Riding your mountain bike is usually the name of the game if you are a recreational rider, it’s most definitely the name of the game if you ride competitively or professionally. In this article, we look at a number of different things you can do to increase your pace on all kinds of terrain, helping bridge the gap between you and the professionals, even just a little bit.
Get Fitter & Lighter
Mountain Bike manufacturers place massive importance on shaving grams from their bikes, making them quicker and more competitive. You can do that with your body as well, losing weight (safely) down to a healthy weight can do wonders for your riding performance, benefiting your speed and fitness in general. If you are fitter, you have the strength to keep hold of your bike for longer, as well as have the fitness required to peddle the bike quicker, for longer.
Think about what’s under the bike
Pacing yourself and thinking about what terrain is under the bike, is a key part of how you can increase your speed and pace on a mountain bike. If you are on a trail, think about the severity of obstacles and gradients, and adjust your speed accordingly. You do not want to be choosing the most severe gradients to make up time. If you are on a wide fire road or track, then that becomes the perfect time to make up ground and increase your speed.
Traffic Light Trails
The above paragraph is an important one, and many trail centres and trails across forestry are categorised by different colours based on a traffic light system.
Red signifies a really steep and challenging section of trail. When riding down these trails, the priority is not maximum speed, but instead a controlled descent which keeps you and the bike the right way up. An easy way of knowing that you are riding these sections well is to ride these trails without putting a foot down, or locking a wheel.
Amber areas of a trail are quite technical, you need to keep a handle on the brakes but can also go much quicker than you can in a redzone. Although amber areas will not typically require pedalling, the odd burst of pedalling in the right area can be carried out.
Green areas of a trail are the bits where you can really attack the pedalling and pace - just remember to slow things down again when you reach another red or amber section!
Slow in, Fast Out
Much in the same way that we can break a trail down into different sections, which require different speeds and tactics - break every single corner down in the same way. Enter a corner slowly, and build your speed up as you go around the corner and exit the corner - leaving you riding quickly out of a corner, rather than clumsily riding into a corner too quickly, at best messing the corner up, at worst having an accident.
If you come into a tricky corner or a twisty part of a trail, you can expect to lose grip braking, just when you need the grip the most.
Find the Grip
Instead of focussing on obstacles and becoming fixated on them, like many of us do - instead focus on finding the positive grippy areas of a trail and ensure you hit them. This helps confidence as well as positioning on the trails.
In these posts, we always talk about staying neutral on the bike. A strong position on the bike keeps you in control. Keep a loose but in control position, with bends in your elbows and knees to absorb impacts. Keep your head central and look over the bars.
Pick your battles about where you attack the trails and add pace, your confidence levels will dictate how fast you ride. Always ride according to how the trail lets you, adding speed where you can and being careful where you need to be. Which route can you take, which route can you shorten?
Go Pedal Free
Although not pedalling down a trail may sound counterproductive, not pedalling when heading down a trail is actually one of the best ways to learn which parts of the trail require pedalling, and attacking.