HIT THE PARK: If you ride within your abilities, there’s not as much risk involved as people think. With the number of bike parks around, downhill mountain biking is becoming like skiing or snowboarding. There are trails for every level of rider and programs and equipment that allow you to learn safely.
ELBOWS UP: This is a totally basic but highly important technique. You have to keep your arms bent and your elbows high for maximum strength and leverage. Wider handlebars make it easier to maintain that position.
DROP IT: If you’re riding a downhill bike, you’ll be in the right position for descending. If you’re on a trail bike, then a dropper seatpost, like Fox’s D.O.S.S. ($439), is just awesome. It still lets you climb fast, but the push of a button puts you in a safer, lower position for cruising downhill.
KEEP CONTACT: Your feet are two of the most important contact points with the bike, so the right shoes and pedals are crucial. Flat pedals, like the HT AE03 Evos ($160), help keep your feet in the right position when braking and jumping. The Giro Jackets ($120) have sticky soles, so your feet stay glued to the pedals.
LET IT ROLL: If you get into trouble in a hard spot, keep neutral pressure on your bars, so the bike tracks where it wants to go, and avoid slamming on the brakes. The bike will almost ride down stuff on its own.