I am about to give you the key to speed. One phrase. Are you ready?
Don't use the brakes.
Don't look so disappointed. What were you expecting, Magic? I don't mean to not use them at all, just use them less.
One of the best ways to improve your riding is to go with someone that is faster than you. Not way faster, so that you get discouraged, but a bit faster, so you really have to work to keep up. Once you've found someone that fits the bill, try following them through some downhill singletrack. Notice how the gap keeps getting bigger? You're not doing much pedaling so it's not likely a strength issue. What could it be? I'll tell you, the faster rider is using their brakes less.
Have you ever been on a ride when, for some reason, you had no brakes, or a lot less than you wanted? Maybe a cable broke or your rims iced up or something. I know it was scary. Careening downhill, unable to slowdown to a comfortable speed, you thought you were going to die. But you survived, and you went down that hill a lot faster than you otherwise would have. If you want to go faster every ride you need to harness a bit of that experience and apply it in a more controlled manner.
Moving out of our comfort zone can make us apprehensive. To try to calm the fears of your rational mind have your irrational mind tell it this: Speed is our friend; Speed brings stability; Stability is good. The wheels underneath do more than just hold us up. They also act as gyroscopes, like those spinny things you may have played with as a kid. They're also the things that keep spacecraft stable in the vacuum of space. The faster a gyroscope spins, the more rigidity it has. This means the faster your wheels are turning the more they will fight to stay upright and pointed straight ahead, just what we want. Now you know why sometimes when you get anxious and slow down you biff, but if you stay fast and ride it out you make out okay and look like a hero.
The hard part is knowing how fast is really too fast and when to say whoa. You can set yourself up with an exercise to explore these limits. Find a section of downhill singletrack steep enough that you won't have to pedal much and fast enough that you definitely have to brake for the corners. (Keep IMBA happy and make sure you won't encounter any hikers or horses on the way down). Make your first run at your normal blistering speed. Try to note where you apply the brakes for each corner. On the next run, each time you reach for the brakes fight the impulse for one second. Remember that every bit of speed that you can carry through the turn is speed you don't have to gain back on the next straight. And that's energy in the bank, my friend, better than money. A little bit saved every corner can really add up over the course of a trail.
In all your subsequent training runs try to brake just a tick later than the time before. It is super important to ensure that you are only using one or two fingers on your brakes - no three, four or five fingers - what are you holding on with? Although some might suggest that a tip to avoid the temptation to brake too early or when you really don't need to is to ride with all eight fingers wrapped around the bars. I personnally subscribe to the theory that you should always be brake ready including uphill climbs.
The key to pushing the envelope is to do it gradually, in small increments. Riding a downhill with your front brake disconnected may make teach you how to go really fast. More likely, it'll teach you just how brittle collarbones really are. Even though improvements may seem small one corner at a time, it will add up and it will make a difference. You worked way too hard for that speed to just turn it into heat for no good reason.
Good luck and stay safe!
Thanks to Dirtworld.com Staff for more tips and biking information visit them at www.dirtworld.com