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.
Woohoo! As good as it gets is appropriate! Richard is not only a great rider, he is a great teacher!...
Woohoo! As good as it gets is appropriate! Richard is not only a great rider, he is a great teacher! I would encourage everyone to stay away from the mind trap that buying a more expensive mountain bike is what you need to ride better. Spend the money on lessons instead, and I know you will be happier (and safer) in the long run. I can't say enough positive things about the Bike Skills clinics. ~ Chris G.
Within one hour we we clearing a 5 foot jump easily and with confidence!
Wow, a friend and I just did a one day private lesson with Richard and I can’t believe how much...
Wow, a friend and I just did a one day private lesson with Richard and I can’t believe how much we learned. I’ve been riding for over 10 years but with all self taught skills. We wanted to learn fundamentals the right way and Richard took us through all of that (along with critical bike setup) and the intermediate stuff that they teach in one day plus he spent an extra hour at the end to teach us jumping which I had always been nervous about. Within one hour we we clearing a 5 foot jump easily and with confidence, we even learned to move the bike in the air on a crossed take off and landing. I think my favorite part though was riding fast on the very gnarly technical descent. We will be booking up more private lessons during the summer at Big Bear. Thanks Richard you are a very good teacher! ~John U.
I took a Fundamental Skill clinic last weekend and learned so much! I've been riding for a few years and...
I took a Fundamental Skill clinic last weekend and learned so much! I've been riding for a few years and felt stuck and was not improving at all. Aaron was a great instructor! Very patient and broke down everything step by step and we repeated the skills until we felt comfortable. I look forward to mastering the skills I learned and taking another clinic in the spring. ~Jody Hachenberger-Amend
Special thanks to Santa Fe Fat Tire Society for bringing you in!
My wife and I had the privilege of attending the skills 2 day camp in Santa Fe New Mexico August...
My wife and I had the privilege of attending the skills 2 day camp in Santa Fe New Mexico August 20th and 21st. Richard and Aaron and Catherine where fantastic trainers and teachers they brought new light into basic skills of riding each person in the group was able to excel in what we were doing before we moved on to some other awesome skill or task individual attention was felt by all in the group and visible Improvement was seen in all Riders when we have you back next year you should plan on doubling or tripling the number of riders thanks for a super fun weekend and special thanks to Santa Fe Fat Tire Society for bringing you in and of course thanks to Richard and Aaron and Kathryn. ~Bruce Hamby
This past fall I finally broke down and upgrade my mountain bike. I was riding a hard tail bike mostly...
This past fall I finally broke down and upgrade my mountain bike. I was riding a hard tail bike mostly for the workout. After racing in an Xterra, I realized that a new bike was in my future. ( I could tell a huge story about the process of purchasing a new MB and the massive amount of miss information you can obtain from bike shops. Especially when you know nothing about bikes. ) Not long after I purchased the new MB, I had my first over the handle bars wreck. I still cannot remember the actual crash. I can see the rut that I am about to hit on the downhill, and then I remember waking up on the trail barely able to breath. The crash gave me some time to catch up on email. One of those emails was a beginners MB clinic hosted by Richard and the Ride Like a Ninja crew. I swallowed my pride and signed up. To date I have done everything I was taught. I made every adjustment to my bike that was recommended. I then had the bike fitted. The skills taught that day are priceless to me. For the first time I understand what position my body needs to be in for each type of terrain. I am not perfect by any means, but in my mind I am shouting the word NINJA to remind myself. I practice the techniques ever time I ride. ~ Hal N.
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.