A Guide to Getting Your PMBIA Level 1 Certification

Authored by 2022 Kaden Ambassador Emma Butler

So You Want to be a MTB Instructor: A Kaden Guide to Getting Your PMBIA Level 1 Certification!

If you’re like me, you love mountain biking and want to give back to the MTB community because of everything it has given to you — fun, challenges, knowledge, friends — and what better way to give back than by becoming a certified MTB instructor?!

What is the PMBIA Level 1 course all about?

Becoming a PMBIA Level 1 certified mountain bike instructor means committing to a three-day course (plus some pre-course reading/homework), where you’ll learn how to teach the fundamental skills of mountain biking to beginner and intermediate riders. At the same time, you’ll be evaluated on your riding ability as well — pretty sweet!

Am I ready for the PMBIA Level 1 course?

Sometimes the “am I ready?” question can be a tricky one to answer, but basically, you’re ready for this course if you:

  • Are a confident and experienced intermediate rider
  • Have strong communication skills and love talking and demoing in front of others
  • Are comfortable riding (with consistent skill and techniques) on blue and black trails
  • Can perform the following foundational maneuvers (these are required to pass the course!):
    • Front wheel lift
    • Rear wheel lift
    • Pedaling wheel lift
    • Roll-down drops
  • Are comfortable riding with and leading groups — and being responsible for the group’s welfare!

A quick note: PMBIA recommends being First Aid Certified (preferably Wilderness First Aid), and I reckon it’s 100% an asset to have this before you take the course if possible. Having that knowledge means you’ll likely have less questions during the First Aid workshop, be more comfortable during the Risk Management workshop, and just be more prepared overall!


Kaden Apparel Gryla 3/4 Sleeve Jersey - Emma Butler

What can I do to prepare for the PMBIA Level 1 mountain bike instructor course?

Get out and ride: It probably goes without saying, but ride as much as you can! Nothing makes you feel more confident and ready to learn than getting out there and working on your own skills and techniques. Get comfy on the blues, challenge yourself a bit with some blacks — just get some time on your bike!

Read the course material: Prior to the course, you’re sent a Reference Guide and Level 1 Course Booklet to review in anticipation of the three days of learning you’ll do, plus a worksheet to fill out.

Full disclosure: I didn’t read the entire PMBIA Reference Guide (it’s a bit of a beast!) before the start of the course, and I did a fairly loose scan of the Course Booklet. This wasn’t the worst thing in the world (as you will cover everything during the course itself), BUT having a good understanding of the Six Skill System, how the teaching theory works, and giving yourself an introduction to the lessons you’ll learn/teach is a great way to calm any nerves you may have. Additionally, the guide covers what items to keep in your pack, which leads to the next point.

Pack your backpack as though you are already an instructor: water, snacks, any clothing needed for a possible change in conditions (jacket, toque), first aid kit (I totally forgot mine, oops), and bike tools to make repairs. Speaking of which…

Know how to perform common bike repairs: because you’re responsible for the people you’re teaching, as an MTB instructor you’ll be expected to deal with any mechanical issues they have. These fixes are the ones you should get nice and comfy with handling:

  • Front & rear punctures
  • Split and rejoin a chain
  • Adjust a loose headset
  • Tighten a loose spoke
  • Tighten loose pedals/cranks/bolts
  • Adjust brake lever position (including lever reach)
  • Adjust seat height and fore-aft position
  • Straighten a bent rotor
  • Replace brake pads
  • Set up sag and rebound on air shocks & forks

We weren’t tested on any of the above skills during the course, but you’re expected to know how to execute them if the need arises!

Dress comfortably: What you wear matters. I wore my Kaden Gryla ¾ sleeve jersey and it was perfect for the changeable weather I experienced, plus it’s SO soft!

Make sure your bike is working all good: it’s pretty hard to concentrate on everything you’re supposed to be learning when your bike isn’t functioning like it should be! (It rained during our course and my dropper post started being finicky and it was distracting as heck until I was able to fix it!) Additionally, “professionalism” is one of the traits of a good instructor — which also translates to: “make sure your bike is clean” when you show up each day!


PMBIA Course - Bear Sighting

What can I expect during the course?


The six skill system, introductions, safety checks, warmups, skills, lessons, maneuvers, the training wheel, I.D.E.A, A.C.E… there is a lot of information to absorb in the three days! The good thing is that it’s all related to bikes, so it’s a fun learning time and not a “dry” learning time!

You’ll be riding outdoors several hours everyday.
No shock here, but you’re on your bike all day (except for lunch). Pack enough snacks and water.

Someone will be watching you ride.
As I mentioned earlier, you’re also being evaluated on your riding ability while you do the course, so make sure you’re representing yourself to the best of your ability. (Half the time I forgot about this, which is probably a good thing otherwise I might’ve been too up in my head!) The awesome part is that your instructor will give you tips on where/how to improve your riding as needed, which to me was an added bonus of this course!

You get into teaching skills straight away.
Sometimes the best way to learn is to just get stuck into it, and in this case it meant that we got into practicing our lesson delivery fairly early on. Be a parrot: if you just heard the instructor deliver the course, then just rinse and repeat! Don’t worry if you forget something or make mistakes at the start — the instructor is there to guide you and give you feedback so by the final day you know what’s expected of you and you’ll be more comfortable.

There were eight people in our course and we all had opportunities to deliver lessons one-on-one and in small groups, and collaborate to come up with lesson plans. You’re all there for the same reason, and practicing together and bouncing ideas off each other is part of the fun!

PMBIA Level 1 Certification Studying - Emma Butler

Some tips for while you’re there:

  • Study/make notes each evening: this doesn’t have to be intense! Just read through the example lessons you covered during the day, and then take a look at the ones you will cover tomorrow. It helps burn in the things you’ve just learned and prepares you for what’s to come!
  • Focus on the keywords: when reviewing the example lessons, take note of the keywords for each skill — they’ll be your guidepost as they are the main things you want to reiterate when you’re teaching, and help keep things simple.
  • Don’t shy away from teaching: when you’re given the opportunity to teach or lead an introduction, grab it — you signed up for this course to get better at these things, so the more practice, the better!
  • Remember the what, why, and how: “what are we learning? Why are we learning it? How do we do it?” Remember these and it’ll keep you on the right track when teaching a skill.
  • Keep things simple: people have a tendency to over explain when teaching, but simple is always best! Keep things succinct. Explain, demo, then get people on their bikes.


Kaden Apparel Gryla 3/4 Sleeve Jersey - PMBIA Level 1 Certification for Emma Butler

Frequently Asked Questions About the PMBIA Level 1 Course

Do I need a full-suspension mountain bike to do PMBIA Level 1?
Nope! One of the people in my course was clipped-in on a hardtail without a dropper post and they crushed it.

Can I consult notes when doing my lesson delivery?
You can! We were encouraged to have the Course Booklet on our phones so we could refer to them as required (I only did at lunch as a refresher for certain points, but it was good to know it was there if you need it). A friend of mine who was taking the course at the same time had some bulleted point notes that she took a quick look at before doing a cornering lesson; it’s really about what makes you feel comfortable.

What happens if I fail the course?
If you don’t pass one of the portions of the course (Teaching or Riding), then you’ll need to do a retest at a later date for that particular portion. If you fail both, you’ll have to redo the three-day course again (but at a 15% discount).

Ok, that was a lot of information and you’ve made it seem pretty intense and now I probably shouldn’t take the course, right?!
Hopefully all these details haven’t put you off! It may seem like a lot, but overall the course is actually pretty fun, well-paced, and completing it is a huge asset to not only your ability as an instructor but as a rider in general.

Are there any other perks to becoming a certified PMBIA Level 1 instructor?

Sign me up! When can I take the course?!
To see what Level 1 courses are available near you, check out the PMBIA schedule.


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