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.
Original Image of Ethan Taken by RegularJoe