Winter Training: Skills

February 25, 2021

To round out our four-part series on winter training, it’s time to dig into skills!

We’ve covered endurance training and strength work to give you a solid foundation to establish a winter training program. We’re obviously still in the thick of winter, but the light of spring is just ahead, so now’s the time to put in some work!

Let’s talk skills. Even the most experienced riders can stand to develop and refine their on-trail skills. let’s consider some things that can add more fun and speed to your rides in the spring:

Kinesthetic Awareness

Kinesthetic awareness is basically just a fancy way of saying you know where your body is in space and in relation to things around it. In other words, you have a good feel for yourself and your bike. This is key to understand and start to assess in your riding. If you’re flying through the air in a full and beautiful whip only to land sideways and high side; you may want to consider your kinesthetic awareness! There are a few considerations here. First, perhaps tone down the jumps for a spell so you don’t injure yourself. Once you do that, start with some basics. Work on your front and rear wheel lifts. Progress into working on wheelies and nose wheelies. Maybe even progress into working on manuals. Ride some skinnies. If you don’t have any, or they’re snow covered get some 2×4’s and set up a visual in the garage. It’s not quite the same but it’s certainly warmer, and it will force you to work on balance and pedal timing. There are loads of great videos online for these, so I won’t list them all off. I like the GCN videos, personally.


If you learn to brake at the right times with ferocious tenacity, you will actually go faster. Too often riders drag brakes down long stretches of hill. Instead, perhaps try working on setting braking markers: Use the brakes when you hit that marker before the obstacle. A great drill for this in the winter is to set up an imaginary line (or a real one with cones) in your lawn or parking lot. Work on using the rear only, front only, and then both brakes. Feel the difference in power. Learn to modulate that power to maximize the control of speed and stopping. Progress into trying to close the distance you need to go from a good pace to full stop between the markers using both brakes in harmony. Silly as it might seem this will help you on the trail in the spring!


Cornering is another great skill to work on in the winter. Learning to read entry and exit points on trails, how to ride berms, and off-camber turns. You know you’ll see it all on the trails, so best prepare for it now to have more fun and success come springtime. I love to use pump tracks or indoor parks to help with this, especially if your trails are fully snow-covered. Small closed courses are ideal for practice because you’re able to ride them repeatedly, learn from mistakes, and make adjustments real-time. This can dramatically speed up the learning curve versus only riding a corner once on a trail ride.


Finally, if you’re able to get outside on trails that aren’t buried in white pow, I strongly recommend sessioning a section of trail. Find a technical section that was troublesome last summer (and isn’t too far from the parking lot so you don’t freeze) and ride it over and over until you nail it consistently. Bring a friend or two, and take some videos and review them. See what you’re doing well or not. It’s great fun and a good way to build the skills we outlined above.

This is far from an all-inclusive list of skills and improvement, but it’s a good foundation. Take a hard look at your skills, identify weaknesses and strengths. Review them via video and with others to get feedback. No need for harsh judgement–just improvement!

About the author:
Colin Izzard is a full-time strength and conditioning coach with CTS working with all levels of athletes that seek improvement and are willing to do the work! He can be contacted at if you have thoughts or questions.

He lives, works and rides in Brevard NC near the Pisgah National Forest.
For a full bio please follow this link:

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