Ride faster with Joe Smith

We caught up with Joe honing his skills and asked for some top tips for riders trying to get the most out of bike time, whatever their expertise.

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Welsh ripper Joe Smith’s raced at the sharp end of World Cup Downhill for years. A flat pedal rider, he’s well known for his great skill level and top results on the hardest, steepest tracks.

1. Bike prep

One of the most important things is making sure your bike is in good shape and ready to go. Are all the bolts and spokes tight, do tyres have good life in them? If you’re racing you can take this further – shock, fork and tyre pressures also need to be checked regularly for consistency, so nothing changes or phases you mentally from ride to ride

2. Rider prep

You also need to be prepared yourself. In the UK, there’s a high chance you’ll get wet, so get smart. Wear good clothing and kit to keep you going all day, and be well prepared to get warm and dry fast when you’ve finished riding.

3. Build up speed

Especially somewhere new, take a couple of runs to check lines and features, and take your time. Rush things and hit sections or corners too fast, and it catches up further down the track and you’ll lose speed overall. Stay at a pace where you can respond and stay in control and the speed will build.

4. Get a balance

Front to rear balance is key to feeling confident. Ensure air pressures in suspension and tyres are well balanced, and also that compression and rebound damping settings are in tune so the bike responds in a uniform way and it’s not sending you into any funny positions when you hits jumps, roots and rocks.

5. Try flat pedals

Anyone new to the sport should use flat pedals if they want to develop skills faster too. They bring extra comfort and confidence, but also force correct technique – so with simple things like bunnyhops, you’re not just pulling the bike up with your feet like if you’re clipped in. And, if later on you want to move onto clips then you’ll already have the basics – you’re not cheating yourself out of essential basic skills.

6. Don’t rush it

Not much really scares me as such in that I can get down any track I guess, but at an event like Hardline, I think anybody would be lying if they said they weren’t scared at all. I try to be realistic about it, about the level – and I think that applies to all riders at a difficult or new spot – don’t go in thinking you’re going to kill it and you’ll do all the jumps straight away or whatever – that’s a quick way to get injured. Look at the features and be sure the run up speed, the angle of the jumps, anything like that is fixed in your mind before, so you have the most confidence. It’s back to the ‘don’t rush’ thing, as with extra haste injuries are way easier to come by.