Mountain Biking Australia


I have been mountain biking with my best mate for most of my life. We grew up together, are a similar size and build, have near identical bikes with identical setups, but he still seems to always have the edge on me. It wasn’t until I started considering the psychology of mountain biking and the way I perceive the trail that I realised how important it was and, more importantly, how it could boost my speed and lower my times, that I could match him and even start beating him.


A recent study from the University of Portsmouth looked at the impact of extreme emotions on cycling performances. They compared three sets of riders, those cycling while distressed, those cycling under normal conditions, and those cycling whilst attempting to suppress feelings of emotion. They found that those who were upset finished faster, with a higher maximum heart rate and felt less exhausted afterwards than those who were suppressing their emotion.

What does this mean? That if we are struggling with a steep section or a particularly difficult trail, don’t worry about keeping your composure and bottling up your frustration. If you are annoyed, let yourself get frustrated and channel it into your riding.


The more time we give our brain to respond to an obstacle or potential challenge, the less flustered we become and the better the response will be. The mental aspect of mountain biking involves creating automatic responses to common scenarios to free up your brain to focus on the obstacles further ahead and process the response to tougher obstacles.


Concentrating on going fast, doesn’t always translate into more speed. If all you are thinking about it trying to go faster, you will likely tense up, your position will become sloppy and you won’t achieve it.

To really push your speed up, stop thinking about speed and start thinking about technique. If you concentrate and making your technique the best you can, your speed will rise. When it does, you will be so focused on technique you won’t have the opportunity to panic and react negatively to it.

This was key for me. When I was intently focused on my speed I would sometimes react negatively to bursts of intense downhill speed and feel the urge to go for my breaks or ease off a bit. By adapting my thinking to focus on technique, I wasn’t concerned about my speed so much and didn’t consider easing off. Providing my body position was spot on, I had nothing to worry about.

By changing the way I thought about speed, I was able to push myself harder, maintain a higher average speed and reach higher maximum speeds on the steeper sections. I also felt far more secure and safer once I got there. Stop thinking about your speed and time, and start thinking about your technique and the way you handle the obstacles, both near and far. Your times will look after themselves.


Do you have anything to add to this article? Do you have any recommendations for how psychology improved your mountain biking? Please share your experience and knowledge through the comments section below.

Peter Williams

Peter loves bikes of all kinds. He has a passion for mountain biking right through to cycling long distance. He is sharing his experience here OnDECK.