Did you know that Markus Stöckl holds multiple records for the fastest mountain bike rider in the world? The Austrian cyclist has both set and broke maximum speeds on various tough terrains!
Whether or not you’ve heard of Markus, his story is certain to inspire you. It’ll also have you asking: How fast can you go on a mountain bike?
Today, I’ll answer that pressing question for you. Not just that, but I’ll take you through the do’s and don’t’s of speedy mountain bike riding as well. Let’s get to driving!
An amateur mountain bike driver can reach an average speed of 10 to 14 mph. With proper training, you can easily bump that up to 15 or 20 mph. Put in extra hours of intense conditioning and exercise to push the 30 and 35-mph limits.
What about the professionals? Well, we’re talking raw speed and power here. Such strength translates to over 45 mph on the road—sometimes reaching up to 60 mph too!
That said, these numbers are general. Take them as average estimates because various elements can affect these speeds greatly.
Mountain bikes are for driving downhill and on unpaved mountain tracks. Because of their purpose, the structure of a mountain bike differs widely from that of a road bike, for instance.
Your mountain bike’s build is just one factor that affects its speed on harsh terrain, though.
Consider your skillset and weight as well. Stability, air resistance, and tire pressure are other factors to include. A bike’s suspension and the biker’s riding style are often ignored, but they also play a role in how fast you can go.
So, with the above in mind, let’s see how each element affects a mountain bike’s speed.
1. A Mountain Bike’s Build
Let me introduce you to an important concept: Bike geometry.
Bike geometry encompasses how heavy the bike is and what its structure looks like. Put simply, the term refers to your bike’s design.
Each mountain bike differs from the next regarding this element. Some are rather lightweight, while others are more durable.
Remember Markus Stöckl?
The famously fast mountain bike rider claims that there’s nothing special about his bike. It doesn’t host custom-designed parts, either. His bike is simply what’s best for him.
So, even though bike geometry and aerodynamics play a big role in affecting your speed, it all comes down to your skills.
Weight is a vital factor when driving down rocky roads. Your weight, that of the bike, and any cycling gear you have on board; all make a difference.
It’s a simple rule:
The less weight your bike is carrying, the faster it’ll move. Not only that, but it reduces the effort you exert in driving, thus saving more energy.
An amateur mountain bike driver can’t beat the speed of a professional one. Markus Stöckl, for instance, only broke the 65 mph barrier because he put in hours of training.
Needless to say that gaining speed downhill requires an incredible feat of strength and effort.
I mentioned aerodynamics earlier, and I’m crediting it again. Physics helps a lot in ascertaining how fast your bike will go.
The science here applies to the smallest of items—including the shape of your water bottle! Your posture as you cycle is as vital as your position on the saddle, too.
Air resistance is perhaps the one element you should really look out for. The more speed you gain, the stronger the wind will be. So, not knowing how to protect yourself and your bike from air resistance can be damaging.
Finding the balance between riding in comfort and overcoming powerful winds takes long hours of practice. Be patient, too, and don’t rush the process. High speeds come with a proper understanding of resistance and physics.
6. Tire Pressure
Tire pressure is one of the ultimate factors that affect your mountain bike’s speed.
Bigger doesn’t always mean better. Strong tires do more harm on rough mountain terrains than you think. They won’t conform to the bumps in the road and will thus slow you down.
Too little tire pressure isn’t ideal, too. The wheels will shift sideways as your speed goes up. It’ll put you at risk of falling or losing control of your bike with the slightest obstacle.
People often overlook their bike’s suspension. If you ride an e-bike, you may not have this issue since e-bikes have great suspension levels and stability.
That said, a bike’s suspension is vital regardless of the terrain it’s covering. Obviously, a strong suspension performs better on bumpy, rough hills, but it’s just as great on less aggressive paths.
Experienced bikers will tell you that deciding whether a bike is worth it depends on the driver.
Simply put, your riding style determines how you’ll adjust your bike’s suspension, sag, rebound, and pressure settings. For example, the more adventurous you are, the sturdier you want your bike to be.
A self-challenging driver will also consider more difficult hills to drive down. He’ll then need to pay extra attention to air resistance, posture, and all the aforementioned factors—as opposed to a lackluster driver.
Now comes the important part:
What tips can I give you to reach your full-speed potential?
From experience, and by observing what the pros swear by, the following four tips are what you should keep in mind.
Putting on weight where it matters in the bike’s design increases its stability on the road. Here, the added weight works for you, not against you.
By improving your bike’s stability, you’re boosting your control over it. Mountain bike riding can be dangerous, and without the proper handling of your bike, you can lose your footing quickly. It’ll reduce your speed, too.
One trick I learned is to increase the sprung mass, for instance.
This tip seems obvious, but it requires getting used to. Driving downhill can be scary, and more often than not, you’re reaching for the brakes to slow you down.
So, advising you to brake less sounds stupid—yet it yields incredible results in terms of speed and traction. It’ll also help you control your bike better when cutting corners and riding up slopes.
Keep in mind these safety measures when practicing this step, though.
To repeat, your position and posture while riding heavily affect your air resistance and how fast you can drive your bike. Learn how to blend with your bike, without having to exert half as much energy or effort to move it.
A rule of thumb is:
Keep your upper frame looking small. Do so by tucking in your arms, looking forward, and keeping your chin up.
Choose the right handle frame, too, and adjust your seat according to your height. Your heel should be able to touch the lower pedal when extended.
4. Don’t: Skip Maintenance
Beginner riders often fall into this trap. Just because you’re not riding that frequently, doesn’t mean your bike doesn’t need its TLC time.
Your bike won’t break new speed records if you don’t regularly grease, lube, and clean its parts.
A debris-free bike will run freely. There’s no buildup of muck and dirt to hinder its gears or stop its intricate workings from moving.
So, don’t skip maintenance day—especially if you ride in harsh conditions.