As a mountain bike rider, there’s more to Winter riding than just maintaining your fitness. You need to hone your ability to get radical, and you just can’t do that on the turbo trainer! We show you five key skills and how to learn them during the darker months – be ready to shred when Spring comes.

Pump track or skate parks for jumps

So, you want to improve your airbourne ability but the rain has stopped play, why not visit your nearest skatepark? Smooth run-ins and perfect transitions mean that the park is the perfect classroom to learn to jump and build up your confidence. Hardtails rule in the park but you don’t have to buy a new bike: however, a 26” single-speed jump bike can be had for less that a set of decent lights and will save your big bike for big days. Many parks have ‘bike only’ sessions so you don’t feel like grandpa, hanging out with prepubescent scooter punks that can flair the volcano. Session the box to sharpen your jumping skills, riding park is all about flow. Watch and learn from the BMXers who work the impossible and try to mirror how effortless they make it look: let the transition do the work. Remember smooth is fast and fast is smooth.

Here you can find more about pump track training: Pump it up – MTB winter pump track training

Urban riding for drops

If you get nervous sending drops or you just want to practise going bigger, the skills and confidence that you need to bring to the hill can be learnt without dirt under your tyres and straight outside your front door. Much of the urban infrastructure replicates natural trail features and it’s easy to find something to huck, plus you don’t have things like mud, roots and trees to complicate the maneuver. Progression curves are steep in the concrete jungle where features are easy to session; you can develop a skill like drops-offs by starting with a simple curb and gradually building up until you’re hitting a favela stair set in Brazil!

  Much of the urban infrastructure replicates natural trail features.

Downhilling for speed

If you want to ride faster, go Downhilling. Sessioning DH runs will improve your overall speed as you build your confidence by repeating runs, trying multiple lines and sessioning sections that a normal ride would only let you hit once. If you’re lucky enough to have a vehicle uplift service or lifts available near home, it’s a great way to get maximum shred time over the winter because you haven’t slogged all the way up, legs are fresher and able to ride much stronger. You can wear a full face helmet and run DH tyres for even more confidence, plus drink and eat at the bottom of each run or change your kit if you’re soaked. Alternatively, ditch Winter and, if you have cash and time to spare, head somewhere warmer like, Finale Ligure, Portugal or Madeira. Book in with a company that will shuttle you up the hills and you’ll get 100% adrenaline hit for your time on the hill and ride more vertical descent in a week than you will for the rest of the winter!

Night riding for using the force

We know We know… night riding takes the worst things about winter, and does them in the dark when it’s even colder – but night riding does give you your evenings back: keep it social and regular, with a fuel stop afterwards for jokes and to get warm and you will strangely look forward to it. Other than the social aspect of night riding, there are skills that can be honed in the dark not easily replicated in the day. As Obi-Wan Kenobi said, “Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.” Riding in the dark sharpens your reaction times and forces you to ride loose. In order to ride quickly, your focus must be down the trail and let what’s happening under your wheels be controlled by ‘the force’, or rather by the subconscious firing of motor neurons we call ‘feel’. Night rides turn tame trails into EWS stages. Fact. When the daylight eventually comes you will read the trails more effectively, be more in tune with your bike and be traveling faster, with more control.

Here you can find more about night riding: Working 9 to 5 – Daydreamers and Nightriders

Gravel Bike for finesse

If you want to put in some winter miles and sharpen your bike handling skills, then look to gravel for the answer. Pretty much everyone can piece together a decent gravel ride from their front door, or on their commute home, so you can maximise your bike time and hone your skills. You don’t need to buy a new bike, but swapping out 160mm of travel and 2.5” tyres for a carbon fork and 37 mm tyres will re-acquaint you with the lost art of riding with finesse. No longer can you plough through anything with reckless abandon, you need to be precise. You will enjoy the technical challenge of far more mundane trails but grin from ear to ear once conquered. Traction is never to be taken for granted, braking is not always an option and it’s all about the rider’s ability rather than the sophistication of your bike. When you next get on your enduro bike it will almost be too easy!

It doesn’t really matter how you progress or where you ride this winter, just mix it up and have fun! Winter is merely a state of mind and Spring is around the corner…

This article is from ENDURO issue #032

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Words: Thomas Corfield Photos: Trevor Worsey