Mountain Biking Know the Rules and Succeed

Downhill Fun

So you’ve got a great new mountain bike and you want to hit some serious downhill trails. It’s a lot of fun, to be sure, but you don’t want to get caught up a mountain unprepared. This guide will help you plan ahead to get the most out of your downhill ride, and be safe too.

Always be Prepared

You need to be fully prepared before such an intense excursion. Be sure to take the bike out for some practice rides on easier terrain first; don’t take an untried bike on tough terrain. And you’ll need some leg and arm strength, to keep the bike on track. Try light off-roading or a local singletrack first, just to get a feel for it.

Also, be sure to double-check your bike. It is advised to always perform a routine check before hitting the mountain. As little as 15 minutes of preparatory work can save you a world of trouble later on.

Also, don’t forget the all-important helmet, and a good pair of gloves and riding shorts or pants as well.

Maintain your Balance

When you begin the ride, keep your body weight leaned as far back on the seat (or saddle) as is comfortable, to compensate for the downhill angle. However, if you feel like you’re not in full control of the front wheel, lean forward a bit until you regain full motion. Keep experimenting until you find the perfect angle.

If the trail is particularly rough, it’s important to keep your limbs bent, as this helps absorb the shock. A good suspension helps, certainly, but you want your body as free as possible. Relax your muscles and don’t keep a death-grip on the handlebars: if your body is too stiff, it’s much harder to control the descent.

See the Trail Ahead and Know What’s Coming

Some trails are real tight, while some are wide enough for several bikers at once. Always keep an eye on the coming trail, and know where your plan of action. You don’t want to hit a rough bump or patch without knowing it’s coming; that could be dangerous.

Ideally, you should maintain a line of sight of at least 15 feet in front. That way, you always know that your front wheel is aligned with the trail and you’re heading exactly where you need to go. It’s safest to head for the smoothest, simplest path. You don’t have to be a maniac extreme biker, especially your first time on a new run. Control is always more important than thrills.

Keep Your Wits About You

Inevitably, you’re going to hit some unsure patches. It’s important to not lose your cool in a rough situation. With the wind in your face and your adrenaline pumping, you have to work hard to stay on track. Slow down if you have to, and always be aware of the trail around you. Watch especially for rocks, trees, and other hazards.

Maintain Your Speed

Slow and steady wins the race. This doesn’t mean you have to go so slow it isn’t fun, but letting your speed get out of hand is the single most common way to lose control and take an ugly crash. Always be ready to hit those brakes, and most importantly, always hit the rear brake first. A reactionary pull on the front brake can cause the bike to flip over forward, possibly ejecting you. This is a time when a helmet is necessary.

Also make sure to watch ahead for other bikers. It’s better to slow down and let the next rider keep going than try to pass him or her. He/she may not see you coming and you could crash into them, or knock them off the trail.