Downhill mountain biking is a rush. There is nothing better for me than blasting down technical single track and feeling the freedom of releasing the bikes full potential and this is not singled out to big travel bikes with dual crown forks. Single track around the world can be the source of some of the best downhill runs you can find…there is just no chairlift to get to them…just some climbing.
For many riders, there is a real want to get faster at downhill mountain biking but some nervousness about pushing the edge…and rightfully so. You do not hear many stories about hospital visits while climbing terrain at 5 mph…they normally come from pushing those limits or hitting unexpected trail features that send the rider OTB (over the bars).
7 Tips To Faster Downhill Mountain Biking
There is a way to get faster downhill regardless of your bike or your skill level, you just have to keep a couple of things in mind as you look to increase you skills as gravity starts going for the assist.
1. Roll Before You Drop The Hammer
Just like the phrase “you have to crawl before you can walk”‘ speed in downhill mountain biking is a progressive change. Every rider is getting faster over time…they didn’t just wake up one day and start ripping up tech, drops and jumps. If you are looking to get faster on single track and technical features, start to progressively work up your speed instead of trying to chop off the fastest time out of the gate. When you keep working up from the last ride, you get much faster over time with fewer encounters with the ground.
2. Practice Speed On Sections Of Trail You Know
If you are out on a new trail or one you do not know very well, it is probably not the best time to start finding your limits. Getting better at mountain biking is just like any other sport…practice and repetition will make you better. If you have to (and I really recommend), session certain sections of trail over and over again until you get really comfortable and fast. That practice will translate into faster rides on lessees known or new trails.
3. Look Way Down The Trail
The biggest mistake I see riders make when trying to increase their speed with downhill mountain biking is looking way too close to the front tire while riding. Ideally, you want to be looking as far down the trail as you can while riding. You will be able to keep straighter lines, keep more momentum and make adjustments for large trail obstacles that you will me meeting at speed. When you look right in front of your front tire, you make unnecessary, micro adjustments that can cause wrecks, slow you down and take you offline. Your bike can handle it…you focus on where you are going…because it is coming quickly.
Ride Behind Faster Riders
The absolute best way to get better at mountain biking is riding behind rides that are after and have better technical ability than you do. When you are trying to get faster at downhill mountain biking, this gets multiplied. You will learn faster lines, better technique and crucial momentum lessons (when to pedal, brake, etc.) that are hard to teach. Get behind a faster rider and hold onto that rear wheel.
4. Use Your Best Suspension Component
No…not that brand new fork you just dropped a huge amount of coin on…your arms and legs. Your greatest asset on the bike when you are trying to get faster at downhill mountain biking is also your biggest suspension component. The stiffer you keep your body, the more you are going to bounce around out of control. Keep a loose grip on the bars and use you body to push into the trail and suck up bigger hits.
5. Wear Protective Gear
If you are going to be in an area you do not know well or you are worried about missing the next week of work due to a crash, wear some protective gear like knee pads. Not only will they protect vital limbs in the even of a fall, but they also have a placebo affect that allows you to let loose a little bit more on the trail. The safer you feel, the more confident you will ride. I wear the Kyle Strait 661 knee pads on most technical rides. They are comfortable enough for all day use so why not?
6. Keep Your Weight A Variable
As the terrain gets steeper, you are going to need to have your weight farther back on the bike. Wen it flattens out…you can be more centered to get power to the pedals. When you are downhill mountain biking, there is no “one place” you need to keep your weight centered on the bike. It needs to be constantly changing depending on the conditions.
7. Challenge Yourself
Life is boring as hell without challenges…keep pushing the limits of what you consider normal. Todays mountain bikes are built to handle a lot…our only limiting factor is ourselves. Keep progressively pushing those limits and you will be surprised at what you can accomplish on the trail.