Downhill Fear--Help

Well, I am hoping that some of you skilled riders can give me some tips on getting better at long downhills. I have had 2 instances where I have accidently knocked the bike in nuertral and went barrelling out of control down a long semi-steep hill. :awww: Since then I get a little paniced when I am approaching downhills (even one that are not that steep.) I have a KX100 which is light and has disc brakes, but doesn't have hardly any engine braking so I pick up speed pretty fast. I just feel like I get out of control so quick, which causes me to try and go too slow, which makes it very difficult to balance on bumpy terrain. I have even more problems with loose dirt and gravel.

I am standing with my weight towards the back of the bike. I am using a combination of front and back brake. I just can't seem to get the braking right the whole way down. Too much back break the tire starts sliding out to the side, too much front and I have no steering (handlebars cross up). I found out my bike was running way to rich on the pilot which was causing me to stall the bike pretting quickly. Sometimes I would just kill the bike and pull the clutch in and go down using the brakes.

I know I need to just keep doing it to get better, but if anyone can offer me any tips I would really appreciate it. :thumbsup:

This is really the hardest aspect of riding I have encountered. I am usually good at impoving things, but I feel like I should be better at this. :devil: I love hill climbs, but I hate having to have to come back down them.

imho. engine braking is not your friend when it comes to fast and in-control riding. when i got a 2-stroke, i had to learn how to use the rear brake all of the sudden, but within a couple weeks i found myself crashing less and going much faster. i usually descend with the clutch pulled in, using front and rear brakes (like on a mtn bike, only with better traction and suspension). here are my suggestions:

a) practice.

:thumbsup: practice specific stuff. find a hill that's sorta steep, but not intimidatingly so, and work on just using the rear brake. make it skid, then make it stop skidding. try to get a feel for how hard you can step on the brake without skidding. move your weight back a little (weight the pegs, not your hands) and see how much of a difference that makes. do the same thing with the front. lean back, and see how much front brake it takes before the tire skids. be ready to let off the front brake for rocks and dips, or it may suddenly find enough traction to stop. mtn bikes are famous for endo-ing with inexperienced riders in situations like that.

you might also try some mtn bike descending. i feel like i'm pretty strong on the downhills compared to the guys that are my speed or slightly faster everywhere else. i think it's from racing mtn bikes for 13 years. a dirt bike has SO much more traction and control that it seems pretty easy by comparison.

hopefully some other people will have some good suggestions too, cuz i know mine are only a start.


Here's a good long thread from the General TT forum from July.

wow. interesting thread. to me, much of the advice (to rely on engine braking) is totally wrong and dangerous once you're going faster than a crawl (also doesn't apply to mxchic's 2stroke). i found that even under engine braking, there was enough momentum in the engine to push the front wheel and make it skid at really inconvenient times, like when you're trying to slow for a corner or rough section.

now i pull in the clutch on my 4-stroke too, and go down using only the brakes.

maybe the engine braking thing is good for real beginners riding very slowly. not sure. i know i crash alot less (like pretty much never on downhills) since i stopped doing it.

One thing I have seen alot of people do is lean to far back. You need to keep yourself forward enough to have adequate weight on the front wheel for braking. Forget the rear, especially on steep downhills, except as a means of control. It's not gonna stop you. I tend to keep my head & upper body well forward, head over the handlebars, which also gives you a much better veiw of the trail ahead.

On my trials bikes I used to go down very steep sections and lift the rear wheel off with braking and body weight. Sometimes to reposition the wheel, sometimes just for fun. On my CRF or any other dirt bike I will do the same in slow sections just to practice control.

I would recommend finding a fairly mild downhill to practice on. Start very slow at the top and concentrate on controlling the bikes speed with front brake. Keep enough weight over the front so that tire will stick. Your not going to go over the bars! Then move up to a more challenging hill. Take your time!

I will even get on a very steep hill that has sufficient traction and stop the bike completely for a moment before moving on. (kind of a trials technique thing I guess.) If the traction is exceptionally poor, you have to use some descretion and start out very slow.


wow. interesting thread.

Yeah, my favorite practice tip out of that thread is to practice downhills with the engine off and in neutral, using only the brakes. That's an eye-opener! :thumbsup:

that's pretty much how i do long hills anyway. 2-stroke engines with low-idles have a habit of eventually dying on long bouncy downhills. i often just kill it at the top, even in races, and bump start at the bottom.

Thanks all the suggestions I really appreciate it. Even if I take away a few things that help me to improve I will be so happy. :thumbsup:

that's pretty much how i do long hills anyway. 2-stroke engines with low-idles have a habit of eventually dying on long bouncy downhills. i often just kill it at the top, even in races, and bump start at the bottom.

I just jetted down one on the pilot, my bike was just loading up so incredibly fast. Lately when I go down a long hill I just kill it at the top, pull in the clutch and use the brakes. I just don't no if there is a benefit to keeping the bike running using the engine when I really don't have much engine braking at all. :thumbsup: Do you guys think it is better to use the engine or shut it off and use the clutch?

i usually descend with the clutch pulled in, using front and rear brakes (like on a mtn bike, only with better traction and suspension). here are my

I do the same thing on my KLX. I have more control, the suspension is not under a constant load from braking, the front end steers easily around obstacles. None of my friends do this, they think it's strange. We ride a lot of one or two mile switchbacks. Riding with the clutch in, conserves a lot of strength, it doesn't put the weight of the bike on my arms, and I don't fight my weight constantly sliding forward. My suspension works very well, that helps a lot. The tires grip well for the area I ride, and my brakes are strong and predictable. It makes steep downhills a lot easier and safer.

Whichever you feel most comfortable with works.

When I first started riding, my bro told me to just kill the bike at the top of the hill, put it in neutral & use the brakes - one less thing to think about on steep downhills. You can also stab it into first to help stop if you need to.

This worked for me but we went to the Tennessee Trials Training Center for some lessons and the instructor said it was better to keep the bike running in gear & feather the clutch - gave you better traction. In fact I believe he went so far as to say NEVER coast down a hill.

I'm comfortable either way anymore, coasting in neutral & using the brakes or in gear using the brakes & feathering the clutch. I don't mind a bit of rear wheel slide but if it's getting out of control you have to let off to get traction back.

It's a fine line between too much braking & not enough braking. I always try to remember, it's much easier to ride it than to slide it. On really steep hills, I'll keep it in gear, feather the clutch, drag the rear brake as much as possible without sliding it and use the front brake to control the momentum kinda feathering it on & off. If I see a drop or rock section that could cause the front to dive I lighten up on the front brake and try to pull up on the bars a bit. My CR doesn't have any engine braking either.

Mountain Biking is a great way to learn proper descent technique - they tend to be a bit less forgiving of mistakes than a dirtbike.

I used to kill my engine and coast. I watched the Pro's race and saw that the fast guys accelerate downhill. So,I started trying that. The bike is more controllable when under acceleration. So, now I start on the gas as soon as I can. It really works.

As far as what to do when you have to slow for a turn, keep your weight back over the edge on the seat, use both brakes with clutch pulled in.

Practice, practice, practice.

To me the bike feels like its in much more controls when the engines on.

I was having a lot of problems with my rear tire fish taling on me in the past. I found that 4-strokes made this much worse. It seems like when I started using higher gears and standing more it really helped with this except in deep sand/dust.

I've found that I don't really improve when I trail ride cause I only see things once (or maybe twice). If I want to work on something I goto metcalf or hollister by myself after calling a few people to let them know where I am going and just ride around in circles doing the same area over and over. I find that each time I go over that small section I can learn a better line, different techinque etc. Repetition is key to success in this case.

Good luck,


Thanks for all the suggestions everybody. :thumbsup: After reading everybodies advice I am actually pretty excited to go and practice. Like OHVrider suggested, I need to just take a day and do nothing but downhills for a few hours.

When I went from motocross to desert, I quickly learned that I would have to master gnarly hills (up and down) if I were going to finish well in desert racing. The old timers told me to pick a line right at the top of the hill and stay on it if possible. Is there runout at the bottom? If yes, don't pull the clutch -- find that throttle setting that keeps the wheels rolling without acceleration or sliding. If you've gotta make a turn at the bottom, pull the clutch and find that combination of front and rear braking that takes you in the direction of the turn. Bump start your bike in those last few yards at the bottom. It'll take time, of course, but having a plan for both practice and racing will give you the confidence and the skill to get over fear and down the hill. Rocky downhills are the worst, of course, and occasionally I'd unload. But the best thing about crashing is that the thing you've feared most has happened, and you're OK. Make sure your bike's suspension is "right" for downhills. Is the front end diving into every hole? Do the forks pump down as you work the front brake or get further down the hill? Would you have more control if you increased the rake slightly by moving your forks down in the triple clamps? Hope some of this stuff helps you master hills... :thumbsup:)


you can just go down a little then lock the rear wheel up

you can just go down a little then lock the rear wheel up

umm. or not. please disregard this advice. keep your wheel rolling for maximum control.

bannerup that looks like a pretty sick hill... gotta be harder to go down though.. umm about going down a hill.. the only thing you can do is go for it! try something smooth without a lot of ruts and rocks and play with your braking. find the spot on the seat that makes you comfortable is it OK for the back wheel to slide. sometimes, so its not always bad.. but that is also something you will have to play with. i ride my front brakes the most, with the back on every once in awhile depends on what's ahead. best thing go with someone who is pretty good at going down hills have him go and kinda watch what he does. and pick your path!! good luck


To me the bike feels like its in much more controls when the engines on.

I agree. Maybe it has to do with the flywheel's rotational inertia.

I keep the engine running, clutch in, and use front and rear brake so the rear just barely isn't sliding. I will also momentarily let off the front if I have to dodge a rock or rut, giving maximum traction to the quick turn rather than braking. Also, keeping your speed up so you have better stability helps, too, but don't go so fast that you lose control. As I reach the bottom, I make sure I am in the right gear for my speed, try to match engine RPM with what it will be when I let out the clutch, then accelerate down the last part of the hill if it is straight.

go get your bicycle and get a feel of how far you can go until you go over the bars. This way, you'll accually know. if you flip, you won't break anything expensive, just for a peace of mind, try practicing on lawn :thumbsup:, helps a ton in the confidence area, because you know how far to go!

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