Todd Wells 10 Tips That Will Make You A Faster Rider

20 years of pro racing

The tipster: Todd Wells (6) led out Christopher Blevins (62) and the rest of the pro men’s short-track cross-country racers at last year’s Fontana City National.

I started my professional career in 1996 and finally put a wrap on it this past season. It spanned nearly 21 years and touched three decades, affording me the chance to race against the pioneers of the sport as well as today’s superstars. Along the way I managed to make three Olympic teams, win two continental championships, 15 national championships, three Leadville 100s, La Ruta [in Costa Rica] and the Breck Epic. I made a lot of mistakes over those seasons and learned a few things along the way. I decided 10 tips might be a good way to pass along some of the things I learned.

1. Don’t be afraid to try/fail.

Mountain bike riding and racing can be intimidating with all the rocks, roots, hills, downhills, equipment, etc. The more chal- lenging things are, the more rewarding they often are as well. Give the bike a chance and you’ll be rewarded with a lifetime of fun and fitness

2. Take care of your equipment.

A clean and well-maintained bike is a happy bike. A happy bike will make for a more pleasant ride and longer-lasting equipment. Take care of your equipment and your bike will take care of you.

3. Learn how to work on your bike.

There’s nothing worse than having a mechanical issue out on the trail you can’t fix. Learn the basics at home, like changing a tire, fixing a chain and truing a wheel. It’s much easier to learn at home in your garage than in the middle of the forest when it’s getting cold and dark. You don’t have to become a professional mechanic, but learn the basics and how the bike works.

4. Get a bike fit.

You don’t need to have a crazy fit if you’re just starting out, but at least have someone who knows what they’re doing look at your fit. Professional riders get refit just about every year. Cycling is repetitive, and if you’re slightly off and do a billion pedal revolutions in the wrong position, you can wind up with an injury.

5. Ask for help.

People in the cycling world are some of the most passionate and helpful I’ve ever met. They are usually more than happy to talk about the sport they love and share what they’ve learned to anyone from a newbie to a seasoned pro. Take advantage of that.

6. Ride with people better than you.

This is a great tip for a beginner all the way up to seasoned pro. There is one constant in sport—if you train/play/ride with people who are better than you, it will make you better. It is the most effective way I have found to get faster. You rise or fall to the level of the people you train with, so every once in a while, go chase someone around that is better than you (I did this my whole career).

7. Become a member of your local trail group.

These organizations are often the reason there are any trails to ride on in your local area. Support them however you can and always thank them when you see them working on the trail. It goes a long way.

8. Heads up.

Always look as far down the trail as you can. I work on this every time I ride, and as you become better at it, your speed will come up, but it won’t “feel” any faster. Obviously, it doesn’t do much good to look 500 meters ahead on a climb where you’re going three miles per hour. When you’re ripping down a high-speed trail going 20 or 30 miles per hour, it becomes more important. You have already seen the terrain, your brain has processed how to deal with it, and it’s moved on to the next obstacle before you even approach it.

9. Practice your weakness.

If you’re a great climber but not so good at descending, take the tougher trail down the mountain. If you rip the downhills but bog down on the uphills, add some climbing to your rides. Don’t neglect your strengths, but always work on your weaknesses.

10. Unlock your suspension.

I say this all the time, but I see it all the time and am even guilty of it myself occasionally. You spent a lot of money on that suspension, so make sure when you get to the rough sections of the trail you unlock it and let it do what you bought it to do. You can have the nicest fork out there, but if you leave it locked out for the descent, it’s not doing you any good.

Cycling is a lifelong sport, so, luckily, retirement doesn’t mean giving up bikes altogether. I’ll ride for as long as I can, remain an ambassador to many of the brands that supported me during my career and even compete in the occasional race. I’ve also started a coaching business where I provide everything from personalized plans to camps, clinics, consulting and even riding as a “hired gun” or a personal domestique. So, if you like what you read and you want more tips, check out mysite: See you on the trail!


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