By: Richard La China I often get asked how to go faster on your mountain bike, so I took a few minutes to write up this quick list of my favorite 10 tips to get your smokin' down the trail. With practice, these tips will help you ride with more confidence, momentum, efficiency and control.
1. Keep your weight centered on the bike. If the bicycle were removed from you while riding, you should fall flat on your feet (not your rear or face). Too far forward and you'll be inclined to launch over the handle bars. Too far back and your front brake won't be as effective as it should be.
2. Keep your body loose on the bike. Arms and legs should be slightly bent and never fully extended. If you can't wiggle your fingers, you're holding on too tight - relax. I recommend one finger braking - with today's hydraulic disc brakes that's really all you need. This allows you to keep a good handle on the grips.
3. Let your bike do the work, trust your bike. Fighting your bike will make riding long, tiring and usually more bumpy that it needs to be. Let your bike flow, down the trail, into and around turns.
4. Speed and momentum are your friends. If you come to a technical section, having some speed helps tremendously. If you are picking your way over and around every rock you are going to loose you momentum which will require more power to get your speed back up when the trail improves.
5. When in doubt, go straight. Don't waste a bunch of time and momentum trying to pick that perfect line every time. Focus on flow and keeping the bike moving.
6. Lower your tire pressure. Keep your tire pressure around 24 to 25lbs (rear), 27lbs (front) on your 29er. If you are riding a 26er, I would suggest 25 to 26lbs (rear), 28lbs (front). Too much tire pressure is going to cause you to bounce all over the trail. Modern tires can handle the lower pressure (tubeless setup is recommend to eliminate the possibility of pinch flats).
7. Ride like a butterfly - float down the trail. Push down into areas where you need traction (bermmed corners, etc.) and lift up in areas that are rough.
8. Keep your head up. Always be looking 40' down the trail. Pick lines around turns that the most efficient. You should be seeking a good balance between terrain and the shortest route around the turns.
9. Lean into the turns. As you turn, centrifugal force want to throw you off your bike into the bushes (or cactus's / poison oak) on the outside of the corner. So when you whip around a corner fast, you'll want lean into it. But because your speed and the radius of the turn are rarely in sync, you need to lean your bike and your body at different angles. Generally, this means leaning your bike into the turn and keeping your body slightly more upright.
10. Brake before the turns. Keep your momentum - brake BEFORE the turn, not in the turn. Already have your speed set prior to entering the turn and flow out the other side of it. If you brake in the turn, you'll have to power up again coming out of the turn (unnecessary waste of energy).