Advice from a legend

Take some simple words of advice from the one and only Anne-Caroline Chausson, Olympic gold medallist and 19x World Champion. Nineteen times!

With 19 World Championships to her name across the disciplines of BMX, downhill, dual slalom and 4X, she’s the most successful woman in off-road cycling — period. Now riding for Commençal, and on the mend from ovarian cancer, here she shares some of her knowledge.

How to ride like Anne-Caroline Chausson

anne-caroline chausson

1. Ride with someone better

When you are the fastest man, it’s hard to find someone to train with, but for me it was easy. I always rode with guys in practice; they go first and when they tell me this jump is easy or hard I can trust them. It’s good for my confidence.

2. Tune your bike to the terrain

I have three suspension set-ups that I use for races. From there, I only have to make little adaptations to get a good balance.

3. Shock tactics

I’m not that heavy, I’m not that fast (compared to the big guys), so it’s easy for me to set-up my bike. I use the terrain to make little jumps like I do with the BMX when you don’t pedal. The rebound is quite fast and, compared to my weight, my suspension is pretty hard, because that way it’s better when you pedal.

4. Size matters

I prefer to have a big frame with a short stem. I really like wide handlebars because it’s more stable when it’s rough, but I have to keep it not too narrow, but not too wide, because we are always riding between the trees.

5. Pedal preference

I develop my skill using clipless pedals. I know how to jump with flat pedals — I’m not pulling with my feet — but I couldn’t ride (downhill) with flat pedals. It’s a different kind of riding, you have to be more on the rear of the bike and your ankle has to be more stretched. When you pedal, or when it’s really rough, you have to be really dynamic with your feet. You have to be light on rough stuff, like you are riding on eggs, and I can only do that with clipped pedals.

6. Don’t forget your feet

To ride smooth, a little bit like on skis, you need to push on the pedal in turns. The bike is in contact with the ground and then you’re in contact with the pedals, so feet are really important.

7. Pace notes

Most of the races we can walk the course or we can do practice, but the trails are long and we have many to check and recognise. For me it takes a long time to learn those trails and to remember everything. I try to watch videos now, but when I was a downhill racer I’d write everything down. I’d stop on the trail and write something on my phone. I need to read to remember.

Above: Anne-Caro winning Olympic gold (and showing Team GB’s Shanaze Reade who’s the boss)

8. Go back to school… on a BMX

We say that BMX is a school for bikes. When you start really young in BMX, you know how to pedal, you know how to jump, you know how to turn, you know how to analyse the things around you — the track, other riders — so BMX has been really important for my career. Even if it’s not with a BMX bike, it’s good to go to a BMX track and learn how to jump, to start and so on.

If you have never, ever ridden BMX then go with a hardtail and flat pedals, and try to ride the track with no pedalling. You don’t try to ride fast and jump, you want to find a good rhythm and a good position on the bike to make more speed. That’s something you can use in the forest with your mountain bike — use the terrain to give you speed with no pedalling.

The next step is to learn how to jump. It’s very different with no suspension, so you have to be really precise…