Ninja MTB Clinic Experience

Ninja MTB Clinic Experience

Andrew Lee Goes to MTB Camp

Words & Photos by Andrew Lee

I’ve never really pegged myself as the clinic type, imagining them as mostly something to keep middle age housewives busy learning yoga or holistic kale cooking techniques. When I was presented with the opportunity to attend a mountain bike skills clinic, I had to check myself and realize I could probably learn a few useful things at such an event…I grew up riding BMX, then motorcycles in my teens and now I’m totally in love with mountain bikes. Needless to say I’ve been on and around two wheels my entire life, and enjoyed the challenge of figuring them out on my own.

I’ve progressed a lot since I first started riding mtb, but I’ve always been hungry for more. In fact, one of the things I love most about MTB is the progression— I can’t get enough! There is simply nothing better than rolling up to an obstacle, whether it’s an entirely new rock garden on a fresh trail, or that gap jump you’ve been eyeing for months, and finally getting the courage to go out and stomp it. You know what feeling I’m talking about, whether your obstacles have been big or small, it all feels the same. I’ve always ridden with faster and more skilled riders than myself and learned from them, however, in total honesty, I’d love to get faster and more confident. Sometimes just chasing people isn’t the best way to learn, and I was excited to find out why.

Ninja MTB Experience

I feel like I’ve come to a plateau in my riding abilities. I was comfortable on all my local trails but I’ve been yearning to progress and get more comfortable in fresh zones. Being able to ride new trails, adapt to them, and have the balls to send that double you just saw your buddy air is what keeps me going.

Ninja MTB Clinic presented us with an opportunity and when Drew reached out to gauge my interest, I told him I was instantly excited. After doing some research online I was stoked to find out that Ninja MTB is not just a small, local program. They offer classes all around the United States and offered two in my local area of Lake Elsinore/SoCal. I immediately reached out to them, asked a few simple questions and signed up for their complete Two Day Experience. A full weekend of hands on training and riding with an elite coach seemed like just the ticket to get me out of my riding slump.

Ninja MTB Experience


Pulling into the parking lot I quickly knew I was in the right place. I unloaded my bike and threw on my gear. Like the rest of the riders there, I was eager to get started! After a brief introduction to the class and a bike safety inspection (gotta make sure we aren’t total kooks) we went over to a large grassy area where most of the fundamental skills would be taught.

Lined up with nothing but our bikes, some cones and a picnic table. The instructor jumped straight into the important stuff. We focused on bike and body positioning, braking and more. The riders began running laps around the course to hone skills and improve our awareness on the bike. Each skill was broken down into separate segments. Building from the bottom up, we started with the basics and then continued on to more combined body movements and ultimately at the end of the day were fluid and comfortable with all the fundamentals.

Ninja MTB Experience

I won’t go into too much detail because frankly the coaches at Ninja are much better at explaining than I am. What I will say, is one of my favorite skills we worked on was balance on the bike. The instructor had us put our back wheel up on the picnic bench and held us upright, once balanced, he had us shift our weight back and forth to help teach us all where our balance point was and how to keep our weight out of our hands and in our feet to ultimately help combat fatigue and yield better bike control.

It’s the little things that most riders would never take the time to focus on, but can easily turn into bad habits over years of riding. Even as a decent rider, I still walked away from this portion learning new tricks, breaking bad habits I’d acquired and hopefully became a better rider because of it.

Day 1 Schedule | Saturday

8:45-9:00 Meet your instructor
Arrival at course venue + equipment check

9:00-9:15 Let’s get started
Introductions, camp overview, bike safety check, bike set-up review

9:15-9:30 Warm-up ride
Head to skills area

9:30-12:30 Mornings skills session
Ready position, bike-body separation, effective braking, fluid shifting, body positioning, wheel lifts

12:30-1:45 Lunch break
Bring Your Own Lunch

1:45 – 4:15 Intro to jumping
Manuals, bunny hops + how to safely jumping (and land) your mountain bike

Ninja MTB Experience


With the fundamentals in the books, I was eager to get into the advanced section of the weekend and anxious to see how ALL of us riders in attendance were going to progress through the day. There was a very mixed group in the class, and skills ranged from beginner to intermediate. I was surprised how much I personally learned on Day 1, but was even more surprised how much some of the less experienced riders had advanced and progressed through the program.

When looking at the second day’s itinerary, the high-speed corning and technical climbing/descending sections were at the top of the list for me. These are areas I’ve been looking to improve for quite some time. I’ve always been able to hang with my friends in the straights, but after we hit a few corners I’m left in the dust. I was anxious to learn some useful skills, and hopefully progress. The program is very progressive and is always building every step of the way. There was very little down time where we weren’t working on techniques or learning skills. The fundamentals really start to make sense when you apply them in the more complicated techniques out on the trail.

Ninja MTB Experience

Now I know what some of you might be thinking, because frankly I was guilty of this myself. Those fundamentals? Yeah I got those down! I ride black diamond trails all the time so I’m gooood. Well, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I wasn’t as good as I thought. Even advanced riders aren’t above a class like this.

The fundamentals class proved to be very valuable. I’ve never had any formal training on a bike. What this brought to my eyes was that even though I’m a technically solid rider and can hold my own on most trails, I had definitely acquired some bad habits over the years. Despite my old habits, the instructors were never negative. They never put us down or said, “Here’s why you’re wrong,” instead, they focused on ways to improve and overcome my shortcomings with productive alternatives.

One of the biggest areas we focused on with my riding was something I never even knew needed to be corrected. Since getting home and riding my local trails I realized it has been holding me back for way too long. I was guilty of sitting too high on the bike. Our instructor Randy has been coaching for a long time, and has always worked with the taller guys in the group (like me) to get lower. Throughout the course I had him in my ear, “Get lower, drop those hips, bend your knees.” It’s funny because it honestly proved to be one of the most valuable things I learned from the clinic and did the most to improve my riding all around. Every time I ride a trail now, I hear Randy in the back of my head. So, thank you Randy!

Day 2 Schedule | Sunday

8:45-9:00 Meet at trailhead
Gear up for day 2!

9:00-9:15 Review
Brief review of Day 1 skills

9:15-12:00 Morning skills session
High-speed cornering, switchbacks, drops, rock dodge, technical climbing & descending

12:00-1:00  Lunch break
Bring Your Own Lunch

1:00-4:00 Trail ride + skills application
Put those skills to work!

4:00-4:15 Review, questions & next steps

Ninja MTB Experience

The Instructors

Randy Inglis

Title: Lead instructor at Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
Qualifications: IMBA Level I Certified Skills Instructor
About: Randy has been an avid mountain biker since 1991. He was formally an expert downhill racer with plenty of saddle time racing and riding all disciplines including Enduro and XC. Being an IMBA Certified Instructor since 2014, Randy has a true and deeply rooted passion for teaching riders the skills to progress, push themselves to new heights and conquer the trails ahead. He speaks very clearly and concisely while instructing. It’s evident he is very serious about his role as an instructor— something I really appreciated. Don’t let him fool you though, while it is very true Randy takes his instruction seriously, I swear he spends his off days at the local comedy club doing improv, as he provides plenty of comic relief to keep the class fun and making the experience a rather memorable one.

Teri Ayotte

Title: Instructor at Ninja Mountain Bike Performance
Qualifications: BICP Level 1 and 2 Skills Instructor
About: With an appetite to explore it’s no wonder Teri found her way into the MTB scene adventure racing. Quickly falling for the sport in 2003 she has racked up quite the background, and also spent a lot of time training and racing. Completing six 36-hour adventure races with her husband, I’d say she knows a little bit about how to stay on two wheels. Moving forward in life and starting a family, she has found a niche in the industry that she enjoys— teaching. Becoming a certified instructor and behind the scenes coordinator for Ninja, she oozes enthusiasm while out on the trail sharing her knowledge with all participants. There was never a moment Teri didn’t have a smile from ear to ear, and she was a joy to be around.

The Wolf’s Last Word

Now that I’ve been home from camp and riding my local trails for a couple months before writing this story, I had to ask myself, is it worth it to attend a clinic? They aren’t cheap, and you may think you’re doing just fine without it, but I can wholeheartedly say, yes. Since attending the Ninja MTB Clini, I’ve become much more fluent on the bike. I feel comfortable and confident on the bike in areas I was just trying to be fast in before. The skills I acquired at the Ninja Clinic are definitely a worthwhile investment, and I would advise anyone looking to improve their riding attends a clinic. I guarantee you will take something away from it, regardless of your skill level. I broke bad habits, became more aware of my body positioning, and learned things I never knew about my riding or myself. While my buddies may help me here and there to get faster on the trail, attempting to follow them will never replicate the aid that a well-trained coach can give. That being said, now that this camp is over I’m even more excited to chase their wheels again, and hopefully stay even closer!

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