How to ride DH safely and WIN!

PB Forum :: Downhill
How to ride DH safely and WIN!
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Posted: Mar 1, 2008 at 13:58 Quote
If You have a tip(s) on how to race/ride DH better and win; post em' and I'll add em'.

~Thanks to all who contributed~
-Roger B.

THE FOLLOWING ARE NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR REAL LIFE RIDING, RACING, PRACTICE & EXPERIENCE.

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Note: ***THE FOLLOWING IS NOT IN ORDER OF IMPORTANCE***!



1. Always wear a helmet, wear body armor as well when needed (how much depends on course, and what you find to be suitable) at all times.

2. Look ahead of you. The faster you are going the further ahead you should look.

3. Stay focused and try not to concentrate or think while you are going at high speed, this tends to slow you down and/or cause accidents...practice alot and everything should come naturally with flow!
-(Courtesy of JKR) Before a run get a song or something that gets you "in the mood" in the back of your mind,and go for it - before you know it you'll be through the track/race no problem...you should all ready know the track turn for turn before doing this.

4. Make sure your tires have appropriate tread on them and are not cracking/damaged

5. Check your bike over in the parking lot before going up the lift. Ride it around and check the brakes and tire pressures.

6. Get enough sleep before riding and especially before racing.

7. Don't drink or get high before racing or riding (you can do it, and seen it done, but if you want to win or want to be safe...don't)

8. Stay relaxed and dialed in on the bike, be as relaxed as possible mentally before you start a race but be pumped physically at the same time.

9. Know the track as well as you can before racing it (the later steps will go into greater detail on how to do this).

10.Learn to 'pump through the ruff stuff'-pull up on the face and push down on the back side of bumps/rocks/landing trannys, etc...

11. Stay light on the back brake as much as you can and try to lock it as rarely as possible if at all...it may cause you to wash out. Only lock the brake on extremely sharp turns or to get into a turn if a cuttie won't be efficient enuff.

12. Try to go as fast as you can when you can-->PEDAL PEDAL PEDAL like a bat out of hell in the open or out of turns when/where ever you can.

13. Practice "cutties".

14. Buy the "Fundamentals" DVD available here on pinkbike.com or at most bike shops and study it...take notes if you have to. You will find how to do "cutties" on the DVD as well as many many more "fundamentals" for DH riding-----> BUY IT, you will be glad you did.

15. (#14-#17 courtesy of Blue Raptor)
Off camber: make sure you weight your outside foot and stand the bike on the egde of the tire, that way it will stick

16. Rock gardens: the faster the better- you will bobble across the top and be on you way before you know it, rather than getting packed down and ending up with major arm pump.

17. Braking: only ever do real braking in straight lines, you can brake on corners but do it conservatively and only to slide around sharp turns better as it may cause you to wash out as mentioned above. The less you brake the faster you go and fast riding is a winning formula- think about that.

18. >>>Don't Crash It can have you out for the rest of the season and that can prevent you from winning races----obviously. Just dont ride like an idiot and attempt things that will probably end in you getting hurt. Ride within your limits!

19. (Words of Pro Down hiller Steve Peat from the "fundamentals" DVD mentioned above) "Stay as light as you can on the bike and pump through the back side of rocks or rough sections as a skateboarder pumps a vert ramp" to gain or maintain speed and momentum.

20. Trust your tires throughout the course. If you believe and have faith in your tires grip, chances are they will have grip fine. If you don't trust your tires and BELEIVE that they wont grip and you will probably fall, chances are they won't grip and as a result you will indeed fall.

21. Walk the track and look for new lines or which lines are best to take and are the fastest

22. Tuck when ever possible to conserve energy. Pedal hard in the open spots before the ruff stuff then tuck and pump and repeat.

23. True your wheels to increase your speed and pedalling efficiency

24. Don't use big fat mud bog tiresfor DH(i.e. 2.6"-3.0") EVER...unless your DH course happens to be a downhill mud swamp

25. Learn to brake with out losing traction , this helps in straight line braking before turns.

26.(Courtesy of Sh1t4brainz)Push yourself in the warmups, (not stupidly) and give 95% of what your maximum was when you were pushing yourself, in the actual race. This way you wont fall, but you are still hauling a$$.

27.( #27 and #28 Courtesy of Iceboy) Practice shift points, it is very important to be in the right gear at the right time or youll be sucking wind trying to pedal a flat stretch in too high of a gear. On a fast stretch where you need to begin pedaling to maintain that speed, youll be spinning out. Know what gear to start in and what gear you need to be in at every point in the track.

28. If all else fails look fast across the finish line where everyones watching.

29. (#29-#32Coutesy of Blue Raptor) When learning, set your fork/and or shock harder than you would normally, this will teach you to use to body rather than relying upon the bike.

30. Try to pick memory markers for your self; tree stump, odd looking rock, etc... and break the course down in your head so you can become very quick overall.

31. Practice simple skills such as manuals (good for roots), Hops, roots/rocks) and of course cutties

32. Commit to berms, brake on a berm and it will end it tears, aim to "rail the berm" to do this - hit the berm at a speed that isnt too fast (this will cause you to slip up it) and not to slow (you will slip down and is slower duh) The ideal speed should carry you round as g forces will push you into the berm.

34. (courtesy of Bansheeair)Take a couple of the "Learn to race" clinics offered before many of the sanctioned races.

35. (courtesy of Iceboy)Play with your set up, everything from seat angle, to brake postioning- it can all make a big difference. The more comfortable you are on the bike the faster youll go, the steepness can be different for each course(for instance) so tweak it a little each time but dont EVER change your entire setup before a race.

36. (courtesy of Flamingo16) When walking the course, look back up at it. You will find new lines looking up rather then down.

37. (courtesy of berthoudboy2) While riding (including in the air) never squeeze the seat with your knees. This makes it impossible to flow smoothly, and makes you a ridged weight to be tossed around at the mercy of the trail. It may feel safer, but it will cause you to wreck and lose speed when you would not otherwise. In the air also, it you pinch your seat then you can not compress the lip and extend for landing. Also you can not whip and prepare for upcoming turns and bumps. The ONLY time that pinching your seat would be appropriate is when doing a suicide no hander which, if you can do it without loosing speed, is a cool way to entertain the crowd.

38. (#38-41 courtesy of Dmadness)Learn to crash,it is an important skill to have that will save you alot of trouble in the long run.

39. Work your way up to the big stuff. Even if you are a good rider always warm up on an easier trail then go for the harder stuff you set out to conquer. Same for riding in general- dont go tackle the hardest trail on the mountain without first being able to do the easy ones---this may sound somewhat obvious but alot of people just cant get this bit of logic into their skulls without being told directly.

40. If the drop doesn't have a great tranny, hit it with more speed. this will cause you to have increased foreward momentum and less downward ( static ) momentum and make the landing smoother. let your bike go off the drop first.

41. If you are in the air ( off a jump drop or whatever... ) and your back end starts to dip too much, tap your back brake, this will cause the front end to dip forward. ( this is used all the time in Motocross) WARNING: Use this with caution and only when its a neccesity.

42. (# 42-#43 courtesy of Ito) XC riding will make you faster. I always love watching the out of shape downhillers crossing the finish line and nearly having a hear attack. The more tired you are the more mistakes you make and the more likely you are to get hurt.
Pedal! Then pedal more!

43. Train like a mofo. During my DH racing times I would spend the summer mornings doing 5-8 runs on local dh trails then dirt jumping and XC riding in the afternoon= Legs that were strong/fast as hell. Dont forget to train in the off season too.

44. Develop a training schedule not just for biking and racing but to keep in shape in general. The more you ride the better you will be. Like Ito was saying, do as much of each mountain biking discipline as possible with emphasis on Down hill. Cedric Gracia wins because he is a great all around rider as is Minaar.

45. (#45-#47 courtesy of Kram)Commit to the front end of your bike in corners. Watch Sam Hill, no-one does it better.
NOTE: BEFORE DOING THIS, make sure you have practiced it and know how to do this technique at speed (Note is courtesy of Iceboy)

46. Don't pedal like a mad man out of the gate. Pedal, but let your bike gather speed and focus on keeping it. Racing comes down to one thing - exit speed , in particular your speed out of corners. Wait until you feel the flow before you start pushing it harder. If you pedal too hard from the start you'll flip in 60 seconds and get back on your bike a go harder to make up the time. Then you'll flip again. Speaking from experience on this one! It's all about being 'zen'. At least that's what all the dudes who keep beating me are telling me. Learn how to go as fast as you can through turns and sections to know your limits.

47. Make your riding FEEL slow when you are going fast! If you feel fast it's because the trail is catching up with you too quickly for you to process all the info in a comfortable time frame. Probably because you are too busy worrying about going fast and not feeling the flow. Look out, you are about to flip. It's that zen thing you're missing.

48. Practice having FLOW in all your riding, down hill (speed as well as flow), Dirt jumps (flow), XC(speed and flow), what ever (FLOW)...

49. ( courtesy of Made in Canada) Dont be intimidated by other riders, stay focused on what you have to do not what they are doing, if they crash pay atention to why, and try not to make the same mistake.

50. Learn to go over jumps at as high a speed as possible with out overshooting or losing speed by going too high. Jumps and learning to land them without thinking is a VERY beneficial skill to have...
(if you want to stay low coming of jumps learn to soak up the lip...you will go just as far but you'll stay lower)

51. When doing a j-hop, bunny hop or going up the face of a jump don't forget to push into the ground and then come up to get more air.

53. The rougher the place you are riding the more ralaxed and flowy you should be trying to go .

54. Spend time at the track and just watch other riders(especially how they are going through the tricky sections that you are having trouble with), see what they are doing wrong and try to not make the same mistakes, also watch for where the speed spots of the section are.

55.Read Brian Lopes's & Lee McCormick's book " Mastering Mountain Biking Skills", this book covers everything you need to know in great detail from top to bottom, it is with out a doubt the most comprehensive guide for how to ride/race mountain bikes and how to handle and practice everything involved in riding. I HIGHLY RECCOMEND IT, and would say that it is the BIBLE for Mountain Biking!

56. ( courtesy of Harding.Thomas )Look where you want to go not at what you are trying to avoid. if you stare at the tree you are trying to go around instead of the trail around it you will more often than not hit the tree.

57. As mentioned previously-The faster you are going the further ahead you should look, always look at what lies further ahead when riding downhill AND avoid staring at your front wheel--staring at your front wheel will slow you down drastically and often will lead to crashing.

58.(Courtesy of Brodie_boy) To re-inerate what Harding.Thomas was saying; do not focus on obstacles like stumps logs and rocks, because thats were you will go instead of where you want to go. In essence, keep an eye on where you want to go and you will go there. Do not look down at what your riding over, let your bike deal with the terrain, thats what its for. This is a very important tip to increasing speed and improving flow.

59. Before you go riding, I find that a simple 10 minute warm up on flat land and practicing tight turns and j-hops helps loosen you up and calms you down.

60. (Courtesy of hardtailrider1225)Take the time to set up your brakes because if the pads are dragging it can slow you down more than you think. that 1/10th of a second can be the difference between being on the podium and being in the back of the pack.

61. (#61-64 Courtesy of rowdy01/jvnixon) Bring spares of whatever is likely to need a spare. Doesn't hurt if you have the extra stuf to bring it; tubes, spare derailleurs, discS, wheels, etc...

62.Pre race meal; light fruit and cereal. It`s easy for your body to digest and thus won`t weigh you down or give you cramps. Simple sugars in the fruit will provide you with the needed energy. Avoid over eating as your nerves may cause you to want to eat more.

63.When you practice for your run, wear the same clothes that you will wear when you race. When I did my first race i decided to wear my new/clean shorts.....only to find that they were the perfect length to snag on my seat post quick-release. Half way down and i`m on the side of the course adjusting my seat

64.Once you have your bike set up, do not screw with anything on it. Don`t adjust the chain, don`t play with tire presure (that`s a big one in my book), don`t do anything....unless it loosens or gets out of tune or conditions are very different than what you usually ride (i.e. rain, mud, dry).

65.(Courtesy of Thunk) IF YOU HAVE TROUBLE WITH BERMS AND TURNS THIS ONE's FOR YOU; "drop the outside pedal when your turning (in a berm preferably) and point your hips where you wanna go(in all turns) "

66. (Courtesy of DHbiker)"Practice with faster people as well as by yourself. When you practice by yourself you can take your time to analyze the course. When you practice with other people you can learn new lines especially if they are faster than you."

67. Ride in a group when you are not racing, you learn quicker and see where others are going slow where you can go faster- you tend to ride faster when you are trying to keep up with someone or stay ahead of someone.

68. (Courtesy of berkshirefreeriderz) Practice what your not good at. (i.e. ; if you suck at drops go huck yourself, jumps go dj'ing, xc/road riding may be boring and suck but it makes dh better/ easier)

69. (#69&#70Courtesy of Beonebikes)Once you have picked out a line for your race run dont try and change it in the middle of your race run....do a practice run as if it were your race run


70. I dont know how much more I can stress this but : there is a reason why we pay so much for our DH bikes and its so we can hit things on the trail/track at high speeds with them!!
LET GO of your brakes as much as possible and LOOK AHEAD!!!!!

71.(Courtesy of Z-man) Try riding in the snow, it can help you learn to control your bike in any condition. Make sure to lube, clean and dry your bike after to prevent rust damage.

72. Eat Healthy and stay that way- I dont recall seeing any fat out of shape people ever winning DH races.

73. (73 & 74 Courtesy of MrsBig)If you do fall off, keep calm and get back on the bike and start going again steadily as you would from the start gate to gradually gain momentum. Don't just pin it as hard as you can after crashing to compensate for lost time or you risk just crashing again and taking up even more...just get back into the flow gradually.

74. Don't forget to breathe, breathe steady normal breathes as if you were on a jog - you will feel a hell of a lot better and more focused, just breathe and try not to hold it in.Eek


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...ADD TO THE LIST............

*Edit*Note: I will give credit to whom it is due for their input and tips.

Thanks and keep em' coming...

P.s. PLEASE DO NOT REGURGITATE WHAT IS ALREADY ON THE LIST!!!!!! Also, if you see something that seems like an incorrect/debatable tip please point it out and/or post what you think is correct.

Posted: Mar 2, 2008 at 16:21 Quote
there is no way to ride dh safely. only if you ride the brakes.

Posted: Mar 2, 2008 at 16:57 Quote
Pelopants wrote:
there is no way to ride dh safely. only if you ride the brakes.


That is not true at all. Can you drive down the highway in a car safely without riding the brakes?


Making sure that your gear is in proper working order, making sure that YOU are in proper working order (not intoxicated, over tired, broken...), paying attention to your surroundings and to others, and many other things, can decrease the risk involved with riding DH (or any type of riding for that fact), therefore helping to make DH safe.

Posted: Mar 2, 2008 at 17:06 Quote
dh is nothig like riding down the highway. it's about pushing yours and your bikes limits without bailing or losing control. how could you be safe and do that at the same time? it's all about taking risks.

Posted: Mar 2, 2008 at 17:11 Quote
I won't try to tell you that there is zero risk in riding/racing DH, however you can drastically decrease the amount of risk by doing a few small things, thus making DH safer, safe.

One could consider road riding safe, however I would consider the chances of you being 6 feet under after a road ride to be way higher than the chances of the same thing happening while riding DH.

Posted: Mar 2, 2008 at 17:40 Quote
i learnt the hard way that wearing the right gear is the safer way to go. and really paying attention to your lines. because one wrong move when you are going speeds of 70 to 90kpm and you may not be getting back up on your own.

Posted: Mar 3, 2008 at 4:07 Quote
yep

DH is anything but safe

Posted: Mar 3, 2008 at 10:11 Quote
I disagree with the guys that say DH is unsafe. I would agree if you said it could be unsafe. In my opinion, DH is as safe as the person participating in it.
I always wear appropriate protective gear and I stay away from sections or trails I dont feel comfortable in or I feel are beyond my abilities-I'm sure if more people followed just this priniciple alone we would have fewer crashes/accidents.
Driving a car is inherently dangerous, skydiving is inherently dangerous, DH biking is inherently dangerous...what I mean by this is that in any of these three an individual can get hurt sometimes seriously or fatally but that does not make the activity dangerous it makes it inherently dangerous which is different. What I mean by inherent is that the danger is always underlying but can be minimized or averted most of the time if you are careful and sure in your actions-you can be the safest rider there is and you can still get hurt...however the chances of you getting hurt especially getting hurt seriously if you are safety concious are GREATLY reduced.
Be a safety concious rider and you will ride longer-simple as that tup

For the record I will say that I have been DH riding/racing for more than 3 years now with FR before that, I have also taken up Paragliding recently and I used to be an avid white water rafting enthusiast with a crew of experienced guys rafting all over the north east US...and not once have I broken or fractured a bone or suffered a serious injury, this is not to say it wont happen *knock on wood* but to say that I always keep safety at the forefront of what I do and try never to go way beyond my abilities or TOO far out of my comfort zone.
^ My 2 cents

Posted: Mar 3, 2008 at 18:41 Quote
thorno wrote:
I disagree with the guys that say DH is unsafe. I would agree if you said it could be unsafe. In my opinion, DH is as safe as the person participating in it.
I always wear appropriate protective gear and I say away from sections or trails I dont feel comfortable in or I feel are beyond my abilities-I'm sure if more people followed just this priniciple alone we would have fewer crashes/accidents.
Driving a car is inherently dangerous, skydiving is inherently dangerous, DH biking is inherently dangerous...what I mean by this is that in any of these three an individual can get hurt sometimes seriously or fatally but that does not make the activity dangerous it makes it inherently dangerous which is different. What I mean by inherent is that the danger is always underlying but an be minimized or averted most of the time if you are careful and sure in your actions-you can be the safest rider there is and you can still get hurt...however the chances of you getting hurt especially getting hurt seriously if you are safety concious are GREATLY reduced.
Be a safety concious rider and you will ride longer simple as that tup

For the record I will say that I have been DH riding/racing for more than 3 years now with FR before that, I have also taken up Paragliding recently and I used to be an avid white water rafting enthusiast with a crew of experienced guys rafting all over the north east US...and not once have I broken or fractured a bone or suffered a serious injury, this is not to say it wont happen *knock on wood* but to say that I always keep safety at the forefront of what I do and try never to go way beyond my abilities or TOO far out of my comfort zone.
^ My 2 cents


Great riders think alike!

Posted: Mar 3, 2008 at 23:18 Quote
# 73. use less brakes

Posted: Mar 3, 2008 at 23:39 Quote
Trying new lines- when you've walked down the track (and looked back up every now and then cos that makes spoting easier believe it or not sometimes) and found a new line that looks good hit it. If you go a bit squirrely then try it again, if it's still sketchy as after 3 tries give up and find/stick to something else

and what to look for- jumps off logs and roots (if no-one is around kick a bit of dirt onto the root to make it a bit poppier Ninja ), for berms try the out in out method of thinking (come in as wide as possible, cut back down to the apex and then come back out) because it is waaay faster. Also random cheat lines can be a treat but make sure it's super stealthy when you hit it. Hit it once no more than twice and then do it again race run- remember the rules, stay between the tape and the rest is up to your imagination

Posted: Mar 4, 2008 at 2:23 Quote
jf951 wrote:
# 73. use less brakes

Look at #70 Whip

Posted: Mar 4, 2008 at 3:21 Quote
Ride back down the uplift track.

Posted: Mar 13, 2008 at 6:38 Quote
Bumped to the top.

Can we get this stickied please.

Posted: Mar 13, 2008 at 7:03 Quote
29. (#29-#32Coutesy of Blue Raptor) When learning, set your fork/and or shock harder than you would normally, this will teach you to use to body rather than relying upon the bike.

I dont agree with that! Rubbish, I say. Get a hardtail to train on instead of messing up your settings!

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