|One tip to go faster? It is pretty difficult to narrow it down to one thing! I guess right now I would say bike and kit set up... I see so many people, men and women, with their bikes totally wrong for them and what they are riding, making it way harder for themselves and way less fun. Don't be scared to play around with your bike set up, get the tools out and change something every run. I've seen people riding who can barely reach their brake levers, let alone comfortably. Move the brake levers around, make sure you can rest your fingers comfortably on the lever, move them up and down, see how that affects your wrist, elbow and consequently body position... |
It's so important to have your suspension set up right for what type of track you are on so you won't get sucked into every hole; instead you'll skip over the top of them, your legs won't get knackered because your shock is too soft, etc, etc... Wind a few clicks on your forks and shock, do a run, then wind them back the other way and try again, see how it feels. Make sure your helmet peak is high enough so you can actually see out. Move the cleats on your SPD shoes backward for better cornering.... I think it's a huge area people can improve on; I play around and learn constantly with my set up. It's your bike, your ride - make it your own.
If you are doing all this already and you want to be able to keep up some of the world's fastest women, then I would say let the bike move. Stick your knees out. Bow legged! If I'm coming hot into a section of rocks or rough shizzle, I know that my bike wants to soak it up so I give it the space; I stick my knees out, I create room between my legs so my bike can move and weave and wiggle thru the rocks without it making my body move and twist too much. Let the bike do its thing, let it move, go with the movement. Especially if it's wet, just ride bowlegged - you won't get chucked around as much.
If you stay strong and square but loose, you can ride anything.
|Train your speed. You're probably thinking, what is that? I'm going to keep this more gravity specific, but it's applicable to DH within XC or straight up DH. Here's a couple of things to "train your speed." I'll give an example for turns and straighter sections.|
Turns: Get through the turns faster. How do you do that? The single best thing you can do is what I like to call "increase your timing" in turns. This means you're going to enter faster, brake less and lean earlier and at more lean angle than before. This also requires that you look further ahead down the trail whether it's looking through a turn or looking further down a straight section. Don't go too big with your steps doing this when you start as you will most likely be on your head quickly, but take some reasonable steps doing it. You will find your limits when you either lose traction, or simply not be able to make the turn and go off trail.
Straighter sections: As far as the straighter sections of trail go, when it's rough, stay on top of what's rough. Easily said but harder to do. That means going fast enough that you are not allowing your wheels to drop very deeply into any holes, that could be holes from brake bumps, roots or rock sections. This requires commitment to speed and courage. It does get easier the faster you go. That's one reason the pros make it look easy. And they also look crazy fast because of course the penalty is greater if you come off....but it's going to hurt anyway so you might as well make it easier and "send it."
Also look to jump over rough sections sometimes, maybe you hit one rock and jump five instead of hitting six rocks or roots or braking bumps or whatever is there. Sometimes airing it out is faster than rolling over it, but this needs to done in a "ride light" manner because you're probably going to land in some of that same rough terrain you're jumping over. Use your arms and legs to absorb these landings and keep momentum going forward. If rolling rough steeper terrain, brake as little as possible on that rough terrain. Those brakes will drag your momentum down by dragging your wheels deeper into bumps and not allow the chassis to work freely underneath you. If it's a pedaling rough section, keep the rpm's low with gearing and keep powering and floating over those bumps. Once again, staying on top of the rough stuff is key.
|To be honest that is not an easy question. First, I would ask, "Why do you want to go faster?" Going fast is not about letting off the brakes, it's about careful consideration of why you want to go faster. It's not simply deciding that you want to go fast. What is faster? If it's faster overall times then you would consider fitness, if it's faster between corners you would consider power, if it's faster in high speed sections you would consider fear, if it's faster on jumps you would consider precision, if it's faster in technical sections you would consider skill. Faster isn't simple and you should always consider first asking yourself "Why?"|
|That's an interesting question! There are so many things that contribute to a rider getting faster. There are some obvious starting points such as fitness, jumping and cornering and some less obvious ones like bike setup, mindset and line choice. It has been invaluable for me to adopt an approach that I could break down into more achievable things, with more concrete goals. Instead of asking myself how I could get faster, I started to ask where my weaknesses were or where I was slow. |
Before I get into that, though, I think one of the most important things a racer can do is try to learn what time actually is. Sounds philosophical, but if you watch Josh Bryceland, halfway down the track he'll look like he's just cruising or he'll check his goggles and you think he might have had a crash or mechanical and then suddenly he's two seconds up at the split. I think he has the best sense of knowing what makes up time, and what doesn't, out of anyone. Learning that really just takes practice and testing while you're on the clock. Asking questions like: is it better to pump here or pedal, how fast do I need to be going before it's better to tuck, how much did that mistake cost me, are these high lines actually faster, should I focus on entry speed or exit speed here, is it more important to take risks or be smooth, was getting wild there actually faster, if I recover in this section does it cost me time, is that trade off worth it? The answers are different for different riders and different tracks, but finding them helps a lot with confidence and consistency.
There's a lot of ways to recognize a weakness: Looking at split times, riding with people that are around or better than you, noticing a lack of confidence, watching videos, increased mistakes in that area, not enjoying that aspect of riding, etc. It could be anything, everything can always be better. Noticing things like struggling to ride a section not clipped in, not being able to ride a section with the opposite foot forward, being better at turning one way, off-cambers, taking a long time to do a gnarly line, getting tired, performing better in practice than races.
I'll give you an example of how I would break something down. Right now, I feel like I could use some work on really steep sections. The ones where you can't stop even if you wanted to. Instead of taking the amount of speed appropriate for the section, I tend to try to just stop the whole time. This means I'm going slower than I need to, not hitting my lines as good because I'm not as confident, probably panicking a little bit cause I can't stop and ruining my flow for that part of the track. One thing I can try would be to find a section where it doesn't matter if I make the turn, that way I can come down it fast without having to worry about the turn. Eventually, I will get comfortable going down the section that fast and I can try to start making the turn. I might blow over it a few time, but who cares. I can look at my lines: if I hit these bumps will that slow me down more, can I fishtail my backend to get more braking, is there a wider line? I can look at my bike setup: if I set my bike up for this (raise my bars, go to a different tire, soften my backend) is the handling I lose in other areas worth this gain, do I actually have to make a compromise?
I believe it comes down to confidence and feeling comfortable on the bike. For me, the way I get that is by breaking things down into smaller and smaller chunks until the answer is obvious and I just need to practice one small aspect at a time. I try not to be afraid of maybe having to go back and unlearn something I think I already know. Above all, I try to make getting faster fun because I know that if I enjoy the work, it's only a matter of time until I get where I want to be!
|Ride challenging trails. Going fast isn't always exactly comfortable. You're on the edge of grip and control, hurtling through the woods on a bicycle.It's awesome, but not conducive to sleeping. Riding difficult trails isn't comfortable either, always struggling to stay on the right line with the correct amount of speeds to make things work. A lot of us, myself included, end up riding at 85 percent pace on "Pooh Bear's Naptime" on a pretty regular basis. It's easy and fun, and that's why we ride bikes. Unless we're trying to go faster, presumably with an eye toward formal or friendly competition. (That internet stuff doesn't pencil, for the record).|
When I'm trying to go faster, in this case to the end of riding like less of a squid at Enduro World Series events, I ride out of my comfort zone. This can happen anywhere, since few of us are fortunate enough to live at the gates of Gnarnia, we've got to improvise. In my hometown there are a bunch of random dog-walking trails and disc-golf paths cut into the hillsides. These are some of my most valuable training grounds. Not made for bikes, they have a lot of problems to solve in the quest for speed. There's always a solution, and it usually comes from deep within your "Toolbox" of skills. (Wheelie, bunny-hop, manual, nose wheelie, arc, skid, etc) Applying these skills smoothly and efficiently to wang-chung terrain will make you a better person, and a much better rider. Initially, repetition is key. Ride that same little Bum Trail as many times as it takes to feel smooth while managing the unpleasant. Then start timing your runs on that trail, employing different techniques. This is when you'll start to see that smooth, while boring, is fast. Skidding is rarely the best option, braking early, entering high and arcing it out, even if it's rough and square and feels really slow, is actually way faster.
The next time you're at a real trail spot, apply that mindset to the radness you see yourself dominating. Respectfully. For me, this is Cline Butte's Trail Two. It's the kind of DH trail that you don't want to do timed runs down, but you have to. Steep, loose, mandatory drops into tight rocky turns, it's definitely not Stuffed Animal Approved. But, with a bunch of committed riding on local Bum Trails, I'm ready to deal with whatever Two has to offer. Even though Krunkshox is still way faster with his patented "blackout" technique...
The final step in this "hard trails make you faster" program is riding proper trails blind. This is the pinnacle of bike skills, in my mind. With the knowledge, deep down, that you have developed the tools to handle any situation (aside from falling off a cliff, watch out for that) it's incredibly satisfying, intoxicating even, to commit to the unknown. The more you can go new places and ride fast, the faster you'll ride at home and everywhere in between. This is your coach telling you to go somewhere new whenever possible and ride the hell out of that place. Do it now. Then help the Trail Boss fix your divots.
|Look further ahead. This is something that I'm still working on myself, having recently received a photo from our team manager Will Longden where I'm looking at my front wheel, with the caption 'chin up'! |
When riding a difficult section it's easy to find yourself following your front wheel, making sure it's going where you want it to, but before you know it you're getting caught up in the bits that you hadn't seen coming because you were too preoccupied with what was directly in front of you. If you make yourself look up you can plan where you want to ride further along the trail, spot the smoother lines and carry more speed so you don't get hung up on what's beneath you already.
Same applies on the faster sections. The faster you go, the further ahead you need to look to see and react to whatever is coming up on the trail. If you can spot a jump or blown out corner sooner then you've got more time to set up for it and find the best line through. As obvious as it sounds, it can make a big difference!
|Just stop trying... When you believe you are fast, you are not, and when you feel slow and you are not trying, that is when you go fast. As racers all of us have this weird feeling that, for a while, we cannot understand. The response to this is called 'flow.' |
We are living a world surrounded by nature, as is our sport. Every detail of it has got the right moment and a defined place, the right distance, and so does our riding. Believe it or not, this momentum, this "perfect rhythm" is what defines the maximum for anyone. You will tell me that every year, riders are going faster and faster. Yes, but this maximum speed, this perfect flow is defined by the rider's capacities (technical skills / physical aptitude) but also by his bike set up (geometry / suspension setting)... And last but not least, your mental condition, how free your mind is and how relaxed you are on the bike. When you go past this "maximum speed" you will start feeling super fast as your body will require all of your energy and strength to control the bike; your braking will become later on the track, your wheels are drifting, your head gets on fire as the adrenaline comes up your brain but.... You are slow.
Imagine a river bed and visualize water going down to it. Water accelerates at the right time and slows down at the right time to make it flow. Water does not go against the terrain but plays with it. As riders, we have to stay on the same note. We all know that the tree, roots, rocks, dirt are stronger than we are. let's not go against it but play with it.
So, my piece of advice is to find your maximum speed to pick up the right flow. Having this sensation allows you to be one with the ground and your bike, and every corner, jump, and move feel like a roller coaster where the momentum is just right, where the flow is simply getting you up to speed. There will be less energy to use, less stress on your bike and you will have more fun on it... Do not forget to look at the clock, as surprisingly, your time will be going down. If you do not believe so, ask Neko Mullaly or Arron Gwin how they managed to have great times in DH runs without a chain.
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