With the sun shining and the trails parched and dusty, many mountain bikers are focusing on speed. You may find yourself asking, can I get fitter to get faster? Can I eat better to lose weight and go faster? Should I get a better bike to burn off my mates?
However, the first thing to look at is your bike: most of us don’t spend enough time setting up our bikes correctly to get the optimum position for speed. With a little time and understanding, you may be able to go faster without any hard training sessions or extra cost.
The most important factor is saddle position: if the saddle is too low, you won’t be able to make full use of the power in your legs, and if the saddle is too high you’ll feel your hips roll from side to side as your legs stretch too far at the bottom of each pedal stroke.
The fore and aft position of the saddle is also very important to ensure effective use of your quadriceps and prevent any knee injuries.
Another common problem for riders is a stiff neck or shoulders – check your posture throughout your rides to make sure your neck and shoulders are relaxed to prevent unnecessary aches and pains, and keep yourself in the right position to unleash your speed potential.
Saddle height: Sit on the bike with one of the pedals at 6 o’clock. Position your foot so it’s parallel to the floor. In this position, your leg should be almost straight.
Saddle fore and aft: Sitting on the bike, position one foot forwards so the crank is parallel to the floor at 3 o’clock. Hold a length of string with a weight on the end at the front of your knee. The string should drop down in line with the pedal axle. Adjust if necessary.
Handlebar height: This depends on a number of factors such as suspension travel and the type of terrain. The higher the bars are, the more comfortable you’ll feel but you’ll lose that sense of being in a race position.
Handlebar reach: Make sure you can reach the bars with your arms slightly bent. If the bars are too close your back will not be in neutral and will become rounded. If the bars are too far away, you’ll have to work your core muscles to stay in position, which can lead to lower back pain.
Andy Wadsworth BA SHMS is an amateur off-road triathlon champion and director of My Life Personal Training. You can contact Andy via www.mylifept.com or phone him on 01179 237111.