First off this will be more orientated to the weekend warrior trail/all mountain rider but will be beneficial for all your hard core racer types as well!
Second try to start with the best base you can. I mean get some decent cardio/endurance, the longer you can last the more quality training you can get in per training session. Also get a good solid strength base. Technical riding is more about muscle strength and endurance then it is about cardio endurance. I would recommend checking out James Wilson at www.bikejames.com. His programs are awesome and have really helped me!
Third get yourself a pair of decent flat pedals, shoes and a quick release seat post clamp. You will want the pedals and shoes for easy escape from crashes but also they will teach you how to ride your bike properly! If you can bunny hop, manual, wheelie, jump, climb and ride rough stuff (basically anything you would do on a mountain bike) on flats you can’t really do it and are using your clips as a crutch to cover you weaknesses. The quick release is the cheap option, the other option is a dropper post, to get the seat out of the way so you have room to move in your cockpit!
Ok let’s get started.
Go to www.leelikesbikes.com and pick up Mastering Mountain Bike Skills Volume 2 and read it and then read it again. Now that we have that knowledge base, find yourself a good size area, probably a drive way or a parking lot. You will spend a fare amount of time here to begin with. You will want to do drills like the figure 8 cornering drill trying to increase your speed and lean until you look like this:
It is possible I promise you! You will also want to get comfortable in the attack position and be able to pedal as fast as you can and stop only using your front break and not have your rear end lift off, also possible!
Work on things like manuals, bunny hops and wheelies. Also see how far you can ride the curb without falling off and work on drops off the curb. I know it is not high but you will get the basic motion down with no major consequences.
After you have put a good amount of hours in at the parking lot, it is time to find a nice loopable trail that offers a wide variety of trail features. I would recommend Lebanon or maybe Battle Creek. Lebanon is sort of ideal because of the options for loops inside of loops, such as the Green and Black loops.
I recommend that you keep all “training” rides to 30-45mins or take frequent breaks and session specific sections; like a jump, some turns or a rock garden. You want to be as fresh as possible. Save the 2-4 hour marathons for the weekends with the buddies because as soon as you get tired and start to fatigue you go from a clear mind that can focus on training to survival mode and you will fall back to muscle memory and bad habits and just try to make it back to the car!
As you develop good skills and your muscles start to remember proper form, so your survival mode form will become better and better.
For each ride pick something to work on specifically. I would start with attack position and I would do a couple rides were you simply focus on body positioning. If something feels off, it probably is. Focus on keeping light hand and heavy feet and staying low. Then progress to cornering, really work on leaning the bike and staying low and in attack position. Find a nice corning section with a few nice corners in a row. Work flat corners and then go to berms. Although berms can be intimidating to people that don’t come from a BMX back ground they really do help you corner as they force your bike to lean to a point and run you through the corner. A flat turn will make you do the work and learn proper cornering.
After that it is up to you, pick a section that really is giving you a tough time and analyze it. What is making that section difficult to you? If it is a fast rough section, are you staying low, in attack position? Heavy feet light hands? That solves most issues right there. Is it a flat rock garden? Do you need to work on manuals and bunny hops? How about track stands? I can’t believe I almost forgot those! They are, in my opinion, the best think you can learn as a beginner! Learn them with both feet forward. They will help you in rock gardens, switch backs, skinnies and many other facets of the MTB game!
I also recommend getting Pro BMX Skills and Coaching Mountain Bike Skills by Lee McCormack. BMX skills transfer great to MTB and that is why if you ask the majority of really good MTB riders they started racing BMX! The Coaching book has tons of great drills and pointers and really goes deeper then the Mastering Mountain Bike book does.
Another great skills builder is pump track riding and dirt jumping! Also get out and go to places like Ray’s Indoor MTB park or race BMX. Lexington has 2 completed pump tracks that are great. They will force you to learn how to get free speed and corner like a champ! Soon there will be a 3rd pump track and jumps to hone your skills on!
You can’t just ride yourself better or into shape. You have to train yourself to get better and that takes a focused effort! Learn more, ride better and have more fun!
Keep it real!