Go faster to be safer, more fluid, more efficient and more controlled?
Yes, faster can often be safer, smoother, more efficient, and more controlled. I didn’t say the advice that is often given, “just put it on.” I mean by releasing the brakes and gliding through tough areas we can let our bike work for us instead of fighting it. It always amazes me how rugged the trails feel when I train and I’m not going at my normal pace. There are four main reasons for this: 1. Braking makes my arms tense, which inhibits my ability to use my body to absorb shock. 2. A free-wheeling wheel rolls more smoothly on rough surfaces than a braking wheel. 3. Going a little faster, my wheels don’t fall into the holes between the bumps (the wheel “jumps” from the top of one bump to the top of the next bump) 4. Most suspensions work better with brakes removed.
All of this adds up to a more relaxed body, a smoother ride, less energy expended, and more control. The better your basic skills (especially vision), the easier it will be to do. As an experiment, find a rough section of one of your local trails and tentatively ride it with the brakes on and make a mental note of how hard it felt and how your body felt doing so. Then try it a few more times by slowly increasing your speed (pushing the limits of your comfort zone, without taking a huge leap into your fear zone that will strain you by defeating all purpose) and see if it really gets a little easier. and smoother. More than two hours of cross country road or just two minutes of hard downhill stretch, this can make a big difference.
Don’t fall for all the commonly handed down “myths” about driving technique like, “on a steep hill, back off”, which is very dangerous. Instead, learn the correct, balanced, and controlled way to ride and have more fun on the trails.