Ask Sharples - Episode #1

Jan 12, 2011
by Scott Sharples  
Scott Sharples was the Junior Downhill Coach for the Australian National Team and also coached many of the World’s fastest mountain bike athletes and four World Champions, including Sam Hill. He is currently working with the USA’s Junior MTB Gravity racers, but inside he answers your questions about going faster!

This week Scott answers questions from users Patmcc, Harm0n20, Cork, Spiffy, Olstar, Man0with0stick, Albertp, Samsquamsh covering everything from how to corner faster, to what that hell white tissue paper is doing up Steve Peat's nose.

Patmcc asks:
What is that tissue-looking stuff that Steve Peat (and some other racers) puts in his nose before his race runs?

Hi PatMCC, the white stuff they stuff up Peaty's nose is actually beer froth. As he warms up, so does the beer in his belly, as well as reacting with the carbon dioxide produced from exercise. The froth gets forced out of his nose! But seriously, it is a product to ‘open up’ the airways. Most studies suggest that it doesn’t really have an impact on performance as the human body can get more than enough oxygen through regular breathing of normal air, even at full exertion. But having said that, there is something ‘stimulating’ about breathing in Menthol, Eucalypt, or similar products.

Harm0n20 asks:
Scott, what exercises do you recommend for strengthening the forearms and hands enough to deal with riding steep, rocky and technical lines?

Hi Harm0n20. It seems that most of the bloggers out there are happy to do some cross training in the bedroom (What is the most sensitive part of the body while jerking off? Your ears). Just be careful that you don’t get RSI – repetitive stain injury. You need to exercise your arms, hands and fingers without resistance, as much as you need to exercise with load. I mentioned fingers, a lot of the ‘blown forearms’ feeling comes from clinching your fingers/fist on the handle bars. Strength comes from muscles, muscles need blood (for oxygen, nutrients and waste removal), if muscles are clinched for too long, the blood supply can be restricted for too long and the muscles can become useless. Learn to release/rest your grip on the bars occasionally. Get the right sized grips, set your brake levers in the correct place. Do some kind of manual exercise. Ride moto. Check your suspension set up and function.

Scott has been the Junior Downhill Coach for the Australian National Team and is currently working with the fastest Junior MTB Gravity racers in the USA  - Now he's here to help YOU go faster!
Scott has been the Junior Downhill Coach for the Australian National Team and is currently working with the fastest Junior MTB Gravity racers in the USA - Now he's here to help YOU go faster!

Cork asks:
I'd like some advice on how much to practice a track over a race weekend. I think that I practice too much and get worn out before I race, but at the same time I want to know the track very well. Do you have a routine that you recommend following during a race weekend? Ie. course walk, a few easier runs on day 1, one fast practice run at race pace on race day? I feel that if I had a routine instead of blindly doing 700 runs throughout the weekend that I'd be better off...

Hi Corky, it is a common problem, minimizing fatigue is a skill. It would help if you were fit to start with. A fat bastard full of soda pop, prailine, and dick flavored pop tarts is going to get really tired. But even then there are some tricks. Remembering the track can be done without riding the track - some people draw maps, some video, others just practice the art of remembering. When you walk the track, it helps if you engage your brain. With a bit of practice you can remember a track after seeing it once. Once you are on the bike, conserve energy. Don’t waste runs following your buddy mindlessly. If the track is long, break it into sections and stop to let the body rest to refocus. A basic plan would involve a healthy breakfast, a warm up, a walk of the track with the intent to learn, minimum amount of runs, done in such a way to not ruin you. At the end of the day, do a full run to see how it feels to link it all together and how much energy it will take. Keep up with the fluid intake, and eat some healthy snacks. Warm down and rest.

Spiffy asks:
I seriously have trouble when it's really muddy during a race weekend. I don't know what it is, but it seems like anyone I could keep up with in the dry can murder me in the mud! Besides mounting some proper mud tires and practice, is there anything that I can do for myself or my bike to make me go faster in the nasty?

Practice, practice, practice. If you can't find real mud to train in, then just accept defeat... Is it the mud that is the problem or the wet roots and rocks? Be sure, because your suspension set up would be different for each scenario. Sam Hill does OK in mud, which is unusual given he lives in the desert. But he does get to practice on a slippery surface. Find a slippery surface so you can get some time getting accustomed to the feeling of ‘semi control’. Next time it rains, don’t stay at home and work on you forearm strength, get wet.

Olstar asks:
 How does one put the other racers and crowds to the back of one's mind on race day in order to avoid the butterfly feeling effect and stay focused on the task at hand?

Butterflies are normal, that means you are alive. It’s what you do with it that matters. Learn to love the feeling, find power in it, Superman. You need to practice your focus. If your thoughts wander off to things that don’t matter, you need to find things to occupy your thoughts that do matter. Ie, think about the track, the actions, your pedaling, your braking etc… Think about the functions required to get down the hill.

Man0with0stick asks:
Does red really make you go faster?

Man with stick, red will make you go faster if you are a bull, or if you are scared of blood and a big bleeding leper was chasing you, or if you were riding a Ducati or driving a Ferrari. You've got nothing better to do than ask stupid questions? Why don’t you go wash the dishes. Although, just in case you are serious, which is highly unlikely, some studies suggest that red is the most emotionally intense color and that it increases heart rate and breathing rate. This could be helpful.

Albertp asks:
What is the best way to work on faster cornering?

HI Albert, I recon you could guess my answer. Practice, practice and practice. Try and add up how many corners you did yesterday? I recon even on a good day, for most DHers, they would only do 80 corners. And probably blow half of them because of speed control, or butterflies, or sore right forearms. Isolate what you are trying to practice and do it with focus and conviction. Rehearse proper technique, video your efforts, and repeat on varying surfaces until you really feel things fall into place. Then do it again every other day for the next 3 months. And do it faster and faster until you feel the magic ‘drift’. Once your bike is set up properly, and you have a good set of tires, Schwalbe seem to be all the rage, then you need to find proper weight bias. Find the right place for your body weight - low, and centered. Not enough weight at one end of the bike will let a tire skate across the surface, but too much weight means the other end of the bike is too light. Depending on the surface, too much weight will push the tire through the surface and cause a drift. It is not a 100% rule, but the outside foot should be down, inside foot up. The main exception is when the terrain is rough and you need your leg suspension with your feet/cranks are level.

Samsquamsh asks:
Sometimes when I jump a section or clear the gap I'll pull my right foot off my pedal. How can I change this stupid habit?

Sam, that sounds like you have a panic button on your ankle. Do you have Tourette's also?
It may not be your fault, there are a few pedal/cleat/shoe combos out there that really do suck. Hang on, are you clipped in? It might be all your fault. Regardless of whether you are clipped in or not, it sounds like you are placing way too much emphasis on lifting with your feet and it seems more like a panic lift. Maybe go back a few steps and practice the basics, a simple bunny hop, un-clipped, go for height and do a lot of practice. Use your arms, hands, forearms.

bigquotesWe coach athletes across the spectrum of two wheeled sports. Our methodology encompasses how your entire being relates to the big picture of competition. As such, not only do we coach athletes in any discipline, our athletes are invited to cross train in multiple disciplines. Who do we coach? Anyone. The list includes but is not limited to, downhill, XC racers, 'Crossers, roadies, BMXers, triathletes, motocrossers, ISDE, and rally riders. - Scott Sharples

Scott Sharples has been a professional coach for 10 years now. He has coached a few World Champions, including Sam Hill, and now offers many levels of personalized training depending on your needs. If you are a serious rider who is looking to get faster and more confident you contact him at or visit to sign up.

Curious about equipment choice?
Wondering which exercises you should do to get faster on your DH bike?
Want to have faster and more consistent runs?

Put your questions in the comment section!

Posted In:


  • 22 9
 "You've got nothing better to do than ask stupid questions?" Have you got nothing better to do than answer stupid questions? Publicly, no less?
  • 11 2
 Haha hey, don't hate the player, hate the game. Nothing wrong with starting a series off with a little humor. Lighten up a bit.
  • 5 0
 He has to answer the most propped questions.
  • 8 2
 Lighten up a bit Seraph, it's great to see someone with a sense of humor. He is making this series with a lightness to it, mountain biking can't always be serious business Smile
  • 5 11
flag seraph (Jan 12, 2011 at 10:42) (Below Threshold)
 It's you guys who need to lighten up. I wasn't being serious, just commenting on the irony of his statement.
  • 5 0
 If he answers your question, Seraph, I guess we'll find out Wink

From a fellow fan of irony
  • 3 0
 You read it!
Isnt that why you are online? Looking for stuff to read? Pity there is no 'FICTION' filter on the internet.
  • 1 2
 I read it because I read most of the stories on PB while I am at work at the bike shop. I've been a faithful article reader and photo uploader on this site for 11 years, and shall hopefully continue to be for many years to come.
  • 10 0
 There seems to be a trend that world cup DH racers are setting-up their forks stiff compared to their rear suspension. Blenkinsop is running his fork noticeably stiffer than he used to, the entire MS Evil team runs stiff forks, Gee rides his fork stiff, Brendan Fairclough does, etc. Is running your fork stiff the fastest set-up?
  • 3 0
 My own 2 cents on that, yes. If you are an aggressive rider then it is hard to stay high in your travel without a stiffer suspension up front. One thing I noticed though is that a stiffer fork feels substantially better on a bike with a slacker head angle, then your not bouncing off the top of obstacles but attacking them more head. As I posted before I want to find a way to get it stiff but still have "proper" sag setting, but that's been a losing battle so far.
I am currently running a Fox 40 at about 10% sag with a 64 degree head angle.
  • 8 0
 I get stressed out when beginning to get too fast, Anything that will help like how far to look or when to brake in relation to berms?

basically i'm new to DH (one race, but 2 years in 4X), i just need tips on where to look and focus in rocky areas.
  • 1 0
 The same here. But also i chicken out when it's a fast jump.
  • 1 0
 look where you're going, ignore everything else, how far ahead you look relates to how fast you're going. you want to lose speed before the berm and accellerate out... this is the basic rule for every corner in every type of racing .
  • 8 0
 Hello Scott, this question haunts me for many years... Since I ride my bike (10 years now) I can't explain how one day I feel myself much better (really more flexible and smooth) than an other day totally the opposite with absolutely no sensation on my bike. I feel really not comfortable and have a dangerous ride. When I'm riding, I'm almost with the same conditions (well slept, well ate). I still noticed that when I don't know a new single-track, or weather is really dark and cloudy, I often ride well with good sensations... do you think that's a stimulation problem? => I'm always motivated to ride my bike in each case of scenario.
maybe your experience can help me and many others here. Thanks!
  • 1 0
 Damn good question bro! Happens to me too.
  • 2 0
 yeah since the time that haunts me... here is the good way to put the question ! hope that Scott has some answers for us both and all others riders in the same situation there !
  • 1 0
 seems we have been forgotten by the sharples world
  • 1 0
 Yeah Frown I think they need to pick the more sensible of the highest faved questions and leave the ball shaving ones out ha.
  • 1 0
 yeah sucks that he decided to take that fake question... so I've put back my question for the next Wednesday.
  • 11 0
 Hey Scott, are you really the queen?
  • 8 0
 Alright Sharples, let's hear your thoughts on pre-race warm up routines. Type, length, intensity, timing in relation to a race, etc...
  • 5 1
 Clips or flats?
  • 5 0
 For Races such as Fontana where sprinting power really factors in to how well you will place. How would one train for prolonged out of the saddle sprints? Say sprint intervals on a trainer after a warm up; what would be a good interval to sprint and maybe what wattage/cadence would be ideal.

  • 1 0
 theres a atherton project video with this in. he basically does intervals of MAD peddling on a bmx, was about 100m sprints i guess.
  • 7 1
 being right-footed, i find that turning left is effortless and turning right is much harder. despite the fact that i live on a hill with only right turns (somehow) they are still not natural. any techniques i could try?
  • 2 0
 build some left turns?
  • 1 0
 well that bit of hill is gravel track and rock so no digging. the problem is the cornering, not the corners
  • 2 0
 my mate got over this my switching feet every now n then, so he now rides left and right foot forward. basically practice doing left turns as fast as poss
  • 6 0
 one simple all important question.
practice fast and then race slow (think 90% of practice speed)
or learn the course in practice, nut up and go for death or glory in your race run?
  • 1 0
 Agreed, if you are forcing your body to 100% you will be tense and get in your own way... slow down to take some time off the clock.
  • 2 0
 Ah yes - slow down 5% in your mind and you end up going 10% faster on the clock.
  • 4 0
 with all this sh*t weather were having at the mo, i have been mainly riding gravel tracks or even road just to get out and try keep my fittness up. is there any way of incorporating some technical practice ie cornering, drop offs, roots ect whilst the real thing is inaccessable?
increase the peace Smile
  • 3 0
 What are the base factors to start "production of world champions in downhill" in a country?

Special supporting and developing programmes on governmental levels, economic development of the country, physiographical features, traditions, genetic specificity, level of specific sport developing, ambitions etc or trivially money and you being invited as a National Coach?
  • 3 0
 Coming from a Commonwealth Country is a good start.
  • 2 0
 Sure, due to Coriolis Force objects deflect in different directions in different hemispheres of the Earth. But neither Prof.Coriolis nor Sir Isaac Newton said anything about speed increase of a rider depending on his citizenship.
Nevertheless we can see that only Scott Sharples can argue with wellknown Laws of Physics)))).
  • 4 0
 Besides doing downhill runs, whats the best training you can do to increase fitness for a 3 minute race run, i.e. intervals? Also what exercises in the gym would you reccomend for explosive power for downhill?
  • 2 0
 Hey scott,

Is there a way to train my body to perform with the hot temperatures currently experienced in Australia? I am currently experiencing temperatures in the 30-45 degree Celsius range (86-113 Fahrenheit) and would still like to be able to ride hard without feeling absolutely buggered because of the heat.

  • 2 0
have some issues with right cornering, feeling confident at speed and loose left corners but on right one sometimes feel fear and go straight. Must change the positions of pedals before cornering or? I am not used to put down the leg, must try to?
  • 2 1
 I'm really loving the humor in the q&a and def some good advice in there Big Grin

About focussing. It is just my way of getting in that 'zone' but I figured it might help some of you as well.
When I'm pumped but totally distracted, actively trying to think about what I should focus on is futile: I cannot enforce focus. All I'd be thinking about is about focussing.
Instead I try n relax a little and consciously stop all thoughts, keep stopping, cus they keep coming! Wink
'What tha..why did he look at me like that?! -SHUT IT-
damn! my mother's sister has such...-SHUT IT!!!-
hmm i got this song in my head -SHUT IT-
lalala song tuttut -I SAID SHUT IT-
Songs are notoriously persistent.
After a while it sorta clicks in my head and thoughts about the task at hand start flowing in. I start feeling it.
You cannot think focus, being focussed means you'r feeling it.
  • 1 0
 for those of us not lucky enough to live near a chair lift, is all-mountain riding a worthy training substitute for DH, or do I need to get my hiking boots on even though I may only get 3 runs in an entire afternoon because of the time spent pushing up the fire road?
  • 1 0
 7 inch frame, (maybe TALAS 180 fork), hight adjustable post and slightly lighter than full-on wheelset and you should be ok on the fire roads..or at least pedal when possible.
  • 1 0
 Try to find an all mountain bike with some slacker geometry. Or if you want it to feel more DH get a mini DH bike (normally about 6") and slap an air shock on the back with lockout. Will get you up with some effort, and you can still race it Wink
  • 1 0
 After a few years of testing different training programs, I found that an effective training program consists of a balance between muscle building (isolated weights), polymetrics (complex exercises),and cardio (trainer/running/etc). My question to you... do you have any recommendations how to balance these separate workouts throughout the week/month/season?
  • 1 0
 Hi Scott, are there any specific training exercises or routines using the bike (without a track, like at your local oval) that can be used to train for strength and fitness? For example sets of "X"meter sprints or similar, or are most exercises best done off the bike in the gym?
  • 1 0
 Counter-Steering: So, I can really lay the bike down on the pavement (yippee) but can't get anywhere near the bike-body separation on the trail. I keep at it, but then I see pics of pro DHers cornering and they're not getting much more separation than I am. Am I overemphasizing this aspect of cornering, or should I keep at it?
  • 5 1
 Does Stella Artois really make steve peat faster?
  • 3 0
 ^^ everyone knows that ^^.........
  • 2 0
 I knew it!
  • 3 0
 Hi Scott, may influence the goggle lens scratched bad in a 4x course ?? Thanks
  • 30 0
 Think you may need to re-assess your translation there champ lol
  • 2 0
 What are your personal recommendations on increasing core upper body strength, eg chest abs area without having to use a gym?
  • 1 0
 what would you say mr queen is the easiest way to just chill out and not "bull at a gate your run"?
like, i put together consistant quick practices then get to my race run and botch it. Blank Stare
  • 2 0
 what would you say is the best way to get rid of arm pump? and would 4x riding help with downhill?
  • 5 2
 hahahaha "sam does ok in the mud" that made me laugh Razz
  • 1 0
 What are the best tyres for the wet? I've read millions of reviews. But I want to know what are the ultimate tyres for the slop.
  • 1 0
 Cut down Wet Screams... thats why nearly every pro rides them in a race. Sponsored by Maxxis or not they just take sandpaper to the logo Wink
  • 3 0
 Rad responses. Sharpels has a column!
  • 3 0
 What can I do to be more stable in the air while Jumping?
  • 2 0
 loosey goosey
  • 1 0
 Any tips on how soon to enter and how late to exit a berm to get the best speed around a corner?
  • 2 0
 What are some good workouts to become faster, and have more controle?
  • 2 0
 Who makes better chocolate chip cookies? betty crocker or your mother?
  • 3 0
 May I ask your mother for the recipe))
  • 1 0
 thank you scott.

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