“Riding a slope that makes your heart pound isn’t all guts,” says Abby Hippley, frame builder at Santa Cruz Bicycles and former downhill racer. “A successful descent is dependent on proper body position and bike setup.” Follow Hippley’s tips, and you’ll not only be more confident on steep drops, but you’ll ride them with control and ease.
1. “Set your bike up for success,” says Hippley. Drop your seat as low as it will go. Focus your eyes as far forward as you can. Keep the trail immediately in front of you in your peripheral vision, but never direct your gaze off your front wheel.
2. As you approach the roll, your weight should be balanced between the front and rear of your bike with your shoulders relaxed, your knees pointed outward for stability. Keep your pedals at 90° and assume a relaxed cat-like crouch on the bike.
3. As your front wheel reaches the lip of the drop, shift your weight back, extending your butt out over your rear wheel, keeping your knees and arms bent. With one finger on each brake lever, feather the brakes evenly—do not squeeze them or lock them out.
4. As you reach the bottom of the roll, release the brakes so that you can carry your momentum through the exit. As you hit the exit transition, let your elbows and knees be loose and shock absorbing so that you’ll roll smoothly through the transition.
5. “What you do is as important as what you don’t do,” says Hippley. “Keep your legs and arms bent and loose not locked, keep your weight over your back not your front wheel, and feather your brakes, don’t lock them or you’ll skid.”