If you have not taken a mountain bike clinic before or received any formal coaching, you’re probably not alone. One of the reasons many people decide to get coaching or take a clinic is out of a healthy fear of hitting a tree or crashing. I believe you don’t have to hit objects on the trail or crash to ride a mountain bike; but there are never any guarantees these things will not happen. With that said, mountain biking is a technical sport and the more you know about how to use your bike properly (brakes, gears, suspension, and tires), and use good riding form; the more you reduce your chances of an accident.
By taking a clinic or getting some coaching you will learn riding positions that give you better control of your bike. Learning riding positions often requires a change in riding habits because it requires a lot more riding up off of your saddle. Many people prefer to keep their rear end affixed to their saddle. However, the saddle can get in the way when rolling over roots and rocks, down steep slopes, cornering around trees, and banked corners we call berms. If you ever watch little kids riding their bikes around the neighborhood, they are inevitably riding out of saddle much of the time. Getting comfortable riding out of saddle is not easy at first, but it keeps you above the chatter of the trail and allows your bike to move up and down beneath you, absorbing the terrain features. You become a more active rider, using your legs and arms as part of your suspension.
You can learn the basics of good riding positions on a flat grassy field or in a parking lot; which are much less intimidating environments than single track trails. However, it is the on-trail application that gets the adrenaline pumping and challenges you to execute your newly learned skills. Clinics and coaching can also teach you how to take advantage of the brakes, gears, suspension, and the traction from your tires, which mountain bikes are designed to provide.
Let me encourage you to take a clinic and learn to control your bike better, meet new friends; find that kid in you again. There are many fun trails and adventures to be had in the world of mountain biking.