Going fast on your mountain bike isn’t just about pedaling faster – it’s about being smooth! Using only what you have right now — your bike, your mind, and your body — you can unlock secret speed when you’re out riding with your friends, or even on a race course. That’s right, you don’t have to go bust your butt on intervals or hard workouts to go faster (although those would help, too). Get ready to smooth it out and speed it up!
A working bike is a must to staying smooth on the trail. Make sure you don’t get stalled shifting by keeping your drive train clean. Keep your bearings all running smooth and eliminate friction wherever you can. Double check you’re not wasting energy on suspension that hasn’t been set up for you! (Checkout our 4 Step Guide to Suspension Setup!) And for goodness sake, make sure you aren’t dragging a brake!
A dragging brake due to misalignment is one thing, but it’s another to drag it voluntarily using “confidence braking.” Your mental game is important when it comes to going fast on a bike. When we get nervous, our brains instinctively reach for the brake. But do you really need it? Try calling out “brake” every time you touch it to see just how often you’re pulling the lever. If you don’t need it, don’t touch it. Conversely, a focused mind that doesn’t get distracted is less likely to make mistakes, and better equipped to help you stay on the gas. Visualize what you need to do and then execute.
Positive self talk is also a key component to riding smother and faster. Self-limiting statements like “I can’t handle this!” or “This is impossible!” are particularly damaging because they increase your stress in a given situation and they stop you from searching for solutions. The next time you find yourself thinking something that limits the possibilities of a given situation, turn it into a question like “How can I handle this?” or “How is this possible?” Positivity goes a long way to opening up your riding to new possibilities.
Braking slows you down of course, but it also wears you down. If you are over-braking, or braking unnecessarily, to get back up to speed you need to throw down some watts. Instead, go easy on your body by carrying speed whenever you can. If there’s an option to go around or over something, sometimes braking to steer is more costly to your energy than simply lifting your front wheel over it. In corners, proper bike-body separation can help you whip through a high speed corner without touching the brakes. And at the top of your body are your eyes—looking far down the trail with your head up will help you ride smoother, and faster.
To sum it up, keep reminding yourself “Smooth is Fast.” A smooth-running bike is a fast bike. A smooth flow through the trails—aided, of course, by your zen-like mental state—will take less time than both rushing and dawdling. And if you ride smoothly, your body will likely stay on top of the bike and out of the bushes.
Ready to stay off those brakes and conquer your mental limiters? We can help.
Richard La China is a former professional mountain bike racer, IMBA Certified Mountain Bike Skills Instructor who coaches beginner to pro cyclist. Currently working with mountain bike XC, Endurance and Enduro racers and other competitive and non-competitive mountain bike riders seeking to become their best.
I would encourage anyone of any ability to take a class with these guys.
I recently attended one of the Intermediate/Advanced Efficiency and Flow clinics. Even though I have been riding for many years...
I recently attended one of the Intermediate/Advanced Efficiency and Flow clinics. Even though I have been riding for many years I learned a lot from this clinic. The techniques covered ranged from reviewing basic skills such as basic body position to practicing more advanced techniques like switchbacks, bunny hops, and cornering. I was able to recognize, get instruction, and practice some skills where I was weak and instantly improve them. Even skills I thought I was pretty good at I was able to pick up useful tips. I also realized that deliberate skills practice is not something I incorporate into my riding, but now that I understand what I should be doing I will make sure to add this in! After taking the course my comfort on the bike has improved and I am more aware of my body position and movement of the bike. I would encourage anyone of any ability to take a class with these guys. The instructors are knowledgeable and easy to work with. There is a lot of one on one help and they will make sure you understand the skills being taught and are able to perform them successfully. Plus the clinic was lots of fun! I highly recommend and hope to work with these guys again soon. ~ Michelle A.
The course was very fluid, engaging, and I would highly recommend it.
I took the intermediate/advanced course in Balboa Park after having ridden for just over 2 years on my own. It...
I took the intermediate/advanced course in Balboa Park after having ridden for just over 2 years on my own. It covered a wide breadth of skills, some of which I already felt aquatinted with and others I had little to no experience with. I found all of the material useful. I was able to improve skills I already had and was able to learn new skills. I also feel confident leaving the course that the instructors have provided all of the information for me to practice and improve outside of the course setting. The environment of Balboa Park was perfect for learning and sessioning the skills covered. The instructors were friendly, fun, and attentive to all of the participants. They spent more or less time on certain skills based on how the entire group was grasping them. They also gave individualized attention to participants that required more help with technique. The course was very fluid, engaging, and I would highly recommend it. ~Alexandra Rose Brysiewicz
Taken the 3 day Skills Camp out in Mulberry Gap GA. Outstanding weekend. We had a small group of about...
Taken the 3 day Skills Camp out in Mulberry Gap GA. Outstanding weekend. We had a small group of about 8 people with 3 Ninja Pro's. Richard and the instructors were attentive and always helpful. The course had you work on your base fundamentals, advanced skills, along with bike setup,maintenance, nutrition ,This was a very comprehensive course. After learning the skills, we'd hit the trails and the training didn't stop. Instructors would get to a technical portion of a trail and have us all stop and they would show us how to use the skills we just learned. Everyone learned at their own pace. So no one felt pressured to keep up with others. Having fun was always top priority. Arriving back home, I was practicing all the skills i've learned like an excited little kid with a new bike. I hope to take this course again when they come back to this side of the country -- it was well worth it! ~Vic D.
Enrolling in the Intermediate/Advanced clinic was the best thing I’ve ever done to improve my speed and ability on the bike.
Hands down, enrolling in the Intermediate/Advanced clinic was the best thing I've ever done to improve my speed and ability...
Hands down, enrolling in the Intermediate/Advanced clinic was the best thing I've ever done to improve my speed and ability on the bike. I am so much faster on singletrack and through technical sections/jumps that even if people are more fit than me, I still keep up with them (and kind of love watching them do a lot more work than they need to). Richard and Kris are fantastic and break things down in a way that makes sense and is manageable. By the end of my first clinic, I was jumping off ledges and power climbing up sections that I couldn't drive a car up. You could buy a $5,000 carbon bike and do 10,000 ft rides every day, but you will get the best return on any investment you make in your riding by attending a Ninja Skills Clinic. ~ Regina J.
We are a group of passionate, dirt-loving, community oriented, world class mountain bike skills instructors committed to helping you reach your personal riding goals through clinics and camps. We are excited to work with riders of all ability levels and share the joy (STOKE) of mountain biking.