Mountain biking is an exhilarating sport. You can experience steep downhill descents, difficult object filled terrain and narrow single tracks all in one ride. As a new mountain biker most will start slow to stay safe and avoid the crash. But as you get more experienced you’ll feel that urge to ride faster. It might be to challenge yourself. It might be to keep up with your buddy that got you into mountain biking. Whatever the case here are 7 tips to help you get faster at mountain biking.
7 Tips To Get Faster At Mountain Biking
- Push Yourself With One Thing At A Time
- Set Your Bike Up For Optimal Speed
- Time Yourself With An App Like Strava
- Improve Your Aerodynamics While You Ride
- Reduce the Weight On Your Bike & Your Back
- Ride With A Faster Friend
- Always Look Ahead On The Trail
Tip 1 – Push Yourself With One Thing At A Time
There are many aspects to riding like cornering, climbing, obstacles & Jumps to name a few. So the first tip is to just pick one and on your ride push yourself out of your comfort zone a little bit in that one skill when you ride. If you never push yourself out of your comfort zone you unfortunately won’t ever reach that speed potential.
If you try to improve all of these skills in one ride you might get overwhelmed and out of control. Just focusing on one skill at a time and pushing yourself to go a little faster at that one particular skill will help you improve. Once you’ve improved “cornering” as an example you can move onto the next skill. Overtime your overall speeds will improve because you’ve paid attention to details
Do a little research before you ride. Take the skill you are going to work on and do a little research before you head out to the trails. YouTube Mountain Biking Channels offer tips to help you improve on just about every aspect of mountain biking.
Tip 2 – Set Your Bike Up For Optimal Speed
Similar to road biking having the correct set up on your mountain bike will go a long way in helping you improve your speed. Do a self check of all the parts of your bike that you can adjust and see if you can change any of them to improve your riding experience which also translates into improved times. As an example from road biking getting into arrow position will allow your speed to increase without any extra effort. Those same principals can be applied to adjusting your body position on a mountain bike.
Tire pressure is a simple thing to check that will have a big impact on your times. As an example if you tire pressure is too high you’ll find yourself spinning out on the ascents. Everyone of those spin outs could have been a pedal with solid traction that propels you up the hill faster. When you calculate that over the course of the ride it will have a huge impact on your speed. Your weight and riding style will determine what tire pressure you should keep your bike set at. Always check your tire pressure before each ride.
Making sure your shocks are set up correctly will also have an impact on your riding speed. Your shocks create a comfort level for you as you ride if you feel uncomfortable there is the potential you’ll ride a little more scared and will refrain from pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Having the appropriate shock set up will help you get the most out of your ride. Tightening your suspension will help deal with big hits with more control.
Your handle bars and seat can also play a big part in improving your speed. As an example if your seat is too low you are not in your optimal pedaling position. You might have strong legs and can generate a lot of torque as you ride but if your seat is too low you are not able to use your full muscular potential. The same impact can happen if you’re handle bars are out of alignment. Here is a great resource for you to get your proper bike set up to increase your speed.
Tip 3 – Time Yourself With An App Like Strava
Timing yourself can be a great way to help you improve your skills on a mountain bike. You can use a simple stop watch or digital watch. If you want to get more details on your rides you can use an app like Strava.
Strava is a free App that will track your speed and elevation. You can upgrade Strava and pay a monthly fee that will also give you a deeper analysis of your rides as well as track your heart rate. Those extra details can you give you some insight and give you some clues that will help you get faster.
The main reason you want to time yourself is to beat your previous time. When you race against your previous times you’ll find yourself pushing a little harder at each climb or difficult section. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is the biggest factor in improving your speed as a mountain biker.
Strava also tracks sections of rides and you can compete against other riders over time that ride the same trails as you. They have a great ranking system and awards inside of the App. Here is a snap shot of a recent recorded ride.
Tip 4 – Improve Your Aerodynamics While You Ride
What kind of gear do you ride when you’re mountain biking? If you have baggy shirts and shorts you might find that you are not very aerodynamic. I participated in quite a few road triathlons before buying my first mountain bike so I’m very familiar with the skin tight outfits to make you wind resistant.
Personally I was never a big fan of putting on that super tight gear so I enjoy the casual attire that most mountain bikers wear. That being said you can make some slight adjustments to your shorts and shirts when you ride if you feel like your clothes are turning into a sail and slowing you down.
Mountain bike set ups are not really designed to get yourself into an aero position like a tri-bike so your actual bike set up shouldn’t play too big of a part in making you more aerodynamic.
You could however keep your head down to make your overall profile smaller if you are on a long flat area of track. That should help you get through that area faster.
Tip 5 – Reduce the Weight On Your Bike & Your Back
Reducing the weight on your bike will instantly allow you to go faster. This can be a simple way to improve your times without changing your riding style as all.
As you ride you are part of your bike so if you are carrying a 15 pound camelbak you just made yourself 15 pounds heavier. A simple hack to reduce that weight would be to take the gear you absolutely need to your bike with electrical tape like your tube and pump. If you have a water bottle cage your good to go there.
That is a simple way to take a huge portion of that 15 pounds off your ride. You feel more comfortable with that weight on your back as well.
Get rid of unnecessary components on your bike. If you have mud guards, chain guards, kick stands or any other unnecessary items on your bike you can simply remove them and decrease the overall weight of your bike.
Design your bike to prevent mud from sticking to your bike. If you ride after rain then you know how much mud can stick to your bike. This will add a huge amount of weight to your ride and most times you won’t be able to clean it off mid ride. There are ways to prevent this mud from accumulating on your bike. You can put motofoam on areas where the mud collects. This is a trick used by many pros. Here is a sample of a bike with motofoam on it.
Tip 6 – Ride With A Faster Friend
Riding with a faster friend is probably one of the simplest and easiest way to get faster at mountain biking. It is also safer to ride with another person who can help you out if you get in a bind.
Start off just playing follow the leader. Your faster friend probably has more experience than you on a bike and will likely pick the optimal line to make the ride faster. Take advantage of that experience and just follow their line. Don’t forget the other fundamentals of riding like looking ahead of the trail but following your partners line is a great way to get more tactful at riding.
Having a friend is also a great safety net in case one of your takes a spill or needs help with a gear malfunction. If you get injured and your by yourself on a trail you are playing with fire. There is a chance you might not see another rider for hours and if you injury is serious enough you are in trouble.
A second rider might have more knowlede, tools and other things to help you out with a gear malfunction. As an example they might carry a multi-tool in their camelbak which is the exact tool you’ll need to get your bike operational again. If not, you’ll be walking that bike off the trail.
Obviously you’ll want to make sure the partner you are riding with is more experienced than you so that you aren’t following someone blindly. This should be obvious from the start of the ride.
Tip 7 – Always Look Ahead On The Trail
Many beginning riders will focus their attention just in front of the front wheel. You might see a rock or a tree root that has your attention but as you are focused on that near object you missed the fact that you were heading into a 10 foot drop. Obviously this can cause a huge problem.
Try to get into the habit of always looking down the trail to see what your immediate future holds. The more you can anticipate what is coming you can make adjustments before you get there to prevent yourself from losing momentum. If you were heading into a climb you can get yourself ready to get into the right gear and add some speed to propel yourself up the early section.
Another example would be making a turn at the optimal speed. If you look ahead and see a sharp right turn you can find a line to take a wider turn so you don’t have to apply the brakes and slow yourself down. You’ll be able to keep the gas on and speed up as you make that turn.
Top Ways To Make Your Mountain Bike Lighter So You Can Go Faster
As discussed above reducing your weight is a great way to improve your mountain bike speed. It also doesn’t require you to learn new skills or be in better shape. Here is a list of simple things you can change on your bike to reduce the weight so you can go faster.
- Convert your bike to have only one drive train. This instantly reduces the weight of 1 or 2 additional drive trains. It also take away another gear lever. All of that weight adds up considerably.
- Go to tubeless tires. If you haven’t already done so going tubeless is the way to go. Inner tubes are heavy and will add a lot of weight to your bike. If you can go tubeless you’ll not only reduce weight but also reduce the amount of flats you get out on the trails.
- Add a make shift mudguard. Of course we are trying to reduce weight but if you are riding in muddy conditions that mud will cake up all over your bike and add lots of weight. Creating a make shift mud guard is a great way to go to reduce the weight with adding a component that is very light. In fact you can make one of these with just these two items:
- Cheap plastic cutting mat ($1 at Dollar Tree)
- Zip Ties
- Another hack is to trim up those brake and gear cables. Some bikes will have excess cables all over the bike. Take the time to trim and cut those wires down to their most efficient length. Keep in mind to leave a little slack if ever plan on converting it back.
- Carbon up your bike parts. Going with carbon wheels, carbon seat post or basically anything you can convert to carbon on a bike is a great way to reduce your overall weight.
- Although this tip is for someone riding more competitively but you can replace your existing bolts with titanium bolts. It might just be a few grams but it works!
Improve Your Overall Fitness Levels and Improve Your Mountain Bike Speed
Another huge factor for riding faster on your bike is your overall fitness level. Even if you are super skills and master new techniques you still might struggle to get faster because your fitness isn’t on point. Here are few ways to improve your mountain biking fitness.
- Ride more often. The more you ride the more your fitness levels will improve. Try riding at least 3-4 times a week with a recover day in between.
- Eat healthier to lose weight and make working out easier. Dropping a few pounds will definitely help you make some serious speed increases. Eating healthy plays a big part in improving your fitness level. Its like an upward spiral. The healthier you eat the more energy you’ll have to workout and get in better shape.
- Do interval rides where you are getting your heart rate into challenging zones. Try working out so hard that its hard to talk. If you can do this 3 times a weak start to see speed gains. Track this by riding the same track every week with equal recover time.
- Use a program to schedule out your rides. You can sign up for a race down the road so that you have carrot to look forward too. Find a program that matches the amount of weeks you have to the race. Most programs on the web have a beginner, moderate or advanced. Pick the one that most matches your fitness level and get to work. Having a structured program will keep you on track on those days that are tough to self motivate.
In the end getting faster on your mountain bike really comes down to experience and pushing yourself. I hope these 7 tips above will offer you some value and help you too speed up that curve. Always remember that getting more speed for mountain biking does take time and not everyone will see the same results. Pick and choose which tips make the most sense to you and your situation and make it happen.