1. To corner, enter wide and exit wide.
2. Brake Less
It sounds counterintuitive, but the harder you yank on the brakes, the less control you have over your bike. The best riders brake well before a corner. Plus, laying off the stoppers forces you to focus on key bike cornering skills such as weight distribution, body position, and line choice.
3. Look Where You Want to Go
“When riding a tricky or dangerous section of trail (or road), focus on the path you want your bike to follow, not the rock, tree, or other obstacle you’re trying to avoid,” says globe-trotting mountain-biker Hans Rey.
4. Avoid Helmet Hair
“For God’s sake, make sure your hair is under your helmet and not poking out the front,” advises Garmin-Cervelo pro Christian Vande Velde.
5. Take the Lane
You have a right to the road, so use it. It’s safer than riding on the shoulder, which is often cracked, covered in gravel, or worse. But don’t be a road hog, either.
6. Ride with the Best
Before he built his first mountain bike, GARY FISHER was an aspiring road racer. But his decision to stay in America rather than train in Europe derailed his chances of joining the pro peloton. “To be the best at the sport, you need to go to where the best are riding,” Fisher says. “If you’re a mountain biker, spend a couple of weeks at Whistler and you will be changed forever. If you’re a road rider and want to be a better climber, go to Colorado. Find the best, train with them, watch what they do, and learn their secrets.”
7. Set Your Suspension—And Check It Often
It’s frightening how many riders hit the trail with poorly adjusted forks and shocks. Not only will droopy suspension make your bike feel like a wet noodle, it can also be downright dangerous. A few simple adjustments are all it takes to have your suspension smoothly sucking up bumps.
Here are some general guidelines, but be sure to read the manufacturer’s recommendations (found online or in your owner’s manual) because they will provide the starting point based on your bike’s suspension design. And because air can leak through the seals, remember to check your pressure monthly.
(How much the suspension compresses when you sit on the bike) Compression
(Controls the rate at which the suspension compresses in response to a bump) Rebound
(The rate at which the suspension returns to full extension)
For XC: 20–25% of travel
For trail: 25–30% of travel
For DH: 30–35% of travel
For how to measure and
set sag, visit Bicycling.com/video. Start with the dial in the middle setting, and go ride. If the bike feels harsh, dial the damping down a click. If it feels mushy, add a click. Repeat until it feels smooth and supple. Again, start in the middle setting. Ride a short, rough section of trail. If the fork or shock seems too springy, add a click of rebound. If it bounces back too slowly, dial it back a click.
8. Clean your shoes monthly. Also: wash your gloves.
9. Warm Up
A slow start primes your engine by directing oxygen from your blood cells to your muscles. Spin easy for 20 to 30 minutes before you begin to hammer.
10. Always Carry Cash
Money can’t buy love, but it can buy food, water, a phone call, or a spare tube.
11. Race, At Least Once
It will push you to ride harder than you previously thought possible.
12. Drink before you are thirsty; eat before you are hungry.
13. Eat Real Food On longer rides, easily digestible calories are key—and they shouldn’t come from just energy bars. James Herrera, MS, founder of Performance Driven Coaching, has a favorite: spread some almond butter on whole-grain bread and top with sliced bananas and agave nectar or honey.
14. Don’t Live in Your Chamois
When the shoes come off, your shorts should come off with them.
15. Ride Hard. . .
To become faster, you need to ride faster. Intervals squeeze every drop of fitness from your time on the bike. Try the following two or three times a week: Choose a route that includes a climb or stretch of road where you can go nearly all-out for three to five minutes. Warm up for 15 to 30 minutes, then ride hard—your exertion should be about a 7 out of 10—for three minutes. Recover for 90 seconds, then repeat the sequence four more times.
16. . . .But Not Every Day
Take 56-year-old mountain-bike legend Ned Overend’s advice: Rest often. And if you’re feeling cooked after a 30-minute warm-up, put it in an easy gear and spin home. “No workout is set in stone,” Overend says. “Your training needs to have structure, but it should be malleable based on how you’re feeling.” Which might explain why, 10 days before he won the 2011 Mt. Washington Hill Climb, Overend was surfing in San Diego.
17. Play the Terrain
Go hard on climbs and take it easy on descents.
18. Ride Another Bike
Explore the woods on a mountain bike. Throw down in the local cyclocross race. Mixing in different types of riding keeps you mentally fresh, boosts your skills, and reminds you that riding is fun.
19. Wear Out Your Shifters
You have lots of gears for a reason: to keep your cadence in the sweet spot. For silky-smooth gear changes, remember to shift before a punchy climb, sprint, or tight switchback.
20. Train Your Weaknesses
Professional endurance racer Mark Weir makes his living blasting through corners. But that wasn’t always the case. “I was a semi-pro downhiller racing in Park City, Utah, and there was a corner that I thought just sucked,” he recalls. “I told Jan Karpiel, one of my sponsors, about it, and he said: ‘The corner doesn’t suck, you suck at that corner.’ I realized then that training my weaknesses is far more important than sticking with my strengths.”
21. Check Your Tire Pressure
Here are some basic guidelines from Michelin.
Road/Commuter: If you weigh more than 180 pounds, inflate to the maximum on the tire sidewall. If you weigh 110 or less, fill to the minimum. Somewhere in between? Inflate to somewhere in between.
Mountain Bike: Target somewhere between 27 and 32 psi for most tires. Ultraskinny XC tires may require as much as 35 psi. Figure on 20 to 30 psi for tubeless tires.
22. If your knee hurts in the front, raise your saddle; if it hurts in the back, lower the seat.
23. Buy a Torque Wrench and Learn How to Use It
This is mandatory for carbon parts, but will also extend the life of all stems, handlebars, bottom brackets, seatpost clamps, and suspension pivots. Our favorite is Park’s TW-5.
24. Learn to Bunnyhop on Your Road Bike
Doing an unclipped hop shows you how changes in body position affect your bike’s behavior—knowledge that will boost your confidence on steep downhills, rough roads, and in corners.
A: Replace your clipless pedals with platforms and your cycling shoes with soft-soled sneakers.
B: Ride across a flat, grassy field at slightly faster than walking speed, standing on your pedals, cranks level with the ground, elbows and knees slightly bent.
C: Push down on the handlebar while bending your knees even farther so you are crouched over the saddle. Then immediately pull up and back on your bar as you shift your weight back to get the front tire up.
D: With the front tire off the ground, shift your weight forward as you push the handlebar ahead and hop up with your legs to lift the rear wheel.
25. Fitness Takes Time
No crash diet or hell week of training will magically propel you into top form. “You’ve got to work toward it all season long,” says Pierre Rolland, the best young rider of the 2011 Tour de France