desert riding technique and speed

I have been serious this year about following a desert series in southern california.  I haven spent more time on my bike this year than I ever have before.  I have noticed lots of improvements and have setup the bike specifically for the desert.  Now when im in the middle of a 25 mile lap I feel like I am going at a good pace I can sustain, I am sucking up the terrain, and standing most the time, making sure I have a good riding position etc.....than when the fast guys lap me.....they lap me like I am standing still. 


The last few races when this happens I have tried to see what they are doing differently other than twisting the throttle farther.  granted I know I wont be as fast as them, but I know I have room to improve.  first thing I notice is a lot of them pass by and look very smooth!  I start to realize I am really working hard to keep my speed and keeping the bike in good posture.  Makes me wonder if I just need to twist farther and hope that the extra speed keeps me higher on the whoops, bumps, rocks etc.  the old example is going slow on a wash board road....slower speed you feel every peak and valley, fast you skim across the top and smooths out the ride.  I know all terrain is different, but can anyone tell me if this is the way you fast guys do this?  Is there a point where it smooths out and you just stay on it?  or are you just in way better shape and hold on that much tighter? 


The speed thing seemed pretty straight forward...until I saw how smooth those guys are.  made me think I am doing something wrong.


before we jump on suspension.  I have my bike valved/sprung for the desert.  MUCH better vs stock.  only issue is I have never rode a bike with GREAT desert suspension.  So I have nothing to compare to.



The fast guys have been riding for 10 to 20 years.  They didn't get fast overnight.  Well a few of them did, but not most.

Suspension is what high speed desert running is all about.  Those fast guys probably have countless hours and a ton of money invested.  Just giving your bike to someone to revalve and respring it is just a very small start.


That and the balls to run it wide open in the rough stuff. ;)

Steering Stabilizer?

years of experience and BIG Cahones to run it WFO. Steering stabilizer wouldn't be a bad edition though.

All of the above and faith in your ability to recover from any mistakes

Hours in the seat is the only way to get faster and with that, comes good bike setup.  I too got bit by the desert bug about 5 years ago.  I started out as an Open Novice, made my way through the B's and now I'm in the A's.  To be honest, I don't feel any faster now than I was at the end of my first year....but I know is not true.  The biggest thing for me in getting faster is exactly what you mentioned...staying as smooth as possible.  The biggest enemy of the desert racer is conserving your energy.  Being in good shape helps but being smooth is a lot more important.  And especially with desert racing where the terrain can be so varied in a course (at least this is the case in D37), you gotta put the hours in and learn how to ride the desert and read the terrain. Like others have mentioned, a lot of the fast desert guys have been at it for a while and over time developed good desert savy.  You learn how to find the smoother lines across valleys, how to come into g-outs, you know exactly how your bike is going to react when going across a lava field, you learn when to take a rough line in order to make a pass and when to wait for it to open up a bit because the wasted energy if you screw up a tough line isn't worth it.  You know when to sit down to save precious energy and when to stand up because the beating you're going to take (from sitting down) through a rough section isn't worth the extra energy you would use by standing up.  


Bike setup is very important as well.  Out of everything that I has evolved in my short racing career, my bike set up has changed the most.  And that's something that everybody changes to suit their individual style in order to guessed it......MORE ENERGY.  My off-road setup only works well for going through stuff at a very spirited pace.  If I was just out for a leisurely trail ride my suspension settings would beat me to a pulp quickly.  Everything on my bike from suspension to power characteristics, to gearing, to handle bar positioning is all tailored for my style so I can SAVE ENERGY throughout the span of a 100 mile H&H  :bonk:



What series are you doing?

Yeah....common sense answer...practice.....practice....practice.

I'm tweeting my bike setup after talking with faster guys, find what works and what doesnt. I am very impressed with how smooth some of these guys are!

I'm following the district 38 series=high speeds and whoops!! I'm planning on filling in their summer break with some district 37 races to continue riding and exposure to that terrain. Lucky for me I live about equal distances from the bulk of the D38 and D37 race areas.

  • Find a very good rider and become friends, follow said rider and learn by following their lead.


Ask a very good rider to ride your bike, have them tell you what might be wrong/needed for your bike to run better in that terrain. 


Find a section that is reasonably long. Say, 10 minutes. Go back and forth, back and forth, keep track of the time it is taking you to complete. See if you can shave a time of 10 minutes down to 7 minutes. 


"Reading" is important! Be able to read the trail ahead so you're ready for it when it shows up. 

I made the mistake of thinking the faster guys just had bigger cajones. I set out to prove mine were coconuts and ended up spending a week in a coma.

Those guys know what they're doin and sometimes they even know the trails where their at.

Be patient, the speed will come in time.

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now