While a mountain bikers first thought is generally to improve their handling, their second thought is almost always to become faster. There are many ways to do this, but the best way is to find what works for you. The first thing you need to think about is what the bike can handle. To become better, you need to feel the bike not as an external tool, but as if the bike is simply another limb. It took me about a year to achieve this on my trail bike (more information on the previous post), and about a month for my downhill bike. I began working on my speed, learning what the bike could handle compared to what I could. However, I was riding a 2020 spank downhill rim on a Novatech hub (I got the bike second hand). The bike worked amazingly for about 3 months. Then, while I was riding, I heard a snap. It took me a few minutes to realise that this was the spoke that had snapped. Over the next 3 months, spokes snapped increasingly often. I researched about this and found that the spokes are slightly bent at the nipple, weakening the spokes. To fix this, I needed to get a new rim.
I went riding after I’d replaced my rim and focused on speed. With my bike no longer holding me back, I was riding much faster than I usually do. I was trying new, harder, and bigger features and was riding faster than I ever had before.
To ride faster, you will need to know what is holding you back. Whether it’s your bike, your confidence, or your handling, you are going to need to stop it from holding you back.
If it’s your handling, the best thing to do will be to:
- Watch other mountain bikers
- Try different methods
- Ask another mountain biker who has better handling to help or coach you
If you can’t use any of these methods, or you find they don’t work for you, the other option, or “failsafe”, is to continually practice, by riding features harder than any you’ve done before, by pushing your speed, or simply by just riding trails.
If it’s your bike holding you back, and the bike feels like another limb and you know all of the capabilities of your bike, there is not much that you can do. The best thing that you can do is to just improve your handling
If it’s your confidence holding you back, then you need to learn the true levels of your handling and bike capabilities. To do this, the best way is to ride harder features, until you begin to struggle to do those. If you want, you can push yourself further, but I wouldn’t advise it. If you push yourself too far, you are likely to crash.
To improve your overall riding speed, there are several things that you must always do while riding:
- Learn the trail before you ride it fast
- Absorb any impacts as best as you can with your legs and arms
- Keep your back straight
- Ensure that your suspension is set up right for you
- Ensure that your tyres are hard enough, while not being too hard as to avoid rim damage (The Flatless Tyre system is highly recommended)
- Keep your weight low and back, but ensuring that your weight is not so far back that you find the bike hard to control
Carrying speed around corners is one of the hardest things that I have faced. I have slowly improved my speed over time. While this method works, it is a slow method. Recently, I have been pushing myself to go much faster around corners, all the while far exceeding my confidence levels. Again, I would not recommend this. Instead, I would recommend asking another rider to ensure that your tyre is perpendicular to the steepest point on the berm. If not, you can increase your speed. From there, the best way to improve your speed is to slowly increase your speed over time, ensuring that if you exceed your confidence level, it is only by the smallest amount possible. Also, remember to make the bike drop further than you do, twist slightly, so that your shoulders are pointing halfway between the forward direction and the direction that the corner points, and try to keep your head vertical. To further improve your cornering speed, start the corner as high as possible, and slowly drop down the berm as you go around it.
Thanks for reading, happy riding!