The Science of Going Downhill Faster

May 11, 2015 at 14:28
by James Wilson  

While it doesn’t happen very often, sometimes the sports science world turns its eye on real mountain biking. Most studies for “cyclists” - which is really just a code word for road riding –are conducted in labs and on the road. This makes their application to the realities of trail riding somewhat limited, which is why it is always good to see someone use science to look at what is actually happening when we ride our bikes on dirt.

Earlier this year a study was published that looked at what it takes to be successful at Downhill Racing. This study was conducted by a team of researchers in the UK and it was unique in that it looked at more than just the usual cardio factors like VO2Max and Anaerobic Power. They realized that things like skill levels, self-confidence and hand-grip endurance also played a role, so they set out to see what exactly contributed the most to DH racing performance.

What they found was pretty interesting and worth checking out for anyone who races downhill. It really calls into question the usual approach to training for this unique sport and seems to support some of my “radical” notions about the best ways to approach improving your DH race times.

And while the study was looking specifically at going downhill really fast, there are a lot of of applications no matter what type of riding you do. Getting better at descending with more speed and confidence is pretty high on most rider’s wish list and knowing what it really takes to do that can help you make smarter training decisions.

In this article I want to go over this study, explaining what they found and what their conclusions were from it. I also want tell you what it all means for you…at least from my point of view. Hopefully you find something from it all that can help you ride faster and with more confidence on the trail.

Vive la France

The Study

The overall study looked to identify “physiological, psychological and skill characteristics that explain performance in DH racing”. It comprised 4 mini-studies, with each one looking at different aspects that could contribute to performance. While I’ll give you an overview of the study, you can read the official summary and access the full published study by clicking here.

The first study looked to “identify factors potentially contributing to DH performance”. They surveyed an expert panel to establish what factors they thought were most important in the success of a DH racer. The panel comprised a group of 1 team manager, 1 team mechanic and 4 Elite riders and 1 sports scientist. After their results were gathered they sent those results in the form of a survey to 50 DH riders, asking them to rank the importance of those factors on a 6 point scale. 35 of them responded and their results were combined with the panels for the final rankings.

The second study looked to “develop and validate a measure of rider skill”. They asked an expert panel to create a list of important skills and then use it to grade riders on a 10 point scale in those skills. They were then shown 50 second video clips of riders in a recent DH race and asked to grade their skills, which also gave them an average score for each rider. They weren’t told anything about the riders and did not know how they placed when grading them.

The third study looked to “evaluate whether physiological, psychological and skill variables contribute to performance at a DH competition”. They went to a UK regional downhill championship event and tested 43 riders there of various ages and abilities. They were tested in aerobic capacity via a step test, lower body anaerobic capacity via 30 second Wingate test, hand grip endurance via squeezing on an dynamometer at 5 second intervals for 5 minutes, self-confidence via a survey before the race and skill level via video analysis as discussed in the second test.

The fourth study looked to “test the specific contribution of aerobic capacity to DH performance”. They had 10 riders and was comprised of two tests itself. The first had riders come into the lab to test VO2Max and Ventilatory thresholds. The second test had those same riders simulate a DH race run while having their heart rate and exhaled gasses monitored. They were also tested for hand-grip endurance by testing their grip at the beginning and the end of the run.

Rachel Atherton knew what she needed to win today. In the end Emmeline Ragot would best her by 2.06 seconds.

The Results

The first study ranked Technical Skill as the most important factor with Self Confidence coming in second. Aerobic Capacity and Lower Body Anaerobic Capacity came in after that with Bike Set Up and Past Experience rounding out the list.

The second study resulted in a list of skills and a 10 point grading system that showed a high level of agreement among the coaches with how they were scoring riders. This scoring system was then used to grade the rider Skill Levels in the third study.

The third study found that Skill Level (as scored from 50 second video clips shown to coaches in the second study) and Hand Grip Endurance were significantly related to performance. They found no correlation between Aerobic Capacity, Lower Body Anaerobic Capacity or Self-Confidence and performance.

The fourth study found no correlation between aerobic capacity and performance. Peak values obtained during the simulated race run were less than what was obtained in the lab for VO2Max, minute ventilation and heart rate. However, breathing rate was actually increased compared to what was observed in the lab. They also found that Hand-grip Fatigue had a modest but significant correlation with performance.

Their Conclusions

At the end of the study they concluded that Skill Level and Hand-grip Endurance explained 73% of variance in ride times. They were the only factors that showed a significant correlation with performance and both of them came up twice in the study as being important.

The role for aerobic capacity was only partially supported by the data and there was no direct correlation between it and performance. It was obvious that there was a large aerobic demand but they couldn’t establish a link between VO2Max and how a rider actually performed.

Self Confidence didn’t do well in analysis of the third study but it was ranked as the second most important factor by the riders surveyed in the first study. After looking at the numbers they concluded that Skill Level feeds into Self Confidence and that feeds into performance.

Maximal anaerobic power was also unrelated to performance but they thought they might find a better correlation to the ability to repeat those anaerobic efforts “as previously shown in cross country mountain biking.”

Their conclusion was that the most important factors were 1) Rider Skill, 2) Hand-grip Endurance, 3) Self Confidence and 4) Aerobic Capacity “tentatively presented in order of importance”.

Sometimes it takes a moment to tell Myriam and Remi apart... Third place and just 2 seconds back shows she is right back in the mix after an injury riddled 2014.

What it all means…at least to me.

At the end of the day Rider Skill was the most important factor, which means that developing your skills is the best thing you can do to get better at going downhill. And one of the best ways to do this is to focus on mobility training so you can efficiently get into the right positions on your bike. I can show and tell you all day long how to execute a skill but if you lack the mobility and/ or body awareness to get into the most efficient positions then it doesn’t matter. Knowing what to do only helps if you can actually do it.

It also means that you need to spend time working on your skills. Whether it is doing drills in a parking lot or spending dedicated time during rides focusing on specific skills - or preferably both – you have to use focused practice as a big part of your training program. Just riding your bike will only get you so far and making sure you can move efficiently and then can apply that movement properly to the bike is the fastest way to getting better at descending.

Hand-grip Endurance was the second most important factor but remember that, as Gray Cook puts it, your grip is a window to your core. This means that true grip strength and grip strength endurance come not directly from the hand but in creating a strong, functional core that syncs up efficiently with your hand/ grip. This is why things like deadlifts and swings create the type of synergistic core and grip strength endurance you need to improve your Hand-grip Endurance on the bike.

These were the only two factors in the study that showed a strong correlation to performance. So far the science tells us the best way to get faster at going downhill is to focus on Skills (which includes mobility training) and Hand-grip Endurance (which includes overall functional body strength). Both of these factors can be significantly improved with a good training program that focuses on improving your mobility and strength while spending time on the bike focusing on skill development.

Self Confidence was also found to be important by the riders surveyed and once you see how Skill Level improves Self Confidence you can see how they are related. Besides the connection between moving better on the bike and feeling more self confident you can also use proven methods to improve your mental focus both before and during a ride. This means that Mental Training can help improve your performance as well.

Despite setting out to show that it played an important role in performance and setting up a test to look specifically at it, Aerobic Capacity didn’t turn out to be as important as they had thought. While it obviously plays a role in DH performance, it isn’t more important than several other factors. This makes sense when you realize that after a few years of riding your Aerobic Capacity levels off – no ones VO2Max improves forever - and then improvements usually come from other factors like improved movement efficiency (a.k.a. skills), sport specific strength and self confidence/ mental focus.

Focusing on leg power may be less important than the ability to sustain and repeat your efforts. On the race runs riders only achieved 9% of the peak power observed in the lab and only spent 55% of their time pedaling, with that broken up into multiple shorter efforts. It seems that being able to lay down power quickly is more important than what you can peak out at and being able to repeat those efforts over the course of a run is the ultimate goal.

The increased breathing rates observed on the trail were very interesting when viewed in light of the decreased cardio demands compared to what was measured in the lab. Peak cardio levels were lower during the DH race run, which means that riding on the trail was “easier” on the cardio system than how hard you can push during a lab test. The authors suggested that the increased breathing rate was because you had to hold your breath and use the Valsalva Maneuver to stabilize the spine during impacts. I think anyone who has ridden a bike downhill would suggest that they were right.

This tells me that the ability to use the breath to absorb impacts is an important skill we need to develop, which is something that kettlebell swings do a wonderful job of. It also speaks to the unique cardio demands of the trail and how you can’t simulate them in the lab or on the road. In other words, trail riding is the most important and specific cardio training you can do.

Now lets compare what this study found to the usual approach a rider takes to improving their downhill riding performance. When you do this you see that things are usually flipped. Aerobic Capacity and Anaerobic Power are emphasized while Mobility, Skills and Mental Training are are marginalized. Strength Training is also important (it will improve Hand-grip Endurance among other things) and while it is used more often than in the past, it is still often left out or used as another form of Anaerobic Capacity training i.e. bootcamp type workouts.

This means that most riders spend too much time focused on the wrong factors. While Aerobic and Anaerobic Capacity are important, they aren’t more important than other factors that often get marginalized or neglected. Skipping or minimizing Strength, Mobility, Skills and Mental Training in order to spend more time on a trainer or road bike working on your cardio isn’t the best way…or at least that is what this study suggests and my experience confirms.

You have to spend time working on your mountain bike specific mobility, strength and skills if you want to ride with more speed and confidence when the trail starts to point down. Until something points me in another direction I’ll keep advocating a balanced approach that recognizes the crucial role improving your mobility and strength play in how well you can ride a bike downhill.

And now for the “that’s not what I said” portion of the article...

MTB James

I am not saying that cardio is not important or that you don’t need to work on it. Anyone who has done one of my programs can tell you that you spend a good amount of working on your cardio. I’m just saying that making it the focal point of the program and minimizing these other factors isn’t the best way.

I also know that there were limitations to the study and that you can poke all sorts of holes in it if you really wanted to. Some riders are sold on the need to focus their training time on cardio over everything else and if you’ve had success with that approach then I can’t argue with you about that. The point isn’t that this study is definitive, simply that it is a unique look at the demands of DH racing and it is interesting to see what it tells us and how those things correspond with what I’ve observed working with riders at every level for over 10 years now.

Hopefully this study and what it tells us can help you make more informed decisions about the best ways to train for DH racing or just getting better at riding the descents you have to face on your local trails. Mountain biking - in all its forms - is a unique sport that requires a smart, balanced approach to improvement. Making smart use of mobility and strength training can help you in a lot of ways and now we have some science that seems to confirm that.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

MTB Strength Training Systems

MTB Strength Training Systems is the world leader in integrated performance training programs for the unique demands of mountain biking. As the strength and conditioning coach for World Cup Teams and 3 National Championships, his programs have been proven at the highest levels. James has helped thousands of riders just like you improve their speed, endurance and skills on the trail. Visit www.bikejames.com to sign up for the free 30 Day MTB Skills & Fitness Program
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116 Comments

  • + 153
 ...So I learned that the reason that I always get beat by guys that are better riders than me, is because they are better riders than me. Shocker.
  • + 17
 haha! I must say though that as I was getting older my flexibility decreased until i hit about 29 when i really noticed it was restricting my movement on the (DH) bike. Since that point Ive tried to stretch a couple of times a week and now I feel like I can move properly again. And (maybe coincidentally) in the last couple of years my results have been slowly improved. Sure Ive got more experience (now im 32), but i dont think my skill is better, and i dont think my confidence is either. But im definitely more mobile, and probably a bit stronger. cool article
  • + 1
 What I learnt is that swimming or road riding at lunch isn't going to help me. Time practicing on dirt is the only way to get better!
  • + 5
 @jaame if u fat because you never do cardio you will be slower though
  • + 2
 I've been saying this for years . Everyone claims you have to be "fit " to rise fast . Now we have science 3 to back what I've been sayin all along. Beer drinking downhill runs > interval training on the road bike
  • + 1
 its not the cardio...stupid!
  • + 1
 If you think you don't need to be fit to race downhill I wonder if you have ever raced. Made up the numbers, perhaps.
  • + 1
 Cardio fitness is definitely one of the biggest factors in racing and it contributes towards being able to grip and stay focused. I'm only at about half of my hearts capacity to pump and the biggest factors I find during a full run is tiredness and an inability to grip on longer runs.
  • + 6
 keep in mind the people they tested: they were all high level racers. even the least fit of them is going to be an aerobic powerhouse, so when they say that aerobics weren't a deciding factor, what they really mean is that there's a certain level of aerobic fitness beyond which you don't gain much for your racing, & that they don't know how low it actually is. because nobody in the test was out of shape enough to show it.
  • + 1
 It's important to not that that this doesn't mean 'fitness', or 'cardio' isn't important, it's a correlation so it just means that fitness doesn't relate to performance... For example, you could have great cardio but low skill, or have great cardio and great skill, which combination would win? The winner in this example would have high fitness and skill, but it's not the fitness that explains why he won, it's the skill. Make sense?

Another thing to note is that a representative sample of the general racing population was used, so some were fast and others not so fast. If you took this forward and sampled the top 20 riders at the world cup you might find some different results. Perhaps among a group more similar in skill level (e.g., the top 10 at a world cup...) the role of fitness would play a larger role in explaining performance.
  • - 1
 Fittin this in yo mouf
  • + 74
 Pedal more brake less. No science needed Smile
  • + 71
 cut the pedaling (see mullaly)
  • + 31
 Pedal more (see blenkinsop)
  • + 61
 Large heavy balls (see hart)
  • + 49
 Ride Flats (see Sam Hill)
  • + 52
 Ride Clips (see everybody else)
  • + 86
 See Sam Hill. No reason, just see him.
  • + 61
 Party more. (See Bryceland)
  • + 37
 Increase grip endurance (Pee Wee Herman)
  • + 93
 Find a podium and stand on it. It should help, since all fast riders stand on podiums as well.
  • + 4
 Run the same tyres as the top racer who won last week.
  • + 4
 Get free gear for free like al the people who came first
  • + 3
 So that explains why we don't have fast riders here in Greece.... we use bare ground or some feature of the track instead of podiums..... Ελλαδάρα ρε!!!
  • + 10
 be more of a legend. (Peaty!)
  • + 1
 "Heros get remembered but legends never die, remember that and youll never go wrong"
  • + 2
 (The king of crash) sandlot
  • + 9
 Just say "f*ck it, dropping in" and try a flip (Lacondeguy)
  • + 6
 Scream more (see Caluori)
  • + 5
 Live like a billionaire playboy (see Cedric Gracia)
  • + 60
 I for one am happy someone actually bothered to do a study on this. I have a bunch of friends who, while otherwise chill, are hardcore roadies/tri-geeks. They always scoff whenever I say I'm going out for a ride to train for DH/enduro races. "Dude, where's your heart-rate monitor?" "Do you even zone train brah?"

Screw your zone training, screw your heart-rate moniters, your power meters, your energy gels and your farking lycra. I'm going to ride as fast as possible down that steep-ass trail, call it training, and have the science back me up. Sweet.
  • + 7
 agreed! for dh and whatnot, maybe a timer is all you need Wink
  • + 36
 Best hands endurance training is by far rock climbing. No weight training plan of any kind will ever come close. It is also fantastic for balance and self-confidence development. As a matter of fact, I have noticed a significant improvement in my DH riding when I started regular rock climbing. I have been telling that for years. Nice to see a study that agrees on that!
  • + 4
 Ive only just got onto regular climbing and would have to agree with you 100%!! so good for hands ! and its actually fun... no gyro balls, spring grips etc etc..
  • + 5
 I'm lucky enough to only ride my bike for more than one month now. the second day of riding I went on Mt-prevost and after one run my hands were burning so much and now after 37 of riding I can go down on every trail without hand burning inside. Just have to ride a lot and there is no more problem for hands, that also what a world cup racer told me Wink
  • + 3
 Climbing ropes...
  • + 2
 Amen to this. I started burning off mates on mtb far more easily when I used to train for climbing. Check out the anaerobic endurance circuits in Dave Mcleod's "9/10 climbers make the same mistakes", that's pretty much what did it. And I say 'circuits' but don't go thinking weights - the best training for climbing is climbing.
  • + 3
 Don't forget trail building too ... shovels and buckets of dirt do well for grip training too. I think I have to give it a serious go though with rock climbing.
  • + 2
 fredhay, what kind of rock climbing are you talking about? Because crack climbing, face climbing and gym climbing are all slightly different. Even the type of rock is a factor, sandstone vs limestone vs granite etc.
  • + 1
 Probably anything that increases anaerobic endurance and recovery speed in your forearms. So, steeper the better.
  • + 4
 Bouldering has been the best "cross training" activity for me. I've raced (all mountain, not DH) a little but I'm always looking to get faster, smoother, etc, and bouldering seems to rewire my brain and body a little bit. No ropes or harness, just shoes, a pad, and a spotter. Physically it tightens up my grip and core strength, and it conditions me to be calm, control my breath, and commit in the face of fatigue. Not to mention the benefit of breaking through the mental hurdle of topping out on a 15 foot rock, forearms pumped, legs shaking, and hands getting sweaty. Definitely trains me turn off the chatter, look ahead, and just gun.
  • + 1
 I don't know much about crack climbing but it looks more about jamming than gripping. I feel that your are better stick to faces or over hanging stuff for hand endurance training, no matter the type of rock.

And avoid slabs: no grips no fun (IMO)
  • + 1
 I was going to say that, but then try telling me steep crack climbing isn't pumpy as well Wink Be careful to distinguish between different types of climbing endurance; there are many (well aerobic, power, anaerobic at least). They are all trained in different ways; I couldn't say for sure though which is best for biking. You would think aerobic due to the length of downhill runs, but anaerobic is probably very important for handling the intense sections. If I recall correctly your forearms work anaerobically during a long climb (or bike descent) anyway as there is no way your capillaries can resupply blood to those muscles fast enough for it to be 100% aerobic.
  • + 1
 Rock climbing has 2 other big factors going for it: It's huge core training, as stabilizing your center of gravity on the wall doesn't come for free, & it promotes body awareness. Can't count how many people I watch ride who'd be 10 times the rider if they were just aware of where their hips are in relation to the bike.
  • + 1
 I'm sure you absolutely right about the climbing. But I'm just curious, did any one ever think that gyroballs or spring-grips were actually a worthwhile way to work on grip strength? Dead-lift or chins. Look no further
  • + 32
 Skill is king. Gwin's pinch flat run is proof. He's faster than most of us without a rear tire.
  • + 18
 Studies also show that most riders right hand grip endurance was greater than the left
  • + 5
 ...until they knock out a "stranger" grip.
  • + 1
 /- -\
I . l
\l_l/
  • + 14
 ^^^its the thought that counts
  • + 2
 Huh? This is the internet age bro. Unless you're using a left mouse, the left should be stronger, just sayin...
  • + 15
 Apart from all that sciency shtuff' A lot of downhill is confidence Mainly confidence I reckon A lot of skill, but more balls.
  • + 2
 More balls than skills gets you hurt fast. Hard to get faster at riding when your not able to ride at all
  • + 11
 I think that the way this article was presented really fails to illustrate just how intertwined all of these factors really are, especially relating to fitness. Yes, skill is key, but we all knew that. That's why you can go to the gym every day and expect to be as fast as Gwin. My main gripe with this article is that it doesn't emphasize just how good the base level of fitness is for pro riders. They have trainers, and most work out essentially every day. You can't be at the peak of your sport if you're 2 minutes into a race run and your quads are cramping. Fitness may not be the key ingredient in a fast race run, but my bet is that is underlies the other factors as an enabling element. Not seeing spots after a quick sprint will help you focus better going into the next rooted out rocky section in the woods and help you apply your skills as effectively as possible.
  • + 1
 Precisely. My skills would not deteriorate as quickly if I was fitter and stronger. You have to be able to implement your skills and if your body is not performing you are slower and make mistakes. You can see this at WC races with riders losing control and crashing towards the end of a run...
  • + 3
 Yeah to be honest I think the study really dropped the ball in that sense... because the author makes core/strength training videos for a living. Sure, VO2 max isn't the deciding factor between who wins WC races and who doesn't, but I have a feeling that most WC DH guys are probably aerobically on par with Cat1/Pro XC racers, which is a huge deal. It takes a lot of aerobic training to stay as sharp as they do for a 3-5 minute race run.

Would have been cool if the study compared VO2 max or resting heart rate between elite DHers and different tiers of XC racers to see where they fall. I think it's awesome that the author did this kind or work, but it definitely smells like the results were steered towards promoting his training program. Not saying he did that dishonestly, it's natural for a core trainer to see things from a core trainer's perspective. But it would be cool if someone broadened the scope of the study and did a little peer review.
  • + 1
 The author of this article was in no way involved with the research, this is just his interpretation of a recently published study.
  • + 10
 My first bike was a 575. I was able to ride down most trails just by letting go of the brakes and letting the suspension do the work. I sold the 575 and then I rode an xc hardtail for a couple of years after. The hardtail taught me more than I could ever learn on the 575. I was forced to choose my lines and use my body to maneuver the bike over obstacles instead of just letting the suspension do the work. Now I'm back on a full squish bike and am riding faster than ever. The bike handling skills I learned on the hardtail combined with full suspension technology allow me to shred. It also allows you to be comfortable running your suspension stiff which makes for a faster ride (a lot of pros only run about 15% sag). In short: I believe every beginner should spend at least couple of seasons on a hardtail to refine their skills before wasting money on a big bike.
  • + 8
 Frequenting bmx and/or pump tracks will also really help. It'll teach you how to shift your weight, pump through sections, and how to jump if you're scared of that sketchy kicker built off the side of a single track.
  • + 4
 Agree 100%. Riding mtb trails on my cyclocross bike made me much faster in XC and overall trail riding, without a doubt. Until you ride something with little/no suspension and try to push it, there are lines on the trail, especially small ones, that you literally will never see from the cockpit of a bigger bike, because you don't need to. On the CX bike line choice matters down to the inch, and even though you can smash through them with decent suspension, there's a lot of time to be gained by spotting the smoother lines and flowing between them, or by being able to hang on and correct the bike when you get tossed off line.

Don't have a BMX/DJ bike, but I imagine hitting jumps and pump tracks would help in much the same way. With small wheels and no suspension there's nothing there to cover up your mistakes.
  • + 3
 to bad everyone i tell that im getting a hardtail to go along with bigger bike for downhill calls me an xc weeny. I gues proof will be in the times
  • + 3
 Take a semi skilled dirtjump guy and give him a trial bike and he will be shreding in no time. Take a talented trail rider and put him on the dirt jumps and he will be struggling for ages.
  • + 4
 I ride a hardtail and was told I need to buy a real bike, the guy didn't have much to say at the bottom when I beat him down. I'm not the fastest but not slow on it. Alot of people are stuck on the thought that you need a full suspension.
  • + 1
 I'm not saying you're wrong, because I just don't know. But I can't imagine pros only running 15% sag. Stiff suspension isn't the same as running less sag. In my book, running less sag only makes your suspension perform more poorly.
  • + 8
 A lot of this may be course dependent too. A steep technical track with little to no pedaling would come down to who has the best skills and confidence (barring bike set up). On a flatter, smoother course, all that probably goes out the window, and that's when you see the racers with big power do well.

At the first WC of the year, the results of the study would indicate how Gwin won so easily. It seemed that he checked all the boxes that day.
  • + 3
 And many other top contenders had injuries. Gee, Rat, Hill, Smith, Minaar, and others. I forget what happened with Troy.
  • + 11
 So pretty much, get out and ride your bike.
  • + 3
 If you want to be fast you need to be good at riding a bike...and holding on to the bike - got it. See you on the trail Smile
  • + 2
 NO! NO! NO! You are supposed to buy James' books and swing kettle bells! You can't be a better downhiller until you make James rich.
  • + 0
 @unrooted Yeah, i'm tired of MTB specific fitness trainers getting rich off the naive public.
  • + 0
 Well until James is rich you won't be fast.
  • + 3
 I hope this will motivate some people to attend skills clinics if they have accesss to them. I am not sure if survey qualifies as scientific study but it is good to have it written down. I cringe most of the times I hear the word "science" in relation to MTB. Marketing guys have their guidelines how to interpret Target group input so it's a bit blurry to me. The issue is that DHillers do not need to hear about how important the skill is, XC and road riders do, I mean on amateur level. World is full of riders who measure MTB performance by How many vertical feet you can climb at what gradient. They treat descending in the same way as teenagers treat sex, they want to do it badly but don't know anything so to keep their self confidence up, they try to outalk each other on theories how you are supposed to do it, all filled wit exaggerated or completely made up stories.
  • + 2
 Surveys are one of many techniques for data collection that is extensively used and completely appropriate within research (particularly more quantitative work, but can be used in qualitative studies also with more open-ended questions but that wasn't the case in this study). As all data collection techniques, it has pros and cons, but it is absolutely part of scientific studies.
  • + 3
 So it turns out that a lifetime of rock climbing may have actually been the perfect preparation for time on the dh bike. It's the perfect blend of body awareness and core strength (with a boot load of hand strength included for good measure).

Having done some coaching for climbers I am always reminded just how useful those same skills are when I'm on my bike.

My advice: climbing once a week will do wonders for your on bike performance.
  • + 4
 I have friends who do technical descents 20-30% faster than me (10 mins for me, 7-8 mins for them) and I'm in way better cardio shape than they are. It's about skills and confidence for sure.
  • + 4
 Take the most talented rider you can find. Instruct him to furiously masturbate all winter, alternating hands. See results. This might also show why women aren't as fast as men in downhill.
  • + 1
 Ha! You had me at "furiously"... Funny shit right there.
  • + 6
 well that was a long, mildly interesting, read.
  • + 5
 only way to be fast on a downhill track => LESS BRAKE !
And the skills needed to manage the resulting speed
  • + 3
 What makes a great downhiller? The ability to pick the quickest line possible in the blink of an eye, while having the balls and ability to try it.
  • + 1
 I do a small amount of push ups, weights, and press ups most nights, along with the odd (painfull) road ride. On the dh bike i do my best to stay relaxed, and enjoy it. No pressure. ! Re hand grip, i couldnt ride without the silicon Esigrips. They prevent 'glove bunch up' so i dont get distracted by trying to hold on, esp. after half a days riding..

I think once your happy with bikesetup, if you have a little fittness, and decent core strength, you can simply focus on ... Not focusing.. And relaxing..and loving riding.

Thats my way Smile
  • + 1
 I think weight is a huge factor.. I weigh about 60 lbs more than everyone I ride with and they can barley keep up with me.. I also have a BMX background so my line of choice is completely different than everyone else half the time.
  • + 1
 Ride your bike, explore your limits on dh, push your limits to go faster... pick yourself up and go again... What was not mentioned to much is experience, reaction times linked to mental awareness............... and just having the ba**s to let it run.... the fastest people i know also mash up badly on occasions ;-)
  • + 3
 Racer x site. Free workout routines for moto translates easily to dh. That and a little Bmx still keeps my old bones on skill alert
  • + 1
 Not all of us are racers. Some of us are busy with the rest of our lives that just getting out for a ride, for the sake of being on 2 wheels and rolling is enough. Hopefully all of us tap into this 'thrill of rolling' in each and every ride. But there are riders(including most ALL racers) that for whatever reason are seeking to improve. The smart riders in this group of improvement seekers have properly assessed the aspects of their riding that are strengths, aspects that are weaknesses and even the aspects that could be improved but maybe superfluous to what is important to them(ie dowhillers that can do backflips are pretty darn cool but the ability to do a backflip isn't going to greatly improve your chances to garner podiums in your DH race). The benefit of this article is that it provides a list(not necessarily comprehensive) of attributes for DH racers and even sheds light on the attributes that consistently rise to the top. For less experienced riders and racers this article is gold. If these are weak points for you and your riding, and you're seeking improvement, than this article(&comments) lets you hone in on a couple of the very important ingredients needed to achieve improvement efficiently. Regardless of your level of riding you only have so much time and money to ride/train and so this article might just reveal the best places to invest your time. Thanks @jameswilson for posting this article. I look forward to reading the published study.
  • + 4
 I read this whole thing just to find out that it comes down to rider skill? Well i couldve told u that!
  • + 1
 Bash it all you want, but I thought this was valuable information. I'm guilty of focusing too heavily on cardio.. James knows what he's doing. Thanks to him, I'm enjoying more injury prevention and faster times!
  • + 4
 So this article is basically a recap of Rocky IV ?
  • + 3
 Learn to steer with your hips...less brake usage...faster,looser,funner! now go and practice!
  • + 1
 The best DH and technical trail riders are always the ones who have variety in their experience, DH, XC, off road motorcycle, trials, skiing etc
  • + 3
 So basically we all need to start rock climbing and riding trials.
  • + 2
 Smoothness is the one and only key. Smooth is fast. Time for a keva juice.
  • + 1
 Can someone summarize it for me?
What do I need to upgrade on my bike to win?
  • + 12
 The rider..
  • + 2
 I did what I do with all my report reading, ah there's the conclusions...
  • + 1
 james, are you a "DH" rider?---do you own and ride a DH bike?
  • - 3
 I can't ride in the week so go to crossfit after work which I think is perfect DH conditioning training. Workouts are usually short but super intense...much like a DH run, highly recommended.
Also think that calmness plays a big part in speed. When you're flying down a hill just reacting to the track its easy to make quick and sudden little mistakes that will scrub off speed. Thinking ahead and visualising how you want to hit the next section and following through with your plan will only lead to smoother runs, which will conserve energy when you need it near the end of your run so you can push hard (but controlled) all the way to the finish.
  • + 2
 Did you even read the article.
  • + 1
 Yeah, what is your point exactly?
  • + 1
 Reread your comment and reread the article. If my post not isn't clear than it never will be.
  • + 1
 Point*
  • + 0
 Hey James, how do you include Yoga in those trainings to help building the Core and improving the mental focua ?
  • + 1
 Skill.. Genius..
  • + 0
 I'm going to stop winter training now. Thank you baby jesus.
  • + 1
 Yeah, I did this last winter. Just did regular gym maintenance and feel smoother and faster this year. Less tight muscles.
  • - 1
 Corilation dose not mean causation. I think there was some confermation bais going on here.
  • + 8
 You use five dollar words but spell them terribly.. Intriguing.
  • + 3
 I think you have autocorrect bias.
  • + 0
 
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