This post is part of the Leadville 100 MTB FAQ.
Although training for aerobic fitness is the biggest part of a successful Leadville 100, mountain bike handling skills can give you the extra edge to make your time goal. They can even be the difference between finishing or not. Skills can make the difference between making the official finish cut-off or not.
Being able to descend faster or maintain more of your speed through corners is like free energy. In a 100 mile mountain bike race, you can use all the free energy you can get. As with most things, practice is what will improve your handling skills.
One way to improve your mountain bike skills is to pick a downhill section with plenty of turns that you can ride in 5-10 minutes. The section doesn’t need to be steep downhill. It can even be rolling as long as you can keep a decent speed.
Ride the section a few times and time yourself. See how much you can improve your time. One thing to focus on is keeping your speed in the turns so you don’t have to accelerate as much as you come out of the turn.
Once you feel comfortable on the section and aren’t improving your time much, pick another section and repeat.
Ride Technical Sections
Another way to improve your mountain bike handling skills is to try riding technical sections on your normal rides even if you don’t think you can. If you don’t make it, try a few times before you continue on. Of course use common sense and don’t do something that is almost certain to cause an injury.
Ride with Others
Riding with others will improve your handling skills especially if they’re better than you. Being with someone else will get your competitiveness going and you’ll try harder without even realizing it. Ride behind someone else and watch to see which lines and techniques they use.