Riding downhill is probably the most exciting part of mountain biking. But this doesn’t mean that you have to ride hard like there’s no tomorrow. There is a big difference between having fun and wiping out. Take these 5 simple advices to ride down the hill in one piece instead of spending the rest of your day in the hospital.
1. Pre-ride preparation – Even if you are physically ready and capable to ride downhill, never attempt it if you have not checked your bike. Check if you have the right set of brakes and if it works properly. Do not forget to wear your trusted helmet, a pair of gloves, and pads if available.
2. Keep it balanced – As you move downhill, shift your body weight as far back on the saddle as possible to counter the angle of descent. If you feel that the front end of the bike wobbles or you are losing control, you may be too far back. Compensate it by leaning forward until you get the right control. Keep your body properly aligned on with your bike. Bend down and hold your body as close to the bike as possible. Bend your arms and legs. They are best shock absorbers especially if the trail is very rough and rutted. The bike is harder to control with stiff body. Relax your muscles and do not grip the handlebar too tightly.
3. 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.
Even if you have a good set of suspension, try to choose the smoothest path possible. A less rugged path gives you better control of the bike and less body pain after the ride.
4. 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.
5. Control your speed – Sure, you want to feel the wind brushing your face. That is just part of the thrill. But do not substitute wind with mud or rocks. If you want to let go of the brake during descent, it is entirely up to but make sure that you have a complete control over your bike. If fear starts to replace the thrills, better think of slowing down. Do not hit the brake hard though. Gently squeeze both front and rear brake to get to the desired speed.
Watch out for other bikers or unsuspecting hiker ahead of you. You may be riding down too fast and may hit another person. This doesn’t mean that you should not go fast, it only means you have to take control of your speed.