How to Descend Like a Pro
The climb. Some people love it, they hop up the mountain like goats, while other people struggle the whole way up the hill. We can all agree that the effort put into the climb makes the descent that much sweeter. In my opinion the downhill is the best part of the ride, and improving your skills will make descending smoother, faster, and more enjoyable. Here are six tips to improve your speed and cornering on the descent.
1. Crank position
Many riders don’t think about where their feet are on the descent, but it can make a big difference, and even save you from crashing. Proper crank position is very simple, but takes some practice to master. Here is what you need to know: when on straights and slight bends keep your pedals level, meaning one crank arm points forward and the other points backward. When you get to a corner, drop your outside foot to the bottom of the pedal stroke. This prevents you from clipping your inside pedal on the ground, and it will also properly distribute your weight for maximum traction.
2. Saddle height
High saddles are great for climbing, but they get annoying on the downhill. In the past, riders would either deal with it, or get off their bike before the descent and manually lower their seatpost. Fortunately dropper posts were invented. Unless you’re cross country racing, consider a dropper, it could change your life.
3. Body position
Stay centered over your bike and slightly bend your elbows and knees. When the big bumps come, soak them up with your body. Stay loose. Your body is an extension of your suspension. You and your bike are one. You are at peace with the trail. Channel your inner downhiller.
4. Brake early!
The number one mistake bikers make descending is braking too late into the corner. You should brake on the straight part of the trail just before the corner. As you turn in, begin releasing the brakes gradually. By the middle of the corner you should be fully off of the brakes. If you are braking all the way through, you’re losing precious exit speed. Start implementing this into every ride and you’ll be see big results.
5. Tire pressure
More pressure means faster rolling right? Technically yes, but when it comes to an uneven mountain descent, traction is much more important. That’s why racers go tubeless and run relatively low pressures. The right pressure depends on your weight, tire size, and whether you are running a tubeless setup or not. There are many guides online to help you find your recommended pressure. Do some research to get a starting point and make adjustments from there.
6. Picking lines
The last tip is the most technical but the most fun. You will get the most out of your ride if you are conscious about the lines you are taking. If you ride a trail frequently, you can try different lines and see which are the smoothest, or which set you up perfectly for the next turn. Sometimes the path less taken is the better way. Survey the trail as you ride and always try to plan out your next line.
Try these tips out and let us know how it goes. Happy riding!