One of the best things about bicycling is coming to the top of a mountain and speeding down it. Adrenaline starts pumping as the wind hits your face. However, people sometimes underestimate the skill required in these circumstances. They think just because they learned how to ride a bike as a child, they can handle going down a mountain trail. That’s like signing up for a downhill longboard competition because you rode a skateboard as a child, but never learned how to longboard.
Skateboarding as a kid is nowhere near the same as longboarding downhill, reaching speeds up to 60 miles per hour on a different-sized board. So why would you take on a challenging mountain trail that could be filled with obstacles on a bicycle that’s not built the same as a street bike? You can if you learn how to control the descent.
Making the Bike Work for You
Instead of thinking about racing your bike down a steep trail, think about it as controlling the bike’s fall down the trail. While normally you don’t want to ever “fall” on a bike, but basically that is what is happening as you descend. However, there are ways to control the situation so that the bike is falling down the hill, but your body is not falling off the mountain bike.
Obviously, these components are critical for controlling speed. Generally speaking, front brakes offer more power than back brakes. That can be good news and bad news. If you apply too much pressure on the front brakes while gaining speed, especially in the midst of a turn, then there is greater potential for an abrupt stop.
Rather, apply equal pressure to both front and back brakes. This will help to maintain your control as you slow the tires’ rotations.
If you were to longboard down a steep mountain road, balance, especially in turns, is an absolute must. If you don’t find your balance, you’re off the board. The same is true with mountain biking downhill.
The bike’s forward motion will want to bring your body forward, too. Instead, use your body to act as a counterbalance so the bike (and you) doesn’t become front-end-heavy. Sit as far back in the saddle as you can while maintaining your balance. You’ll be able to tell if you’ve gone too far back if you feel the front end wobble or slide side to side.
Stay close to the bike frame. In addition to keeping your chest low, bring arms and legs in closer. Try not to tense up too much because a relaxed state is a more balanced state.
Focus on the trail about 15 to 20 feet ahead of you instead of looking down. Not only will this help you balance on the bike, but you can see what conditions are coming up and mentally prepare for them. This way you won’t be forced into last-second decisions that might come too late.