Failed attempts are the norm when sessioning technical sections on a mountain bike

Twice in the past week I did some sessioning with guys who wanted to depart from their usual ride-the-trails-as-fast-as-possible routine: fellow MORC members Chris Knight and David Starrs.

Griff Wigley, Chris Knight Griff Wigley, David Starrs

When they both made remarks during and after about how it was a completely foreign experience, it occurred to me to create a short video to show that sessioning a technical obstacle (in this case, a rock) typically involves a lot of failed attempts.

We all like to show either our successes or our crashes in our videos. And since the vast majority of failed attempts while sessioning are boring, they don’t make into the videos, let alone the outtakes.

Part of the fun of sessioning a technical obstacle is to find ways to make it a little harder once you’re able to consistently clean it via the easiest route:

  • Approach it from different angles
  • Reduce the distance of your approach (and therefore your momentum) by starting a little closer from a dead stop/trackstand. If you make it, keep reducing the approach distance
  • Ride it faster or slower than normal
  • Use a higher or lower gear
  • If lifting your front wheel is required, experiment with a pedal wheelie if you’ve been manualing and vice versa

So here’s a video of me sessioning a rock in the XX loop at Lebanon Hills MTB park a couple weeks ago. The first 90 seconds or so show 9 different failed attempts as I was attempting to get over the rock from different angles.  The last 90 seconds show 3 successful attempts in slomo. Sorry, no crashes.


  1. Patricia B said:

    Hi, Griff!
    Indeed, sessioning a technical section is a ‘foreign experience’ to me too!
    The reasons for this that I can think of are :
    – first of all, my being mainly a road rider , dedicated to riding onwards always!
    – my shrinking from doing it again for fear of facing a string of failed attempts and getting hurt in the process
    – my shrinking from doing it again lest my second attempt isn’t as good as the first one!!
    But I followed your example and did some sessioning yesterday, back from my ride, riding up and down a flight of stone steps in the village square, introducing variety to each repeat, and I really enjoyed that drill!! Besides I found that it gave a very positive conclusion to my ride and I felt pleased with myself for being so hardworking!

    August 27, 2014
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    I’m delighted to hear this, Patricia. I’m finding that the more I let people know about sessioning, the more interest there is in doing it.

    And I find that my own eyes get better at seeing possibilities. For example, here’s an elevated boardwalk/skinny at a nearby mtb park (Murphy-Hanrehan) that I’ve ridden many times end-to-end, both ways. But last week while ‘sessioning’ various technical obstacles along the trails with a buddy, it occurred to me to crisscross it in a variety of ways. Way fun:

    Murphy boardwalk

    September 2, 2014
  3. Colin List said:

    Hi Griff,
    I’m new to your forum,and don’t want to irritate you from my first post ,but ..
    Re sessioning that rock,I think the choice of a lower gear or higher speed would have helped,

    September 16, 2014
  4. Griff Wigley said:

    Hey Colin, thanks for chiming in. I’m always eager for feedback, especially thoughtful criticism.

    The great thing about ‘sessioning’ is that it’s a way to give yourself permission to experiment with things like a lower gear or higher speed like you suggest. I think I was in granny +2 that day but I don’t remember if I tried a higher or lower gear.

    Part of what’s fun about this rock is its location, something not apparent in the video. It’s right around a turn in the trail so approaching with speed is harder. Here’s a view of it from the opposite direction:

    Leb rock

    If I was more confident in my ability to hold a manual, I’d try that over the small rock in front of the big rock. I think there’s enough room to get up enough speed for that but I’m not sure. Time for another session!

    I also noticed in reviewing my attempts that I wasn’t doing enough unloading of the rear wheel prior to its contact with the rock. The rock was dry and grippy so it was more forgiving, allowing me to pedal up it. But a little moisture on it would have made for more failures.

    September 16, 2014

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