Before every race, you’ll see me in a corner of a parking lot or grassy field riding in tight circles in various positions. From a distance, I’m sure this appears silly. I start every bike ride – whether it’s casual or a Pro race – with a run through of basic mountain biking skills – tight cornering, figure eights, position, breaking, ready position among others.

Why, you ask?

First let me tell – the secret of the Australian Olympic Field Hockey’s dominating success for the past two decade is a foundation of basic and flawless skills.

Australia has one of the strongest field hockey programs in the world, and I spent three years in Australia playing field hockey on the Buderim Rebels, a town club as well as the Sunny Coast, an exclusive regional team. I had the opportunity to train with the Australian Olympic Field Hockey Team and play against the Chinese Olympic Field Hockey Team.

Whether my team was preparing to play an off-season scrimmage or an Olympic team, every single practice started the exact same way – a review of each basic skill, executed crisply and sharply.

This repetition and emphasis of basic skills at every level of play resonated with me.

Baseball, basketball, football, volleyball, soccer, basic skills are taught before game-play occurs. When I returned to the United States and began mountain biking at a competitive level, I realized that basic skills are not taught to new riders. When a person starts mountain biking, they hop on and hope for the best.

Unfortunately, this practice allows for improper riding techniques to become ingrained mountain biking habits, which severely limit your growth and stunt your potential. Worse of all, when your racing or riding beyond your personal comfort level – like riding with more experience riders – we revert to our bad habits – causing damage to our bike and our body which could have been avoided.

During 2014, I began to  focus on basic riding techniques and repeated them every time I got on a bicycle. My technical skills exploded. More experience riders complain when a ‘beginner’ shows up to a ride. For me, I think it’s a perfect opportunity to emphasize and execute basic skills flawlessly – a nice chill pace allows you to focus on multiple elements of each skill.

Here’s the reality check:
Basic skills are the foundation of excellent mountain bike riding.

Photo credit: Small Forest Photography

Kristine Contento-Angell's Reality Check | Wednesday, March 18th, 2015