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  1. #1
    Yasmine A.
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    Share your 2cents on improving Enduro/DH racing performance

    Hello riders,

    I am a super determined rider, with one hell of a strong bike, and an appetite for technical rides-fast-enduro-steep name it!

    Unfortunately, the following is hindering my performance:
    1) my skills still kinda suck (I had some good coaches but I am quite a slow learner)
    2) lack of cahonas.. I get to be quite a fearful rider... which is totally counterproductive towards what I wanna do and how radical I wanna go as a rider.. this is by far what sucks most!
    3) In local races I am 3/4 minutes behind the first girl on the podium which is an eternity in an enduro race of lets say 10 minutes


    So it's December :-) time to get strong and train hard.

    Way forward:
    1) practice, practice and be patient
    2).... I dont know
    3) do sprints, gym it and intervals?

    What's your 2 cents on improving enduro/dh racing times and getting the best of you on the trails?
    Last edited by The Giant Yeti Girl; 12-22-2015 at 12:50 AM.

  2. #2
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    Well, Enduro and DH have slightly different priorities as far as your approach to training goes, but here's what I have for you:

    Getting faster on descents just comes with time. It's going to be hard to get that in December. But in the spring and summer, spend as much time as you can at lift-accessed resorts so you're getting a lot of vertical footage. Skill can't be acquired in a gym, I'm sorry to say. Make sure you're trying some descents that scare you a little. For enduro racing, you usually won't be riding anything too ridiculous -- so when you're seeking places to ride for training, try to go for trails/parks that are a bit beyond the technicality of your typical enduro courses. If you're looking for some techy lines, they can be found in Moab as early as late February/early March. Plan a trip.

    As for enduro specific training -- you've got to be in top-shape. Period. If you've got 10-15 pounds that could be shed, do it. That makes more of a difference than any upgrade on your bike. I lost 20 pounds throughout this past summer and I am now faster than I've ever been in my life. (I'm almost 38 and have been riding and racing DH, XC, and motorcycles since I was 5.) Getting my body trim again made an unbelievable difference. I'm going to try to shed about 5 more pounds, but it's been difficult due to the onset of winter.

    Anyway, I hope that helps. Good luck and most importantly -- remember to enjoy EVERY ride or race, regardless of what the clock says.
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  3. #3
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    I went through the same went u started racing Enduro 3 years ago. Like me your biggest problem will be the lack of cojones. The best way to work that will be to practice, practice, practice. Go to a trail that has a section that intimidates you and ride it a couple of times. Trying different lines and techniques. I know it sounds like lip service but only by riding progressively difficult trails will you get better.

    In terms of workouts at the gym core strength is key. Glutes and hamstring workouts will give you more power in your pedal stroke.

    Just my 2 cents. Hope that helps and good luck.

  4. #4
    LMN
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    Racing in technical terrain, particularly enduro racing is all about skill (fitness plays a huge roll too but that can be developed easier then skills). A really good Enduro racer isn't taking a lot of risks, most of the top girls and guys only race at 90% full speed. They are so skilled that there 90% is crazy fast.

    How to increase skill? Back off. Go to a fairly easy trail something that doesn't intimidate you at all. Practice it over and over. Focus on technique, let the speed come. Ride that trail until you rail it with no effort what so ever. Then move on to something a bit more difficult and repeat.

    Here is an article my wife wrote on progression of a skill. You can apply the same concept to any skill

    Pushing Comfort Zones: Learning to Jump - Rider Perspective - Pinkbike

    Make it about skill not about cahonas.

  5. #5
    Yasmine A.
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    Thank you all. I really appreciate Cookie Monster's feedback on the weight loss part. Good to hear that by shedding weight you do get faster. Gyming it and having a run per week will help. As for the technical part... Its a bit of both, nailing technical skills on sections you know and then practicing (with the support of other rides) gnarly sections that make me nervous.

    Thanks all

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by LMN View Post
    Racing in technical terrain, particularly enduro racing is all about skill (fitness plays a huge roll too but that can be developed easier then skills). A really good Enduro racer isn't taking a lot of risks, most of the top girls and guys only race at 90% full speed. They are so skilled that there 90% is crazy fast.

    How to increase skill? Back off. Go to a fairly easy trail something that doesn't intimidate you at all. Practice it over and over. Focus on technique, let the speed come. Ride that trail until you rail it with no effort what so ever. Then move on to something a bit more difficult and repeat.

    Here is an article my wife wrote on progression of a skill. You can apply the same concept to any skill

    Pushing Comfort Zones: Learning to Jump - Rider Perspective - Pinkbike

    Make it about skill not about cahonas.
    I like to think of it as confidence instead of skill. When you're confronted by something, it doesn't throw you off, you simply see the line and take it. There's no confusion, you just see it and do it.

    But yeah, pretty much what he said...and never ride at 100%, when you ride at that level, you're depending on luck. Luck never lasts.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant Yeti Girl View Post
    Way forward:
    1) practice, practice and be patience

    What's your 2 cents on improving enduro/dh racing times and getting the best of you on the trails?
    It's more of 1).

    I might be wrong, but you sound like you're relatively new to at least the gravity side of the sport. The bug got you and that's good! Be aware of that skill level and physical condition takes a lot of time to develop. Think years and multiple racing seasons and then a couple more to refine. I have done cross country racing for 15 years, then went to enduro and still learning every day on this neverending challenge that MTB racing is. The girls on the podium probably have a lot of experience and / or extraordinary talent. Some might be new in the sport too, but those with a really steep learning curve allmost allways have a background in other sports. I've seen girls get really good fast, because of their background of horse jumping.

    I'd advise to not judge your own progress on how you compare to others. That's a trap a lot of women fall into. It's really OK to strive for the level the top ladies have, but you have your own pace of development and you should get motivation from your own progress, not how you compare to others.

    It's little steps, all the way. Get the training/rest balance wrong and you'll be fatigued which means slow and no fun. Try to advance by being brave and you'll brake bones. If you look back on yourself one year from now and you have improved noticably without loss of having fun, you've done a great job.

  8. #8
    Yasmine A.
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    Sweet! thanks

  9. #9
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    Um, well, I'd say it's pretty easy really going by your self description - Your Fearful and lack skills Work on your skills and in believing in yourself and your bike, get rid of the fear, if it's fear of falling, make sure you have on some good pads and helmet. Try pushing yourself hard on smooth, more flowy trails with berms and not a lot of trees to hit if you fall and push yourself, get some falls, realise it ain't so bad with the right proctection. If all that fails, realise you're just not as cut out for it/natural as others and just focus on enjoying yourself

    One thing you could look at is your bike setup, maybe despite what you think,they don't give you as much confidence as you need, maybe you need something slacker or a longer fork to slack them out a bit more. I had the original Trance launched in 2005, it was a great bike,at the time and for XC, 100mm F&R, but the more aggressive I got, well you know. Fast forward and I've since built it back up running a 130mm fork and 650B front wheel and it is much more confidence inspiring, more matches with my Banshee bikes I own which are my main rides with head angles in the <67-68.5* range.
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  10. #10
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    Look at the trail and try to learn how to pick and read racing lines. Sometimes slower into a corner gets you a better line letting you carry more speed into the next 3 or 4 corners. If you blast into a corner and have to brake real hard you've just lost a lot of your forward momentum and seconds by running wide in the middle of the corner.

    Bike set up can mean a lot. Make your bike really wrong suspension wise and go for a ride note how it feels then work back to the way you had it. You'll soon get to kno what works for what type of trails. Same with tyre pressure should the pressure you run on hard trails be the same on natural stuff?

    Learn to pump.

    When your head says slow down and brake don't, if the rider in front stays on so will you.

    Once or twice a week get a good 2 hour ride in on the turbo trainer. This will get you a good base fitness level. You want to be as fresh on the last stage as you do on the first.

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  11. #11
    Robertson
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    Some good points here. Skills will just come from practice, I don't know how much you can ride right now (depends on the winter weather in your locale), but you can definitely get in some good training. I'm planning on doing the enduromtbtraining.com program this winter. Being in good bike fitness makes a huge difference in your race speed, but it will also help with developing skills because 1) if you're in good shape you can ride longer=more practice and 2) if you're in good shape then you feel more energized while riding, which makes it easier to push yourself

  12. #12
    Dirty South Underdog
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    If you want to make sure you're not ingraining bad habits (like I did) while you're learning, I'd suggest a skills clinic. I can say, 100%, that going to the Dirtsmart clinic last year made a huge difference in my speed by just correcting a small handful of things like brake use and body position. By improving skills, it made going faster way more "comfortable", which meant I got a few more MPH before I started to get scared. Once you have the basics, then you can more safely push the limits of your comfort zone.

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  13. #13
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    Just a general warning about clinics:

    Research what the instructor claims, I found one that claimed several wins...turns out they were the only one in their class and slower than lower classes, that's on top of claiming a win when they took second and even claiming a win at a race they didn't even attend according to USAC.

  14. #14
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    All good pointers have been posted. As for fear, go have a crash.

    Ok, not that simple. But here's my recommendation. Probably most of your fear is of crashing. Get some good protection, full face helmet, pads galore. Who cares if it looks silly. They work. Then go ride. Let yourself crash once or twice. You will see that everyone who rides even somewhat aggressively crashes. And 90% of the time, it does nothing but slow your momentum. Take a few falls and you will then lose the fear, which will let you focus on technique and skill sets instead of that tree you are riding past.
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  15. #15
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    Really good points in here. One thing that hasn't been pointed out is that a lot of times when someone comes into a technical section their first reaction is to lean back and stiffen up which is EXACTLY the WRONG thing to do. You want to get low and forward on the bike the steeper and rougher it gets.

    Find a section with a little slope and a few corners. First stand up tall and hit the turns. After that get low and pull yourself about 6" forward of your normal position and see how it feels. If it feels good onto the the next part. Go to a section you find a little intimidating, but have cleared before. As you roll into it keep repeating "relax" then get low and forward and watch what happens. Suddenly it will all come together and now you can practice it a few more times. Then next time you come up on a rough section just tell yourself to relax and get low.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Salespunk View Post
    Really good points in here. One thing that hasn't been pointed out is that a lot of times when someone comes into a technical section their first reaction is to lean back and stiffen up which is EXACTLY the WRONG thing to do. You want to get low and forward on the bike the steeper and rougher it gets.

    Find a section with a little slope and a few corners. First stand up tall and hit the turns. After that get low and pull yourself about 6" forward of your normal position and see how it feels. If it feels good onto the the next part. Go to a section you find a little intimidating, but have cleared before. As you roll into it keep repeating "relax" then get low and forward and watch what happens. Suddenly it will all come together and now you can practice it a few more times. Then next time you come up on a rough section just tell yourself to relax and get low.
    You lost me at "more forward when its steeper and rougher".

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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by 8iking VIIking View Post
    You lost me at "more forward when its steeper and rougher".

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    Counter intuitive I know. You can't stand tall and move forward and it is not leaning out in front of the handlebars. It is a slight weight shift forward from the normal descending position and squatting down.

    Your instinct is to move as far away as possible when something makes you uncomfortable so people move up and back. Takes you out of attack position.

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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Salespunk View Post
    Counter intuitive I know. You can't stand tall and move forward and it is not leaning out in front of the handlebars. It is a slight weight shift forward from the normal descending position and squatting down.

    Your instinct is to move as far away as possible when something makes you uncomfortable so people move up and back. Takes you out of attack position.

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    Do you mean keeping your back flatter while you lower both your butt and your shoulders, instead of just primarily lowering your butt?

  19. #19
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    Yes and chin inline with or just behind the bars.

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  20. #20
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    I'm fairly new to racing having gotten into it only 10 months ago but I share a lot of your traits so I can sympathise. There are a couple of things that helped me. Firstly I got off the bike on different sections that I found troubling and really looked at the lines walking them back and forth until I found the fastest FOR ME. Whilst these lines may not be the fastest I don't have the skill to make all those lines yet..... As I have improved I found that I was getting closer and closer to those lines by spending heaps of time in the saddle. I also found that doing this helped me pick better lines on trails I wasn't familiar with because I'm really looking at where I wanted to be and had a better general feel for what I'm doing.

    I agree with a lot of the points above and particularly about getting to a bike park or anywhere lift assisted. Repetition will always improve your skills.

    Fitness-wise one exercise I can suggest that will destroy your legs at first but will really help is balancing on a swiss ball. Start by facing a wall or some sort of bar you can hold and kneel on the ball. Once there slowly remove your hands from the wall and balance there as long as you can. Then as you improve, work to standing on the ball again near somewhere you can easily grab something solid for safety. Finally, keep your head level and eyes straight ahead and drop down into a crouch as low as you can and hold for as long as you can. I have gained so much benefit out of this exercise, solid core strength, better balance on the bike, waaay better time out of the saddle when fatiguing and better race times.

    I went from 21st out of 50 in my category (old bastards) to 12 in two races doing the above. And my times have dropped by over a minute and a half.

    Cheers Scott.

  21. #21
    Yasmine A.
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    Quote Originally Posted by EsPeGe View Post
    I'm fairly new to racing having gotten into it only 10 months ago but I share a lot of your traits so I can sympathise. There are a couple of things that helped me. Firstly I got off the bike on different sections that I found troubling and really looked at the lines walking them back and forth until I found the fastest FOR ME. Whilst these lines may not be the fastest I don't have the skill to make all those lines yet..... As I have improved I found that I was getting closer and closer to those lines by spending heaps of time in the saddle. I also found that doing this helped me pick better lines on trails I wasn't familiar with because I'm really looking at where I wanted to be and had a better general feel for what I'm doing.

    I agree with a lot of the points above and particularly about getting to a bike park or anywhere lift assisted. Repetition will always improve your skills.

    Fitness-wise one exercise I can suggest that will destroy your legs at first but will really help is balancing on a swiss ball. Start by facing a wall or some sort of bar you can hold and kneel on the ball. Once there slowly remove your hands from the wall and balance there as long as you can. Then as you improve, work to standing on the ball again near somewhere you can easily grab something solid for safety. Finally, keep your head level and eyes straight ahead and drop down into a crouch as low as you can and hold for as long as you can. I have gained so much benefit out of this exercise, solid core strength, better balance on the bike, waaay better time out of the saddle when fatiguing and better race times.

    I went from 21st out of 50 in my category (old bastards) to 12 in two races doing the above. And my times have dropped by over a minute and a half.

    Cheers Scott.

    Thanks :-) Best of luck on your races! and thanks everyone else for your feedback! super interesting stuff!
    - Riding Yeti SB5C and Giant Trance X2

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by blue_biker View Post
    All good pointers have been posted. As for fear, go have a crash.

    Ok, not that simple. But here's my recommendation. Probably most of your fear is of crashing. Get some good protection, full face helmet, pads galore. Who cares if it looks silly. They work. Then go ride. Let yourself crash once or twice. You will see that everyone who rides even somewhat aggressively crashes. And 90% of the time, it does nothing but slow your momentum. Take a few falls and you will then lose the fear, which will let you focus on technique and skill sets instead of that tree you are riding past.
    To address fear, I've taught myself to transfer fear. Meaning if approaching a gap jump, I'm scared that I'm not going fast enough. Most beginning racers will fear that they are going too fast. Transversal of fear from "I going too fast", to "I'm going too slow!". Anyway this worked for me.


    The other think I work on, during down times is visualization. Read up on mentally visualizing the course and ride the course over and over in your mind. Feel yourself go over the jumps, and hit the transition perfect. My two cents.
    And if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver. A. Senna

  23. #23
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    I was told a year or so ago to SURF the bike. It clicked. I learned how to ride the bike without committing my body to the turns. This works extremely well in flat track with tight, fast switches. It works awesome with small berms and tight switches. Big berms I can lean in and commit without fear of sliding out.

    Getting your body low with weight more on your feet will help speed up the DH. If you find yourself getting tired of being in the attack position you now know what training you need to work on. When I start getting tired I start adding weight to my bars and things get sloppy. Blown corners. Too much weight back though and the bike won't steer as well.

    Also I have had to relearn how to read lines. Tech lines are one thing but keeping the bike fast in the fast zones are some of my better parts now. Keeping the bike wider on the corners to carry speed and use any available berm that might be there. Knowing when I can lean in the turns and learning how to keep the weight off the saddle in most turns has played a key role to speeding things up.

    Pumping is huge. There is so much speed to be found in pumping and especially hopping over some bumps. Watch some BMX videos to really see how pumping can make you faster.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Justin MD View Post
    Pumping is huge. There is so much speed to be found in pumping and especially hopping over some bumps. Watch some BMX videos to really see how pumping can make you faster.
    This. Weighting/Unweighting is the #1 key to being in total contol rather than just a passenger on the bike. I believe that cornering and pumping are the 2 things to work on if you want to be faster

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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by EsPeGe View Post
    I'm fairly new to racing having gotten into it only 10 months ago but I share a lot of your traits so I can sympathise. There are a couple of things that helped me. Firstly I got off the bike on different sections that I found troubling and really looked at the lines walking them back and forth until I found the fastest FOR ME. Whilst these lines may not be the fastest I don't have the skill to make all those lines yet..... As I have improved I found that I was getting closer and closer to those lines by spending heaps of time in the saddle. I also found that doing this helped me pick better lines on trails I wasn't familiar with because I'm really looking at where I wanted to be and had a better general feel for what I'm doing..
    Our race season starts in less than two weeks...after winning the Cat 2 race last year, I'm going to actually go walk the course the next time I'm out there because I still don't feel like I know the best route through one section. There's no shame in it.

    Getting off the bike, walking up and down the section and really looking at it to discover the line that works for you is the stripped-down-to-basics version of what LMN was saying about starting slow.

    This will probably come off as being dickish, but I've seen some people make what seems to be a common mistake recently....
    OP, if you're getting beaten by a significant margin and there isn't a massive fitness difference, and/or the other chick isn't a ringer, you might want to take a step back from the terrain you may or may not be intimidated by and just work on basic skills and make it a more gradual process instead of trying to jump in over your head. Pushing your limits should be a slow process to ensure that you're not overloaded by stress.

    But that might not be the case. I don't know you, so take it as a general comment, not as an observation. But if you're getting crushed by someone that you should be competitive with, there's something missing.

    I know if I tried just diving into a WC DH course, I'd be scared shitless for a good portion of it and not learn a damn thing. The first time I rode my (now) favorite trail system, I was thinking that I was going the wrong way because it was almost unridable with the skills I had at the time. Then I rode it with some other people, picked up things from them, worked on it by myself, picked up a few more things and kept at it until it was totally ridable. It's a process.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by richde View Post
    Our race season starts in less than two weeks...after winning the Cat 2 race last year, I'm going to actually go walk the course the next time I'm out there because I still don't feel like I know the best route through one section. There's no shame in it.

    Getting off the bike, walking up and down the section and really looking at it to discover the line that works for you is the stripped-down-to-basics version of what LMN was saying about starting slow.

    This will probably come off as being dickish, but I've seen some people make what seems to be a common mistake recently....
    OP, if you're getting beaten by a significant margin and there isn't a massive fitness difference, and/or the other chick isn't a ringer, you might want to take a step back from the terrain you may or may not be intimidated by and just work on basic skills and make it a more gradual process instead of trying to jump in over your head. Pushing your limits should be a slow process to ensure that you're not overloaded by stress.

    But that might not be the case. I don't know you, so take it as a general comment, not as an observation. But if you're getting crushed by someone that you should be competitive with, there's something missing.

    I know if I tried just diving into a WC DH course, I'd be scared shitless for a good portion of it and not learn a damn thing. The first time I rode my (now) favorite trail system, I was thinking that I was going the wrong way because it was almost unridable with the skills I had at the time. Then I rode it with some other people, picked up things from them, worked on it by myself, picked up a few more things and kept at it until it was totally ridable. It's a process.
    Damn good advice right there. Cheers.

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