The Number One Tip to Improve at Mountain Biking
Last week, I traveled to sunny Ocala, Florida, with my fiancé to get in several days of mountain biking and canoeing before starting my third year of medical school. Ocala was the former site of a planned Panama Canal across Florida. The city sits in the middle of a large swath of land stretching across the state that remains undeveloped, filled with forests, black bears, and over 100 miles of hiking and biking trails.
Ocala’s natural beauty was matched by the friendliness of the people we met there. Within minutes of our arrival at the Santos trailhead, two friendly locals Greg and Rick, both men in their sixties, greeted my fiancé and I. They offered to take us on a tour of the mountain bike trails. Greg was recovering from a stroke and mentioned his difficulty balancing. Now, my fiancé and I are both in our mid-twenties, former ironmen, and college athletes. One would expect us to have no trouble keeping up with these self-professed ‘old-timers’, but Greg and Rick smoked us. We desperately struggled to keep up.
Fifteen minutes into the ride, Rick shared a straightforward tip on how to improve my speed and efficiency while riding. For some reason, in my two years of mountain biking, I had never heard the advice ‘just turn your knee and hip into it’. If anything, over the years, I have done the exact opposite. I tended to lean my bike into turns while leaning my body weight in the opposing direction. Because Rick was now effortlessly speeding off in the distance, I decided to try things his way.
Over the next several turns, I twisted my knee into the curve forming what looked like the head of the letter 4 with my inside leg. I also turned my hips and shoulders in the direction I wished to steer the bike. Sure enough, my turns occurred much more quickly. I no longer felt the need to hit the brakes going into a curve. Not only did I begin to bike faster, but I also felt much less fatigued.
So, there you go, that one simple trick may cause the most significant improvement in your riding in years. One other thing I learned from this ride is that if you’re struggling to improve as a mountain biker, try out biking with people older and heavier than you. You might just feel faster by comparison, or if you get left in the dust, there will surely be a lot to learn from these riders about efficiency.