How to Mountain Bike Downhill
By Beth Puliti
Choose your line
Before you get to a downhill section of the trail, survey the situation off your mountain bike, just as you would any unfamiliar trail feature. Once you are confident enough to ride the terrain, look ahead on the trail to identify obstacles and steep changes in elevation. If it is a commonly used trail you will most likely be able to distinguish “the line”—the most commonly traveled route through a particular section of trail.
Keep your feet flat
As you begin the decent, make sure to keep your feet level with your strong foot forward. Keeping your feet parallel to the ground will give you better balance and ensure you don’t snag a pedal on rocks, roots or other obstacles that are in your path.
Keep your knees and arms bent. This allows you to absorb any shocks from the trail and also makes it easy to maneuver the bike. Resist the urge to over grip the handlebars which will cause unnecessary fatigue. You should be prepared to use both brakes evenly, but the majority of your breaking will be done with the rear brake (right hand) to prevent you from going over the handlebars.
Riding down steep descents is all about keeping your weight back. Moving your hips further back/behind your seat will redistribute your weight for optimal balance and handling. This means your pedals, not your seat, will be carrying most of your weight. As you progress to steeper descents, you will find yourself getting further behind the seat to keep your body on the bike rather than tumbling down the hill.
Walk it first. Consider walking down a challenging hill before you ride it for the first time to plan “the line” you’d like to take.
Shift your weight. It can’t be said enough, keeping your weight off and behind your seat is key to keeping you on the bike during steep descents.
Look ahead. Don’t fixate on obstacles in your path of descent. Looking ahead will keep you from riding right into them.