By Team ICG® Master Trainers Jim Karanas and Graham Stoney

Indoor cycling came from road riding and has retained that identity in most teaching systems.  The ride positions, the hand positions, the cues and the philosophy follow the “roadie” way of riding.  Yet, according to the U.S. Commerce Department, mountain bikes have outsold road bikes for the last 20 years.

So most people ride mountain bikes.  But most training programs don”™t take that into account when training instructors to teach indoor classes.

It would be understandable — if this were the ‘90s, when indoor cycling was just beginning.  Off-road technique is often contrary to what we do on a road bike, so the translation to indoor classes might have been too confusing or challenging to teach.  But times have changed.

ICG is a global company with a strong contingent of Master Trainers from Europe, the UK and California, locations where mountain biking is extremely popular.  Off-road technique has been included in our education system since the beginning.  Our bikes have handlebars that accommodate mountain-bike hand positions, making it easy to highlight off-road riding movements in our teaching.  Still, instructors may find it difficult to start introducing mountain biking in their classes.

This article aims to help bridge that gap, no matter which bikes you use.

If the idea of an indoor cycling class is to create an experience, what could be more fun than to take our students on a trail occasionally, as opposed to a road?  ICG believes in mountain biking and has dedicated a number of the forward-motion videos on MyrideÃ’+ to trail:  fire trails, single track, sand, snow, grass and dirt.

You might be dismissing this idea because your club doesn”™t have Myride+.  But a mountain biking class is something you can teach without video.

You”™ll find that teaching an indoor off-road class is more about your ability to create experience.  It just takes the willingness to do something different.  Words and music are a good start.  Getting your students to “see” the various terrains and road surfaces can add depth, color, even poetry to your classes.

Jim recently presented “Mountain Rider” for first time in North America to instructors at CanFitPro, a major trainer conference held each year in Toronto.  The response was overwhelming.  Many IC instructors who are predominantly off-road riders showed up to learn how they could share with their students the way they love to ride outside.

Yes, the stunning Myride+ video made the class even more real.  The incredible trail footage, accompanied by appropriate cues, brought many of the attendees to the trail for the first time and raised the class to artistry by creating immersion.

But, again, you can run a great class using good cues and music.

We”™re going to share some basic class suggestions in this article and follow up with an Audio Profile that Jim is recording with John.  The AP will feature a course profile, music and cues via podcast to help you bring off-road riding to your classes.

Mountain Rider coaching points:

  •  Tell your class participants that, for today, they must forget much of what you”™ve previously taught them about indoor cycling.
  • Mountain biking does work with energy zones, power, intervals and threshold, but pure, senseless fun usually supplants that roadie drivel.
  • Simulation begins with education.  Teach them about the trail.  Are we on a fire trail or single track?  What”™s the surface?  What are the conditions?  In mountain biking, the trail surface and conditions change the experience completely, along with the cues you”™ll use and the experience you can create.
  • Introduce and use off-road terminology:  compression's, rollers, washboards, steps, crowns and berms, high-side/low-side.

To begin teaching a class like Mountain Rider, you must move from the mindset of providing a workout to one of having a great time riding the bike.  Road riding can be fun but is generally much more serious:  grounded in science, training, getting it right in general.  Mountain biking is hardly EVER serious.  “Feeling alive” on your bike?  There”™s nothing like off-road.

You”™ll want to keep in mind that some standard indoor cycling exercises don”™t translate to off-road.  You almost never jump, nor do you stand on climbs.  This will be covered in Jim”™s AP, which will also cover two ICG off-road movements, Wave Riding and Speed Bumps.

Off-road wisdom borrows next to nothing from traditional road-bike discipline.  Mountain biking was born in the ‘70s.  Hitting the trail with loosened inhibitions affirmed our spirit of adventure.  That needs to be emphasized in your class when you go off-road.  Well, that and experiencing innocent, down-to-earth cool.

The upcoming Audio Profile will bring life to the concepts presented here.

For an entertaining presentation of the differences between road riding and mountain biking, here are two videos to enjoy, preferably in order:

You can learn to teach MTB free if you”™re one of the first 1000 to sign up for CECs on ICG.  Take advantage of ICG”™s free online CEC offer now.

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