top of page

The 4 Things Slowing You Down

There are 4 things slowing you down when you head out for any kind of ride. These often unseen ‘forces’ can be felt by all of us, and are oftentimes annoying. These are the 4 Trail Nemeses.

  • There are 4 main trail nemeses slowing you down. Some you can fix but others are a waste of time.

  • Gravity is the main force slowing you down up hill. Saving weight is important, but don't be a weight weenie.

  • Aerodynamics is important in MTB, but they will never be 0 watts. Ride in control and in a smart aero position.

  • Rolling resistance is more important than aerodynamics (especially on MTB), but it's a trade-off between rolling speed and braking traction.

  • Braking is the most important factor slowing you down. Brake smarter for free speed.

We can think of the 4 Trail Nemeses as forces slowing us down as we complete an entire circuit - some we see more on uphills, some more on flats, and other more on descents. As you leave the parking lot, these forces start slowing you down immediately. The 4 Trail Nemeses continue slowing you down until you return back to the car. Some are working against you all the time while others are concentrated to particular parts of the trail. Some of them keep us up at night, but others we never even thought of. Some of these you can remedy by throwing money at the problem. Some of these you can improve with smart choices and training. Others still are a trade-off, whereby solving it will inflate another issue.

It’s important to note that the 4 trail nemeses are not all equal. The point of this article is to help you decide how you might be able to spend your own time and energy to improve your times and expend your limited amount of human power to get around a circuit.

Listen to the podcast here:


Gravity is a force acting on us all of the time. It’s the acceleration of a body towards the center of the Earth. We can measure gravity in meters per second squared. It’s what gives your mass weight. An object (or person on a bike) that has more mass will have to fight gravity more.

Gravity is a pretty obvious force acting on us. You’ve faced this trail nemesis the moment your bike pointed up a hill. You had to use your muscles to do work to overcome gravity. You might have measured this one with your power meter. In an instant you could go from riding at 100W to riding at 200W when you’re faced with a slight incline. You have two choices: slow down or push harder.

Weight weenies are well-versed with gravity. Weight weenies know that they can buy titanium bolts and flimsy tires to reduce the mass of their bikes. This makes the person able to travel faster up the same hill at any given effort since gravity has a lesser effect.


Gravity is a huge force acting on us when we travel up a hill. It’s probably the biggest force and our greatest foe.

You can think about the how much gravity is working against you by think about how much work (total energy) it takes to pick up a bike. Let’s say you’re picking up your bike from the ground and lifting it straight into the air 1 meter. Obviously you’re posing for a photo for Instagram to show off your whip!

Bike: 10kg

Distance lifted: 1 meter

Gravity: 9.81 m/s2

Work = Force*Distance

So let’s get force;

Force = mass* gravity

Force = 10*9.81

Force = 98.1N