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12/3/2015 7:31 AM

We all have a few tips and tricks that at some point in our riding lives or careers helped us take a step forward - and here's your chance to share your best tips with the rest of us. Whether it's that one riding technique tip that suddenly enabled you to do something you couldn't previously do on the bike, or a training "secret" that made a big difference, these breakthroughs are as much fun as they are rewarding. So let's hear what you got!

For me, one thing that helped me improve my overall fitness and get over the proverbial hump was learning to push taller gears. Once I realized that I was reaching for the granny gear far too quickly, I started seeing almost immediate fitness gains. Spinning that low gear can get you out of a spot of trouble, but in general I found it was actually causing me to waste a lot of energy on the way up a hill - I would redline and breathe hard, but not really push my legs. There is a sweet spot between building cardio and muscle power, and if you can balance them out by actually pushing a taller gear, you might be able to finish the same ride less tired. Try one more click on your next ride and see what happens!

Peaty putting the hurt on his turbo trainer at Fort William in 2013, photo Duncan Philpott:

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12/3/2015 7:59 AM

Interval training does wonders, even if it's just on the trainer.

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12/3/2015 9:32 AM

Bootleg Canyon, NV! Technical, have to keep it going terrain. Learning to find lines, see new ones.

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12/3/2015 9:56 AM

The no-granny-gear challenge!

I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

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12/3/2015 10:04 AM

Don't worry about going too fast, try to help gravity pull you down the hill faster by being fluid and braking carefully. Try to use your brakes efficiently to get you through a corner or a techy section quicker, not so much to slow you down in general but to get your entry speed right so you can concentrate on flowing through that corner or techy bit and carry momentum into the next bit, and the next bit etc. I have learnt (and still learning) this by practising it on mellower trails where you really can get off the brakes, then once you learn good braking zones you try and use the same principle on steeper tracks. Stop fighting gravity.

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12/3/2015 10:49 AM

Body English.

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12/3/2015 11:26 AM
visser62 wrote:

Body English.

Body American.

For me? Go trail riding on a single speed for a few times in a row. Without the use of gears, you'll focus a LOT more on preserving your momentum and riding efficiently. When you switch back to your geared bike, I'd be willing to bet you gain a gear or two in the same sections.

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12/3/2015 11:55 AM

Yeah I agree with phobospwns - when I started riding bmx/ dj bikes at skateparks and stuff I noticed a big difference when I get back on the trail bike. Suddenly with some squish and gears everything looks smaller. Does feel like you roll a bit slow too (with the difference between 90psi on dj and 25psi on trail bike) so you tend to seek out steeper stuff. I'd bet cross training on other types of bike is always beneficial in different ways for different bikes. Even a road bike...? *ducks and covers*

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12/3/2015 12:16 PM

For me riding a rigid singlespeed made a huge difference. The SS helped a lot with strength and rigid was amazing as far as learning to pick lines. That alone increased my confidence and ability at least 3x.

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Big Bird
12/3/2015 12:27 PM
FredLikesTrikes wrote:

The no-granny-gear ...more

I used to just go out on trail rides on my DH bike with a 48 tooth front ring. Stand up and pound out the miles. I did a 68 miler one day.

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12/3/2015 12:32 PM

laying off the brakes, and seasoning shorter parts of the trail can help a bundle when you put it all together.

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12/3/2015 12:49 PM

Take the winter off-season to do something off the bike, get strong squatting in the gym, do yoga, roll out on the foam roller, play another sport. I'm shocked how many bikers don't ski and vice versa - they are very complimentary sports (you are facing downhill, hauling ass, etc.). At least in Utah, it astounds me that bike buddies will whine all winter when we have some of the best skiing in North America 30 min away... I remind myself and others we aren't professional racers so putting in endless trainer miles / road miles in the winter leads more to repetitive injury and psychological burnout than it does to elite level bike fitness.

Airdyne / Assault Bike - get one. You may laugh, but they will destroy you. If you think you're hot shit, do the '300FY' which stands for Fuck You - google it. I don't think anyone on here can even pass, I can barely get over 200 cal...

Actually on the bike, I've used rides with my wife as training rides. Instead of being all upset that I'm going slower than normal, I take the time to work on skillsets - looking ahead, body position, late braking, no pedal/chainless to pump terrain, cornering. It has been huge: First, I actually enjoy these slower rides more and enjoy this sport with my wife / slower riders; Secondly, deliberately practicing is what makes these skills become more unconciously ingrained in your riding; Thirdly, psychologically when I take the 'bro' ride the next day later, I am chomping at the bit after my more relaxed ride and go hard.

Don't forget that the only people that supposedly ride 100% all the time are professional road bikers, and they have to take testosterone and EPO to not fall apart physically. Fact.

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12/3/2015 3:05 PM

I have got to be the slowest learner ever, nothing natural in my abilities. Which is why i loved road racing so much, never a sprinter but good on hills. (lots of slow twitch fibres)

But when i switched to MTB, I found that fitness did not help much. Brake hard, slowly round the corner, and then pedal up to speed again. I needed skills work!
I pretty much stayed the the same until I started going to Whistler in 09, Crank It Up has 60 table tops, do that 5 times a day, A simple question to a guy on the lift one day was, “How do i go faster and not over clear the jumps?”…. “ride A line!”
The biggest improvement to my jumping was when a friend described what he called the ’safety jump’, this was basically lifting the front as you leave the lip. And right away it all became consistent, so five seasons later I can jump fairly well.

This year was completely different, 5 months off work and building trails near my house, each one a little steeper, and with a private access road to the top of the hill! So 5 months of digging and riding really short runs (about 80 metres vertical) I could do about 5 runs in one hour. That got me to start enjoying steep tracks.

So the tip is…..ride the same thing lots!

Oh...and don't work!

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12/3/2015 4:18 PM
albertthrasher wrote:

laying off the brakes, and ...more

I've ridden some tasty trails in Canada! Thank you, sir, for making sure they were properly seasoned. =)

Joking aside... Yeah, laying off the granny gear helps a lot.. Trying to ride sections as if you're chainless by pumping. Some time at the pump track helps too. Oh, and riding with people that are better than you are, helps you to visualize the next level. And as AlbertThrasher suggested, sessioning sections so you can string it all together quickly.

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12/3/2015 4:51 PM

If I'm investing time in my skills I'll do one of two things:
- Pump track motos
- Cornering drills using cones

In my experience, doing these two things on a weekly basis in the off-season can produce significant gains, even in outstanding riders.

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12/3/2015 8:31 PM
hurricanejoel wrote:

If I'm investing time in ...more

Can you describe in more detail what you set up with the cones for cornering drills? Curious to know, so I can try something similar.

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12/3/2015 9:24 PM

for me it was yoga classes. my body is really tight so being able to get into the right positions without hurting myself or forcing was amazing.


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12/4/2015 6:30 AM
hurricanejoel wrote:

If I'm investing time in ...more

Bonerjams96 wrote:

Can you describe in more ...more

I use a wide variety of setups depending on what we're working on (i.e. short vs. long radius, off-camber vs. flat, traction vs. slippery).

The most basic terms of what we're trying to achieve is:
B - braking before entry
A - angulate the bike, not body
T - twist hips, point bellybutton, point knees, etc.
H - hand pressure on outside hand, inside hand extends
E - extension, pressure control on the tires, etc.
(in that order)

If you're getting beyond 'T' with decent range of motion and strength, you're probably solid. Getting beyond 'H' takes a ton of reps.

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12/4/2015 7:36 AM

When i read op's comment on grinding a bigger gear i couldn't not comment what a bunch of misinformation that is. first of all grinding a bigger gear makes your leg muscles suffer much more than spinning a smaller gear at a higher cadence causing lactic acid to build quicker. spinning between 90-110 cadence is much more efficent on longer rides as it works the body's cardio vascular system more (increased heart rate) causing more blood to be pumped to the muscles and therefore an increased oxygen supply to combat the build up of lactic acid. i bet if you had a power meter on your bike you would see that spinning a smaller gear at a higher cadence actually produces the same amount of watts as grinding the bigger gear. as long as you eat enough and drink enough water before and during rides you will always ride stronger and longer spinning. road riders have been using this technique for years in particular last years tour de france winner chris froome. so the bottom line is spinners are winners and dont let anybody tell you otherwise.

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12/4/2015 9:55 AM
biker.bob wrote:

When i read op's comment ...more

I think the idea of pushing the big ring is, eventually, you'll be able to spin a gear or two higher in the small ring, because you'll have gotten stronger in the mean time...

I had built up a new bike 1x10, and the crank came with a 36... I was using the bike for trail, so it was too tall. After a few weeks I finally bought a 32, and I was stronger after using the tall gear. It was especially helpful with those punchy climbs where I'm trying to maintain max momentum, rather than dropping gears and spinning up.

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12/4/2015 10:26 AM
biker.bob wrote:

When i read op's comment ...more

I can see how my post could have been a bit clearer, but I wasn't really talking about lowering your cadence. I found that I was too quick to grab that granny gear, instead of punching through steeper sections or just working a bit harder on a particular climb. Yes, that might mean that your cadence drops a bit on tougher sections, especially in the beginning, but like I said, I found that pushing through and insisting on using a higher gear helped me get stronger and actually preserve energy. On that topic, the amount of energy (power X time) required to get up any given hill is the same (all other factors being equal), so if you are putting out more power for a shorter amount of time (climbing faster), or less power for a longer amount of time (climbing slower), you should actually be putting in the same work (using the same amount of energy). How much faster you can go depends on the level of power output your body can sustain. What I felt is that I would actually also waste some "extra" work/energy spinning a too low gear, where it ended up feeling like I was using a much energy moving my legs around to "keep up with" the pedals I was actually pushing down on them to generate forward momentum. That feeling goes away when you crank a higher gear.

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12/4/2015 10:32 AM
phobospwns wrote:

I think the idea of ...more

no because you need to train your legs to spin at higher rpm vs grinding, grinding will teach you to grind, spinning will teach you to spin. you should be working just as hard and going just as fast spinning up a climb. like i said in my post if your spinning in the right gear (not necessarily granny gear) at the right rpm (90 - 110) you will be doing the same watts and going to the same speed as somebody grinding at slower rpm. as a result lactic acid will build up slower and you will be able to train/ride harder and longer. so either you were dropping to the 36 because you were lazy or you were spinning at too high an rpm and should have gone to a taller gear.

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12/4/2015 10:45 AM
iceman2058 wrote:

I can see how my post ...more

true. you were not pushing hard enough on the climbs before and then realized you could spin just as high rpm in a bigger gear i get it. just trying to make the point then i guess that cadence is pretty much everything and riding high cadence is the key towards building cardio was my point. in the end you will be able to ride longer and harder with better cardio rather than barley breathing hard and burning up your legs (building slow twitch fiber).

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12/4/2015 10:45 AM

I'm with Iceman on this one. Sure, spinning and conditioning your body to spin is good, but you will never build strength if you are spinning too frequently or with too low of gear.
Track riders have the most amount of wattage output of any cyclist, and as a result, their distances are short. Push at that level for too long and your muscles will fatigue and you will cramp. Your Gran Fondo riders spin a lot to conserve their muscles for distance, but spinning at too high of cadence or too low of gear either causes your lungs to burn out and you won't get anywhere fast.
Mtn bikers fall somewhere in the middle. Our rides/races are shorter in distance, but longer than a track race. But they require more power and more frequent short bursts of high intensity than a typical Gran Fondo.
Power and Cardio are equally important in mtn biking. As a result, if you never push a higher gear you never build power, and you will never get stronger. If you never spin and built cardio, your lungs won't work efficiently and when it comes time to push yourself, your body won't be able to provide your muscles with the oxygen it needs. This is why you should spend just as much time in the Gym as you do on the Road Bike/Trainer.
I tested this recently on a ride. I was climbing up a hill until I felt I was grinding too much, and my muscles started to fatigue. So I shifted a few gears down where an "average" rider would feel comfortable spinning and pushing themselves. I found my heart rate increased, but I was moving 3-4 mph slower, and my lungs were burning up faster forcing me to move even slower or HTFU and start pushing that harder gear again.

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12/4/2015 1:04 PM

^^Very true, DhD. MTB def requires a balance of cardio+spinning and power+grinding. Lots of factors play into it, too.

Personally, I tend to go on rides for 1.5-2 hours... not all day epics. So, I don't really need to worry a whole lot about conserving my energy by spinning at all time. It also depends on what bike I'm on. If I'm ripping my trail bike, I tend to "grind" up those punchy ascents (although is it really grinding if its 4-5 full pedal strokes?) because I've got a lot more momentum going into them. Shifting down to spin for such a short amount of time before coming downhill again isn't all that efficient. If I'm instead on my fat bike (now that conditions have gotten so soupy), I tend to spin a lot more, it takes more to get that thing up any kind of ascent.

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12/5/2015 12:44 PM

Something that did wonders for me; learn to ride a burly hardtail in the same situations you'd usually use a full suss bike.
I started riding a few years ago and jumped straight onto a DH bike, so my style has always been to not really think and just plow with all my weight over the back end. Knowing how this was holding me back during winter I built up a Meta SX hardtail, and for the first few rides I struggled to maintain any speed or momentum. Over the next few months though I started to weight the front wheel more and let the back float, I started seeking out faster, better lines and began popping/gapping small features to maintain momentum, as well as hucking bigger gaps without a shock to preload. It didn't take long before I really started pushing the hardtail and started to even beat my old PR's from my 2015 Reign.
Now that I'm back on a Capra my whole style is much more confident, smoother and faster, and I generally have more fun jumping and floating around quicker more interesting lines!

Also I agree with Iceman, I was horrible at climbing until I sold my 2013 2x10 Reign and bought an ex-Justin Leov Remedy 9.8 with his set up: 38t Saint front ring matched to an 11-36t cassette. It only took a few hellish rides before I could out climb pretty much all my riding mates, and it just felt normal.

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12/6/2015 5:02 PM

DhDork and Iceman, I agree with Biker Bob, cadence is king. The old pushing a harder gear and grinding it out comes from the 'Strength Endurance' style workouts. Effectively, the aim is improve your legs ability to push out higher watts through progressive overload. This isn't through your legs becoming 'Stronger', it's by them becoming more efficient at processing and performing with lactate/your Lactate Threshold Power (LTP) increasing. The possible downside is that just randomly grinding out a harder gear at a low cadence when you don't know what your threshold power is, how far above or below it your sitting and gradually increasing that in a structured manner may cause inefficient pedalling technique habits to be created which can lead to overuse injuries/pain in the knee/hips/back or you may not get the physiological adaptation you are chasing and you have wasted your time. If you focus on correct pedalling technique and cadence on standard trail rides and then pair it with some of these suggestions, you may get a better result in less time and save possible injuries.

- Get in the gym. Relative strength must be built in the gym, not on the bike. Lifting heavy can improve strength, power, neural efficiency, muscular balance and injury prevention. Deadlift, hip thrust, squat, benchpress and accessory work like bent over row, chin ups, overhead press etc should make up the majority of your program.

- Get a stationary power based trainer. There are lots of trainers and apps available these days which enable you to test your lactate threshold power and train very specifically to improve it. I use TrainerRoad paired with a wahoo Kickr. Not cheap but they give you an amazing quality of structured training.

- Sprint. HARD!. Incorporate some outdoor sessions on the bike of all out sprints. Try 10 sprints of 20-30 seconds with 2 minute rest in between. These have been proven to improve neuromuscular activation which can assist in efficiency and power output. Short hard interval sprints have been shown to activate the AMPK enzyme to a greater degree than steady state training. This enzyme activation is responsible for improving metabolism of fat and carbohydrate during exercise as well as increasing mitochondrial mass in the muscle which improves lactate threshold.

- Get mobile. Yoga, stretch, foam roll etc as much as possible. Consistently doing this 2-3 times per week for 20-30mins would be ideal! Don't do it for 2 weeks, discover you haven't magically transformed into the most flexible yogi in the world and chuck it in. Stick with it, make it a part of training just like riding your bike and you will be able to enjoy riding that bike for longer in years to come.

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12/19/2015 6:27 PM

Developing a Periodized training program based around major goals or races.

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1/6/2016 7:55 AM

Just ride with others that are faster and more skilled than you. No real tricks to it, other than getting the necessary info to lay out a path to improvement and showing up to follow it.

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6/6/2018 2:35 PM

Buy a hardtail Dirtjumper and lap a pump track as fast and hard as you can without stopping until your legs go numb. do this two or three times a week and eventually, your downhill skills will blow through the roof. Knowing how to "pump" a trail is a valuable skill.

Beyond that though, I'd say indulge in as many 2 wheel disciplines as possible (even the motorized ones), the more types of bikes you ride, the more small things you will learn and more skills you will gain, All disciplines have crossover and benefit one another.

Honestly riding road bikes twice a week improved my fitness on the MTB in a way that just riding my MTB never could. Now I really don't enjoy riding road bikes, it's actually kinda lame, but thinking of it as cross training for my MTB rides gives me motivation. Being in better shape allows you to shred harder over longer rides, That feeling of being able to keep going is a great feeling.

Riding a moto will help you get comfortable at speeds you'd normally never hit on a mountain bike. Hop back on the MTB after riding motos for a while and you'll be ripping with ease.

I try to do less thinking and more sending.

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