on a bike. They can make more informed recommendations when it comes to bike choice, equipment, and trails to ride than your friend or the internet.

Do you prefer old school trails with plenty of roots and a “natural feel,” or do you prefer smooth groomed runs that feel like one long roller coaster track? Knowing what you prefer will help you choose new trails, especially if you are in a new riding area.

Do you prefer cross country riding, where there is little elevation change and you spend most of your time pedalling? Or do you prefer enduro riding with steep, physically demanding climbs and long, difficult descents?

Maybe you don’t prefer either and prefer something in between. Knowing this information is another tool in your tool kit, helping you with trail choice and choosing riding partners.


Finally, there’s gear. Bikes, and bike components, aren’t cheap. Everyone tells you theirs is the best. Industry shows nothing but gnarly riders sending big jumps. How are you supposed to make sense of it all?

A mountain bike coach teaches you about the kind of gear you need and how to make the right choices for your riding style and budget. They will recommend specific products based on actual biking experience.

A framework is equally important for making the right choices as an independent mountain biker. A coach helps with that.

Mountain Bike Coaching Makes Biking Better

mountain bike better

Mountain bike coaching improves your mountain biking progression in every way.

It will make you a better rider. It will give you confidence and control over your bike. It will prevent injury and bike damage. It will give you the knowledge to choose the right trails. It will give you the ability to progress to the next stage and your coach is a great resource for bike specific knowledge.

Mountain bike coaching makes biking better.

This is the first in a series of collaborations with YYC MTB. Check Hardtail Canada regularly for coaching specific content and topics about everything mountain biking from PMBIA trained professionals.



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