Downhill mountain biking is a rush. There is nothing better for me than blasting down technical single track and feeling the freedom of releasing the bikes full potential and this is not singled out to big travel bikes with dual crown forks. Single track around the world can be the source of some of the best downhill runs you can find…there is just no chairlift to get to them…just some climbing.
For many riders, there is a real want to get faster at downhill mountain biking but some nervousness about pushing the edge…and rightfully so. You do not hear many stories about hospital visits while climbing terrain at 5 mph…they normally come from pushing those limits or hitting unexpected trail features that send the rider OTB (over the bars).
7 Tips To Faster Downhill Mountain Biking
There is a way to get faster downhill regardless of your bike or your skill level, you just have to keep a couple of things in mind as you look to increase you skills as gravity starts going for the assist.
1. Roll Before You Drop The Hammer
Just like the phrase “you have to crawl before you can walk”‘ speed in downhill mountain biking is a progressive change. Every rider is getting faster over time…they didn’t just wake up one day and start ripping up tech, drops and jumps. If you are looking to get faster on single track and technical features, start to progressively work up your speed instead of trying to chop off the fastest time out of the gate. When you keep working up from the last ride, you get much faster over time with fewer encounters with the ground.
2. Practice Speed On Sections Of Trail You Know
If you are out on a new trail or one you do not know very well, it is probably not the best time to start finding your limits. Getting better at mountain biking is just like any other sport…practice and repetition will make you better. If you have to (and I really recommend), session certain sections of trail over and over again until you get really comfortable and fast. That practice will translate into faster rides on lessees known or new trails.
3. Look Way Down The Trail
The biggest mistake I see riders make when trying to increase their speed with downhill mountain biking is looking way too close to the front tire while riding. Ideally, you want to be looking as far down the trail as you can while riding. You will be able to keep straighter lines, keep more momentum and make adjustments for large trail obstacles that you will me meeting at speed. When you look right in front of your front tire, you make unnecessary, micro adjustments that can cause wrecks, slow you down and take you offline. Your bike can handle it…you focus on where you are going…because it is coming quickly.
Ride Behind Faster Riders
The absolute best way to get better at mountain biking is riding behind rides that are after and have better technical ability than you do. When you are trying to get faster at downhill mountain biking, this gets multiplied. You will learn faster lines, better technique and crucial momentum lessons (when to pedal, brake, etc.) that are hard to teach. Get behind a faster rider and hold onto that rear wheel.
4. Use Your Best Suspension Component
No…not that brand new fork you just dropped a huge amount of coin on…your arms and legs. Your greatest asset on the bike when you are trying to get faster at downhill mountain biking is also your biggest suspension component. The stiffer you keep your body, the more you are going to bounce around out of control. Keep a loose grip on the bars and use you body to push into the trail and suck up bigger hits.
5. Wear Protective Gear
If you are going to be in an area you do not know well or you are worried about missing the next week of work due to a crash, wear some protective gear like knee pads. Not only will they protect vital limbs in the even of a fall, but they also have a placebo affect that allows you to let loose a little bit more on the trail. The safer you feel, the more confident you will ride. I wear the Kyle Strait 661 knee pads on most technical rides. They are comfortable enough for all day use so why not?
6. Keep Your Weight A Variable
As the terrain gets steeper, you are going to need to have your weight farther back on the bike. Wen it flattens out…you can be more centered to get power to the pedals. When you are downhill mountain biking, there is no “one place” you need to keep your weight centered on the bike. It needs to be constantly changing depending on the conditions.
7. Challenge Yourself
Life is boring as hell without challenges…keep pushing the limits of what you consider normal. Todays mountain bikes are built to handle a lot…our only limiting factor is ourselves. Keep progressively pushing those limits and you will be surprised at what you can accomplish on the trail.
The Truvativ HammerSchmidt crankset and front drive system made huge waves in the industry back in 2008 for being the first, mainstream front shifting platform without a front derailleur. With a simple click of the front shifter, you could now change between 2 gear ratios under load or even when you are not pedaling due to the overdrive mechanism of the assembly.
With delivery of the Diamondback Mission 4 for review, we go the chance to get some serious ride time on the HammerSchmidt.
Ride it. Believe it. – Every so often, you hear whispers about a new product that promises to change everything, only to be let down in some way. Truvativ HammerSchmidt delivers the revolutionary innovation you’ve been hoping for—and it will completely change the way you think, shift, and ride. Truvativ HammerSchmidt opens up worlds of possibilities with an instant flick of a simple switch. This front transmission’s revolutionary design comprises five main components, each working in perfect concert, allowing you to react to terrain in ways you’ve never imagined before.
Pure magic. There’s no other way to describe what HammerSchmidt feels like for All Mountain riders. Imagine never having to plan your shift. You’ll never see your trails the same again.
One is greater than two. The planetary gear mechanism at the hart of Truvativ’s new front transmission works like a single chainring with the strengths of the traditional two-ring system — and none of the weaknesses. There are two gears: 1:1 and Overdrive. In 1:1, everything is locked and spinning together. Turn the pedal once and the chainring goes around once. In Overdrive, the ratio is approximately 1:1.6. Turn the pedal once and the chainring goes around about 1.6 times.
How Does The HammerSchmidt Actually Work?
The Truvativ HammerSchmidt transmission is a planetary gear design that when engaged and locked down gives you a 1:1 chainring to pedal revolutions. When cable is released and the overdrive is engaged, you get 1.6:1 chainring revolutions for each single pedal revolution. The result…you get either a 22/36 tooth setup or a 24/38 tooth setup depending upon your configuration and this is all done through a single chainline without the need for a front derailleur.
Intended use at this time is for AM to FR/DH bikes with ISCG tabs for installation. There are two different models (AM and DH/FR) and the AM model is tested here.
Short Truvativ Hammerschmidt Promo Video
On The Trail: Truvativ HammerSchmidt
At first, the Truvativ HammerSchmidt takes some getting used to…partly because our brains are so front derailleur trained that a new front transmission seems foreign. When you combine that with the swapped front shifter setup (large front paddle goes easier while smaller front paddle goes harder), it takes a ride or two to get used to the new system and lack of shifting issues on the front end.
Just riding along, the HammerSchmidt performs exactly as described. You get crisp, fast shifts between the two ratios whether you are moving or not. Under climbing load, the shifts are consistent and allow you to change ratios quickly even when hammering out of the saddle. After awhile, it becomes second nature to rely on your front shifting to carry more duties than you normally do with a front derailleur based setup. Simple clicks back and forth via the HammerSchmidt specific front shifter and you are set whether you are moving or not.
There are two things that you do have to get used to when using a HammerSchmidt.
The wide ratio between regular pedaling and overdrive - With the 22/36 and 24/38 options depending on the ring you use, it is wider than typical 2×9 setups I have run in the past (22/34 or 24/36). With the 24/38 option, I found myself having to shift the rear derailleur a couple of positions with each change in front under steeper climbing changes that used to only require a front ring change.
More Swarming Bees - I also found that I liked to stay in the 1:1 option as much as possible while coasting and pedaling because the HammerSchmidt drive sounds much like a hub freewheeling (a little bit deeper pitch) when you go to coast.
The real beauty in the HammerSchmidt is what it ultimately brings to AM and longer travel mountain bikes. The fringe benefits are really noticed during riding. With the HammerSchmidt, you get unbelievable ground/bottom bracket clearance. When navigating down trees and other trail obstacles, you no longer have to worry about how large your big ring or bash guard is…you have almost limitless clearance as you hop up and over. You also get a straight chainline that has all of the benefits of chain retention systems with none of the drag. As you blow through rock gardens and other rough terrain, there is no worry of the chain dropping or miss shifts as you are basically dealing with a 1x setup on the front ring.
Is the HammerSchmidt the end of the front derailleur?
Well…not yet. While there are a ton of obvious advantages for running a planetary transmission up front, there are still the issues of weight and price until the system becomes mainstream. However, it does bring solutions to a lot of the issues that technical and downhill riders run into while on the trail. The HammerSchmidt is a huge step forward in front shifting progress and we are even seeing bikes like the custom steel hard tails out of builders like Steve Stickel (click here to see pictures) getting the HammerSchmidt treatment to accommodate new frame designs and geometries.
Positive: Truvativ HammerSchmidt Crankset
Effortless shifting under load or while coasting
Massive amount of ground clearance
Chain retention/guide protection without the guide or drag
Negative: Truvativ HammerSchmidt Crankset
Price – Still very expensive
ISCG tabs required for install and installation not for the typical garage wrencher
Wide gear ratios can cause some more rear shifting in certain climbing situations
The Truvativ HammerSchmidt is a great leap forward in front shifting technology. If you are un-concerned with overall bike weight, I would suggest taking a look as the HammerSchmidt is your answer to getting rid of front shifting headaches.
The term extreme mountain biking is thrown around a lot in magazines and other more conventional print sources. With riders like Thomas Vanderham and Sam Hill ripping up North Shore and Cam McCaul killing stunts we never thought would be possible, extreme mountain biking is something that has a different definition than it did 10 years ago.
However, when it comes down to it…reality sets in. Just as Thomas Vanderham said in a recent interview, “I am just a mountain biker.”
Extreme Mountain Biking: My View
So what is extreme mountain biking? I think there is a common misconception in the industry that all technical downhills are fast with huge drops and stunts. We have been conditioned to think of downhill mountain biking as Whistler’s A-Line or North Shore’s wooden structures through popular films like Follow Me, Seasons and others. With photogenic landscapes and high visibility in the mountain biking community, these areas make for very popular video sites, but that is a very small section of the globe.
Over the years, I have found that sometimes the most extreme mountain biking you can find is actually done at slower speeds in very remote areas as you pick your way though some of the nastiest trails you can put rubber on. These mountain biking trails are not seen on big video productions or posters that kids want to put on their walls. These mountain biking trails are conquered by locals in the area and the trails become true legends in their own right.
A friend of Bike198, Colin Stewart, has posted some incredible pictures to share his stoke from another portion of the globe (check them out by clicking here: Colin Stewart). Now, thanks to the addition of HD video to DSRL’s, Colin has shot some video of riding in his area. The steepness and technicality of these mountain biking trails is insane. With very slow speed, trails-like descents on longer travel mountain bikes, Colin and his group of riding friends prove that not all extreme mountain biking is done at high speed.
These videos further prove the theory that we are all just mountain bikers and not all extreme mountain biking is what you see in videos. The amount of skill it takes to tackle this terrain is mind blowing.
I received a great email from a reader yesterday wondering how to get into more aggressive FR/DH riding from an XC background. The question seems like a simple one, but nerves can start to get the best of you as you look at obstacles and covers of Bike Magazine.
So how does a rider that wants to get into more drops, jumps, rock gardens and other freeride and downhill riding but still conquer the nerves and fear at the same time. There is a secret to the madness and I’ll share that now.
Riding More Aggressively Is A Progression
Before you go find the first 10 foot to flat drop you see and try to huck off of it, just know that you are probably going to chicken out or break something. You have to condition your skills and your mind to accept a more aggressive riding style over time.
Those guys that you see doing massive drops and jumps did not start out with the biggest thing to land them on magazine covers. They started with smaller drops and technical features to grow the skill set and confidence that eventually led to the build up and larger stunts.
If you are looking to start getting in to more aggressive riding. Find smaller drop and TTF’s that you can start off with. If your mountain bike tires have never left the ground, this might be a 6″ lip off the ground. It literally does not matter how big or small your first attempt it…it just matters that you did it, so pick something you are comfortable with.
As you start to get more confident, move up the scale. Go from 6″ to a foot…a foot to 2 feet…
Eventually, you will hit a limit that you are comfortable achieving and you can start to make that height harder with more difficult lead ins and landings (rocks, roots, etc.).
What Gear Do You Need?
Luckily for you, today’s 5.5″ trail bike can handle a pretty good amount of abuse. As long as you are not dropping off the roof of a house, you should be able to ride just about anything you put your mind to. Granted, you are not going to take full DH runs at the speed you could on a real DH bike, but there are guys that rock that stuff on a hard tail, so anything is possible.
To help with the confidence level, I would pick up a set of pads like the 661 Kyle Straits knee pad and some elbow pads. This keeps your joints protected and gives you a little bit more confidence as you hit the hill. I would also recommend picking up a full face helmet to keep your brain in tact in case the worst should happen. A full face helmet can take some getting used to…so make sure you are comfortable with it before you hit anything big.
As you progress in your new aggressive FR/DH riding style, you are going to want to get more dedicated equipment for the cause as there are things like a specific DH rig that will make your riding faster and more controlled with bigger suspension, but…in the meantime…feel out your tolerance level and start to stretch what you consider normal.
It always starts with smaller to bigger in your quest to hit the bigger stuff. By conditioning your mind and body to take on more aggressive riding, you will prevent injury or equipment failure from trying to hit something you weren’t ready for.
What started off as a couple of friends getting together every Tuesday for a ride at Big Creek in Roswell, GA, has turned into a pretty large group ride. We started this whole idea because Wild Wings has “two for Tuesday” where you get 16 wings for the price of 8. This provided the perfect excuse to get a weekday ride started. It started with about 5 of us getting together every week, and it has now grown to almost 30. It is really great to have a ride to look forward to week in and week out.
This week, all of the usual suspects showed up (Raja, Chocolate Girl, iride, Tweety, Concrete Blond, epojoe, Lonestar, Omega, D-Rock, RedRocker, Think1….the list goes on). I decided that it had been awhile since the full face had been brought out of the garage, so I slapped it on and stayed in the free-ride section of Big Creek for the entire night. These rides normally start in the xc section before making their way to the FR area for some brutal climbing anyway, so I knew everyone would be back making some gully runs eventually.
Long story short, I got my flow back. The Terremoto was perfect all night. By the end, I think I got somewhere close to 15 runs in or more. The freeride area has everything from rock gardens, drops, gully runs and jumps, and for some reason…I just started to get that flow feeling about half way through. It was perfect.
Having a huge group on the trail full of a bunch of riding buddies is a great way to spend a weekday night. A friend of mine out west, Bill Freeman, passes along stories of their huge riding clubs Wednesday rides, and I am starting to feel like we are getting something similar over here. A huge part of the mountain biking allure, for me, is the group of people that we get to ride with. With all of the different backgrounds and riding styles, everyone is still on the same page and having a great time. You really can’t ask for more. It is also great to see some pure cross country riders get a taste of the dh/fr scene. The Big Creek FR area is a perfect place to get that introduction, and the smiles on their faces says it all.
Thank you goes out to Mama/Chocolate Girl/Laurie (she goes by many different names) for the pictures. They came out great as always, and if you want to see more, you can find them on her blog here.
In the mail yesterday, I received a tri-fold advertisement for Snowshoe Mountain Bike Park. This ride is on my “must do list” but with such a busy summer planned, it doesn’t look like I will be able to make the 10 hour trip from Atlanta. I will have to wait until next year to hit this incredible east coast bike park.
Some highlights from the flyer:
This place has gravity. Instinctually athletes are drawn to this mountain bike battlefield. Core riders from around the country assault Snowshoe all summer; attacking features and slaying rock drops. They bombard our famous trail system, mount the lift and shoot it again. While riding here you’ll experience its magnitude, and find an explosion of riders…killing it…daily.
This summer, the Snowshoe Bike Park is taking riding to the next level, and opening the door for new riders to join the sport. Our newest trail, Yew Pine, is a machine-groomed line that connects the Village to the Ballhooter lift. It is a perfect path for beginners gaining confidence…
Powerade Race Series:
$25,000 in cash and prizes
Race 1: June 27-29
Race 2: July 25-27
Race 3: August 29-31
Snowshoe also has very reasonable rental rates for cross country ($40), freeride ($79), and downhill ($125) bikes that include all of the gear you will need. A season pass will run you $279 and an all day pass goes for $39. There are multi-day passes available at a discount as well.
Be sure to call for the rates on their camps. I highly recommend these to anyone wanting to get into this style of riding. We have some friends that took the ones at Whistler and they came back much more confident.
Yesterday, I got in a much needed day at the trail. My Saturday was filled up with a memorial service and a company party, both of which, I was not looking forward to. I woke up on Sunday morning with the sun and low 70 degree temperatures starring at me in the face. It was going to be a great day.
I went ahead and loaded up both the Moots MootoX and the Ventana El Terremoto to get some final runs in before doing my Maxxis Ardent and Moots reviews. When I got to the trail head, the weather and conditions were perfect. We had just enough rain the day before to make the soil conditions nice and tacky with minimal dust.
I unloaded the Ventana with it’s new rubber and headed the free ride section. Big Creek’s free ride area is small, but has a good couple of short runs that are a blast for a local urban trail. I climbed the first run and walked the rest. There will be more on the tires later, but these conditions seemed perfect for them. I ran the rock gardens and drops several times mixing in full gully/jump runs in between. So far, the day was perfect.
After shuttling for a couple of hours, I headed back to the car to unload the Moots and get some cross country laps in. When I got the the parking lot, I ran into Rusty (iridetitus) and in pure iride fashion…I got the response…”yeah, I can do one more,” so off we went. The trail was in great shape and we were blasting through the first half of the lap. We even hit the free ride section and took two gully runs. I believe my exact comment was, “It’s a lot different when you lose 13 lbs. and 6 inches.” The Moots and 29 inch wheels handled the runs like a champ and afterwards we met up with some friends from the local board at the bottom for some trailside bike talk (The Heckler).
Rusty and I headed back to the parking lot to pack up and head out. It is really amazing how a great day on the trail will clear your head. It was just what the doctor ordered for lack of a better phrase. After the Saturday that I had…there was nothing other than a good day on the bike and some time at home with the other half that was going to fix my head.
I did end up missing the 12 hour race at Yargo due to my Saturday circumstances. Joe, thanks for taking my place on the team, and Marty (Lonestar), Eric (Redrocker), Tom (Omega) and Joe (RegularJoe)…I hope you guys had a great time. I’ll be there for the next one.
In a world where we love to capture our adventures on camera, GoPro has come up with a reasonably inexpensive way to record footage using a mounted digital camera. The Digital Hero can be mounted several different ways and comes in a couple different configurations to fit your needs.
In the mountain biking scene, we are constantly looking for different ways to record our favorite trail or that perfect run. Until now, doing that meant very expensive equipment or rigging something up that may or may not work correctly. GoPro‘s Hero solves these issues in a little package that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Check out their website for the different configurations.
From the website:
The Helmet HERO is a waterproof digital helmet camera that also quick-release mounts to bikes, kayaks, skis, cars and more. Works with any vented or non-vented helmet.
Use a 2GB SD card to shoot 56 minutes of TV resolution 30 fps video with immersive sound. Or activate “Photo Every 5 Seconds” mode to automatically shoot hands-free photos of the action for over 2 hours (1400+ photos).
56 minutes TV quality video w/sound
3 megapixel sensor with glass lens
3X sequence photo burst
Photo every 5 second mode
Adjustable sound recording levels
Always On Mode lasts 3+ hours
Supports up to 2GB SD cards
PC and MAC Compatible/Driver Free
2 x AAA Battery
1 Year Warranty
What is really impressive about the unit is the quality that it puts out. It really surprised me how a small inexpensive helmet camera could put out good enough quality to post on the internet and watch on tv. Now, this isn’t going to be HD quality, and you will probably see pixels on really large tv’s, but this little unit is really great for what it is.
A friend of mine, Jeff, has been trying one out at Big Creek lately.
Trail Riding – Cool shots of the Fox fork doing it’s thing.
We are entering a new area in mountain biking, and things are changing swiftly. The 5″ bike market is taking the industry by storm, and riders who thought they would never be on that much travel are now making the switch. What does that mean for the riders that were already on longer travel bikes? We are just going bigger. I have had numerous conversations with riding buddies about our progression, and it seems the more our tires leave the ground…the higher we want them to get. Hence…the big bike dreams.
All of us that have been around awhile remember the days where 3.5″ forks were considered dh. Now, you can’t even find a cross country bike with less than 4 inches unless it is rigid. So what changed? The technology did. With lighter components and better geometry, the 5 inch travel bike market now appeals to a wider range of riders. I believe this is a good thing.
Remember the days when xc pictures were the staple of industry rags? Those days are long gone. We are now in the “Whistler area” where big air on 40 lbs bikes are most cover shots. I don’t know about you, but when I see shots like the one on the cover of this months Bike…I want to skip work, get on the bike and try it for myself. These high flying aerial assaults are becoming common place for the biking community, and while not all riders have the same dreams that I do…they are appreciating this style of riding more and more. Even our local urban trail, Big Creek, has a small freeride/dh section in the back where even the cross country guys get there shot at a gully run or two.
I am extremely excited about where the industry is headed. The aggressive trail riding style of mountain biking is becoming the “normal guys” regular ride, the dh/freeride guys are bringing publicity and attention that the sport has never seen, and this recognition will create more trails and hopefully more technical features instead of the usual beginner “paved” systems. I would have never imagined my everyday bike would be 36 lbs., but with every ride…I am glad it is.
So are you having big bike dreams? Are you, like me, sitting in your office at work daydreaming about how big you are going to go the next run? Even if you aren’t, you have to like the way things are going. The diversity is helping the sport tremendously and it is also attracting the next generation of riders to push the limits even father than they are now. Just when we start to think nothing else could be possible, a rider proves us wrong. There are hundreds of non-pro riders, just out in the woods with their friends, pushing the limits past what we know as true now. I think the part I like best about this progression is how it reminds me of riding when we were kids. Back then we were trying to build or find anything to jump. Now the jumps are just much bigger! So now for the big question…where are we going to be 10 years from now? I can’t wait to find out…
I can not wait for this one to come out. The Collective is releasing Seasons in April. This is from the same guys who brought you Roam which is one of the best mountain biking videos ever made. I know it gets me super stoked to ride way above my own ability!
From the website:
Seasons is a film that follows 7 of the world’s top mountain bikers through the course of 4 seasons of one year. The film explores what it means to be a full time rider as told through the lives of downhill racers, slopestyle competitors, and big mountain freeriders.
The racers are…
If you don’t know who these racers are…you have been living in a xc cave for a little too long! I need to go ahead and order a copy as soon as possible…this one is going to be another one of the mountain biking movie greats.