Downhill Mountain Biking Techniques & Tips
Essential brilliant techniques and tips for downhill mountain bike riding
A key tip for beginner riders is not to go out with experienced mountain bikers on a technical rocky trail for a first downhill ride. The pressure to keep up and try something beyond a rider’s capability can often lead to tears. Instead, practice alone or with riders of a similar experience level or, if particularly apprehensive, consider a basic mountain biking skills course that will allow riders to tackle trails appropriate to their ability.
Frightened by an especially steep descent? A good rule of thumb is if the slope can be negotiated safely on foot without slipping and sliding, it can also be biked down, but don’t try to tackle anything too difficult until the correct technique has been mastered.
As much as downhill biking is enjoyable and exciting, it’s one of the more hazardous mountain biking styles. Here are some techniques to help you get down the hill, not only intact, but also with style and grace:
Safe mountain biking:
Begin with safety. Before you hit the trail wear a helmet and gloves. This will protect you in case you fall.Whether mountain biking alone, with your mates or with a Professional Guide on holiday, it is always important to remember the basics that will keep your cycling both fun and safe. The follow points might come across as really obvious, however, it is normally by ignoring or forgetting one of these simple facts that a great day’s cycling turns into a bit of a nightmare.
If your mountain bike is well maintained then you will be safer on the trails. So, how do you make sure that everything is running as it should be. Firstly, this isn’t a comprehensive maintenance guide just a few pointers to help to try and keep you out of trouble. If you aren’t sure how to repair things then take it to your local bike shop. Better to be safe than sorry.
If you are new to riding downhill and feel apprehensive, begin by practicing on the smaller, shorter hills, and build up to the larger hills before you tackle the long and steep.
Plan Your Route:
When you do find a steep downhill section of trail to ride, look over the hill and plan how you’re going to ride it before you head on down. Ask yourself “what kind of terrain will I be riding on? Is it: hard pack, loose rocks, roots, soft sand, a combination of these or other possible terrain?” Knowing what you’ll be riding on will help you to be mentally prepared for your downhill ride.
Weight Back, Move Forward:
As you move down the slope, keep your rear end as far back on the saddle as seems wise without losing control of the bike. If the front end seems wobbly, or skips from side to side, you are probably playing it too safe leaning too far back. This is unsually more apparent on bikes with front suspensions. They require a little more give and take. Pay attention to how it feels and adjust as needed.
Stay in Control:
Once you begin to go down, keep your speed under control. Going too fast can lead to loss of control and falling. Going too slow can lead to loss of balance and falling to one side or the other. When riding downhill, controlling your speed is often done by using your brakes. Ease the pressure on both front and rear. Depending too heavily on your rear brakes will cause skidding and loss of control. Use of the front brakes should be kept to a minimum while on the steep downhill. Too much front brake usage could cause you to flip forward head over handlebars.
Hold your body as close to the bike as possible. Hanging limbs create ungainly movements. Suspension systems may take the jolt out of many rough descents, but your legs and arms are the most effective shock absorbers you have. Keep your elbows bent at an angle slightly greater than 90 degrees and avoid gripping the handlebars too tightly. Relaxing your muscles is the key to maneuverability. Even if you have suspension, you want your legs relaxed and ready to take bumps. To soak up the bumps, get your weight back, grip the seat with your thighs and keep your knees bent and relaxed.
Maintain a Stable Footing: Your feet should be at 3 and 9 o’clock. This is called the platform and is the best position for your feet unless you’re negotiating tight corners. From this position you are centered on your bike and well balanced. Reacting from this position is a simple process of shifting your weight forward, back, or side to side.
Your balancing act isn’t the only thing you can do to keep your bike moving down those steep slopes smoothly. The route you choose and your brake control contribute to a fluid descent as well.
Pick a line and stay on it:
Instead of picking a spot that you want to avoid, pick a line where you want to go. Make sure that you align your front tube towards that direction. Scan your path in advance for possible hazards and prepare your next action. Planning is essential. It will keep your feet on the pedal and your hands on the handlebar. When scanning, look 15 to 20 feet ahead. Then align your tire towards or away from that direction. Do this throughout your descent.
Downhill Cornering can be tricky. Your momentum is pulling you straight down the hillside and you need to change that momentum to another direction. The natural tendency for a cyclist on a downhill corner, is to slow way down, make the turn and then resume pedaling into the descent. To corner with performance, slow down just enough to stay in control and not lose your traction. If your turn goes from a steep decline to a gentler slope, use your momentum to power forward out of the turn by leaning to shift your weight into the new direction.
Keep your senses intact:
Do not get carried away with the adrenaline rush. While you can go wild and get crazy, keep your mind focused on the direction of your bike. Remember, lack of concentration for a brief moment can speed a disaster and can send you rolling down the hill ahead of your bike. Always play it safe but still having fun.
There are many ways to improve you skills, the most important one is of course to practice, and then to practice a bit more and a bit more. Even though downhill mountain biking is somewhat a risky sport, it’s well worth to go for it, being able to give you an experience out of the ordinary, both fun and exciting.