MTB skills clinic for gravel rider?

I don’t ride “proper” mountain bike trails, but many of the gravel rides near me (New England) have a good amount of jeep tracks, single track, crazy descents and climbs, etc. I’m working on the fitness side of course, but my bike handling skills could always use some improvement.

My gravel bike is a Salsa Cutthroat with 29x2.2 Conti Race Kings and I’ll probably install a dropper, so it’s effectively a drop bar MTB. Do you think a MTB skills clinic would help build some confidence? Would I look out of place if I showed up on that bike (I don’t think so?)

I’m hesitant to go into the woods by myself because I broke a finger a few years back on some local MTB trails and luckily I was with someone. My wife would kill me if I try that again :rofl:

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  • Most likely it would be helpful. I have leveraged my trials and MTB skills in all forms of my riding, to include gravel in some of the more tricky conditions. Skills are something that you just can’t have too much of. Fill that bag-o-tricks with as much as you can :stuck_out_tongue:
  • “Look”, probably… since I’d wager most will be on traditional flat bar MTB’s. But it’s not a problem IMO. Wouldn’t hurt to contact the clinic to see what they have to say.

  • There will be some subtle differences in hand positions (hoods on your bike vs wide flat bar emphasis for stuff like cornering) and some limits to body position, but if it’s more of a beginner level clinic, I think it’s totally fine.


I took my cutthroat on a couple of MTB group rides. People are surprised/give funny looks at first but eventually are so intrigued with it they want to give it a try.

In regard to your question about confidence: As a really bad mountain biker with minimal confidence myself, a dropper post helped me develop more confidence than a skills clinic would have. Reason being - you can’t really get into the positions to feel confident without a dropper. I would say get the dropper first, then see if you still need a skills clinic.

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I fully support this. There’s always a jerk in a large group, but in general, mtb’ers will go “woah, that guy’s nuts, I want to try it”. MTB’ers and Gravel riders like “weird”. You’ll get a lot less crap for cleaning something on a gravel bike than you would if you show up on a s-works with 180mm travel, full face, pads, etc, and can’t clean the same thing.

As for the clinic, I think Chad is right in that you should check with the company before you sign up, but they should be able to easily modify most topics covered in a beginner level skills clinic for you. Just make sure you get your butt back when practicing drops. One thing I notice with new gravel riders is that people with mtb experience tend to know how to use their whole body and “surf” over obstacles and loose stuff better than pure roadies do.


Check the content / location of the MTB clinic. I wouldn’t want to do any jumps or drops on a rigid bike, or ride much gnarly rocky, rooty trails.

As long as the focus of the course has the wheels stay planted on the ground, and the terrain is reasonably tame, a MTB clinic is likely suitable and will help.

FWIW - I took my Diverge with 45mm tires on one of our local green downhill trails - a trail I’ve ridden with my kids on their MTBs - so quite tame. The Diverge was completely out of place on that trail. The cutthroat with contis is closer than the Diverge to a MTB, but it’s still a rigid bike. So something to keep in mind.

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I’m a PMBIA certified instructor with Ride Ottawa (

I would say YES! You should definitely take a lesson!
In our Level 1 course we teach the same basics as in our beginner but a bit more quickly and with more variation through practice.

You want the essentials: body position (flat, climbing, descending) , braking, and cornering (we’ll call it handling for Gravel). And make no mistake, I can promise that unless you’ve already taken a lesson or two, you DO NOT fully know any of those 3 skills. (Come on, when have you ever consciously PRACTICED braking?) With a decent instructor, you’ll love it.

The best way to maximize this ROI would be a private lesson. Then you can tell the instructor exactly what you want (body position, braking, cornering) and they will be able to tailor the lesson and skills content exactly for you.

You definitely don’t need to worry about learning jumps and drops for most gravel routes (I say that but then if you follow me on double track you’ll notice a lot of jumping on my Kona Jake). But if someone gravel really wanted to, I’d probably be OK with them on a Cutthroat with a cow chipper bar and 2.2” tires in our Level 1 drop clinic. (below)

Good hunting.



Thank you!! I think im going to reach out and see about getting signed up.

And you’re right…I really haven’t consciously trained stuff like braking and I’m sure any extra skills and practice can only help.

BTW…I’m running Cowchippers and 29x2.2 tires…the jump looks fun :rofl: