The skill of riding straight – holding a line, as it’s commonly called – is one of the most fundamental mountain bike skills. It’s not just used for riding narrow trails the width of logs, planks, and elevated boardwalks, but staying on your line through rock gardens or along a section of a narrow track where precision matters.
These mountain bikers showed their bravery as they rode a very narrow trail on a high mountain overlooking the sacred valley of the Incas. It was not only narrow but rocky as well, however, they completed it with ease and fun.
When used to ride an obstacle like a skinny, “holding a line” tends to be an all-or-nothing affair. You either make it or you don’t, and it’s plain for everyone to see. And if the height of the obstacle is beyond your comfort/confidence zone, you may pay a price (damaged bike, body, ego) by not making it.
It’s often assumed that you can get better at holding a line just by doing a lot of it. And yet I often hear very experienced mountain bikers say “I hate skinnies.” They’ve reached their current level of skill without thinking too much about it, but haven’t figured out how to go beyond it.
With any complex skill, however, having a progression of exercises and drills to practice is often the best way to not only develop competence, but to gain confidence.
Hang on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!