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Downhills

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I have been riding for about a year and a half and I still have a problem riding downhill. I am not real comfortable going fast downhill. I feel like I'll lose control of the bike. I know standing and leaning my but over the seat helps. I also know that time will help, but I would like to get some advice from some of you that have been riding longer.

What are some of the things did you do to conquer your fears? Any feedback would be helpful.

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They catch me out too. but I always make sure to not avoid them since I figure if I do enough I'll get braver :) Whenever I go out to the bike park I make sure I go down this one big drop off a few times at different speeds turning sharply at the bottom...Just to remind myself I can. I think I forget how much control I actually have over the bike sometimes. I think the best thing to do with downhills is to just attack them, the longer you spend stopped at the top crapping your daks, the worse it gets! Tho I find it's not so much the act of going downhill that scares me, it's the possibility of hidden roots or if I can't see where the hill ends/if there's a really sharp corner at the bottom I'm afraid I won't react in time. Still, yeah I find the best thing to do is just go for it, get it over and done with, if it's on a marked out trail you're gonna have to head down it anyway, better to be at the bottom than the top!

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Hills used to freak me out too. My boyfriend has been riding a long time and is a great teacher. We were on a trail with a large downhill. He had me turn my bike off, put it in neutral and roll down the hill. Once I got comfortable doing that I added speed. He continues to tell me that speed comes in time, it's better to get your confidence first. Not sure that helps, but it sure did help me to get down hills with my bike at least on :)

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I guess it depends on what you call hills/steeps. If it's technical, steep, singletrack, and you have to control your speed, always leave it in gear (never put it in neutral) and modulate your front and rear brakes. Never lock up the back wheel. The front stopper has the most 'strength' and you can really control it, but it takes a lot of practice. If you are not already a primary front brake user, you need to practice with it. Yes, weight back, standing up, and 2nd gear on steep stuff is better than first, as first will lock up your rear wheel, too. That leads to skidding and out of control. And never be afraid to roll on the throttle a little to straighten yourself out.

I rolled off the top of a pretty steep pitch in front of a few guys that were stuck coming up and ego plays a good role in making it look easy, too :-)

Start small and work up to big stuff, but when faced with something bigger than you think you can handle - just do it! You'll make it if you stay calm.

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If you think about it a "down hill" has the same type of terrain as the flat part of the trails - the only difference being it slopes a bit.

So mentally think of it as being flat and ride it like it is flat.

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Well its good you're keeping the speed down until you feel comfortable. Nobody wants to be the goon that passes the pack all out of control, only to be found a minute later in the bushes!

I think it depends what kind of downhill you're on. If its techincal, your best bet is to pick your way through it. I often have trouble if there is somewhere where you need to put your foot down and maneuver slowly through something, because I get spooked and instinctively grab a handful of front brake. So my advice on things like that would be to keep your momentum, but don't go too fast.

As for anything else that is just like a trail going down, I usually aim for specific points further up the trail. Usually I'll aim for a point where the trail bends. Then I just ride confidently to that to that point, make the turn, and look for the next point. I don't know why it works for me, but it does!

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He continues to tell me that speed comes in time, it's better to get your confidence first.

Good advise. Down hill skills come like many others -- with time.

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thorchic--you're my friend right??? that I met last summer at Brown's Camp? (sorry if I sound stupid trying to remember ;0) I mean I remember your name, but am trying to respect your privacy)

anyways :) tell your hubby to take you to a playday at Eddieville. THere are some nice downhills on the mx track that are nice and straight--no twisty turny, rooty gravelly treed branchy stuff, just flat downhill that you can see the bottom :banghead:. SO just practice bombing down those hills, fast as you want to and can. This will get you over the freaky factor of going fast, without having to pay attention to all the other stuff you have to deal with on those downhills at Brown's Camp. There will be a nice uphill to slow you down even if you get too fast :banghead:

Next, go to the Powerline trail at Brown's Camp and find that steep part that has a lot of gravel and is a witch to brake on--you know any tap of the brake on the gravel and your tires go butt over teakettle. THere are parts of that downhill where you can get some traction and brake just a teeny weeny bit to slow your speed(be in gear, like 2nd is good, I find the chain locks up if I'm in 1st)you can practice gradually zigzagging back and forth to hit the good traction spots.

Next go to that trail University Firepower(it's right off that Powerline trail). It has a nice uphill and dowhill that is pretty straight, but steep and some gravelly stuff, ha and will be slick this time of year, eh? ugh!) Practice going back and forth up and down that trail, you can use the swoop of the water bars to slo you down. I think the biggest lesson of downhills is to realize you can't neccessarily slow down exactly when you want to(obviously don't start out faster than you want :foul:)--but to pick a line and recognize good traction spots and use them to slow your speed if you need it.

If it's going to be an uncontrolled rodeo slide to the bottom, on the other hand, I say hail mary full of grace and make sure I'm favoring my weight so the bike will fall over so I'm on the uphill side(easier to get started again too).

Next you can go work on Chute trail (ha remember that?!) when you get really brave you can go down that south end CHUTE, there isn't really any stopping, ya just gotta let it roll :p. But the other end of that trail has some nice curvy uphill/downhill stuff.

If you grow an extra pair of balls you can go drop off the landing at the end of GUmmy Worm. The actual down trail is not that bad, but the psycho pucker factor is huge cuz you're on the side of a mountain and it's like a kajillion feet down to the bottom and certain death *if you keep going*:busted:

So to review (heh) recognize that you do have the skills already--I mean, you can ride all that stuff on the flat or uphill right? It's the same thing only tipped down. Once you knock out some of your fear, like by bombing down the hills on the track at Eddieville, and feeling that speed and not dying, it will all turn into kittens and butterflies. Or at least bobcats and cockroaches.

Yes downhill is way easier if you stand up.

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Yep, what everyone said - standing up is paramount, get your butt back as far as your arms will let you to get the weight off your front wheel, look way far ahead, not at your front wheel, and 2nd or 3rd gear will be smoother.

That said, I still find trails where I'll turn the bike off, put it in 2nd, and just stay under control as best I can.

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I always repeat to myself the words from my father..."Momentum is your friend" I love downhills, always have but, nonetheless, they can be sketchy if you feel out of control. Stand with your butt hanging as far back as comfortable and ride down as fast as you can comfortably with gentle braking. I have had 2 knarly crashes going down hill that taught me very good lessons on braking. NEVER too much front brake or back brake no matter how sketchy things get. Get your speed under control and let the bike do the work. IF it is REAL knarly...engine off, even braking and clutching until you get past the steep knarly stuff...then engine back on and roll with it. Just keep practicing and you will get it!

K

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Thanks for the advice ladies! I think I lost my nerve when I went down pretty darn hard back in October. That one just stopped hurting! I think I'll call it spousal abuse. Don't tick off your husband then go riding! Just kidding............he would never.......would he?

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1. Keep the bike running and in a low enough gear to control your speed, but not so low of a gear that the engine-braking keeps making the rear wheel skid. If the engine does occasionally cause the rear wheel to lock up, blip the throttle slightly to get the rear wheel rolling, again. It is VERY difficult to control your direction with the rear wheel skidding on a downhill.

2. Stand up and shift your weight as far back as comfortably possible.

3. Squeeze the bike with your legs.

4. Keep your right foot covering or lightly pressing the rear brake and at least one finger on the clutch and front brake. You don't want the bike to get going faster than you can control and you don't want the engine to die.

5. KEEP YOUR LEFT FOOT AWAY FROM THE SHIFTER! The LAST thing you want to do is accidentally bump the transmission into neutral. It will feel like someone just kicked in the afterburners!

6. Try to break the hill into "smaller, straight sections." If you can see a spot on the hill with reasonably good traction, you can usually afford to let the bike gain a little more speed in the loose stuff as you approach this spot with good traction. Once you hit the spot with good traction, brake as hard as you need to to bring your speed back down. Then, aim your bike for the next section with good traction and repeat the procedure. A trail with some turns or banks usually provides a number of spots with reasonably good traction. Picture this a little like a pinball "bouncing" from one spot with good traction to the next spot. Try to turn the front wheel as little as possible in the loose stuff and try to wait until you hit good traction for major course changes.

7. If the trail has relatively steep banks on each side, you can sometimes turn it into sort of a "bobsled course" and ride high onto the banks to stay out of the loose stuff. Just try to keep the bike as straight as possible while cutting across the loose stuff in the bottom. Again, you can usually let the bike gain a little speed in the loose stuff, then brake on the banks to bring your speed back down and then change your course, again.

8. If the entire trail is equally loose, you can generally ride in the low spots and be reasonably certain that your bike won't slide "uphill." i.e. If you are already in the lowest part of the trail, there is a very good chance you will stay there.

9. Don't forget to use your weight on the foot pegs to help "steer" the bike in the loose stuff, as well.

:)

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Looking way far ahead was good advice I got riding eventing horses on a cross country course. As for bikes, no experience yet with hills. It is flat as a pancake here. I will discover them myself in time, I suppose, so I'm reading your thread for advice as well. Good luck conquering that skill!

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Ha, I can definitely relate. All good advice posted already. Not sure I understand how turning the bike off helps though? Maybe somebody with more riding experience can explain.

I found the most helpful thing when fear sets in, is to segment the hill (as another poster said). If I look at the hill as a whole, I'll get a bit freaked. But if I segment it into manageable pieces, I can ride each segment and find my fears abated.

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Ha, I can definitely relate. All good advice posted already. Not sure I understand how turning the bike off helps though? Maybe somebody with more riding experience can explain.

I found the most helpful thing when fear sets in, is to segment the hill (as another poster said). If I look at the hill as a whole, I'll get a bit freaked. But if I segment it into manageable pieces, I can ride each segment and find my fears abated.

It would allow you to use the clutch as a rear-wheel brake while freeing both feet to be planted on the ground. Use it only in the gnarliest stuff at a walking pace or slower. I wouldn't make a habit of doing this under normal riding conditions.

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Also turning off the bike helps when it's really rough surfaced stuff coupled with twisty turns with a steep drop off that means sudden death--a bump can jar my hand on the throttle and I don't like that sudden burst of speed off the precipice(maybe I will someday:D). I just bump start at the bottom or when it gets better.

It's not such a big deal at all when you're on the straight or gently curved.

ALso, in my mind, that bike-off, in gear I only use the clutch as an emergency back brake to give me enough time to jump off. I don't paddle with two feet(I just futz up worse), I keep them up(it usually is no help much anyways)--if I'm going slow enough to paddle I just would rather get off and walk it down, which pridefully I don't let myself do(ha). No law against stopping and catching your breath and resolve either. Most cases when I turn the bike off it's really because I stalled it going too slow, I just keep going without till I bump start it. Which watch out, ALWAYS cover the clutch cuz if you stall it and the clutch is out the back wheel locks up and you are flying one way or another.

You can probably tell I'm yelling at myself a lot in my head when I'm skeered :) And usually my fear is unfounded and is really the worst obstacle.

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And one more really major thing is to make sure your front wheel is pointed straight down the hill at all times, the washoutgooverthebars thing happens when the wheel gets jerked sideways and whoosh....bam, you're on the ground.

Your back wheel can be anywhere, sliding whatever, but it's the front wheel that matters.

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It would allow you to use the clutch as a rear-wheel brake while freeing both feet to be planted on the ground. Use it only in the gnarliest stuff at a walking pace or slower. I wouldn't make a habit of doing this under normal riding conditions.

Yah, I guess I could have clarified the "engine off" technique earlier. Just as CORider suggested, for the real knarly/slower paced stuff...for example, steep step offs with loose rocky stuff inbetween but continue with the smooth braking even at this pace...you can go over tha bars even at a snails pace (I know cause I have done it before). Once you get through it then definately engine back on (bump starting works well here) with momentum and continue with smooth, even braking when needed.

Good luck!

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