Friday, September 24, 2010

Downhill Mountain Biking: A Truly Distinctive Sport

Airborne Taka Downhill Bike
As I wrote almost exactly a month ago,
I have wanted to get into downhill mountain biking for a long time.  Gravity-fueled adrenaline-pumping sports are what I'm all about. I come from a background heavy in downhill skiing, so riding a lift and shredding downhill at high speeds come very naturally to me.
After spending a little over a month riding a big 8" travel rig around, I feel like I've had a healthy dose of downhill riding, and am starting to understand what it's all about.  And let me tell you: downhilling is big, it's bad, and it's tons of fun!

Downhill mountain biking has got to be one of the coolest sports I have ever done during the summer time!  I love getting to rip downhill at high speeds, and the feeling of the suspension just eating up all manner of rocks and roots as you bomb down a narrow trail is just addicting!  After a short transition period, I think I would almost completely give up cross-country riding if I had a place nearby where I could take a chairlift to the top.

If you are thinking about jumping from cross-country riding to downhilling, here are some things that you should consider:

Searching for a Place to Belong
Essentially, downhill mountain biking is a sport that is distinctly separate from that of cross country mountain biking.  I have wondered why there were some websites on the internet that seemed to focus exclusively on gravity-fueled bike disciplines (Pinkbike), and others that seem to be much more focused on cross-country riding (Singletracks). The reason is that these sports are totally different.  At times, it feels like there is very little in the way of skills and techniques that cross over between cross country and downhill.

Then there's all mountain. All mountain riders are stuck somewhere in the middle between cross country and downhill, and they don't know really know what the crap is going on.  The all-mountain mountain bikers just know that they like riding bikes, and coming down hills at high speed, despite whatever sort of junk might be sitting in the trail between them and the bottom of the mountain.  This is the largely undefined category that I find myself sitting squarely in.  Because of my great love for high speeds and gnarly trails, those descending skills transferred over pretty well to the big-hit bike, but I still felt a little unprepared.

So in what ways exactly does downhilling differ from cross-country riding?
Well over the next 2 posts I will cover, in detail, several significant ways that downhilling stands apart as its own sport.  Stay tuned!

Difference 1: The Physical Side
Differences 2 and 3: The Mental Side and the Mad Skills Factor

Your Turn: What is your opinion on riding style/bike style classification?  What categories do you recognize as legitimate? And does it really matter that much?


Christopher September 24, 2010 at 10:36 AM  

I find myself in the all-mountain catagory. Simply because of where I live. I don't live near any true mountains with chair-lift access to bomb down those types hills. If I had time and money to do that sort of thing I could travel to them, I guess. Since I purchased my first FS bike (Fezzari Alta Peak) with a full six inches of travel I find myself searching for bigger drops than I used to take with my Gary Fisher hardtail. Still, I love the heart pumping climbs of cross country, actually the Alta Peak climbs quite well, simply to reap the rewards of going full tilt down the other side. Next month, my fiancee and I are traveling to Birmingham, AL for a couple of days where I'll be able to check out a couple of prime MTB riding spots, Oak Mountain State Park Bump Trail and Hurricane Creek. Both parks are within an hour of Birmingham, so I'm very excited about that.
Great post as always, Greg. I really enjoy reading your blog.

Greg Heil September 24, 2010 at 11:29 AM  

Have fun in Alabama! I've wanted to get over there to ride for a while now (heard lots of good things about those trails), but North Carolina is closer so I find myself going there more often!

So while you're an all-mountain rider here, do you think you would stay the same if you lived somewhere with access to lifts, would you transition over to mainly donwhilling, or would you just add downhilling and do both about equally?

Christopher, it makes me happy to know that you enjoy reading the blog! Getting comments like this one really give me the drive that I need to keep going, so thank you!

Ride on!

How about everyone else? What are your thoughts on the topic?

Christopher September 24, 2010 at 2:24 PM  

I would love to do both equally. The rush of adrenaline alone makes me want to point the wheels downhill and go as fast as possible. But at the same time, I still enjoy getting the benefit of going uphill for a good workout.

Greg Heil September 27, 2010 at 2:26 PM  

@Christopher, Right on, I totally understand that

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Greg Heil is the Editor in Chief for He's been writing and publishing online since before blogging existed.

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Mountain biking, plain and simple. Trail reviews, ride reports, and philosophical musings induced by delirium from grinding up way too many vertical feet.

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