DH Racers: What is the single most important factor that made you a faster rider?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    DH Racers: What is the single most important factor that made you a faster rider?

    Open ended question to help those of us that would like to ride faster. What made YOU faster?

    Was it equipment? A new bike, specific tires, brakes?

    Was it training? Did an intensive cardio plan, or nutrition help you the most?

    Was it instruction? Did you take a class with a trainer, which class, and how did it help?

    Or, was it something else entirely?


    I know it is likely a combination of all these factors, but what was the most impotant for YOU? I am only a beginner racer, currently on a 7" sled (Knolly DT, in the slack and long position), but I noticed a huge difference going from a Marz 66 to a Fox 40. But I know better cardio will yield much improved times, and be a whole lot cheaper. I placed 1st in my first two CAT3 races so moved up to CAT 2 and am middle of the pack. I want to be able to podium by the end of the year. Where should most of my emphasis (time and money) go?

    Thanks in advance.
    Regional Race Manager, Knolly Bikes
    Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming

  2. #2
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    Stickers and racing stripes.



    That and practice. Ride with faster people, match them, pass them and find someone faster to ride with. I always try to stay just above my pucker factor - you know that point where you're saying ... "ohhhh shhhh... ", but don't quite do enough to finish it - stay right there. Because the next time you attempt whatever it is that made you start, you can do it better and finish your original statement.

  3. #3
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    I just get bored of going slow through sections, and think "I wonder how fast I could go through this"

    It's made me crash a time or two, but when it works out, its a great feeling.

    Riding with faster people is solid advice. Once i tried to follow Cam McCaul and Tyler McCaul down a trail at N*, I was trying everything I could to keep up, and was doing okay (they were slowly gaining ground) but then i nearly went off the trail into a tree, and lost them completely. It made me a ton faster at that trail though.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by rdhfreethought View Post
    I placed 1st in my first two CAT3 races so moved up to CAT 2 and am middle of the pack. I want to be able to podium by the end of the year.
    Came to this thread just to listen but have to say good on you for catting up promptly. Have seen way too many riders smashing the field in cat3 or cat2 and it's already halfway or more through a season, and you hear people uncomfortably apologizing for them like "well yeah he's won every race, but it's his first year racing [DH/super D/whatever] so..."

    Race fees are like $45. The tire you win in cat3 or cat2 for first is worth like $45. If a rider doesn't care for competition, he could just go buy a tire and pose with it in front of a mirror at home and cut out the middleman, no?

    Thanks for helping to keep amateur racing fair, rdhfreethought. Cheers!

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    Keeping OFF the brakes and letting the suspension work its magic instead of fighting it.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snfoilhat View Post
    Came to this thread just to listen but have to say good on you for catting up promptly. Have seen way too many riders smashing the field in cat3 or cat2 and it's already halfway or more through a season, and you hear people uncomfortably apologizing for them like "well yeah he's won every race, but it's his first year racing [DH/super D/whatever] so..."

    Race fees are like $45. The tire you win in cat3 or cat2 for first is worth like $45. If a rider doesn't care for competition, he could just go buy a tire and pose with it in front of a mirror at home and cut out the middleman, no?

    Thanks for helping to keep amateur racing fair, rdhfreethought. Cheers!
    I agree completely. The thing that sucks for me is that it is a 5 race series, and I lose the points for the first two races. I had an ACL injury in October (Volleyball of all things), and since it still hurt driving in the car, much less on a bike, I had no idea whether I could handle racing. But so far so good. Funny, you mention about sandbaggers. The first four places in my CAT2 class were like 15 seconds faster than the rest of us, who were all within a second of each other. In fact, the three riders ahead of me we all within 1 second of my time, so it was very close.

    The next race is in another state, so I hope the sandbaggers skip that one.
    Regional Race Manager, Knolly Bikes
    Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming

  7. #7
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    Single most important factor is coaching. I've had instruction from Shaums March and it blew me away what I learned, I'll add that I've been riding mtb's hard core since the mid 80's and thought I knew how to ride and found out that I didn't know anything. I've also had some at whistler and my wife has done lots of clinics and I get a lot from her. Technique leads to confidence and focus.

    The bike is right up there too, I have a Turner Highline and DHR, both bikes with the same fork, the DHR is considerably faster.

  8. #8
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    No airtime. Fast guys don't catch air.

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    I wouldn't say No airtime. Boosting rock gardens are faster than going through them. That being said, on designated jumps you lose time catching big air rather than sucking up the jump and getting less air.

  10. #10
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    Riding with people better than me.

  11. #11
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    Trust your bike will do what it's supposed to. Ride with confidence. Let off the brakes. Let off the brakes. Oh, and let off the brakes...
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  12. #12
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    Not being a pu$$y. Seriously though, pushing yourself continuously a bit past your comfort zone. If you're comfortable with everything you're doing then you're not really trying. Like other people have said, riding with faster people, staying off the brakes a bit more each time, etc. One thing I don't think anyone's said yet is cornering though. Really really focus on cornering. That's where lots of races are won. I'm still working on it, as I'm sure we all are but knowing that you can rail a corner at speed not only helps haul ass in that part of the track, but it translates to speed everywhere since you now have the confidence to fly through other sections without feeling like you're gonna blow out in the corners after. Whenever you feel like braking in a turn, brake less and try to push into your bike instead. You'll get the same traction you were looking for but go through the corner much faster.

  14. #14
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    Scrub nailed it.......Aiming fluid !

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    Quote Originally Posted by genemk View Post
    Not being a pu$$y. Seriously though, pushing yourself continuously a bit past your comfort zone. If you're comfortable with everything you're doing then you're not really trying. Like other people have said, riding with faster people, staying off the brakes a bit more each time, etc. One thing I don't think anyone's said yet is cornering though. Really really focus on cornering. That's where lots of races are won. I'm still working on it, as I'm sure we all are but knowing that you can rail a corner at speed not only helps haul ass in that part of the track, but it translates to speed everywhere since you now have the confidence to fly through other sections without feeling like you're gonna blow out in the corners after. Whenever you feel like braking in a turn, brake less and try to push into your bike instead. You'll get the same traction you were looking for but go through the corner much faster.
    This. Also practice and then practice more. Ride when ever you can. Thing about corners also is you don't need to be on the trail to practice. You can practice in your yard, if it's big enough, or park. Just pick a couple of trees about 40ft a part and do circles around them, thinking about your body position and technique. May look stupid but it works for me.

  16. #16
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    haha more like liquid confidence. it doesn't necessarily make you ride cleaner though, just allows you to "go for it" more so than you normally would.

  17. #17
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    When I raced downhill, I rode with a guy who raced for Orange bikes. He used to drag me out every single day it rained. We'd be the only 2 on he chair lift and he kept telling me that if you can ride fast in the wet you'll be so fast when it's dry. He was right, we rode every day it rained, that was only one summer and I got a lot faster.
    Vermonter - bikes, beers and skis.

  18. #18
    brake later, pedal sooner
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    put air in your brakes

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by airwreck View Post
    Single most important factor is coaching. I've had instruction from Shaums March and it blew me away what I learned, I'll add that I've been riding mtb's hard core since the mid 80's and thought I knew how to ride and found out that I didn't know anything. I've also had some at whistler and my wife has done lots of clinics and I get a lot from her. Technique leads to confidence and focus.

    The bike is right up there too, I have a Turner Highline and DHR, both bikes with the same fork, the DHR is considerably faster.
    Best advice. IMO.

  20. #20
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    "The less tension and effort, the faster and more powerful you will be"

    "Be fluid my friend,...like water, when poor in a cup it becomes the a cup"

    Bruce Lee.


    Great advice here, but I am surprice no one has mentioned the cardio part...
    truthfully if you improve your cardio you will in turn lower your heart rate during hard efforts; which become less hard. When your breathing is in a control manner and heart rate is low, your thinking is much clearer, so is your vision and your reflexes...you are in ultimate control.

    Must professional athletes in DH and MX I know of, ride road bikes for cardio in off season or do a ton of running, core exercises or combination of all.

  21. #21
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    strippers and blow.

  22. #22
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    If you're trying to become a better all-around rider, I don't think I can add to what's already been said. But if you're trying to do better in races specifically, KNOW THE COURSE. If you have time, hike down and evaluate the lines. Try to do a smooth run down with a helmet cam and then spend 30+ minutes at the end of the day reviewing it, looking for better lines, places you can carry more speed, where you are going to brake, etc. People have already mentioned cornering but really focus on where you want to brake as well so you don't wind up missing a line because you are on the brakes too much.

    Also, pedal! If you're in cat 2 or 3, chances are most of your competition is going to be trying to go fast in the technical sections and using the open or flat sections to rest. Stomping the pedals through these sections can give you a distinct advantage.

  23. #23
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    A few things I've done and instantly noticed an improvement in my riding were:
    1. General fitness (applies if your out of shape like I usually am)
    2. Changing up my riding. This I can say has been most important for not only my bike handeling skills, but for my overall enjoyment on a bicycle. I used to be DH only, now I ride XC, DJ, commute, etc... and it's helped me not only ride DH better, but love the ride that much more.
    3. Developing a head for racing. I have a lot of friends who are faster than me most of the time, except race day. Figuring out how to race mentally is just as important as your physical prep. Get a head for it, be calm and collected, focused and remember to enjoy it too... after all, you're just riding your bike.
    I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

  24. #24
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    being Rock Jesus. Then you will beat everybody on teh gnarist tracks by 8 seconds (or more)

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by rdhfreethought View Post

    Was it training? Did an intensive cardio plan, or nutrition help you the most?
    Cardio; it's a bike race, pedal.

    And you can't out train a bad diet, so that's a given.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by b-kul View Post
    strippers and blow.

    The breakfast of champions.

  27. #27
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    Tits down, ass up, elbows out...

  28. #28
    OMG!
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    time on the bike. nothing beats practice.

  29. #29
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    I haven't raced DH yet, but I am preparing for my first race. Lots of great advice in this thread already!

    Keeping fit year round and mixing up my workouts/cross training: weights, yoga, spinning (taking advantage when weather is crappy) riding xc trails, trail building, road riding. DH requires significant core, upper and lower body strength as well as balance, quick reaction time

    When I'm DH riding I'm learing to relax, and feel the flow of the trail, letting go of the brakes (more)
    Riding with faster riders helps me, and riding a variety to dh runs to find the best lines to take.
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  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by genemk View Post
    One thing I don't think anyone's said yet is cornering though. Really really focus on cornering. That's where lots of races are won. I'm still working on it, as I'm sure we all are but knowing that you can rail a corner at speed not only helps haul ass in that part of the track, but it translates to speed everywhere since you now have the confidence to fly through other sections without feeling like you're gonna blow out in the corners after. Whenever you feel like braking in a turn, brake less and try to push into your bike instead. You'll get the same traction you were looking for but go through the corner much faster.
    I think that this is the best piece of advice on here. It is difficult but so important and as someone said before, some races are won in corners.
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  31. #31
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    My very first race was a Sea Otter 2 years ago and I crashed pretty bad on the first jump section in front of everybody. Rattled me pretty good. Now I'm trying to battle myself mentally to go faster. I am pretty quick just riding and in practice, but come race time I freeze up thinking I'm gonna crash. Don't know if this is relevant but to get faster, make sure your mind is in it as well as your body.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtbnozpikr View Post
    I think that this is the best piece of advice on here. It is difficult but so important and as someone said before, some races are won in corners.
    This; surprised it wasn't mentioned earlier. You'll NEVER get fast until you learn to carve corners, not just hanging on for dear life thru them like beginners and intermediates do. And without that skill, good luck with the laying off the brakes suggestions - you'll wind up in the rocks or trees! It's the same as skiing/boarding - until you figure out how to REALLY carve turns you have NO control and no business going fast!

    Have FUN!

    G MAN

    PS - MOST races are won in the corners not some! Anyone idiot with balls can go fast in a straight line.
    Last edited by Gman086; 06-09-2012 at 11:06 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmallory View Post
    My very first race was a Sea Otter 2 years ago and I crashed pretty bad on the first jump section in front of everybody. Rattled me pretty good. Now I'm trying to battle myself mentally to go faster. I am pretty quick just riding and in practice, but come race time I freeze up thinking I'm gonna crash. Don't know if this is relevant but to get faster, make sure your mind is in it as well as your body.
    Very relevant. Racing is a mind game and the people that perform well mentally under pressure make the top few percent that do well.

  34. #34
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  35. #35
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    it might have already been touched upon, but having balls that need to be hauled around in a wheelbarrow helps

  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by William42 View Post
    it might have already been touched upon, but having balls that need to be hauled around in a wheelbarrow helps
    i actually pay a guy with a fork lift to follow me all day so i don't waste my own energy hauling them around.

  37. #37
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    1.Motocross
    2.Ride/practice at race pace as much as possible.Dont stop to catch your breathe.
    3.More Cardio!Ride with faster XC guys is probably more important than anything.I avoided it for too long,now I'm 42 in pro class instead of 32.Trust me,it's ALOT more work now.Dont avoid it and try to enjoy it.(I have had a hard time with that one)
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  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scary View Post
    3.More Cardio!Ride with faster XC guys is probably more important than anything.
    I agree with this, XC will get you extremely fit and strong. It will also teach you how to use momentum in DH which is one of the most important factors for racing.

    Downhillers who put down XC don't know what they're talking about.

  39. #39
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    Race more.
    Can you travel to some races? Racing on tracks you dont know is always good, 1 weekend, learn a track and race. Its a different focus and really helps.
    Can you enter a second category at your local races? Age class and on open class? Doing two timed runs on the same day, same track helps your racing skills. The fastest run doesn't always feel the fastest.
    You want to be a better racer, so when you ride pretend it is a race. Count down from 5 and then pin it out of the gate. "Practice like you are racing, race like you are practicing". You can do it on xc rides aswell, pick a favourite section that is about the right length and just absolutely pin it for the whole length. Rest/ cruise until the next good bit and do it again. I always joke with my more serious xc riding friends when they are outnumbered that its a downhillers trail ride, go like hell for 3 minutes, then cruise and talk sh*t for 10, then repeat!

  40. #40
    RTM
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    in addition to all the other great ideas here, another tool for the proverbial toolbox is a video I really like called Fluidride - Like a Pro. I pop it in maybe 10 times a year. its entertaining and really teaches/reinforces good habits.

  41. #41
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    looking further down the trail
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  42. #42
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    1. Overall technical bike skill (DH,DJ,Trials,Park,BMX etc, are all very good bases for technical bike skill. You have to be able to quickly get down the DH course first, before anything else)
    2. Fitness (XC,Road,Spin,Run,Swim,CrossFit etc, are all necessary to be able to utilize your bike skill fully for the entire run. Don't let DH pros fool you, they are very fit and ride XC and Road a lot. In order to win you have to be at pace the entire run and sprint out of every corner. A good base also allows you to practice at pace and not tire after 5-8 runs)
    3. Equipment prep (make sure whatever you have is in the best running order. This instills confidence in your equipment and as such instills confidence in your riding. Make sure it's always well maintained and therefore feels the same to you everytime you ride.)

  43. #43
    Leave it all on the trail
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    Corners Corners Corners. I even practice in my car(braking before and not during).
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  44. #44
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    Riding with people a lot better than myself and actually getting on a bike that's the right size for yourself. They were the two biggest.

  45. #45
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    the perfect bike chassis - i found it and i can rely upon it on any track. I become faster every ride!

  46. #46
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    Practice makes perfect! That and also getting a 29er has increased my race times tremendously for dh and super D

  47. #47
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    The worst advice is to ride with people faster than yourself. That just shows you up for the hack you really are. It's like getting slower with every ride, not faster! Even worst (than the worst) is racing - at the races they have those pesky people with advanced stopwatches who can SCIENTIFICALLY prove just how slow you are.

    No, my advice is to ride alone, and then tell all your friends about how you "just ripped through the rockgarden today, probably knocked 2 seconds off my time on that run"...or how "that new line gapping between berms must be worth the win alone"...
    For extra credibility points, you may also want to say something about your new tire combo, and like how "at 28psi man, I was getting sooo much more grip in turn 7, ya know? Can't believe I didn't try this before!".



  48. #48
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    I have discovered from my race last weekend...luck. Go to Vegas.

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