How to Bike Downhill [15 Tips]

biking downhill

What goes up comes down. And if you are on a bike, this coming down experience can make you say, “Hello! I was living for this!” Riding downhill on a road or mountain can be extremely difficult, dangerous, or cheerful. So it’s you who decides how you want to ride downhill.

In this article, I will discuss 15 tips to make your riding downhill experience a memorable one. These tips are:

  1. Brakes and Tires Checking
  2. Choose Cycling Shorts Vigilantly
  3. Correct Sitting
  4. Lower Your Center of Gravity
  5. Focus On Curves 
  6. Brake Before the Turn 
  7. Scan Ahead
  8. Look Down the Road
  9. Do Not Stare
  10. Stay Relaxed
  11. Gradual Use of Brakes
  12. Start with Small Descents 
  13. Be your own shock absorber.
  14. Follow Traffic Rules
  15. Seek Advice

You want to feel comfortable and safe when riding down a hill. I find that if I take it slow the first time and carefully observe the challenges the hill poses, I can go quicker the next run and remain safe because I know what to do next. 

Mountain Biking Downhill

mountain biking down hill (2)

It looks rocky, rutted, and a killer slope. But if you know how to hike down, you can probably ride down it as well.

  1. Mountain Biking Downhill Set-Up

Before practicing mountain biking downhill, you need to set up your bike first. Get a basic understanding of your bike, the tire pressure, the size, brake levers, handlebars arrangement, transmission shifters, and suspension are all set up correctly.

Tailor them according to your weight, proportions, riding style, and trails condition if necessary. There are several factors at play, and an accurate balance of them leads to an excellent performance. If you are the first time riding downhill, I would suggest getting some advice from experienced riders or attend a course.

  1. Your Body’s Placement

Correct body positioning and balance are extremely important in mountain biking. For downhill riding, a balanced position requires sitting in a centered position, with open elbows, bent knees, low heels, looking ahead, and ready to absorb the obstacles’ shock.

  1. Handling Of The Bike 

During downhill riding, the pedals need to be level, i.e., they should be at 3 and 9 o’clock. This helps you to be in a better position to pump your bike. You can transfer your bodyweight on suspension and wheels through the pedals to prompt the speed. You need to actively handle the bike, predicting the obstacles, and absorbing the compressions.

Mountain biking is a physical sport, and the downhill requires additional considerations like excellent balance, high levels of strength, sprinting ability, and power output. Practicing sports like road cycling, running, skiing, and swimming can help you improve your physical condition, train muscular groups, and sharpen reflexes.

Road Biking Downhill

Road Biking Down Hill

It can be intimidating to descend on a road bike regardless of whether you are a seasoned pro or new to road cycling. Riding at higher speeds with gravity and depending on the brakes to slow down can be scary. But, if you begin slow, develop confidence, and follow the suggestions below, you will be looking ahead to ride downhill quickly.

  1. Relax

Intentionally ease your death grip on the bar and relief by releasing the stress out of your shoulders and arms.

A tiring rigid body will transmit thumps to the bike, making it much harder to control, while a calm upper body will support you to avoid unexpected movements and keep your steering and braking smooth. Keeping your pedals level will enable you to unweight yourself from the saddle, and your legs can be used to smooth over any knocks in the road.

  1. Keep Pedaling

The majority of long riding downhill comes after a rough climb, so instantly calming your legs and then stopping pedaling for a prolonged time will make them feel stiff. To prevent this, do a bit of pedaling downhill, so your legs continue to work well whenever you get to the next rise in the road.

  1. Keep Your Distance

Keep in mind that there are no brake lights in your bike or front rider’s bike; therefore, you might get no warning if a rider needs to unexpectedly brake or swerve.

  1. Keep Enough Gaps 

Apply space management techniques to keep enough gaps between you and the rider in front. Make sure you can count 2 full seconds from when your front rider passes a point to when you pass it too.

15 Tips for Biking Downhill

15 tips downhill biking

Here are a few tips for biking downhill that will help you learn how to safely ride a mountain bike and road bike.

  1. Brakes and Tires Checking 
Tires and Brakes

Checking your brakes and tires before each trip is extremely important. You need to take your bike to the shop for a general checkup regularly. Make sure not to overinflate the bike tires.

I would recommend maximum pressure of 110 pounds per square inch for road tires, although each tire is different so check its specifications. Whereas, for mountain bike tires, less pressure is required.

  1. Choose Cycling Shorts Vigilantly 
Good Fitting Shorts

You need to put a little more effort into choosing your cycling shorts to keep your backside comfortable. Higher-end shorts are gender-specific, comfortable, and have extra padding, so this extra expense is worth all the money.

  1. Correct Sitting
ride off seat

Mostly inexperienced riders set straight and lock their elbows while riding downhill. This stiff, straight, upright positioning may make you unstable.

On a mountain bike, I would suggest carrying most of your body weight on your feet, firmly pressing your shoes against the pedals. Relax your shoulders while keeping your elbows bent. You want to lift yourself off the seat with your hips back a bit.

On a road bike, you may want to rest your forearms on the handlebars if you have armrests and lift off the seat if you need stability. 

  1. Lower Your Center of Gravity
Lower center of gravity

Place your hands on the lower part of the handlebar to make the center of gravity nearer to the ground. On a mountain, bike hips go back and down to get better control.

In this way, your weight will be uniformly distributed between both front and rear wheels. This will help you maintain traction during turning and braking.

  1. Focus On Curves
going around curves bikes

While riding downhill on the road, as you approach a bend, you can place the outer pedal down. You need to put your weight on that outside foot to increase downward force.

For novice riders, I would suggest practicing on small curves and leaning a bit to get us to this riding position.

As you get more experienced you can also turn the heel down and this can help you gain more stability as you ride over rough terrain.

  1. Brake Before the Turn

Do not make the mistake of waiting until you are in the middle of a turn to break. Rather, slow down before the turn. Faster and sharper turns mean deeper leans of your bike.

Beginners should slow into turns until they have enough practice to take a turn without breaking.

  1. Scan Ahead 
Scan the Road Ahead biking

Keep looking for danger signs while biking downhill so that you have time to react. In turn, keep looking at the exit point so that you carve a steady and smooth line.

  1. Look Down the Road
look down the road biking

Looking down the road is the most important tool for safe riding. I would suggest you constantly scan the road far ahead of you to know if a curve or pothole is coming up. This will help you to respond gradually and not to jerk up your bike out of the way.

  1. Do Not Stare 
don't stare at the ground biking

Do not stare at a fixed point like a bump or stone on the road. If you just stare at it, you will most probably steer into it because your bike follows your vision.

Instead, look around the obstacles, so you find a way where you wish to go. If you are scanning the road, you will have time to plan and prepare to calmly pass the obstruction.

  1. Stay Relaxed
Stay Relaxed biking

Do not panic. Stay relaxed and let go of tension. Open your mouth to unclench your jaw, keep breathing, bend your elbows, drop your shoulders, and release the death grip on the bar. Let your feet lie smoothly on your shoe’s bottoms.

  1. Gradual Use of Brakes
Controlled Use of Brakes biking

Always foresee what you have to do next to avoid sudden braking. Gently compress the levers with 2-3 seconds pulses for controlled slowing. If you constantly ride the brakes while riding downhill, that may overheat the rims and possibly cause a blowout.

You can get disc brakes to prevent overheated rims, but you still need to be careful not to overuse disk brakes and get them checked if they don’t seem to work as well as they used to. 

  1. Start with Small Descents
small descents biking

First, learn the tips and apply these tips to start with small and familiar descends. Look for a hill you are familiar with and have a gentle slope. Ride downhill at a slow speed and apply one tip at a time. Gradually increase the speed with each descent and attempt other tips.

  1. Be your own shock absorber
shock absorber biking

It is natural to get tensed when you are nervous but straightens, and stiff arms increase this feeling and making you more unstable. So you need to make yourself calm and comfortable with your elbows bent, arms relaxed, and shoulders soft.

In this way, if you hit a bump, your upper body will act as a shock absorber that makes your downhill less jarring.

  1. Follow Traffic Rules
Follow Traffic Rules biking

Always try to follow traffic rules to keep you and everyone around you safe. In my opinion, I would say ride your bike the way you drive your car.

  1.  Seek Advice
Get Advice from others biking

Keep seeking advice. You can watch and talk to good riders. Ask your local bike shop if they can provide you with an experienced rider and a little faster than you.

If you can find someone, follow them down the next hill and imitate how they ride. Watch a video online.

Give this process a little time, and you will see the difference yourself. Listen to the experts and imitate them, and you will become a beast on the bike.

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