How to improve your riding speed

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!

Comparing a Trail Bike to a Downhill Bike

I started riding mountain bike tracks on a trail bike. The Trek Fuel was a great bike to start on, and it flowed and jumped really well. It was easy to ride on jumps, it held speed down harder trails, and bounced over ruts easily. But I wanted to start racing, and this bike just wasn’t very good down the harder trails. Over time, I got faster and faster, but after a while I noticed I had stopped improving. At first, I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t improving. But as I attempted to go faster, I realized it was because of the ruts. With not much travel, it was just a bit rough.

So I looked at some downhill bikes. At first I decided on an Intense M16, but eventually I bought a 2020 Commencal Supreme. I chose a Commencal because it matched my riding style more than the Intense.

When I bought it, we were in lockdown, and all of the bike parks were closed. Weeks later, I got to the bike park. I didn’t notice much difference, apart from that I was faster with the downhill. Later still, I realized that the downhill was far easier to go faster.

When I had researched downhill bikes, I had found that downhill bikes are quite hard to ride on flat ground. I didn’t find this. I found it easy to ride on the flat.

The hardest thing I found was doing jumps on a downhill. It had much more travel than the trail bike, and when I did jumps, I kept going tail-heavy and nearly crashing. I compensated for this by finding small ruts in the lips of the jumps and using those to push my front wheel down. I have learned to do jumps on the downhill well now, and I now prefer jumps on the downhill rather than the trail bike as on the trail bike I think I’ll go nose-heavy and crash.

I prefer the secure feeling of the downhill bike to the easy speed of the trail bike.

The downhill is easy to go fast down harder trails and is much better for steep and rough terrain, but is harder to maintain speed over jumps.

The trail bike is best for enduro and cross-country trails, and holds speed well over jumps and drops.

Overall, to lift your game speed and jump-wise, choose the downhill bike over the trail bike.

Thank you!

Starting up a business is challenging, especially for young entrepreneurs with little business experience and limited finances. We are hugely grateful for the support of the professionals and businesses who helped us to get going. This support is absolutely fundamental for new companies like ours with limited resources. The time, energy and effort from these companies is valued greatly and is extremely important, and we would like to thank these people for their generosity, kindness and their helpfulness in assisting us to start Flatless as we couldn’t have done it without you.

We’re so grateful to Jim Nisbet and Matt Thomson from 360 Distribution for providing us with heaps of samples so we could find the perfect foam. Check them out at https://360distribution.co.nz.

Massive thanks to Jonathan Flett and Steve Browne from Pakworld for supplying and helping us design the packaging. Find them at www.pakworld.co.nz.

We really appreciate Ben Bloy from Harrison Bloy for not only donating the glue to us, but giving it to Rochelle to hand deliver. www.harrisonbloy.co.nz.

Many thanks to the University of Waikato for providing the seed funding that helped start up Flatless.

Finally, thank you so much to everyone from the Young Enterprise Scheme, especially our teacher Andrea Panther, for providing the opportunity to start this business, pitch our product and keep Flatless up and running!