Be like Rachel

Ahead of the Fort William World Cup next month, here are Rachel Atherton’s top tips for improving your mountain biking.

Words by Rachel Atherton.

Rachel will be taking part in the UCI’s Downhill World Cup calendar, streamed live on Red Bull TV

1. Full runs

If you want to improve your best, you need to make sure that you are doing the best training possible. Whenever you can, do full runs.

For example, at Fort William it is such a long a physical track, there is no point just doing sections and stopping half way down to have a chat. You have got to do full runs otherwise you are going to get to that final pedal section and you’ll be hurting massively. If you haven’t done full runs to prepare you won’t know how to push through it, whereas if you have, it will feel a lot more natural and you will find your times are getting better and better.

2. Mixed up training

A really effective way to improve your mountain biking is to mix up your training. Make sure you get out on the road bike, don’t just stick to your mountain bike. Use the road to build up your base fitness so that when you are struggling on those long runs, you can find that little bit extra again and again.

I always like to throw some intervals in there as well so that you can be sharp out of the corners and you know you’re going to be as good at the bottom of the track as you were at the top. Ensure you are taking advantage of your surroundings and riding on the roads to supplement your work on the mountain bike.

3. Get off the bike

Yoga is one of my favourite exercises. It is amazing for flexibility, core strength, balance and injury prevention. It has become an important pillar of our programme now. I’ve started doing it especially for my back and hips, as my back started getting really tight, and once I started stretching properly after the rides that stopped.

It’s made a huge difference to me. I stretch for half an hour before a session, then most evenings for an hour to 90 minutes. We stretch in the gym, too. Even if it’s just a few basic moves, to open up your hip flexors and shoulders, don’t underestimate how much it will help your riding and recovery. Especially if you’re on a road bike, because of the posture you ride in.

If you choose just one exercise to do in the gym to help your cycling, make it a deadlift. It’s pretty simple to learn, but then you can really add the weight on as you progress. It makes a huge difference to your power as it works your legs, bum, back, core and shoulders, so it’s a whole body move. If you’ve only got half an hour for your workout, this is the most efficient way to spend the time.

4. Active recovery

Downhill mountain biking is such a testosterone-filled sport, so it is great to have some downtime to relax and recover. Living in Dyfi Valley, Wales it is almost impossible to escape the outdoors – perfect for active recovery. Stand-up paddleboarding as well as kayaking and walking are great ways of actively recovering from a tough day of races.

5. Techno techno techno techno!

If you’re going into a corner, a lot of riders have their feet level on the pedals, but if you drop your outside foot to the bottom, and bring the inside foot up, that brings your weight more into the corner, so you’re more solid, and you can lean in and rail it more easily.

If you leave your feet level, your weight is still quite high, which will cause you to slow down a bit and lose stability.

If you’re riding cross-country, you’ll have your seat high to climb, but many riders don’t necessarily think about then lowering their seat for a descent. If the seat’s too high, it will make you lean back too far, or push you over the front so your weight’s unbalanced. If it’s lowered, the bike can move around more easily on the descent, and you can corner better as your weight is more central. A lot of people now have these dropper seat posts which are easy to adjust, so it’s easy.