Cornering at Speed

When taking fast corners get your weight back and scrub off speed before you enter the turn. As you reach the entrance to the corner release the brakes, but do not take you fingers from the levers just in case you need to feather a bit, lean into the turn, shifting your weight back and down onto the outside pedal. Press down on the inside grip to assist in steering through the turn while you feel your weight on the outside pedal. Carve the turn with a bit of a twist of your right ankle--not too much, just a bit. As you carve past the apex of the turn, and as soon as you are upright enough to pedal, turn on the speed once again and hammer out. Setting up correct body position is very important in every aspect of mountain biking, but during high speed corners it is very important to maintain your center over the bike by being loose yet controlled. Watch video of downhill racers and study their body position. Feel it.

Rough Stuff on Nearly Flat Ground and Mild Downhill Grades

Babyheads, sand, and combinations of loose rock and archored bedrock on slightly downhill grades are best assaulted under power. This technique is very similar to sand. Momentum is important. Do not use your brakes. If you are running big travel, and you should be, it is more important to keep the gyros going than to pick a smooth line. The steeper the downhill, the more you will be able to coast, but we are talking about pedaling ground here. You should be in one gear too hard to pedal, rather than gearing down to spin. This makes the rough trail smooth out. Stay loose, stay back a bit, keep powering those pedals to maintain control. Keep your weight well back, floating your front wheel over the rudest obstacles. Let your rear end travel absorb most of the punishment, but do not stiffen your legs. Let them act as secondary suspension members.

Steep Rough Technical

Look for the smooth line. Put your front wheel on it and don't make any mistakes. Don't worry about your rear wheel.
Down a ledge, off a ledge~ When riding off of a ledge you always have your weight balanced slightly back. Pull back on the bars and keep your bike level as you leave the ledge. As the rear wheel rides off of the ledge shift your weight forward. This is so that the bike falls evenly as you leave the ledge. Long travel full suspension means you want to land to distribute the weight to both wheels on impact. The less travel you have the more you will want to favor landing on the rear wheel first. If you find yourself in an endo, lock your REAR!!!! brake, keep your weight back and your rear wheel will drop more rapidly because you have turned off your rear gyroscope. This allows the weight to fall faster.

Up a ledge~ Pull back on the bars as if you were going to ride a wheelie and once you get your front wheel up as high as the ledge you are trying to get up, jump your weight forward and throw your bars up and forward. This will bring your rear wheel up. Pedal as your tire hits the ledge. Keep your weight centered over the wheels.

Ruts~ Stay out of ruts! If you are in a rut and your front wheel is on the right side of the rut, your weight has to be on the left side of your wheel. The rear wheel will just follow the front wheel, so forget about it. You want to use the side of the rut as a berm and try to get out as fast as you can. Use the berm to launch out. Modern downhill race courses are now more rut than trail, so learn how to approach a rut as a place to ride, but don't do it unless you have to. I have seen truly talented downhill racers, world champions, use deep, steep and wide ruts as a way to stay off of the brakes. I have seen a fellow named Nicholas V. bounce from side to side of a deep rut, staying on the wall of the rut, using momentum and body weight to spring off each side repeatedly, much like a surfer uses the inside curl of a wave. Like this; left side rut, weight on the right side of the front wheel, hop to right side of rut, use the side of the rut like a berm, weight on left side of front wheel, hop to the other side, and so forth.

Loose stuff on a turn~ Slow down, control your speed BEFORE you hit the crap. As you enter the rough loose stuff be it gravel or loose rocks, hit it at a slower speed, then just treat it like a turn as described above. Weight the inside bar, the outside pedal. OK, now, if you are racing, here is the deal: Racers ONLY!! Disregard this advise if you are not a DH racer! Same as any turn. Weight your inside bar and outside foot. Maybe take the inside foot off of the pedal to use as an outrigger or to dab a bit. If there is no berm, you slip the rear wheel by locking the brake to force a small skid. Hold the brake too long and you will skid out. Just a enough please, to change your direction.

The Importance of Body Armor

Jake Watson, a daring downhill racer, died a few years ago for the simple reason that he was practicing a very tricky jump in a boulder field without a chest protector. Always wear body armor and a downhill specific helmet when attacking a speedy descent. Dainese makes the best. We carrry Dainese, Azonic and Six Six One body armor in our shop. If you can afford it, Dainese's stuff rules, but it is hard to find. There are quite a few good helmets out there, but we prefer Louis Garneau and Giro. DH stuff can be hot and may not be so practical in the heat of summer, so balance your body protection with the possible results of a high speed crash. The Giro Switchblade is awesome in hot weather, but they discontinued the helmet in 2004. You may be able to find one in a shop, though. A typical body armor set up is what looks like a motorcycle helmet but is really a DH mountain bike helmet, knee and shin guards, elbow guards, a chest, shoulder and back protector (like the Dainese). Keep it snug, but not restricting. You will feel a bit more comfortable about hitting that ledge when you are armored up.

The best advice we can give to anyone who wants to go faster is to find another person who IS faster and follow him carefully and with attention to his body. Watch where he (or she) goes and why he goes there. Watch body position and change of momentum with body weight. Read body language. Istead of braking, he will approach a turn wide and cut nice and easy through the apex of the turn. He will look for places where he can launch over the worst obstacles and not loose momentum. That is what Jake was trying to do, by the way, but without a chest protector. Wear your body armor and get some health insurance, just in case.


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