Downhill World Cup Rd 2, Cairns: Some Thoughts

DH MTB Sideways

I am not really a fan of Red Bull as a drink, however I am a massive fan of the DH World Cup and Red Bull’s amazing free coverage.  I am so glad we get to see all the runs with Warner and Cunny’s hilarious commentary and plenty of camera angles and course coverage. As well as just chilling and enjoying the racing, I was thinking about training and just how strong those top riders need to be in order to stay competitive now.  To ride at this level you need to be a proper athlete.

Here are a few thoughts that I scribbled down at the time.  Have a look, and let me know your thoughts over on Facebook.

Staying Loose:  To ride this sort of mud and slop well, you need to stay loose on your bike, and let it do its own thing to a certain extent.  At first you may not think that this style of riding needs you to be super strong, but in fact it is the rider’s strength and mobility that allows it to happen along with a large dose of skill and big Kahunas!  Can you relax and let the bike flow if you are in a death grip at the extremes of your upper body strength?  Can your knees stay soft when your thighs are pumped, burning and ready to give out?  The answer is, ‘No’ and the only way to improve these factors is to be stronger and better conditioned.

Hitting Your Lines:  Letting the bike step out of line, means that at some point you need to pull it back and put it on your line. By using your feet, hands and body to regain a line, this puts a considerable  strain on the muscles and joints, especially with a 35 lb DH sled underneath you and all that momentum.  Seeing the way the riders manhandled their bikes into some of the tight and tech corners and in particular into the left hander at the top of the rock garden was amazing.  They made it look easy and smooth, and it was so impressive to see.  Obviously this comes from moving their body weight around, but guess what?  You can’t move around on your bike like that if you are weak and/or inflexible!

3 Days of Riding:  With practice, qualifying, more practice and then racing, the riders are putting in a serious amount of riding over a few days.  Add to that the demanding nature of the course, the peanut butter mud, and the tropical heat and humidity and you have a tough race overall.  This is where the winter conditioning and all the road miles really come in.  Quite simply the fitter a rider is, the more quickly and easily they can recover from a hard effort like a practice run.  If a rider has done the winter miles, then their cardiovascular system will be super efficient, both during and after riding, and this means that they will be better prepared to complete multiple high effort runs during practice and still pull out a top performance on race day.

The Finish Straight:  Like it or loathe it, the end of the race was dominated by a long, mostly flat sprint to the line.  It was controversial, but who cares?  It was there and all the riders had to dig deep if they wanted to do well, and it was the same for everyone.  The simple fact is that the most powerful and best conditioned riders would have the most to gain on this crucial part of the track.  That time in the gym, time doing hill sprints and anaerobic endurance training paid off for the top riders whilst it was clear to see who had not put in as much work in the winter months.

I am just getting excited finishing this off now and thinking about Fort William in about a month.  It is going to be amazing, and it will show again that these amazing men and women are true athletes and if you want to get to the top and compete with them, then bike skills alone won’t be enough.

Stay Strong


Strong Enough For Single Ring: Upper Body

This is the first in the series of articles to help you get strong enough to ride a single ring setup on your trail bike more efficiently.

The focus here is on a few upper body exercises that can help to improve your posture and strength, leading to increased power through the pedals.  I use a couple of pieces of kit in this video, but you can do it all using just your bodyweight and a horizontal bar around waist height or a little higher.  You can often find these in the park or you can use a bar in the gym.  Once this series is complete, you will have a whole body workout that you can do 1-3 times per week for pure mountain bike domination!

You may also want to do some stretching, and mobility work to help open up the upper back and chest, and we will go over that in a future article.  For now, sit back, watch the video below, and let me know how you get on……

Stay Strong


Are You Strong Enough To Ride a Single Ring Setup?

Single Ring

For many modern British trail riders and racers, the single ring setup has become the norm over the last few years.  The ease and simplicity of setup, reliability, less handlebar clutter, and of course, bike fashion mean that it is an increasingly popular option for riders.  The question I am asking is, ‘Are you strong enough?’

If you ride DH, have SRAM XX1, or ride near Thetford then you probably are, but for the rest of us who ride up hills using a 10 speed cassette it is worth pausing to consider whether it is the correct setup for the hills you ride most of the time?  Living amongst the Scottish or Welsh mountains and regularly climb 40minutes plus in one go?  If the answer is Yes, then you had better be strong to push that gear for so long up a hill.

If you are running a triple or double chainset, then you can do some experiments over a few rides to see how you may cope without the extra rings.  It is pretty obvious really, but if you run a triple chainset, try and do a whole ride in just the middle ring and see how you get on.  If you grind down to a low cadence at the cranks on the first long climb, then you clearly are not strong enough to make the change at the moment.  Similarly, if you stall on the climbs and feel totally f*%&ed at the end of your regular loop, then you may not be strong enough at the moment.

Things are a little trickier on a double as the big ring is often 38/40 teeth.  That is about 6 teeth bigger than most people run on a single ring setup, so riding all day in the big ring will be pretty tough, but will give you an idea of what single ring life is like.

If you are already riding a single ring, then next time out, pay attention to the following things…..

Do you have to get off and push a steep section that your mates can clear?

Does your cadence drop below about 40 rpm at the cranks on long climbs?

Do you need to make large movements with your body from side to side to get the power into the pedals on the climbs?

Do you feel like you can ‘spin’ up sustained climbs?

If you answered, ‘Yes’ to the any of the first three and/or, ‘No’ to the fourth then you may be struggling to ride a single ring set up effectively and efficiently.  Now imagine you go for a weekend away in a hillier area, or take a trip to the mountains of Europe and you may find yourself in a world of pain.

Hopefully this has made you think a bit about your riding, and many of you will be totally fine with your current setup. However, to help you all out and to make sure that you can all ride the setups you really want to, I am going to be writing a series of articles to help you get strong enough to ride a single ring setup.  I am going to split the articles into 4:

Upper body


Lower body


If you can’t be arsed to read my articles then go and buy a range-expanding sprocket for your cassette or get XX1!  Haha

Stay Strong