by Dr. Matt Miller (a.k.a. MTB PHD)
Yeah, right…”Free Speed.” Believe it or not, it’s out there for the taking and this is not an infomercial. Any endurance athlete obviously has to have the physical capabilities and engine to perform their sport. But there are ways to get faster without improving our fitness. In a very skill dependent sport such as off-road cycling (mountain bike, cyclocross, and even gravel to some extent), this is even more evident. One of the most important skills in these disciplines is effectively applying (or not) your brakes, but can we measure something like this? Thanks to Dr. Matt and his amazing team, now we can!
I’ve known Dr. Matt Miller for over 20 years now. Dr. Matt and I were at many of the same races back when he lived in Pennsylvania and I got to know him well through my junior teammates. Personally, Matt is super fun to be around, an excellent cyclist, and overall a great guy. And now, he is literally the MTB PhD. Dr. Matt has a master’s degree in exercise science and earned a PhD with a focus on mountain bike descending. So in addition to all of his great personal qualities, you can add super smart and experienced to the list. He now resides in New Zealand with trails right outside of his door. Perfect testing grounds for his amazing creation.
24 Hours of Allamuchy 2004
Matt and I were both on winning teams that year. Matt and his teammate took the two-person division, and I was on the winning Men's Elite 4 Person Team. Good times!
Besides Matt’s extensive knowledge, research, and application of exercise science, he has also invented the world’s first brake power meter. Sound awesome? It is! It was recently showcased here on Pink Bike:
Brake Ace on Pink Bike
Brake Ace will now allow coaches and riders to actually quantify their braking and how it impacts their riding, both positively and negatively.
That which can be measured can be improved.
Along with this amazing device, Matt and his all-star team developed an app to collect and make sense of the data while providing actionable steps for improvement. The app delivers many meaningful metrics, but also breaks it down with your “flow score” and provides three “key opportunities” where you can find the greatest gains. For each key opportunity you improve, it will find another.
To pull it all together, Dr. Matt also wrote a companion book that we can all learn from even without a Brake Ace. However, after reading the book, you will quite likely contact Dr. Matt to order your Brake Ace. The name of the book is, you guessed it, Free Speed.
Matt and I had a great video chat a month ago, and right after the call I went straight to his site and got the book. It was written really well and an easy and engaging read.
While reading it, there were many times I felt like I was actually having a conversation with Dr. Matt. He broke it down to a language that is easily understandable. I might be at a slight advantage having been a math teacher for 20+ years and with extensive education in the cycling and coaching world, but he delivers it without getting too techy. However, the science is there if you have an interest in diving in deeper.
While the book thoroughly describes how Brake Ace and its app can be used to help make you faster, there are also concepts and drills that can be practiced without a Brake Ace. My question really would be, “why practice this without a Brake Ace?”
Here’s a link to his book on his Brake Ace site:
And on Amazon:
Amazon Free Speed
I also encourage you to check out his two podcasts:
These are mountain bike centric, but certainly some of the episodes could be applied to other off-road disciplines. Dr. Matt’s is joined by Rohan Martin, a.k.a. The Sweaty Techie, who has an amazing resume of decades in the technical world of ANT+, Bluetooth, wearables, and more. And now Brake Ace. He also rips it up on the mountain bike.
The Performance Advantage Podcast
This one is presented from more of a training and science standpoint brought to us by Dr. Matt and his co-host, Dr. Will O’Connor. Dr. O’Connor specializes in running endurance coaching and is an accomplished runner himself.
I recommend this episode first to learn more about Brake Ace:
Five Ways to Get Faster Without Getting Fitter
Brake Ace is a smart investment for all of us that want to get faster. Yes, you should train with consistency. Yes, you should build your endurance engine. Yes, you should hire a coach. And yes, you should check out this amazing tool that can help you improve your riding.
You can find more about Dr. Matt at:
and let him know I sent you there.
Find your flow!
Coach B.L. is the head coach at BJL Coaching and an avid racer and cycling enthusiast himself.