If there are two names everybody’s heard of on the downhill mountain biking scene, it’s Gee and Rachel Atherton, the brother and sister combo who’ve been shredding down Fort William and at competitions all over the world for more than a decade. They know a thing or two about going fast downhill. Here are some tips for you downhill junkies out there who love nothing more than to bomb off six-foot drop offs at 40 mph.
Drop Your Saddle
If you’ve got a downhill bike, you’ve already got a low saddle. But if you’ve not bitten the bullet and blown $5,000 on a downhill rig, then a dropper post is a must. Rachel Atherton says that most people make the mistake of keeping their saddle high when they’re going downhill. But a seat that’s too high can lead to leaning back too much or going over the handlebars. What you want is a nice low saddle, not only to keep your weight central on the bike but also so that it’s easy to dab the floor if you start losing your balance. As First Born Bikes points out, mountain bikes are great for riding over rough terrain, but they’re not usually ideal if all you’re doing is downhill. Downhill bikes have a lower center of gravity, making them easier to manoeuvre.
Don’t Go Easy On Yourself
Getting good at going fast downhill takes more than just doing the same old routes week after week, says Gee Atherton. You need to head off to pastures new and find descents you haven’t done before. New trails force you out of your comfort zone, he says, and into the zone where you’re learning more about your own skills and what the bike is capable of. Try going a little tougher every week he says so that the rides you’re doing are a real challenge.
Grab A Practice Partner
Training alone can be a little scary, says Gee. That’s because you’re out by yourself, usually in the middle of nowhere without anybody to help you if you have an accident or your chain falls off. Having a partner by your side is much better, he says, because you’re less likely to want to take it easy and more likely to push yourself. Having a partner allows you to compare lines to see which are the fastest.
Don’t Grab The Brakes The Whole Time
Many riders, says Gee, grab the brakes down the entire length of the course. Instead of gliding down the side of a mountain, they end up squealing down it unceremoniously. Gee says that new downhill riders should try to let go of the brakes when they don’t need them and only grab them when they’re approaching obstacles. The more you make a habit of staying off the brakes, the more fun you’ll have and the faster you’ll go.
Dig Into The Corners
Rachel says that riders can go faster around corners if they raise their inside foot on the pedals and drop their outside foot. If your feet are level, it keeps your weight high.