Mountain biking is a sport of many great contradictions, chief among them is the fact that you can buy a very expensive bike that won't in any way shape or form make you a faster rider. A fast rider on a bike worth a fraction of yours will still whip you left, right and centre.
But new bikes are still very cool!
There are a few small changes you can make which represent perhaps a more effective use of your efforts and won’t cost you a penny. Get up to speed with them now.
Dip your heels
If you’re not doing this already then congratulations and welcome to the world of going a lot faster. Take even a cursory scroll through any video from the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup and look at what the pros are doing with their feet.
Whether you ride with flats or clips, dipping your heels lower than the axle of the pedal automatically makes your body adopt a position much more capable of dealing with the impacts coming back up from the ground and through the bike.
Get used to doing this on straight-forward sections to begin with and you’ll soon find yourself going a lot faster and using your bike's suspension a lot more effectively.
See that there in the distance? That’s called the horizon and you’ll get there a lot quicker if you look at it. This is one of those tips that sounds like stating the obvious but looking as far ahead down the trail as possible is one of the keys to going faster.
The body goes where the eyes are looking, so enter a root section, glance quickly at a tree on the outside and you’ll quickly find yourself headed towards it. Keep your eyes up and focused on where you want to be going and you’ll get there a lot quicker.
Keep it clean
Before you go parting with a large chunk of next year’s salary on a new bike, consider what state your current rig is in. Mountain bikes take a constant beating. It may well be what they're designed to do and some are definitely better at it than others, but staying on top of some basic bike maintenance will help them to help you to go faster.
Getting into the routine of cleaning your bike is where you need to start. Keeping it clean automatically starts helping you to identify any potential mechanical gremlins before they grow to ride-ruining fruition.
Ride with faster people
We’ve all been there at some stage, watching a group of other riders gradually pull away from us as if some kind of colossal bike magnet was working against us.
They’re not pedalling, they’re not blowing up the turns, they’re just going so much faster somehow and it’s depressing.
But this is a key step on the path to going faster. Riding in a group operating at a higher level will force you to push your own limits on every ride without you realising it. OK, there will probably be some pain along the way as well but leaving your cruising comfort zone will quickly help to hone your skills.
Get off and walk
Feel like you’re clattering through a local rock garden or getting hung out to dry on a tricky root section? It’ll amaze you just how different a trail looks on foot, so sacrifice one full-length descent and take a walk. When you’re on your bike and concentrating on getting body and machine down something tricky, it can be super-easy to overlook a completely different line.
Better yet, session a couple of sections with a group of mates. It’ll amaze you just how much quicker you’ll end up going.
Have fun and enjoy!