Just the Tips
Todd Wells is a three-time Olympian, 15-time national champion and threetime Leadville champion. Recently retired from full-time pro racing, he now works as a mortgage broker, coaches cyclists on the side, rides as much as he can, and jumps into races when time permits.
1. A clean bike is a happy bike. Try to keep your bike as clean as possible, and after you wash it, dry it off and lube whatever needs to be lubed. Check it over to make sure there are no cracks or anything that is out of place. It’s way easier to fix something in your garage with your normal tools than on the trail with a mini multi-tool.
2. Enter a race. If you are trying to get faster, the best thing you can do is have accountability. If you sign up for a race, you’ll be forced to get in the riding you’ve been hoping to get in all along. If you have an event or goal in the near future, it is a great motivator to get on your bike. With so much going on, it’s easy to neglect your bike; but, if you have a race looming, you have more accountability. Even if you can only get on the trainer for 30 minutes, you’re far more likely to do it after work if you have a race on the calendar than if you don’t.
3. Don’t be afraid to go long. Get out there where your cellphone doesn’t work and just enjoy riding your bike. Make sure you have plenty of food and water or can get it along the way. The mountain bike is the ultimate tool to get out there and explore.
4. Ride early. With work, family, life, etc., there are a million things to derail your workout each day. If it’s important to you, get up early and ride before you have to get on with your “real life” for the day. It sucks getting on the trainer in a cold garage or bundling up like the kid from A Christmas Story when the sun isn’t even up to go ride, but you’ll be glad you did. It’s amazing how some physical activity can create a positive mood for the rest of your day.
5. Vary your intensity. It’s easy to just ride the same intensity each day. We all gravitate to whatever intensity it is we prefer. Riding harder or easier than you like can help expand your range and increase your fitness. If you love to ride easy all day, throw in some shorter, intense intervals. If you only like to hammer, try going out all day on a free weekend.
Jerome Clementz of Cannondale is one of the top enduro riders in the world and the 2013 winner of the Enduro World Series. Photo by Digby Shaw
1. Play: This is the best way to learn things. Take your bike and play with it: jumps, trials moves, down a steep chute, up the hill, like 50to01, Kirt Voreis and company. Try to go up and down stairs, wheelie, challenge your friends. This is a good way to extend your skills.
2. Take it easy. Don’t go at race pace when you train. It’s important to train at low speed to be able to give it all in a race. Riding all the time at 90 percent will just make you tired and not develop your fitness. It’s better to ride at medium intensity and accelerate a few times during your ride than to ride flat out all the time, especially when you are young. The champion of the training day is rarely the winner of Sunday’s race.
3. Experiment: Making mistakes is the best way to learn things. Try things to find what works for you and what doesn’t. This works for line choice, bike setup, training, and more. Crashing is not a failure, but a mandatory checkpoint to progress.
4. If you want to reach a goal, you don’t have to think about the goal. Instead, think about the technique to reach it. For example: Going fast. You have to focus on your position, where you look, and controlling your energy and breathing rather than just thinking, “I need to go fast.”
America’s Lea Davison is a multi-time national champion, Olympic racer and the silver medalist in the 2014 UCI World Championships.
1. Work hard: If you put in the hard work, anything is possible. And I’m talking about getting out the door and riding in 30-degrees-and-raining hard work. The type of hard work where you are collapsed on the side of the road panting after a solo interval session. The one thing that you can control is that you are working harder than your competitors.
2. Happiness is fast: Remember to keep having fun. This is really important. Ice cream makes me happy, and happiness is fast, so I eat ice cream (and cookies, too). It’s also important to look around and appreciate your time on the bike. Enjoy it! You are doing one of the most fun things in the world.
3. Mix it up: You don’t need to specialize in cross-country mountain bike racing or whatever discipline too early. I advocate for young up-and-coming riders to do a variety of sports to cross-train. This will give your body great training that will come in handy later when you do decide to specialize in a specific discipline.
Ned Overend is a six-time U.S. national champion and the 1990 UCI Elite Men’s World Champion.Ned, Ainsa, Spain. Photo by Harookz
I didn’t get many tips when I started mountain bike racing, because there were not a lot of experienced racers at the time. I did get advice when I was racing motocross before mountain bikes, and this tip applies to both sports.
1. Look ahead. The faster you go, the farther ahead you need to look. It may sound obvious, but a lot of riders focus on the ground too close to their front wheel, and as they build speed, they don’t have enough time to select the right line and react with body positioning and steering inputs. You want to be scanning between the trail in front of your wheel and the trail coming up in the distance. The faster you go, the farther ahead you need to look.
Geoff Kabush has won 15 Canadian national championships and competed in the Olympics three times.
1. Sponsorship. Don’t ask for free stuff the first time you meet someone. Have a conversation and build the relationship first. It will pay dividends later.
2. Learning. Never stop. If you think you know it all, you are going to be in trouble. Read books and articles, and talk to experts. There is always something to learn about your bike, body, training, nutrition, mind and life in general.
3. Everything in moderation. Success in mountain biking takes focus and dedication, but having other goals or distractions can be positive. Continuing education, hobbies, art, or a part-time job can all make for a healthier body and mind. I went to University and worked an engineering job all the way to my first Olympics.
Canadian Catharine Pendrel is a two-time winner of the UCI Mountain Bike World Championship.
1. Push your comfort zones. Do something you’re not good at once a week. We tend to default to riding within our comfort zones, but improvement comes from pushing those zones. If you don’t like hills or sprints or slow-speed technical trails, make sure you add these in once a week. It will make you a more complete rider, and you’ll probably discover that with practice you’re better at them than you thought.
2. Don’t forget to eat and drink. It sounds simple, but I’m always amazed at the good riders I meet out on the trails who miss their nutrition. I was certainly guilty of it my first two years of riding. Make sure you are drinking water, or an electrolyte drink if it’s hot, several times per hour while riding and consuming 20–60 grams of carbohydrates per hour, depending on the intensity, when riding over two hours. You’ll be amazed at how much better you ride when properly fueled.
3. Consistency is key. When starting out, what most of us need to improve isn’t complicated; we just need to ride more. Typically, you need three sessions per week to maintain a skill and four plus to improve. Don’t stress if work makes long rides tough to fit in midweek. Get out for short rides during the week to keep your skills sharp and your muscles, tendons and ligaments prepared for fun longer rides on the weekend.
4. Keep it fun! To improve at anything, you are going to need to dedicate some serious time to it. It is a lot easier to dedicate time when you love it, so keep it fun!
Richie Schley was one of the pioneer free-riders in British Columbia. He helped create Whistler Bike Park in Canada and competed in the early years of the Red Bull Rampage. He’s also a member of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.
1. In order to get a sponsorship, you have to have something to offer a company or bike shop. If you are a racer, possibly you win races and your peers admire you, so they want to use the products that you use. If you are more of a free rider or social media influencer, you might have such a cool presence that you can influence the people watching you to use the products you use. Either way, nothing in life is for free.
2. Look like a pro. Put your riding kit together with the idea of looking like a pro. Make stuff match. Wear a color that makes you stand out that is a contrast to the environment around you. Black is cool, but how many rad shots do you see in magazines of riders in all black? You need to stand out to be noticed, in photos or on a ride or at an event.
3. Communicate with the people who support you. The people who work at companies or bike shops that help you out might not know what you have been up to because they probably have busy lives and jobs. Let them know if you did a race, how you did, if someone interviewed you for the newspaper, or if someone was taking photos of you. Send them an e-mail at least four times per year, or maybe even every month, letting them know that you are out doing cool stuff, so they know that you are awesome.
Tips Kate Courtney is the current UCI Elite Women’s Cross-Country World Champion.
1. Always bring extra clothes and snacks! Not bringing enough food or planning for bad weather is one of the biggest mistakes I made when I first began riding. It’s easy to avoid when you plan ahead!
2. Listen to your body. You are the only one who can know how hard you are pushing and when you need to double down or take a day off. Paying close attention to how you feel and communicating with your coach will help you get the most out of your riding.
3. Keep it fun! One of the ways I keep base miles and long training days fun is by planning easy/long endurance days with friends or around a fun location (pro tip: a bakery works best).
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