1. The most important thing about buying a new bike is to make sure it fits. The only way you'll know if the bike is right for you is to size up the bike and make sure that the bike's geometry matches your body's geometry. Ask questions and do some research.
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2. If possible, try to find a shop that will let you demo the bike on real dirt. Five minutes in a parking lot won't cut it. You wouldn't buy a car without a real world test drive, and a bike should be no different.
3. Don't belive the hype. Just because your favorite rider or best friend rides a certain bike, that doesn't mean that's the best one for you. Have an open mind and be realistic about your needs and ability.
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  1. #1
    Serenity now!
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    Best Tips for Getting Better and Stronger

    Hey, all you experience riders! Share your most helpful tip(s) to help me get better.

    I have some ideas. For instance, I've mapped a 1.6 mile "sprint" loop with a challenging hill and a rocky downhill. Today I measured my times for a few laps, and I plan to spend a couple of days a week racing myself.

    I'm looking into arranging to invite a coach to lead a skills clinic in my area next summer.

    All advice welcome
    Duchess of Dab

  2. #2
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    My top two:
    1. Ride with people who are faster than you and chase them. Don't sweat getting gapped. Don't put your expectations in keeping up or being able to see every line choice or whatever. Just try, push yeourself, and take encouragement from the moments you can stay on someone's wheel, or notice that they have just barely gotten their breath back at the end of a trail segment (and haven't been waiting for you for ever). It feels good!

    2. 'Cross-train'. I started as a vanilla XC/trail rider. Then I did some gravity events in a beginner category for collegiate racing (if you're going to go to a race weekend, you may as well race everything), and sucked pretty hard. So I started skill building with a purpose. Began at the local beginner-intermediate dirt jump park, and then racing BMX (on my mountain bike, incidentally). Very fast and very sharp rise in mountain bike skills followed. Bike parks and gated racing allow for a degree of repetition you could almost never get solely trail-riding or XC racing. But the skills/conditioning gained are useful on the trail.

    Looking forward to seeing other responses

  3. #3
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    This is one I learned about years ago when working on climbing technique.

    When climbing a steep section to increase traction at the rear wheel; creep forward on the nose of your saddle and apply a constant "pulling up" force on the handle bars.
    This will apply a pushing down force on the rear wheel creating more traction.
    So; it's a good idea to work on upper body strength training in the off season. ;-)

  4. #4
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    If it's personal goals as a self motivator, I can't think of a better way to map ones progress. The results will be a combination of increased skill and increased strength/stamina. Thrown together in a pot, all good!
    As a beginning rider I can't compare with the guys I'll be riding with, that would be unrealistic. Unquantifiable fun is also a major goal

  5. #5
    inexperienced at large
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    ride more

  6. #6
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    Better and stronger at what? You need measurable, achievable goals. Better technically and stronger will come with seat time only.

    If you're looking for "short cuts," you've got a good plan with interval training. You shouldn't doo to much interval training though.

    What are you trying to accomplish? How much better? How much stronger? How much faster? What are your goals?
    No, YOU don't understand. You're making an ass of yourself for all of eternity.

  7. #7
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    Goal for my interval loop: sub- 10 minute. Currently 11:49. Pathetic first attempt.

    Edited to delete my lame-o personal goals. This should be a more universally helpful thread. I know some of you guys are holding out your most useful tips. Thanks to those willing to divulge.
    Last edited by PixieChik; 11-23-2012 at 09:16 PM.
    Duchess of Dab

  8. #8
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    Deleted for unnecessary sassyness.
    Last edited by PixieChik; 11-24-2012 at 01:58 PM.
    Duchess of Dab

  9. #9
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    Ride more is right. If you dislike uphills for cardio reasons ride more hills. If downhill scares you or your technique isn't there yet concentrate on that. Challenge yourself every ride, in the end you will be better off.

    People that avoid certain terrains or challenges never get better. Don't be afraid to crash.

  10. #10
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    I think the OP was looking for specific "tips" on what riders do in situations other than vague tips like "ride more".
    You can ride more but what good does that do if you are riding incorrectly? Doesn't that work out to ridden less? ;-)

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by PixieChik View Post
    Goal for my interval loop: sub- 10 minute. Currently 11:49. Pathetic first attempt.

    Edited to delete my lame-o personal goals. This should be a more universally helpful thread. I know some of you guys are holding out your most useful tips. Thanks to those willing to divulge.
    No, no, no. Put your personal goals. For example: "I want to race and the beginner class winners' times are about three minutes faster than me."

    Or

    "When I ride with my friends, they are always waiting on me."

    Or

    "I'm riding for fitness and I want to lose 10 pounds."

    Or

    I ride by myself and don't have any context of what a "good" rider could do on the trails I ride.

    First: Regardless of your goal, if you want to go faster, get a heart rate monitor. Find your resting, target and max heart rate. Keeping in your target zone will help you be faster. Use the heart rate monitor to do intervals.

    Second: If you live next to a trail, ride it. If you don't, ride on the road if it is safe. It will wear out your knobbies, so get some slicks to ride during the week and swap back when you hit the trail. You get a reliable road bike if you must ride on the road often.

    Third: increase your distance. Sprints are good, but being in the saddle at target heart rate for two, three, four or more hours will do wonders for your speed. Most people dilly dolly for an hour once a week. If you only have an hour a week and can only do one 10 mile lap, use that as your baseline and improve on it.
    No, YOU don't understand. You're making an ass of yourself for all of eternity.

  12. #12
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    I won't pretend to be an expert but I do know that the old adage "ride more" is mostly bunk advice, though riding more is of course part of the equation. I have known lots of people who put in ungodly miles every day, year in and year out and are slow as snot.

    Dedicate some of your time towards improving your pedaling efficiency. If you can stay smooth (no bobbing!) at 120 rpm you'll be pure silk at 80. Increasing your usable rpm range is a definite advantage IMO.

    Don't go hard all the time. Incorporate rest days where you put in some good miles without elevating your heart rate too much, your muscles need time to recover from hard efforts.

    I like intervals, but I usually think of them in terms of a couple of minutes rather than a couple of miles. Go all out until you're convinced you are about to chuck part of a lung and then ride easy for awhile until your heart rate recovers to a reasonable level, and then before you get too comfortable repeat the process. Try 10 or 12 reps of this. It can aide (eventually) in your heart rate recovery, which is key to getting faster.

    Don't take my, or anyone else's advice on a forum too seriously. Do your homework. A good coach can be invaluable.

  13. #13
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    Well, that's good, because I'll pretend to be an expert. Ride more, ride hard, and kill trail are the three things it takes to get better.

  14. #14
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    Hills, hills and intervals. Got to like a little pain....

  15. #15
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    Get yourself a SingleSpeed...will make you a stronger rider, teaches you to pick cleaner lines, works your cardio and entire body at the same time while saving you $$$$.$$ on upgrades that won't add up to much in the long run. IMHO

  16. #16
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    Just a few thoughts...

    Find technical challenges and keep trying different techniques until you clean them. Stamina can be apart of this, so keep building it. If you don't clean it get off and try again, and again. So many folks give an tech section one shot, then push.

    Learn to look way ahead and not right in front of you. This makes a huge difference.

    Brake before turns not so much in them.

    Get tires you can trust and only change one thing at a time with your bike set up.



    Make some thing better happen.
    He/she who works the trails does so in their own image.

    Speed just slows me down...

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by PixieChik View Post
    Hey, all you experience riders! Share your most helpful tip(s) to help me get better.

    I have some ideas. For instance, I've mapped a 1.6 mile "sprint" loop with a challenging hill and a rocky downhill. Today I measured my times for a few laps, and I plan to spend a couple of days a week racing myself.

    I'm looking into arranging to invite a coach to lead a skills clinic in my area next summer.

    All advice welcome
    PixieChik - kudos to you for wanting to improve your strength and get better on the bike.

    Periodization is the universal way to train and improve your "on the bike performance". Combined with skill improvement (cornering, braking, balance, clearing obstacles, etc...) it will lead to you getting better and being a stronger rider.

    For most of us living in a 'continental climate', now begins the off-season time of working on some things in the gym (periodized weight training plan) and preparing ourselves for building a nice cycling base for 2013. I would suggest looking at the XC Racing and Training forum and reading through the master training thread sticky at the top of the forum list.

    If your trails are still able to be ridden, take a look at some basic cornering techniques that you can work on this fall/winter to help groove a solid technique for next year. I've been riding for a long time, but have been spending time really refining and working on my cornering technique this fall. For me, it's been a process of "unlearning" and teaching my muscles and mind a new and better way to rail the corners. It's taken a good 6 weeks to finally let go of my old way and accept the new and better way. So even we old dogs can learn new tricks if we identify a weakness and focus on improving.

    Ditto on going over and handling obstacles.

    Working on climbing and descending also makes you "better and stronger". It sounds like your "loop" has a nice climb and descent built into it - so do a Google search on mountain bike climbing and descending to watch some videos of techniques and try to work those techniques into your skill set should net you some improvement. Your idea of "racing yourself" on the same loop on a consistent (weekly) basis is indeed a good one. I recommend you continue to do that and use it as a benchmark. Keep in mind that weather, soil conditions, your mood and your form for the day can all lead to variations in lap time(s).

    Focus on the rest and recovery cycle of training so you spend a lot of time going easy between the hard efforts. It's hard to accept spending so much time recovering and going easy - but it really is the way to allow your body to bounce back and be stronger due to the growth by following the training effect. Your idea of bringing in a skills clinic teacher in is a good one. We have seen a recent increase in numbers here in Iowa of women XC riders/racers thanks to organized skill clinics such as this. This was the 5th year of that event. You can also sign up to go to "mountain biking camp" where you will work with a coaching staff to develop your skills and identify specific things you can work on to improve your riding.

    The good news is it sounds like you are having fun and want to improve. Kudos for that attitude and all the best in your riding. I think a lot of things you are seeking have already been written and are out there in terms of tips. I was just trying to point you to some of the places you might find them.

    BB

  18. #18
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    I am definitely not an expert but here are a few tips that I can share:

    1. Purchase and use a bike computer, Garmin or good phone app to keep track of your progress. Garmins have something called "virtual partner" that allows you to compete against yourself in real time. I believe virtual partner is the best way to get into "biking" shape because it can really provide that push to ride just a little bit harder.

    2. Learn to pedal around 80-100RPM. This is arguably considered the most efficient range. Some bike computers, including most Garmins, have cadence sensors that will display your cadence in real time.

    3. Practice being proactive versus reactive with your shifting.

    4. You can learn to manual. I have only ridden for 3 years now and I am just now starting to learn this trick. Here is a good website with videos.
    Last edited by FireLikeIYA; 11-25-2012 at 01:17 PM.
    Killing it with close inspection.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by ALBM View Post
    Get yourself a SingleSpeed...will make you a stronger rider, teaches you to pick cleaner lines, works your cardio and entire body at the same time while saving you $$$$.$$ on upgrades that won't add up to much in the long run. IMHO
    ^ Yup...yup!

  20. #20
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    Simple, Ride, rest, and ride some more, repeat daily for a good biking fix

  21. #21
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    1)cross train

    2) do ride more but make the gear you ride it harder every week

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.B. Weld View Post
    Go all out until you're convinced you are about to chuck part of a lung and then ride easy for awhile until your heart rate recovers to a reasonable level, and then before you get too comfortable repeat the process.
    That's what I always do and works great if you ride a min of 3 day's a week. If you have the time then 3 day's on 1 or 2 off to heal a bit, and 3 on again. But it will very by the person no doubt.

  23. #23
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    road cycling has helped me quite a bit with overall cardio, along with running. improving specifically mtb skills id repeat what others said riding with guys faster with you and take positives out of small victories. also dont fear crashing every now and then, if you dont feel a bit squirrely sometimes you probably arent pushing yourself.

  24. #24
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    This forum is the best. Thanks for all the ideas and pointers.

    My goals:

    #1. and within reach- not to be the caboose on every goup ride. Riding with faster guys has been revolutionary to my pace.

    #2. Improve skills- there are four spots on my most frequently ridden trail that I want to conquer for starters. There is a steep hairpin turn, a rocky/shale steep S- turn, and two chunky rock entrances to singletrack. I want to be able to ride them all both up and down without dabbing.

    #3. Lose 13 more pounds-I've lost 23 lb already. But truthfully, the weight loss is secondary, except inasmuch as a lighter body is a hell of a lot easier to pedal around.

    The word "fun" doesn't begin to explain how I feel when I'm mountain biking.
    Duchess of Dab

  25. #25
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    1. Get a good cyclometer like the Sigma 2209 or Garmin 500. Use the HRM. Use the cadence but only to get a good understanding of what it feels like to spin at 80, 90, and 100 RPM.

    2. Do those sections 10 times each. Do it, go back, do it again.

    3. Interval Workouts for Fat Loss - stationary bike will do during the winter.
    No, YOU don't understand. You're making an ass of yourself for all of eternity.

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