Downhill mountain biking takes place on steep, rough terrain that includes jumps, drops, rock gardens and other obstacles. Downhill bikes are designed to be heavier and stronger than other mountain bicycles, so they glide quickly over rocks and tree roots. In competitive races, riders have to complete a course, remaining within the lines of the course, as fast as possible. Riders have to balance the shortest route with the highest speed. Riders usually start at intervals, from the slowest to the fastest and the courses are usually completed in two to five minutes, which means there can be just a one-second difference between the winner and the runner-up.
Getting started with downhill mountain biking
Downhill mountain biking is an extreme sport, where gravity does the work, but it also requires skill and technique to stay on course. There are risks involved, Jake Watson, an American cyclist and big name in the world of downhill mountain biking, lost his life during downhill practice for California’s Keysville Classic as a result of injuries sustained in a crash in 1999 at the age of 25.
A proper downhill bike, a full-face helmet and body armour are vital. These can be hired until you’re sure you want to make the investment in your own gear. Body armour includes knee and elbow pads as well as a full jersey with armour. Also needed is a small hydration pack, specific mountain bike shorts with padded lining, eye protection and gloves.
Positioning your body correctly when downhill biking is extremely important as if you go too far forward, you’ll go over the handlebars. In brief, the aim is to lower the centre of mass and soften the elbows and knees to balance bodyweight whilst looking ahead.
Use of brakes
The paradox with downhill mountain biking is that using the brakes correctly can get you down the hill faster. This is because the brakes are not just to slow you down but help you to take jumps properly as well as prepare for jumps and obstacles. The techniques you learn with braking will make you a better downhill mountain biker.
In downhill mountain biking it can be said that “He who hesitates is lost”. Let your downhill bike roll over obstacles as it is designed to do. If you hesitate when you reach turns, obstacles or jumps, you are more likely to get into trouble.
Competitive mountain biking
The first downhill mountain-biking time-trial race in 1976 and saw 10 riders descend 1,300 feet (400 metres) in about 5 minutes on bikes that were sturdy cruisers using balloon tires and coaster brakes designed in the 1930s. In the 1980s, rigid or limited-travel bicycles were being used and the next decade saw bespoke bikes with more intricate suspension design. With racers from BMX joining he downhill mountain biking scene, courses became more difficult with steeper jumps and drops added.
Famous male downhill mountain bikers
Professional Downhill Mountain Bike Racer, Troy Brosnan from Australia, was born into a family where both his parents raced road bikes. Introduced to downhill mountain biking at the age of 13 in 2006, he went on to win the Junior World Championships in Canada in 2010. After this, he raced on the World Cup series. in 2010, Troy won the Junior World Championships in Mont St Anne, Canada, winning by just 0.06 seconds.
Danny MacAskill, from the Isle of Skye in Scotland, is a street trials pro rider, becoming famous for his YouTube videos of stunts filmed by his flatmate Dave Sowerby. These videos have been watched literally millions of times. This led to work as a Hollywood stuntman and being nominated for the Action Sportsperson of the Year Category of the Laureus World Sports Awards, which has allowed him to now race fulltime.
Marcelo Gutiérrez Villegas
Marcelo Gutiérrez Villegas is a Pro Downhill mountain bike rider from Colombia. Four-time national champion, 2011 Pan-American champion and regular on the World Cup scene since 2008 where he has beaten previous champions. He is top of the field in “urban downhill” where riders take on courses on steep streets and alleyways of hillside towns and cities.