If you think mountain biking is just an endurance sport, here’s a secret: no one’s ever won a mountain bike race based on physical fitness alone. The key to mountain biking like a pro is to start by building these skills: balance, agility, coordination, and quick reaction. Learn these and gain physical endurance in the process because skills enable you to ride farther with less fatigue. You’ll also be motivated to challenge yourself on tougher, more technical terrain as you sharpen your skills. This will take your mind off of the physical effort it takes to turn the pedals because you’ll be more focused on navigating the trail and less on pedalling. Forget mind over body, exercise your mind with these tips for how to train for mountain biking.

Balance – Choose a flat, narrow path to ride at your lowest possible speed. Pedal slowly and shift your body weight to maintain balance. Once you’ve mastered this stretch of path, try something harder, like riding along a curb, gutter, or a bikeway with high sides.

Agility – Create an obstacle course that features sharp turns, small obstacles to hop over, like rocks, logs, or stumps, and build in some jumps and fast stops. Be sure to challenge yourself! Mountain biking should make you at least a little nervous when facing an obstacle – that’s where learning and skill mastery happen.

Coordination – This goes hand-in-hand with agility because you still have to handle your mountain bike, which may require pedalling, shifting, and overcoming trail obstacles, sometimes all at once! Practice shifting your gears up and down to get a feel for changing gears, next try shifting on an uphill, then try shifting into a lower gear just before a trail obstacle. A lower gear will allow you to spin your pedals a little easier, which helps you to accelerate rapidly if you need to overcome an obstacle.

Quick reaction – Being able to react quickly is the multitool in your skills toolkit. A quick reaction can spare you from going over the bars in the event of a sudden obstacle, a sharp turn, or if the rider in front of you brakes without warning. Practice your reaction skills by ramping up your speed and braking sharply. Once you’ve got that down, practice your braking skills by riding a trail that you’re familiar with at a slightly higher speed.

Endurance – Less of a skill and more of a performance quality, endurance also takes practice. The best way to increase your endurance is to ride every day and increase your ride time by 10 minutes on each ride. This way, you’ll get fit and have a chance to practice all of the above skills on your way to becoming both fast and multitalented on a mountain bike.

Mountain biking is a sport of skills that – once you have them, they’re yours for life. It’s a sport that challenges your mind as much as your body, and if you can solve problems on the trail, then what’s stopping you from using those same skills in everyday life? Train for mountain biking and discover all sorts of uses for your new skills!