Downhill mountain biking is a serious rush, one of the best things about mountain biking. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of bombing down a steep hill as fast as you can. When you’re taking on huge hills as part of a race, you’ll want to get the edge on anyone else competing with you. However, it can be worrying trying to push yourself further without causing an accident on the track. Here’s how you can get better and faster at downhill biking, and get ahead of the pack.
Wear The Right Gear
Before you get on that bike, before you hit the track, before you do anything, you need to have the right protective gear. Like any style of cycling, downhill biking can be dangerous and you want to make sure you’re protected in case of an accident. Hitting the track without any protective clothing is just asking for trouble.
With downhill cycling, the first piece of protective gear you’re going to need is your helmet. Lives are saved by good helmets, so make sure you’re picking up a good one. It should be a full face helmet, to protect you from the grit and rocks that can come flying up at you. Try on a variety of helmets, to make sure you’re getting one that fits you properly. You’ll need to pair this up with a pair of cycling goggles, to protect your eyes from the same dangers.
A pair of good cycling gloves will protect your hands in case of an accident. If you fall off your bike, your first reaction is to put your hands out to break your fall, so don’t go gloveless. They’ll also improve your grip, which is a bonus.
Finally, if you’re just starting out armour is a must. It feels like overkill but if you come off your bike, you’re going to be so grateful you have it. At a minimum, you’re going to need knee and elbow pads. Look for styles that have removable pads, as you can take them off and put them in the washing machine when needed.
The best thing about good gear is that it can give you more confidence, as you feel protected. With that confidence, you can go faster on those downhill rides.
Getting Started | Beginner Downhill MTB
Get A Friend To Train With
Now that you’re kitted up and ready to go, you’re going to need to start training. The best way to do this is with a friend, one who’s well versed in downhill biking and can give you some pointers. Hit the trail with them and be ready to learn. You’ll be amazed at how much you can pick up from another biker. Even if you’re starting out new with another fresh-faced biker, you can still get a lot from your training sessions. Biking with someone else will encourage you to push yourself and get the most out of your performance. A little friendly competition never hurts! You’ll certainly see more results biking as a team, rather than on your own.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Of course, this should go without saying, but you’re going to need to practice as much as possible. The more time you’re spending on your bike, the better you’ll be at downhill biking. Put aside as much time as you can every week to get out on your bike and training. The more time and effort you put into it, the more results you’ll see.
This is important to remember, even when you feel as though you’re not getting anywhere. You may feel like you’re out every day and you’re not improving, but you are. Practice, as the saying goes, makes perfect. Be diligent in your training sessions and you will see the results.
Pick A Trail With Good Downhill Sections
If you want to get good at downhill biking, you’re going to need to find a trail that has plenty of downhill sections for you to practice on. Make a point of riding them as often as possible, to get a feel for it. The more you do it, the less daunting it will be for you when race day comes.
If you’re training for a race and you can access the track beforehand, go ride it. Use that time to familiarise yourself with it, especially the downhill sections. The more you can ride it, the better. This will help you when race day comes, as you know exactly what you’re facing.
If you can’t access good trails often, you can still put in the hours of training needed. You just need to be more creative. Riding different disciplines will help you improve as a biker, and you’ll get a lot of value from switching up your training routine.
If you just keep riding the same tracks time after time, it’s going to get samey, you’re going to get bored, and you won’t get anything from it. Instead, keep challenging yourself and changing things up. Go ride different tracks, ride different disciplines, and set goals for yourself. Take yourself out of your comfort zone and look for new challenges and opportunities.
Keep making training interesting and you’ll find that your riding will improve as a result. It’s like any form of exercise, you need to keep changing your routine or you’ll find that you’re not making any improvement.
On The Track
Put The Saddle Down
Saddle position is important when you’re on your bike. It shifts your entire weight on the bike, affecting how you ride it. When you’re heading downhill, it’s best to have the saddle as low as possible. This lowers your weight, giving you much more control over the descent.
This is a good time to think about getting a drop post saddle. These can be adjusted mid-ride, without you having to stop and deal with it. If you ride other disciplines too, it can be very helpful to have on your bike.
May bikers make the mistake of looking at the ground right in front of their bike. They think they’re going to be ready for anything that comes up, but in fact they’re missing the big picture. Because they’re so busy looking at the ground in front of them, they’re constantly making micro adjustments as they go. It’s wearing, and you can still miss something big, potentially causing an accident. Instead, keep your head up and look further down the track as you ride. This will help you see what’s coming up, and give you plenty of notice before you need to make any adjustments. Good awareness will help you go faster, as it gives you the confidence you need in the trail.
Use Your Limbs As Suspension
A good fork on the bike, of course, will help as you’re riding downhill, but you’ve got to put your body to work too. Your limbs actually act as fantastic suspension, if you’re riding correctly. It’s tempting to stiffen up as you hit the downhill tracks, but in fact, this can actually harm your performance. Instead, loosen up your grip a little, and go with the flow. You can absorb a lot of bumps and jolts this way, giving you control on that decline.
Think About Where Your Weight Is
Your weight has a lot of power to improve your speed on a downhill run. You’ve got to be thinking about where you’re keeping your weight on the bike, and how and when you should change it.
When you first hit the hill, you want to keep your weight to the back of your saddle, to give you control and speed. You won’t want to be on the pedals, as the hill will be doing the job of picking up speed for you. When the terrain starts to flatten out, that’s when you should bring your weight forward and get back on the pedals, ready to take off the hill at speed.
Master Your Brakes
The brakes are all important when it comes to downhill mountain biking. Of course, you’ll be using them to control your speed as you head downhill. However, you’ll also need them to master turns and tackle jumps and obstacles. They give you a serious amount of power over your bike, so make sure that you’re using them correctly. Enough practice should give you the skills you need to conquer the hills with your brakes.
At the end of the day, the only way you’re going to get faster at downhill biking is to trust yourself and trust your bike. Looking over the lip of that hill is daunting, but you’ve got to know that you and your bike will work together seamlessly to make that descent happen.
It’s all about the practice and the work that you put into riding that will give you that speed. Get out there as often as you can, and build yourself up. The more you ride, the faster you’ll get. It really is simple as that.
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