Stop pedalling to go faster? It seems like a counterproductive idea but in reality practicing downhill sections of trails or entire trails without putting in a single pedal stroke is one of the best techniques you can use to work on your downhill speed.
Words: Jared Rando
Photos: Nick Waygood
Why? Well, by not pedalling, you’ll need to focus on every other element of descending in order to maximise your speed down the trail. Everything from line choice to tucking has an impact on your speed and most of the time any loss of speed can be rectified by a couple of quick pedal strokes. Take pedalling out of the equation and you’ll quickly learn the impacts of the mistakes you are making and the advantages of changing your techniques.
In my 15 years I spent as a pro DH racer, runs without pedalling were a huge element of my training not only for technique but also for testing different bike setups. The idea is simple enough – don’t pedal! But there are some key elements you should focus on when you’re out on the trail. The other great part of it too is it can be a blast with friends out on the trail and is something I can’t recommend enough. Any trail is great for this but flatter trails where you do need to pedal to maintain your speed are even better as it exaggerates not only your mistakes but also your input. Here’s what you’ll need to focus on.
Step 1 – Line Choice
This isn’t the time to throw roost and get the videos going for your Insta profile! Line choice is critical for coaster runs and focusing on your entry point to carry speed through the turn is critical. Look for high lines into corners and also smoother lines on the high side of braking bumps. Remember the best judge of speed in corners is your speed out and not your speed in. You can play around with inside lines too but 99% of the time it will be the high entry which gives you the best result.
Step 2 – Pump EVERYTHING
If you aren’t pedalling you’ll need to use everything you can on the trail to generate speed. Rollers and depressions are obvious features you can use but remember to make the most out of jump landings, drops and anything you can pre-jump. You’ll also find that focusing on different parts of features will give you more speed also. If you go 30cm to the left of the main line over a roller there may be a little more to work with where the feature isn’t quite as worn.
Step 3 – Use Jumps for Speed
Jumps are great to gain speed but also focus on not losing speed. When it comes to jumping focus on staying low and hitting nice smooth backsides. Any little case with your back wheel slows you down so focus not only on staying low but also on super smooth and light landings. On doubles you can play around with rolling and pumping, manualling or jumping to see what works best at different speeds. Like cornering focus on your speed out and what speed you carry down the trail after the jump.
Step 4 – Don’t Scrub Speed on Flat Turns
When it comes to flat turns on the trail, focus not only on your line choice but also not scrubbing any speed through the turn. To do this you’ll need to focus on your entry speed (not overcooking it!) and really weighting the bike to get as much traction as you can. On some turns where the trail permits you can also focus on getting a little extra exit space by running wide as you exit to carry a little more speed in to and through the turn.
Step 5 – Get Aero
On faster sections of trail, focus on tucking and staying as low as possible. This is also great when you have a bit of a headwind or crosswind. While it won’t make a significant difference on technical or steep trails, on flatter sections of trail where you are going faster and need to carry speed it makes a huge difference and you’ll quickly learn the benefits this can have in general on the trail.
Step 6 – Be Light over Rough Sections
Logs, roots, mud, holes, rocks and rough sections sap your speed significantly on the trail. Lift up and try to “float” over these sections to help carry your speed down the trail. Also focus on direct and short lines through these sections to carry speed. A tiny bunny hop where you barely leave the ground can make all the difference between hanging up, or carrying speed through these sections on the trail.
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