Downhill Mountain Biking Techniques

Downhill Mountain Biking Techniques for Beginners: How to Train?

Are you struggling with downhill mountain biking as a beginner? Well, do not be upset, it does not mean you are not worthy of being a professional MTB rider. In the beginning, almost everyone had to go with the same situation that you are in.

Let me guess what, did you think gravity does all the work here? Just because it is downhill mountain biking, that does not mean you can do it without any skill.

Downhill Mountain Biking Techniques For The Beginners

During the ride, you will need to adjust your skill and gravity for being a successful MTB rider.

In this article, I am going to tell you about some essential techniques that will help you out from the difficulties that you are facing.

1. Pull the Brakes Wisely

When you ride downwards, you will get true execration and on top of that putting an extra effort on the paddle will provide your bike with more speed. You are probably someone who loves to ride with speed. But in downhill mountain ride, speed is not the only thing.

Instead of going fast, go slow and start fast. Sounds confusing? Let me make it clear for you.

When you go through a steady downhill position, and you are watching flat surface just after the hill, then make all the way down to the hill with slow speed by pulling both the brakes more often. As long as you hit the flat area, pull the paddle hard.

If you do not pull brakes and go slow on a steady hill, you might lose control of your bike due to the excessive speed. Therefore, go slow and steady while keeping your head up and if you feel you are going too fast or struggling with the speed, do not hesitate to pull the brakes.

In addition to that, while going through corners and of camp sections, pulling brakes is not the only option you should rely on. To go slow through these areas, drop your hill and keep the hip over the back wheel. It will provide you with excellent control alongside the brakes.

If the next section is flat, then get rid of the brakes as early as possible to carry enough speed into that section.

So, the key is the ability to handle the speed. The old rule of thumb would be when you feel you are biking too fast, know that it is time to pull the brakes. Furthermore, if you face difficulty in judging how to approach the next section, go slow and prepare your mind.

Notice here; I did not say brake; I said brakes. Because riding off-roads especially downhill mountain biking is something very risky. If you pull the rear brake, you will skid and most likely go too sideways. There is also a chance to lose control and crash. 

Furthermore, not only you will be harmed, but also the trail will be damaged. If someone skid on the trail, it will cause trail erosion by developing rut on it. Then the other bikers will also face difficulties while riding.

Now you might say, what if I pull the front brake? In most cases, the front brake will get the work done for you. But do not attempt to pull only the rear one. If you go through the corners, then you have no choice but using both the brakes.

Remember, you are not only using the brakes for slowing down, but also for passing through corners correctly. Furthermore, it will help a lot when you make the jump and go through a scary spot. If you want to be a pro in downhill mountain biking, I have to say, use your brakes wisely.

If your fellow biker depends only on the speed and brakes less then you, you will notice that; with using brakes, you will be able to finish the trail faster than him.

2. Shifting the Gears

If you prefer to bike on high gears, it is time to change your preference. With downhill mountain biking, it is important to make pedaling easy for you than keeping the bike upright.

As with the high gears, the chain is on the smallest cogs on the rear wheel, and this setting makes it a lot difficult to pedal. Shift your gear to the lower setting. The chain should stay on the biggest cog on the rear wheel. It will make you turn the cranks more easily.

Often during the ride, you probably heard people say "spin up the climb'. What they mean is, you should spin the cranks faster than your bike is rolling forward. As it is easier to pedal in low gear, you will not have to take your feet off the pedals.

Shifting the gears is all about hitting on the right time. How efficient you will be on the trail largely depends on how good you are at shifting.Depending on the trail, you will need to shift gears in advance. It will help you to keep the momentum.

During the practice sessions, try riding at different gears on the trail. It will take a while, but do not worry, sooner or later you will figure out the combinations that suit you best. 

The suggestion would be to ride as much as you need on a surface before hitting on the trail. Try shifting gears and braking around the block. Figure out how it feels like to ride mostly at low gears on small hills.

It is important to pedal while shifting the gears. There is a sweet spot of getting power from the legs that helps to shift the gears without jamming them.

3. Balance Your Weight

Riding a bike on the mountain is a very active action. You constantly need to lean forward or shift the weight downward, side-to-side.

One of the keys to be a successful downhill mountain rider is the ability to balance the weight. When you ride on a plane surface, it does not matter whether you adjust your weight or not. But when it comes to the downhill mountain biking, you should not take the matter lightly.

Naturally, when you ride upwards, the gravitational force is on the rear wheel. During that position, if you put too much weight on the rear wheel, you might pitch backward off the bike.

In this case, you need to lean forward so that your center of gravity is kept over the rear wheel for maintaining traction.

When you ride downwards, do exactly the opposite. In this case, keep your hip behind the saddle over the rear wheel. What it does is, it keeps your hip over the rear wheel and removes additional weight from the front one.

It helps you to roll over bumps and prevent you from pitching forward off the bike.

4. Look Where to Go

During the ride, if you keep on staring on a rock from fifty meters’ distance, know that you will end up hitting that rock. You will go wherever your eyes will direct it to go. Therefore, if you see an obstacle, do not just stare at it, find the way to pass through it.

Your body language on the ride will determine how you are going to pass an obstacle or jump over it. So, prepare your body to embrace any difficult action. Keep your head up and eyes forward and look towards the trail.

Your peripheral vision will help you to avoid obstacles as soon as you see it.

5. Learn from Watching Other Riders

This technique is convenient and, you can learn very quickly simply by following a good rider. You learn from someone who knows how to deal with the different situations of downhill mountain biking. Choose someone slightly above your level and follow how he goes from behind.

On the trails, you will be exposed to lots of difficult conditions. From a few number of lines, you can see what an expert chooses from those lines. You can face a particular obstacle, and you know how should you avoid this.

But your ability to deal with that obstacle can change if you see how the skilled one deals with that. Follow them and see how they tackle tough sections and how they make it easy simply by opening the corners.

6. Pumping

Depending on the condition of the trails, you might need to low and push yourself during the ride. The pro riders always make themselves pumping according to the trail. When you contact with an obstacle, lower your body and when you descend from it push, yourself to the bar.

Once you adopt the habit of constantly lowering and pushing yourself on the trails, then tackling obstacles would seem more easy to you.

7. Pre-Hopping

You might see some tough sections that will decrease your speed. Without losing the momentum, you can deal with them. Try to jump slightly before the rough section and descend all the way to where the roughness ends. This technique will get you more speed and control.

But be cautioned that, not all the rough sections are jumpable. The more you practice, the more you will learn from which one you need to jump and avoid losing the speed.

8. Jumping

Admit that, it is not mountain biking if there is no jumping. Jumping makes the game more exciting. You can jump the way you always do, or in a more advanced technique that can give you more control over your ride.

If the jump is quite long, what you need to do is pop-in before the jump. It helps you to jump over a long distance.

What if you are coming fast and do not want to go very further? In that case, squishing is all you need. Imagine, there is a roof, and you need to get under it from the jump.

Hit the jump, but instead of popping-in, bring the bike into you by maintaining close distance with the handlebar.

In this way, you can cover a short distance without going too far.

9. Hitting the Corners Hard

As a beginner, you can go through the corners without pulling the brakes to some extent. It is not essential to do, but if you learn how to do it, you will love it. All you need to do is trust your bike.

Yes, you heard me right. Often time what happens is, the newbies think that they will fall by sliding. With the big geometry, slack head angles, grippe tires and a lot of suspensions, you can dig into the corners simply by pushing the bike around.

10. Picking the Perfect Line

During the MTB race, you need to go fast to finish the race early. For this, picking perfect lines is very important for you. If you cannot find the perfect lines, then you will not be able to elevate your riding skill to the next level.

It requires a lot of practices and experience. Go for short rides with your friends and find which line is best for you. If you select different lines, you will notice different riding styles.

11. Be Relaxed and Loose

Relax, you are riding a bike, not a rocket. You need to be confident down the trails. Having a relaxed mind will help you to tackle tough situations comfortably. If you worry about how you are going to go through all these rough conditions, you will eventually stay behind.

Keep your body loose and allow them to adjust with bumps and ruts. Once you learn how to link the bike with your body, you will float over the obstacles without any issue.

12. Do not Ride Without the Helmet

The most important thing to check before hitting the trails is the helmet. Always put the helmet on, no matter whether you are in a race or a practice session.

Also, do not forget to take the necessary gears such as knee and elbow pads, full finger gloves, eyewear, snacks, and water.

Final Words

Downhill mountain biking is a type of cycling that only pro cyclists are crazy about. There is a lot of different things that a newbie might find difficult to adopt for the first time. But it happened to every pro rider once.

MTB requires you to respond with the right body language at the right time. There are some quick decisions to make while on the trails which are the keys to be a pro MTB rider. Hopefully, this article will be able to help you with dealing initial difficulties that you are facing as a newbie.

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