1. The most important thing about buying a new bike is to make sure it fits. The only way you'll know if the bike is right for you is to size up the bike and make sure that the bike's geometry matches your body's geometry. Ask questions and do some research.
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2. If possible, try to find a shop that will let you demo the bike on real dirt. Five minutes in a parking lot won't cut it. You wouldn't buy a car without a real world test drive, and a bike should be no different.
3. Don't belive the hype. Just because your favorite rider or best friend rides a certain bike, that doesn't mean that's the best one for you. Have an open mind and be realistic about your needs and ability.
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  1. #1
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    Cool-blue Rhythm Beginning downhill

    Hey guys!

    This is is my first post.

    I am wanting to get into downhill but don't know where to start. I am 14, have a Jamis cross-country bike. I don't have money to blow on a new or used bike. I just want to know how to start off with downhill, eg what protection do I need, etc.

    thanks heaps!

    TobyBarnhill

  2. #2
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    Ps will my jamis durango comp do to start off with?

  3. #3
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    Before investing in a full dh kit, start with renting a bike (which includes all the gear) and taking lessons at a bike park.
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  4. #4
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    yeah and i wouldn't take a xc bike on downhill yikes. dh bikes look like tanks for a reason. go with cyclecicious she knows what she is talking about

  5. #5
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    Lots of people try out DHing on their regular bikes to start out with - my first couple seasons of trying out lift riding were on XC hardtails with cantilever brakes and 2" of fork travel. It's a little more challenging and will put more wear on your bike than XC riding for sure, but if you use your head, ride within your abilities (for the most part) and stay away from the steeper and bonier trails, you should be able to have a good time.

    Full face helmet is very highly recommended (pretty much a necessity), as are at least knee and elbow pads. You can rent these at most mtns that do lift service, or if you've got any pads around the house from other sports, you can press those into service too. I know a number of people that went to the local used sporting good store and picked up hockey or lacrosse pads, etc for short $$ that worked fine to start out with. Even those cheap rollerblade pad sets you see at many big-box stores will be a lot better than nothing.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Lots of people try out DHing on their regular bikes to start out with - my first couple seasons of trying out lift riding were on XC hardtails with cantilever brakes and 2" of fork travel. It's a little more challenging and will put more wear on your bike than XC riding for sure, but if you use your head, ride within your abilities (for the most part) and stay away from the steeper and bonier trails, you should be able to have a good time.

    Full face helmet is very highly recommended (pretty much a necessity), as are at least knee and elbow pads. You can rent these at most mtns that do lift service, or if you've got any pads around the house from other sports, you can press those into service too. I know a number of people that went to the local used sporting good store and picked up hockey or lacrosse pads, etc for short $$ that worked fine to start out with. Even those cheap rollerblade pad sets you see at many big-box stores will be a lot better than nothing.

    first off, would you know any full face helmets in a small price range, I know about one of the 661 and bell helmets which are under $100 which seems alright. I'm not going to get one but what are neck braces/protection for? After a while, what are some bikes that I could pick up second hand quite cheap. I've seen giant glorying 2010-2012 quite cheap.

    thanks heaps for your time, Toby

  7. #7
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    DH on a low travel hardtail can be a challenge but can be done, just not as fun.

    You'll need:

    Full face helmet
    Knee/shin guards
    Vest (if you want chest, back and sort of shoulder protection)
    Good platform pedals
    Good shoes (ie 5.10, Teva, etc)
    Gloves

    Optional: leat brace

  8. #8
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    Wink

    Quote Originally Posted by DiRt DeViL View Post
    DH on a low travel hardtail can be a challenge but can be done, just not as fun.

    You'll need:

    Full face helmet
    Knee/shin guards
    Vest (if you want chest, back and sort of shoulder protection)
    Good platform pedals
    Good shoes (ie 5.10, Teva, etc)
    Gloves

    Optional: leat brace
    could you almost say you would become a bit more skilled at downhill if you start off with a hardtail because it's harder? also is a brace essential or is that more for when your racing and going really fast, with a possibility of falling and breaking your neck?

  9. #9
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    I couldn't find any places where I could rent a dh mountain bike, especially in Wollongong, Australia.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tobybarnhill View Post
    could you almost say you would become a bit more skilled at downhill if you start off with a hardtail because it's harder? also is a brace essential or is that more for when your racing and going really fast, with a possibility of falling and breaking your neck?
    Yes but on a long travel dh specific hardtail, not on a xc hardtail. The hardtail will teach you how to pick lines and flow but will beat the heck out of you. You'll eventually discover that speed is your friend and finessing the trail is a lot better than plowing thru it.

    As I said the brace is optional, you can break your neck on leisure runs and racing as well; is a matter of how you fall and what breaks. Tuck and roll is a good technique to learn while at it.

  11. #11
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    Re: Beginning downhill

    OP, I think you need to clarify what you mean by downhill. Are you talking about riding at lift assisted ski territory or simply riding your bike down hills? There's a huge difference.

    Either way you can ride your bike on downhill specific trails. You'll learn a lot. I would also recommend a full face helmet.

  12. #12
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    Yes, I mean proper downhill riding, or "gravity". Steep with many jumps, rock beads, drops, etc.

  13. #13
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    If your into riding lifts up the mountain, it is my experience that most resorts (at least in the Tahoe region) have downhill bikes available for rent at reasonable rates to try out. If I am not mistaken, you can hone some of the downhill skills on your XC on less aggressive slopes. Just my 2 cents worth. Either way, good idea to start/do downhill while your young, you bounce much better

  14. #14
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    Do you have any lift or shuttle service available, or will you be getting to the top under your own power? Any youtube vids out there of some of the trails you'd like to hit? That info would help with more specific bike suggestions.

    I know some guys that can kill it on a hardtail DHing, but they're on pretty burly bikes. The geometry of an XC bike is going to make things more challenging, but you can do things like shorten your stem, widen your bars, adjust your brake levers to engage closer to the bars, put on the meatiest tires that will fit in your frame, drop your seat height, etc to make your bike work a little better for aggressive riding. You still don't want to be going too big or fast with an XC bike though - DH is very tough on equipment and XC bikes aren't built to handle on a regular basis for very long.

    Neck braces are only essential when you crash in such a way that they keep you from breaking your neck.
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  15. #15
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    ... and if we just ...

    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Do you have any lift or shuttle service available, or will you be getting to the top under your own power? Any youtube vids out there of some of the trails you'd like to hit? That info would help with more specific bike suggestions.

    I know some guys that can kill it on a hardtail DHing, but they're on pretty burly bikes. The geometry of an XC bike is going to make things more challenging, but you can do things like shorten your stem, widen your bars, adjust your brake levers to engage closer to the bars, put on the meatiest tires that will fit in your frame, drop your seat height, etc to make your bike work a little better for aggressive riding. You still don't want to be going too big or fast with an XC bike though - DH is very tough on equipment and XC bikes aren't built to handle on a regular basis for very long.

    Neck braces are only essential when you crash in such a way that they keep you from breaking your neck.
    thanks heaps for for the info, I live in Wollongong, nsw Australia. Very hilly terrain and we have many people in Wollongong that become pro riders. We don't have any mtb parks though, but yes, there are many tracks. There are tracks for both beginners and pros. I haven't actually rode any yet because I want to make sure I'm all good and prepared. Should you walk the track to know it? Before you go on it?


    thanks heaps! Toby

  16. #16
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    Re: Beginning downhill

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobybarnhill View Post
    . Should you walk the track to know it? Before you go on it?


    thanks heaps! Toby
    You should at least ride it slowly if needed. Walk the sections that you can't clearly see the landing or the next obstacle especially if doing any drops.

    I like the fact that you are trying to be very prepared. That is fantastic. But at this point I think you need to just get yourself a good helmet and go ride the trails slowly, you will learn a lot and get faster as you go. There is something to be said for not over thinking everything. You're not going to ride like a pro downhiller in your first month ever of riding.

  17. #17
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    Re: Beginning downhill

    I'll also add that you will have 2 obvious limiting factors. 1 being experience, you only get what time on the bike The other will eventually become your bike itself . Its just simply not meant for downhill trails. The seat tube and head tube angles are very steep ( I'm guessing since you said it is an xc bike) and can quickly lead you over the bars on steep trails with wheel grabbers. If you haven't already I highly suggest you put some regular single track miles under your belt. That way you can get a feel for how your bike works and what it feels like to go over some simple obstacles like rocks and small drops.

    Learning all that on dedicated downhill trails is all the much harder.

  18. #18
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    Hi Toby
    have you checked out rotorburn.com the aussie mtb site. they have plenty of info for dh days. they should be able to give you lots of good info.
    i live in the blue mountains and lithgow and glenbrook have some DH tracks now. glenbrook seems to be reasonably easy from comments. having seen the dh track at stromlo and my xc bike...yikes. mad skillz if you can do it

  19. #19
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    In DH, you start at the top.

  20. #20
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    Seems like you have no idea what you're getting in to. Go out and see your trails, see what it's going to take to ride them. It doesn't really depend on your bike, more on your skill set and because of that it means that you can work your way up. But if you don't have any beginner level stuff then you should reassess what you want to do. Take your bike out and be prepared to walk, or just go for a hike so you can check out the trails. What kind of bike are the other people using those trails riding? Sounds like you're just making assumptions, it's time to get out and see what you're up against.
    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

  21. #21
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    Looks like some awesome riding in your area Toby. I think you should start saving for an all-mountain sort of bike as soon as possible; an XC bike is going to be out of it's element at speed on a lot of the stuff I saw in videos of trails around you.

    Look before you leap, brake early and often, get a decent helmet, use good judgement, and have fun. You're lucky to have a bunch of really fun looking trails to ride.
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  22. #22
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    Yeah, what's your overall experience level? If you don't have much, you would probably get a lot out of riding non-DH specific trails and working on some basic skills that will translate over once you can get a DH bike and gear.

  23. #23
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    My experience is that most any bike with suitable tires can ride most any trail. The question is the speed at which one can ride the trails. Riding fast on bumpy, rough trails will be jarring to the bike and rider. That's what breaks things like wheels and frames. Drops and jumps are hard on a bike. That's why DH bikes are beefy and have suspension. If you avoid those, you can start to build skill and experience.

  24. #24
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    Do squats, sit-ups, push-ups, and pull-ups to strengthen your muscles so you can actually withstand the bumps and still control the bike, rather than simply clench down and hold on. The stronger your muscles are, the better they will be at shock absorbing. Having those core muscles will help you maintain a more ideal position from which you can better control the bike.

    Practice bunny hops and trackstands, to improve your ability to manipulate the path of the bike and balance.

    Lower your saddle. This gives your legs room to act as suspension.

    Set your tires to a pressure that's not too hard, not too squishy. You want it to be able to squish just a bit with a squeeze or a bit of body weight on it (35 psi or 2.4 bar for smaller tires like 26x2.1 cross country tires should be a good starting point). This helps keep your tires on the ground, rather than bouncing around.

    Go at a brisk speed. More momentum often reduces the work your body has to do by a great deal, reducing the demand for balance and the overall movement needed to respond to bumps.

    Do not ride the brakes. Being on the brakes reduces your traction/control, so don't use it where you actually need it. If you need to slow down, do so in the flatter straighter clear sections, and not while you're turning or going over bumps. Perhaps brake like you would in a car racing game.

    Look ahead, at where you want to go. If you do not, you may wind up riding the brakes. Better yet, walk the track and plan out how you will ride it during the walk. The wider you enter the turns and the straighter you can go through bumpy sections, the easier it will to actually follow that plan. Sometimes it's better to plan to go over 1 big obstacle and take a straight line, rather than snake through multiple small ones.

    If you have really crappy tires, I guess you can put them to good use by practicing wild skids where the skids wouldn't damage the ground. The wilder, the better, as it will help widen your comfort zone for riding without control. Get some decent name brand ones to replace them. Vee Rubber is actually decent for the price, I've found (under $10 USD). If you're doing it in front of your house, perhaps wet the ground to cut traction even more.

    If all else fails, get your ass behind the saddle, hold on, panic-brake, and pray that your bike handles it. (Kidding. Not recommended. This leads to bad habits that will be hard to break out of the longer you practice it.)

    I'd say you should at least have the fitness to do at least 10 pull-ups, 50 sit-ups, 35 push-ups, and 40 squats before you start "feeling the flow" on DH tracks. If not, you probably would be just like a timid weak girl carefully riding through, stopping to walk some sections that aren't even considered that bad to stronger riders. Double those numbers if you want to be able to go fast, without suspension (at least as fast as an average rider with a short travel full suspension trail bike). With a hardtail like your Jamis Durango Comp, there's a lot more demand on your body to deal with the terrain, as opposed to a full out DH bike which can virtually level out the ground for you, and your fitness will be a major determining factor on how well you ride on that hardtail.

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