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'm a road Triathlete that lucked into a XTERRA World Championship slot via the lottery last year. Being a road...
I'm a road Triathlete that lucked into a XTERRA World Championship slot via the lottery last year. Being a road triathlete, I had very little experience and no technical skills on a mountain bike. I took the Ninja beginner and then intermediate classes almost back to back. Richard is a great teacher, and taught the sequential skills that matter most. He does a great job of "breaking things down" with the what and the why, and illustrates the information well with his demonstrations, all the while, delivering it with a sense of humor and enthusiasm. Richard's instruction helped me successfully get through a very technical course in Maui without major injury! Yea, thank you Richard!!. Whether a complete beginner or an advanced rider, I promise you can take a lot away from his classes.... and, let's be honest ...Who doesn't want to be a Ninja! ~ Ray S.
Team Eastlake Cycling Team thank you for your time, energy and expertise…
I’ve been coaching road & track riding for years. Got into mtn bike riding because of the terrain near our...
I’ve been coaching road & track riding for years. Got into mtn bike riding because of the terrain near our home AND my daughters like to ride in the dirt. Took classes through the high school league to be more acquainted with the fundamentals skills and acquire more knowledge of the NICA league rules. Coach La China and staff broke down the skills for our team riders in a fun and engaging process. Team Eastlake Cycling Team thank you for your time, energy and expertise to bring our riders to a new level of confidence. ~Ron G.
I really enjoyed the Intermediate/Advanced clinic with Aaron in Palmer Park, Colorado Springs. Aaron made sure that every skill was...
I really enjoyed the Intermediate/Advanced clinic with Aaron in Palmer Park, Colorado Springs. Aaron made sure that every skill was practiced thoroughly. He was paying attention to every move and detail and was very patient. My riding has definitely improved since than and I have been practicing the skills a lot on single track. The best advice I received - visualize yourself doing it! I definitely recommend this class to bikers of all levels. ~Yana Brown
I consider myself a strong intermediate MTB rider; I love highly technical downhill single track trails. A friend suggested I...
I consider myself a strong intermediate MTB rider; I love highly technical downhill single track trails. A friend suggested I take a multi-day skills clinic to help get to the next level. After a brief search I found that Ninja Bike Skills 3 day skills clinic up in Big Bear CA. If you have never taken a class then the old adage "you don't know what you don't know" probably holds true; it did with me. While it the clinic started off simple, the skills taught build on one-another to ensure you have solid foundation basics needed to safely leverage the higher skill stuff taught at the back end of the class. Richard and Aaron brought two great perspectives as one is a XC/Edurance/Enduro rider and the other is dedicated to gravity downhill. The teaching style was simple and actionable. All the Ninja instructors are very knowledgeable and very passionate about MTB which is infectious and make the class fun. I would highly recommend to any level riders who have never had any instruction in MTB skills. Plus if you take the class at a place like Snow Summit Big Bear, you get to ride amazing trails!! ~Greg A.
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.
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.