Mountain biking by definition involves many slopes, which new riders must learn to master before they take on many trails beyond the “easy” level or go riding with their more experienced buddies. These are the reasons most people take up the sport in the first place, so these are crucial skills to pick up.
Most of the time you don’t have a lot of choices while ascending a hill — you lean forward and use an easy gear to make any progress. Downhill, gravity is on your side and it’s your job to decide how to use it for speed and control.
When approaching a steep grade on your bike, start picking out your line, or the route, you want to take to the bottom of the hill. You need to be cognizant of the hazards you’re trying to avoid but maintain your focus on where you want your tires to go.
Braking skills are key as you begin your descent. Virtually everybody realizes slamming your front brakes while downhilling is bad, but they still need to be used. If you keep your body in the proper position, sitting as far back on the seat as you can without losing your control, you should be able to apply rear and front brakes with the same force. If you need to regain momentum, release the front brake a bit.
Hold your arms and legs as close to your bike as you can to absorb the inevitable shocks that will come your way but try to keep your muscles relaxed. Keep your feet in platform (3 and 9 o’clock) position unless you’re going around a tight corner.
It’s tempting to let yourself fly down the slope, but the inevitable surprises in the form of other bikers, hikers and wildlife requires you to keep command over your speed. Remember you don’t want to end up in a skid, which will eliminate any control you have over your bike and might damage the trail.
Learning to combine these skills will allow your path to flow downhill without endangering yourself or anyone else.
Photo: Blushing Cactus Photography